Sunday 29 December 2013

Toy Soldiers (again)

This is another of the 54mm plastic toy soldiers I bought recently, this time painted all red and colourful and shiny, instead of khaki and drab and shiny.

The battle of Ginniss, in the Sudan (30th December 1885) was the last occasion on which the British army fought in red. At this battle, as well as a couple of others eg. Kirbekan, the troops were ordered to fight in their red parade uniforms ‘to look more formidable to the Dervishes’.

This chap isn't quite right for that period, because he should have a breech-loading Martini-Henry rifle; this figure appears to have a rough approximation of the bolt-action magazine-fed Lee-Metford or the like. However, he'll do perfectly well for my purposes.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Toy Soldiers

I recently bought myself some 54mm plastic toys soldiers by Armies in Plastic via the Toy Soldier Company and Regal Toy Soldiers and I'm not quite sure how I'll go about painting them. The only firm decision I've made is that they'll be gloss varnished, because toy soldiers have to be all glossy. That's just a hard physical rule of the universe.

These ones are modelled on British infantry in Egypt and the Sudan in the 1880s.

Option one (the top photo) is the more toy-like method. I've done a bit of outlining, which goes against the Pure Toy Soldier aesthetic I suppose, but I felt it needed just a bit more definition than a simple flat paint job could provide.

Option two (the lower image) is in a more modern wargames tabletop-quality style, though simplified a bit. Three tones — shadow, mid-tone and highlight — to give the figure a bit more depth and modelling. It does look a bit less toy soldierish, and it also takes a bit more time than the simpler paint job, but I think I'll probably go that way.

The gloss varnish does tend to blow out the highlights in the photographs; I'm not quite sure how to remedy that. Hey-ho, on the scale of things that's a pretty small problem.

Thursday 19 December 2013

I needed it, I tell you!

I believe I've revealed, from time to time, my love of Stupid Dice.

This d100 is not as stupid as some, but it's certainly reasonably stupid, and I am proud to own one at long last.

Somehow I doubt that it will see much use in the real world, but THAT'S NOT THE POINT.

Friday 6 December 2013

Blood-blob par excellence

Observe, if you will, an example of the very apogee of the miniature sculptor's art.

Not the knight; he's all very well, but what I mean is the exquisitely rendered featureless red blob. Pretty neat, huh?

OK, so it's something any kindergarten kid could crank out between sessions of making plasticine penises. I had a bit of epoxy putty left over after another job, and I couldn't be bothered doing anything more creative with it. However, miscellaneous blobs, moulds and oozes always come in handy, and they're not the sort of miniatures anyone would ever really want to spend actual money on.

So, now I have a little blood-blob to terrorize hapless PCs with. Huzzah!

Litko Boom-Boom Burn-Burn Markers

This is what they look like with the light in front...

...and this is them with the light behind them.

The guys in that tank and that truck
could just be in a tiny spot of trouble.
Just arrived today, after a pointless diversion to the Netherlands (I suspect that USPS sent them off to old Zealand instead of New Zealand), are these laser-cut acrylic blast and burn markers from Litko.

I'd seen them in photographs on the Great and Glorious Internet (She At Whose Bountiful Teats We Daily Suckle) and I've wanted some for a while, but until recently I didn't actually know who made them. Now I do know, and now I have some of my own. There are four sets in total shown in these photos.

They come disassembled, and need to be glued together. Therein lies a trap for the unwary, for cyanoacrylate adhesives (superglue), the glue used almost universally by modellers these days, will fog acrylic sheet. Fortunately, I already knew this, having worked with acrylic sheet a lot when I was employed in the Display Department at Canterbury Museum, back in the '80s.

I whipped up some acrylic cement of my own by dissolving some acrylic fragments in acetone, making sure it stayed just liquid enough to run into the joints by capillary action, and cemented the little suckers together in a jiffy. You can use straight acetone, but by adding the dissolved acrylic it adds a degree of gap-filling capability, and more importantly, it slows the evaporation of the acetone, giving it more time to soften and cement the edges of the components, so you get a stronger weld.

They weren't especially cheap, but neither are they overly expensive, and I think they look pretty good on the table. They certainly look better than using a bunch of dice to indicate the extents of a barrage.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Bearer No.2

77141: Townsfolk: Oswald the Overladen by Bobby Jackson
The Paintin' o' th' Bones continues, this time with a disgruntled and overladen hireling bearer.

I have another one of these guys which I will paint in a slightly different colour scheme, and with another forehead-number, just to differentiate them. I'd like to be able to build a whole caravan of these exploited and heavily weighed down peons, ideally each one an individual, but for the moment this is the only one of his type that Reaper produces in their nice, cheap, plastic.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Hell hound.... on my trail

77038: Hell Hound, sculpted by Jason Weber for Reaper.
Next up in the Great Paintgasm of '13 is this cute little guy: Reaper's Bones 77038: Hell Hound. I think all that kerfuffle along its back is supposed to be flames, but I decided to paint them as bone spines, because that's just how I roll, folks. I live life on the edge. Also, I'm not entirely sure what the rows of studs at hips and shoulders are supposed to be... demonic shoulder-nipples, maybe? Anyway, I painted them as metal bolt heads or something.

The green colour scheme is less hell-houndy and more jungle-camoflagey, I think.

It was a quickie paint-job, and it does show a bit.

Monday 2 December 2013

Hydra - progress

It's time for another update on my Mountain o' Reaper painting odyssey. Next up: the Hydra.

I quite like this sculpt, though I think it would be more useful as a tabletop gaming model if it were more compact — not smaller, exactly, but maybe curled around itself a little more.

I've airbrushed the whole thing in three brown shades, a cream yellow, followed by raw sienna, and finally burnt sienna. Then the whole shebang was given a dark sepia wash.

Now, on to the detail painting, starting with the heads. They're a little awkward to get at, being all cheek-by-jowl with each other, so I've begun with the open-mouthed one which is a little more separate than the others. I can experiment on it more easily, and then, when I've sorted out the colours and processes, I'll finish off all the others.

I'm reasonably happy with this head, so now... onwards and upwards!

Thursday 28 November 2013

An Historic Achievement

We played a game of Star Trek Catan the other night, at which I lost utterly. That's not the historic achievement though; I usually lose at boardgames because I am the world's worst Player of Games.

The historic achievement is demonstrated by the unbroken string of red starships (they're mine) right across the board.

For the first time in my life, I managed to use up every single road (starship) in a game of Catan, creating an unassailable Longest Longest Road.

Alas, this came about mainly because I seldom had the resources to build anything but roads, but that's not the point. The point is...


Saturday 23 November 2013

New Washes For Old

I use washes a lot when I'm painting figures. I use various experimental recipes of my own devising, but I also use commercially available washes a good deal — they have the virtue of predictability, which my own concoctions sometimes do not.

The wash I've used and liked the most is the old Citadel Devlan Mud. It's no longer available, having gone out of production a couple of years ago, so I'm having to find an acceptable replacement.

I've airbrush-primed this figure with Vallejo's polyurethane acrylic surface primer white, and then washed it in sections with three commercially available washes:

  • On the figure's left (front and back), the old Citadel Devlan Mud.
  • On the right-front, the new Citadel equivalent, Agrax Earthshade.
  • On the right-back, the nearest Vallejo equivalent I could find, their Umber Shade.

All of the washes were applied undiluted, straight from the pot (or bottle).

Visually, there's not a hell of a lot to choose between them. They all dried to a good matte finish.

  • Agrax Earthshade is the lightest, and it pools the least in open areas. Judging by the smell, it has an alcohol component. It's very similar in hue to Devlan Mud, and I quite like its lighter, looser fluidity.
  • Vallejo Umber Shade is a little bit thicker, and it pools a lot more on flat, open areas. It's a touch warmer in tone, but still pretty close in colour.

Of the two, I think I prefer the Citadel wash, but the Vallejo offering is certainly quite usable and I don't feel that it's money wasted.

Monday 18 November 2013

Terrain: Roads

A couple of years ago I bought some resin terrain pieces at the annual CWS bring & buy. These were actually being sold as river pieces, but the "water" surface is actually quite lumpy and gritty, so I thought I'd finish them as dirt roads instead. The pack was $10.00, so about a buck per piece.

They're OK, as far as they go, but I think in future I'll just make roads out of pieces of paintable silicon caulk-impregnated fabric, which is both much cheaper and more flexible, and lies flatter on the table.

Friday 15 November 2013

Laser-cut Casualty Markers

Continuing in my forays into the wild world of laser-cutting, I've designed these casualty markers designed for use with games like Hail Caesar, Pike & Shotte, Black Powder and so forth.

The idea is that they're used with standard 12mm six-sided dice to indicate the number of casualties a unit has taken thus far.

I've created them in two parts, as you can see at bottom-right: the base, pierced with a hole for the die, and a little collar. The bottom of the base would have some thin card glued to it, so that the die wouldn't just fall through if the base is picked up and moved.

What I haven't quite decided on just yet is precisely how I'm going to assemble them. I have two options in mind:

  1. As you can see in the example to the left of this unit of Peasant Rabble, the collar is used to deepen the recess for the die. This has the advantage that it makes it less likely that the die will fall out when the marker is being pushed around the table. Also, it means that there's room to create a little casualty mini-diorama on the other half of the base, which can look quite good on the table and makes the marker feel more like part of the battle scene.
  2. In the example to the right, the collar is mounted to one side of the hole pierced through the base, creating two shallow sockets instead of just one deep one. This has the advantage that two dice of different colours can be used, which can be useful for the morale mechanic used in the games I referred to earlier — in which the number of "casualties" can vary within a turn, with only casualties in excess of a unit's "shaken" morale value counting against them in a break test, after which those excess casualties go away. There's an added advantage that the marker can accommodate units with a higher morale value than 6 (though I could also do that with a d8 or d10, or even a d12).

I have a bunch of them cut already, so perhaps I'll just do some of each and see how they go.

It's dark in the dungeon...

Wednesday 13 November 2013


I doodled away at this while I was watching some entirely unrelated TV show (Agents of SHIELD, as it happens).

It's a critter from the 1983 AD&D Monster Manual II, a minor demon called a Babau.

The thing is, I still think of anything out of the Monster Manual II as being a new-fangled, possibly suspect, creation that may or may not be worthy of inclusion in the hallowed precincts of D&D. I guess that's because the book didn't appear until I'd already been playing AD&D for a few years, and I didn't even see a copy until the very late '80s. By the time I saw it, TSR was in its death-throes and was putting out a hell of a lot of pot-boiler garbage.

I didn't finish its right hand; I got bored with drawing and stopped. I might finish it off some day, but I wouldn't count on it. It will certainly never get any taller, because I ran out of leg-room on the page.

Monday 11 November 2013

New Old Character Sheet Design

I just found an old AD&D character sheet that I designed years and years ago. It was intended to be printed double-sided, laid out on A3 to be folded down to 4 A4 pages, the theory being that it would act not only as a character sheet, but also as a folder to hold all of the gajillions of scraps of paper players seem to inevitably end up with. It was designed when we were playing an AD&D 1e/2e hybrid, so it's not quite either 1e nor 2e.

It was originally drawn out in technical pen and photocopied, but I just spent a couple of hours converting it to a vector format in CorelDraw so that the resulting PDF file-size isn't too huge. If you use Acrobat's "booklet printing" feature, it will print in the intended foldable format, or you can just print it as separate pages. I've tried printing it on A4 paper (and thus ending up with an A5 booklet), and though small, it's still quite usable.

You can download it here if you want to take a closer look. It's about 163 KB.

Edit: This links to a more readable A5 version if you want to print it as an A5 booklet. All of the text has been reformatted to Helvetica — much easier to see.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Sir Fnord the Pretty Darned Nifty

This is the figure I use to represent one of my oldest and most-played characters, Sir Fnord. It's a Grenadier figure I believe, or maybe Citadel — they were the two manufacturers I patronized most regularly back in the day. It was painted some years ago (maybe ten years? I'm not entirely sure) and since then some changes have made themselves manifest.

For a start, the static grass around his feet used to be green. Now it's a dead, arid tan, and the PVA it's stuck to is lifting away from the plastic base.

Also, his shield: I printed the blazon on my Epson inkjet printer on to photo paper, and then laminated the shield out of three sheets stuck together around a bottle (to get the curve) and then trimmed to heater-shield shape. The fleur-de-lis used to be black highlighted in blue; now those highlights have turned green as the cyan ink fades away. Eventually the highlight will be yellow.

Close-up photography is terribly unforgiving of paint jobs, which makes me all the more impressed at some of the work I see on sites like Cool Mini Or Not.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Laser Cutting

I've just recently been given access to a laser cutter, and the opportunity to try my hand at designing some stuff for production on it.

I did this little MDF cabin, with a lift-off roof, and some sabot bases for converting my skirmish-based 15mm infantry to use in Flames of War (should that ever be necessary). I just glue some magnetic sheet underneath and trim it flush with the MDF sabots, and Bob's your uncle — the washer-based infantry stay in there quite securely. I'm tempted to do the same for my medieval figures as well, so that I can easily transpose between Hail Caesar and DBA/DBM/HOTT/FoG.

At the moment it's all very simple stuff — proof of concept really, rather than a serious attempt. However, I'm learning already how to achieve what I'm aiming at, and now I'm ready to try my hand at something a bit more ambitious.

I'd like to have a laser cutter of my very own, but even though the price has come down drastically for small desktop models, they're still well out of my reach. Maybe one day.

Monday 4 November 2013

Is that...? No! Yes? Maybe....

I'm beginning to feel those vague stirrings that indicate that maybe starting GMing again might not be entirely out of the question.

Then again, it might just be wind.

Friday 1 November 2013

Kea-Griffon: Finished at last

Finished, at long last.
Not much different, visually, from the last WIP I posted, but now the wings have been faired in (badly) with the body.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Dungeon Dressing

I very seldom use dungeon dressing props like these, even less frequently than I use character or monster figures, which isn't very often at all. Nevertheless, I've got them, so I thought I'd paint them: not least because I felt like doing a bit of painting, but didn't feel like anything very challenging just for the moment.

These are more of Reaper's "Bones" plastic figures.

Monday 28 October 2013

Kea-Griffon: Close, so close

The Reaper "Bones" griffon I got via their last Kickstarter is grinding slowly, so slowly, to completion.

All that's left to do now is to fair the wings into the torso — not an insignificant task, but not too difficult. I had hoped I'd get away without having to do it, but the join looked a lot less obvious in the bare white plastic than it does now, painted.

Friday 11 October 2013

Multiple Characters for Players

One of the recently-released Old School RPG systems (I forget the name of it) makes use of the idea of the "sieve" for starting characters, in which, to begin with, each player begins with three or five or however many lowest-level characters. As they inevitably die off one by one, the player will end up with one, which (hopefully) has proven to be tough and lucky enough to have a better than even chance of extended survival, and which will become the player's only character for some time. Effectively, it's kind of like the video game concept of extra lives.

Giving each PC a posse can be an excellent opportunity for the GM to introduce some intra-party conflict and rivalry without actually going the PvP route; effectively the PCs would all be very minor gang leaders in cooperation with other gang leaders for a specific goal.

I'd draw up a fairly simple relationship chart for the various factions (and maybe some of the individuals) and let them go for it, treating the members of their posses as followers, their actions usually under the direct control of the player with the understanding that the GM may direct their actions as NPCs at any time for dramatic purposes.

It's possible — even likely — that one or more players might want to try a bit of backbiting, bribery and corruption amongst his or her fellow PC's entourages. This is not the sort of behaviour that any self-respecting GM should discourage. :)

And, of course, let the players know that their posse is their available pool of backup characters in case of their unfortunate but inevitable grisly demise. If a player starts using his posse as meat-shields to protect his or her own worthless skin, they may find themselves abandoned as their erstwhile followers transfer their loyalties (or simply run away) ....kind of a permanent loss of hit-points.

I suppose the players could choose whichever of their posse they want to inhabit as and when they die off and have to transfer characters, but to maintain the idea of the player being the gang leader, I'd suggest it would be better to rank them in order of Charisma, with the surviving follower with the highest CHA becoming the new leader (PC).

Friday 4 October 2013


I was introduced, a short time ago, to a cute little tile-placement game called Tsuro.

It's very simple, plays quickly, and will cater to two – eight players.

I couldn't find a copy locally, so I thought I might as well make a set of my own. This is (almost) it — I still have to make the layout grid (the work of a moment, hopefully) and find something to use as player markers... probably painted chess pawns or the like.

The tiles are 50mm squares of 3mm MDF, lovingly painted by yours truly. I could probably have done them more neatly, but these will serve quite well I think. The blank one in the bottom-right corner isn't used in the game layout; it's a marker tile which indicates who gets the next draw of the tiles. In the proper game it has a dragon printed on it; I've just painted mine metallic gold.

I think, if I were to do it again, I'd bump up the tile size to 75 or 80 mm square, and maybe do them in stained oak or something, with the tracks outlined in pyrogravure.

Thursday 3 October 2013


Tonight's game: Zombie Apocalypse in SPAAAAACE!!!

It was all fun and games until somebody foolishly alerted the authorities to the situation, so now we've been declared Plague Ships and have SDBs in-bound to make sure we don't go infecting their precious system. Spoilsports!

Monday 23 September 2013

Another childhood dream achieved

I absolutely loved these pencil sharpeners when I was a kid at school. I would happily sharpen perfectly good pencils right down to useless nubbins, just because sharpening was so golly-gosh-darned satisfying.

Now I own one of my very own, after all these years. It's mine! MINE! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!! THEY MOCKED ME, THE FOOLS, BUT NOW I'LL SHOW THEM! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!

It cost about thirty-five bucks (plus postage) from

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Hey! Where's my missing numbers?

While re-inking it for enhanced readability, I just discovered that a Gamescience d10 I thought was a d10 is not actually a d10 at all, but a d5. It's a 10-sided die all right, but marked 1-5/1-5.

That could kind of explain why my percentile rolls are so shitty. Then again, it might just be because I can't roll dice for toffee except when I'm the GM, in which case I'll get nothing but the best scores, constantly.

This is one of the dice I ordered from, and I wasn't that impressed with their service even before I knew they'd sent me a d5 instead of the d10 I asked for.

Monday 16 September 2013

Kea-griffon - progress of a sort

Progress has been rather slow owing to real-life intruding its unwelcome self into my business.

I've got as far as airbrushing the scarlet under-wing flashes and the blue-green wing-tips. I got the proportions a bit out of whack because I was working from memory, but I'm not too displeased with the effect.

Friday 13 September 2013

WiP -- Kea-Griffon

I really have got to clean up my workbench
I'm reduced to working in about half a square foot
right on the edge.
In amongst the clutter in the photo above, you may be able to just make out my next Bones painting project — it's a griffon. At the moment it's still disassembled; I'm painting the wings and body separately to ease handling, then I'll glue it all together and touch up the joins.

Your traditional griffon is supposed to have the head and forequarters of an eagle, and the hindquarters of a lion.

I'm intending to keep the lion bit, but I'm painting the forequarters in the style of one of our New Zealand birds, the kea, which has spectacular green and red plumage. The kea is actually a mountain parrot, not a raptor, but I don't really care about that because they look so cool. They're also frighteningly intelligent and mischievous, and one of their favourite fun-time activities is to strip all the rubber seals from tourists' cars, breal off their aerials and let down their tyres. Imagine that personality in something the size of a winged lion? Cooooool!

Anyway, here are some pictures of keas.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Behold! A trademark-innocuous Tentacled Eye Monster!

And so the painting of the Bones mountain proceeds, with a creature that beholds, while simultaneously maintaining its product-identity-sensitive status by pretending to be called something else entirely.

Getting a paintbrush inside that mouth was a giant pain in the bum; I'd have much preferred it if the miniature had come disassembled, allowing me to paint its innards and then glue it together myself.

It now has a significant dental tartar problem, among its other personal defects.

I glued it to a 30mm steel washer and expanded the base modelling with Green Stuff.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Bonesium Smirnoff (and "magic wash" recipe)

Well, he's done I guess. The miniature that will now and for all time be Smirnoff the Huge and Stupid Fighter to me. Pity I didn't have it when I was actually playing him, but them's the breaks I suppose.

I made an error using a Vallejo wash over the armour instead of the superior Citadel washes, or one of my own concoctions*. The Vallejo washes are rather gloopy; I'm not that impressed with them really.

The figure is glued to a steel washer, which is why the base is extra-thick.


For those who are interested, the "magic wash" recipe I use is as follows:

  • 1 part Klear acrylic floor polish (Future in the USA)
  • 1 part Armorall blue windscreen washer detergent. This acts to break the surface tension so the wash will flow into any creases or scratches.
  • 1 part water — distilled water is probably best, but Christchurch tap water is pure enough to use straight.
  • Just enough Tamiya X-21 matting agent to take the shine off — quantity is by trial and error. Add it in small doses until you get a finish that is acceptable to you.
  • Add ink of an appropriate colour, again in small doses until you get the strength of colour required. My most-used general-purpose colour is 50/50 sepia and black.

As I understand it, Klear (Future) may not be being produced any more. You can probably use a clear acrylic medium in its place, but I haven't tried it myself yet. The great thing about Klear is that it's very low viscosity, and self-levelling — that will probably not be the case with acrylic medium.

If you want more of a glaze than a wash, reduce the proportions of Armorall and water. In fact, you can pretty much do away with them completely.

Step Two... Works In Progress

OK, the painting continues. I've chosen the beholder Eye Beast, and this extremely muscular axe-dude to be going on with.

The beholder eye beast, because let's face it, who doesn't love beholders eye beasts? This is a two-piece miniature which, unfortunately, come pre-assembled. Unfortunately, because getting a paintbrush into that mouth, large though it may be, is going to be a huge pain in the arse.
I've airbrush primed it with Vallejo polyurethane black, then a downward-dusting with white, to accentuate the texture and create shadows, allowing me to start painting with quite thin, translucent paint.

The extremely muscular axe-dude, because he's a dead ringer for Smirnoff, the very first of my AD&D characters to survive for longer than one session. He even has Smirnoff's huge axe and very tiny head.
This one I've brush-primed, using a free sample of Reaper's own MSP line of paints, which goes on (un-thinned) very well. The only complaint I have with it is that the dropper-bottle doesn't easily dispense more than one or two drops at a time, which is fine for most circumstances, but a nuisance when you want to get a lot of paint out at one go.

The only other beholder I've painted thus far:
A very old Citadel figure (early-mid 1980s)

Monday 9 September 2013

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

I've begun painting the vast mass of Reaper Bones plastic miniatures I got via their Kickstarter. I've started with these two pieces of dungeon dressing: a sarcophagus (empty, alas) and its lid, and an eeeeevil altar. At least, I assume it's eeeeevil owing to the skulls on the four corners.... then again, it may just be an eeeeeemo goth altar.

It's not a very spectacular start, but to be frank I'm a little intimidated by the sheer quantity of figures they've sent me. I haven't actually counted them, but I'm pretty sure there's more than two hundred there. That's a lot of painting.

Reaper claim that Bonesium (the plastic they make the Bones figures from) doesn't need priming before painting, but that's not really 100% true. Washes, inks, and any acrylics that are a bit thin will tend to web on the straight plastic surface; they need a layer of paint beneath them to give them a bit of a tooth to hold on to. Vallejo's acrylic polyurethane primer does a pretty good job through the airbrush, but it's too thin to brush on successfully in a single coat.

No doubt I'll have my process figured out by the time I get to the end of the pile.

Monday 2 September 2013

Reaper, at long, long last

A heapin' pile o' plastic, all for me
At long, long last my Reaper Kickstarter pack has finally arrived, only about a year late (though to be fair, it's only about six months past the last revised final shipping date). This picture really doesn't indicate the scale of the un-bagging task that lies ahead of me. There are a lot of these little suckers.

I ordered the gigantic Cthulhu figure (that's in the box at centre-back), not because I ever expect to use it in a game (except to end a campaign with a Cthulhu-falls-everyone-dies event), but because it's cool, in a groteque sort of way.

Hydra. Troublesome.
Our dread lord Cthulhu. About 180mm to the top of his head.

Everything de-bagged, sorting beginning.

Left to right: a griffon, a hydra, and a beholder.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

And another FT-17

And here's another Renault FT-17, this time in WW1-style outlined three-colour camouflage.