Sunday 28 February 2016

6 Projects: part 1


My last post (here) provided a snapshot of many of the projects I've started recently, but not made much progress towards completing.  Comments made on that post were sympathetic, encouraging and (possibly) slightly shocked by the scale of my undertakings.

That being so, I thought it would be worth using further posts to track my progress on all of these builds over the next few weeks.  It'll allow all of my readers (and myself also!) to verify that none of the models have been sidelined, forgotten about, pushed to the back of the bench or otherwise neglected.  Of course, it'll be thoroughly embarrassing if I lose motivation and then fail to complete some or all of them in the next month or so.

So (deep breath), here is part 1 of the 6 Projects meta-project!  Or should that be part 2, regarding last week's post as part 1?  Aw, heck - I don't know!  Anyway, see what you think...

6 Projects, Part 1


First up: my horses.  These have been primed and then painted with their base colours (a mixture of browns; yellowish, reddish, pale and dark).  I'm not planning to do any of the more complex horse colours here, such as dapple grey, but I will have a mixture of browns, bays and American Paint horses!

No change

I've not done any painting on the statues, though I have looked up colours for marble on the Internet.  Sadly, that's just left me confused; there are too many options!  Does anyone have a good recipe for painting marble in 28mm?

No change

The step pyramids have been completely neglected over the past 3 days.  I suppose I can't quite figure out how to finish them: does the polystyrene need to be coated, with white glue or something like that, to make it stronger?  Will paint hide the polystyrene's "bubble" texture?  Will the paint also hide the scribed stone block pattern?!  And so on...

=> Finished!

The Rock Top Gang are now painted and sealed, ready to be put away.  Just when you thought that I hadn't actually achieved much after all, right?  Hah!

Mind you, the painting on these models is fairly crude; it's basically block colours and then a wash for the whole model.  Apart from the eyes.  Those mad, staring eyes will haunt me forever...

No change

I've not done anything with the Frostgrave miniatures either.  It will happen, but I just need to get some of these other things off my workbench first...


The jungle cannibals have moved from a box of primed figures to the workbench.  They've had skin and hair painted; so far, so good.  I'll probably do eyes & loincloths next, then it's a simple matter of shields, spears, bases, masks, bows, ornaments and so on!


I don't know whether you think that this is significant progress or not, but I'm quite pleased with what I've achieved so far, especially since it really represents just over 1 day's solid painting.  Part 1 ends with 1 of the 6 projects completed and 2 others advanced somewhat.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Work in Progress


I have completed almost no models over the last 2 weeks or so.  This is in part to my son asking if he can use my workbench pretty much every evening during that period and partly because I've started a large number of fresh builds.  Hopefully these will all bear fruit in a month or so; I'm becoming buried under part-finished figures yet again!

By the way, I'm absolutely delighted that one of my children is enthusiastic about what I do in my spare time.  I just wish we had enough space for him to have a desk of his own!

Work in Progress

In no particular order, here are some of the new models that I've started in the last few weeks.  I'm not going to say a whole lot about any of them, since I might do that in any future, more detailed articles.  Still, a brief description of each picture will be included.

These are horses from Wargames Factory.  They're made for their ancient Persian cavalry, but can (could?) also be obtained as separate sprues.  Importantly, for my purposes, they don't have any harness or saddles on them; I plan to paint this lot up as loose animals for my Old West setting.  They could be milling about in a corral or they might be used as a herd of wild mustangs.

I've had these sprues for some time and I wasn't in any hurry to build & finish them.  However, during the recent school half-term holiday my daughter came up to me one day and said "I'm bored!".  I replied "Would you like to help me build some ponies?" and she was thrilled by the idea.  She clipped all the parts out; I finished them off and glued them together.  However, my thoughts of further daddy/daughter time were dashed when I asked if she'd like to help paint them on another night.  "No, you do it" was her response.  So now I have a dozen horses cluttering up my table, in addition to everything else...

6 statues are required for one of the scenarios in the Frostgrave rule book.  I'd been planning to make some for a while, but was always held back by the lack of pillars that I liked (more specifically, by the lack of materials from which to make such pillars).  However, I recently found just the right type on eBay, so here we are...

Obviously, these are step pyramids, in various stages of construction.  I had originally intended to make 4, but I ran out of blue polystyrene sheet.  I can't quite decide whether to finish them all for Frostgrave (snowy ruins) or for Tarzan (jungle ruins), or a mixture of both.  Either way, they'll be awkward to store; they're much larger than I had anticipated!

These strange creatures are part of the Rock Top Gang; a bunch of ferocious Chibi tortoises (!) for the Super Dungeon Explore game.  The rest of the gang are in various other stages of painting from completely finished to raw undercoat.  And then there are all the other miniatures from the game; they'll need to be painted too...

Some official Frostgrave miniatures.  I decided that I wanted a more homogeneous bunch of followers for Mysterio, my Soothsayer.  They all have some blue (his colour) in their clothing, but the rest of their outfits will be a mixture of wools, leathers and other materials.

Finally, the above is a box of undercoated Jungle Cannibals.  I'm expecting that most of these will be very simple to paint as they don't have a whole lot of clothing or equipment, though some of them have ritual masks or more significant headdresses.  We'll see.

So, tell me straight: am I overdoing it?

Saturday 20 February 2016

A Sci-fi Generator?


I don't often write "work in progress" articles, but it's time for one now.  What's the occasion?  Well, I'm stuck and cannot decide how to proceed; your opinions would be most welcome!

OK, here's the story.  A few weeks ago, I bought a few pieces of laser-cut MDF terrain from Blotz.  I've almost completed the greenhouse, which is a lovely model, but that is stalled until I can find or make some model flower pots.  I'll hold off telling you more about it until another time.  So, the topic for today is the Shield Generator.

The Generator

I bought the (single, but double-sided) shield generator, thinking that I would add it to my Star Trek starter colony (when I finally get round to building this!)  Blotz make several variants on this pattern; the one I bought is the most basic of their generator kits.

 Once I had constructed the two end pieces, I decided that rather than glue them back to back as instructed, it would make a more impressive piece if I could lengthen the generator somewhat.  I added some spacers from balsa and I do intend to add a skin over the top to cover these spacers, but perhaps this isn't enough?  Couldn't I make something bigger from this?


Above are a couple of pictures of generators or engines that I've found on the Internet.  One is (I imagine) from the 1920s or 1930s, whilst the other is very much science fiction.  I'm not trying to copy either of them exactly, but rather to come up with a terrain piece that could be used for pretty much any industrial or post-industrial genre.  So, what sort of alterations could I make to the basic Blotz kit?

Option A

It would be very easy to add a half-cylinder between the two end pieces.  Such an extension wouldn't necessarily be the piece of tubing that I've pictured here; I could make it shorter, or longer, or use a smaller diameter.  The point is, would a cylinder look OK?  That's option A.

Option B

My second possibility is that I finish the generator by filling the gap with a piece of interesting-looking packaging.  I think this particular piece of black plastic came from a packet of after-dinner mints (supermarket own label, not the more famous brand), but I cannot remember for certain.  The plastic is fairly thin and flimsy, so if I used it then I'd probably need to find some way of bracing or filling it before it could withstand much handling.  But would it look the part?  Option B...

Option C

My 3rd choice would be to build the model more or less as the manufacturer intended, by gluing the two end pieces together, back to back.  Obviously I've already extended the length a bit with my balsa inserts, but the gaps will be covered with a new skin to hide them.


It may seem like a trivial issue, but I find many of my model-making projects stall on just such a decision point.  I find that I really need some particular piece to complete a mini-diorama, or I can't quite figure out which technique or colour to use for the next stage, or some other equally mundane issue arises.  Until I can answer the question, the model is moved from "active" to the metaphorical "to do" list, where it will often languish for weeks, months or even years.

Help me out here, please!  How should I finish the generator?

Monday 15 February 2016

Batrep: Tarzan and the Lost Expedition.


In my last post, I described the plot markers that I had made for a game of Pulp Alley.  I also mentioned that we had already played the scenario.  Well, here's the description of the game: Tarzan and the Lost Expedition.

The Scenario

Deep in the jungle, an archaeological expedition has made its camp.  But all of the archaeologists, their guides and porters have vanished.  What can have happened to them?  4 leagues race to find out; each has their own separate reasons for interfering!

After our previous, introductory game (here), we all felt that we understood Pulp Alley a bit better.  One consequence of this is that we realised our previous game had very few perilous areas.  These are something of a cornerstone for the rules, so we created rather more for this scenario.  Too many?  Perhaps; you be the judge:
  • The river is perilous except at the fords; crocodiles, don't you know.  Although I couldn't find my crocodile model, so on the day we used a lion patrolling the water's edge to remind us of the danger.
  • The expedition leader's tent is perilous; a large snake has taken up residence in it.
  • The untended campfire is perilous; sparks could fly out and injure someone.
  • The quicksand (middle right) is extremely perilous.  Enter at your own risk!
  • The lair of the pit beast (centre top) is extremely perilous.  I shouldn't have to explain this one...

The 5 plot points were placed, several of them in perilous or extremely perilous areas and the 4 leagues chose their starting positions.

Major plot point: the expedition leader's journal, in a perilous, snake-infested tent. 
The luggage was placed in the extremely perilous quicksand
I've no idea why the plot point native was placed in the middle of  the river's shallows.  Perhaps he was fishing?
The dagger was guarded by the pit beast, who may have eaten its previous owner.  Could be tricky retrieving this...
The radio was just lying about in the open; nothing dangerous about this.  Or was there...?
As Tarzan, my plan was simple: charge straight towards the major plot point in the centre (i.e. the journal) and fight off all rivals.  My main concern was that the cultists might interfere - I really hate their giant pet snake - so Koko the gorilla would be tasked with delaying them if they came towards me rather than taking the other safe route across the river and towards the camp.  Judging on past form, the Nazis and the Safari would probably spend most of their efforts shooting each other.  They had certainly set up fairly close together!

The Leagues

These were the same forces as we had used in our previous game (see here).  Before the game, Sir Henry (the Safari leader) used his Wealth to buy a tip for the game and Al Masudi (Cultist) used his Dominion to summon a couple of level-2 extras.  The cult of Hanash wasn't short of cannon fodder this time!

The Game

As expected, the Nazis and the Safari fought like cats and dogs right from the start.  An ascari managed to shoot a Nazi mook, but then the Fascists opened up with machine guns and grenades.  Although the Safari characters were (mostly) unhurt to start with, the resulting blast markers impeded their movement; all they could do was cower behind the bushes and wait for the barrage to cease.

In the north, the cult leader callously ordered one of his henchmen to retrieve the jewelled dagger.  The poor man nearly succeeded; he managed to creep close to the artifact without disturbing the creature.  However, when he grabbed for the knife, the savage beast must have sensed the movement; it lashed out, caught him and dragged the screaming victim into its gaping maw!

One of Tarzan's simians thought that he might do better.  He approached from a different direction without attracting the pit beast's attention, but just as the ape was reaching carefully for the dagger, the cultist leader, Al Masudi, approached and shot him in the back.  Rather unsporting, I thought...

Al Masudi's eyes lit up when he saw the ancient artifact.  He may have been evil and heartless, but there was nothing wrong with the man's courage.  The determined cult leader strode towards the pit beast and, with pistol and knife, he fought it for possession of the dagger.  It took a while, but eventually he triumphed and backed out from the danger zone clutching his prize.  At least this meant that for most of the game he wasn't applying his nefarious talents to thwart anyone else's plans!

Nearby, Tarzan and Caesar tried to cross the ford on their route towards the campsite.  The native who was standing in the shallows indicated that none should pass unless they would wrestle him first (i.e. the random challenge for solving this plot point was 2 or 3 successes - I forget which - against might).  Tarzan was grinning from ear to ear as he accepted the test.  In the blink of an eye, he had the native in a headlock and begging for mercy: plot point solved.  No-one is mightier than Tarzan!

Meanwhile, Sir Henry, Lady Constance and an ascari had recovered the radio that had been left in the open.  This plot point was beginning to look like a trap, though; the Nazis poured machine gun and grenade fire onto the hapless Safari characters.  All they could do is cower in the dirt and try to crawl towards cover.

Koko, the gorilla, had been left behind to delay the seemingly endless numbers of cultists.  He managed to scare a few with his mighty roar and then felled the first man to approach him.  However, the cult leader's pet snake was a tougher proposition.

The ape did his best and managed to injure the enemy animal, but when another cultist joined the combat it was all too much.  Poor Koko sank to the ground, beaten and the cultists streamed past him.  But were they too late?

By this time it was getting late in the game, so the leagues started to congregate around the central, major plot point - the journal in the snake-infested tent.  Apart from the Nazis, that is.  They were having far too much fun machine-gunning poor Sir Henry for them to take part in anything so mundane as gaining victory points.

Things started to hot up now and several characters fell.  Sir Henry finally succumbed to his wounds, whilst Lady Constance caught the wrong end of a grenade.  Tarzan battered the only cultist to have made it anywhere near the tents and one of his simians ran into the middle of the Nazis to attack.  This last was intended to act as a distraction, since the little creature had virtually no chance of beating all the bad guys on his own.

For almost the first time in the game, the Safari now had a piece of good fortune.  Quartermain recovered enough from his concussion to stand up again.  Even as his comrades defeated the first monkey that had been sent to keep them busy, the sinister Herr Stengel drew his pistol and stepped forwards to finish the safari hunter once and for all.

This Nazi would have done better to stay where he was, since his shoe lace caught on a twig.  The villain stumbled and hurt himself, before trying to shoot at Quartermain.  Even injured, Quartermain was still one of the best shots in Africa; Herr Stengel was not.  The German fell to the ground and although he stirred once or twice more, he didn't play any further part in the game.

Buoyed up with this success, Quartermain rushed towards the plot point in the tent, only to discover that Tarzan was already there.  The jungle man threw the perilous snake aside contemptuously, grabbed the journal and backed out again.  Quartermain was far too wise to think that he could win the book off Tarzan, especially when he was injured himself, so he shrugged and let his rival go.

Finally, in the last turn of the game, there was another burst of activity:
  • Tarzan ran off into the jungle with his loot, hotly pursued by the cultist's giant snake and (not quite so hotly) by the remaining cultist mooks.
  • In turn, the cultists were chased by a rather groggy Koko, who had pulled himself back on to his feet and was gamely staggering after them.
  • Quartermain and Caesar (the alpha simian) were in an uneven, but not completely one-sided fight with the Nazis, thus capturing their attention fully.
  • Meanwhile, the Safari's last ascari (who had been hiding near the river for much of the game) snuck out, grabbed the radio and made off with it!

Actually, this turned out not to be the last turn since unknown to anyone else the Safari had gained a reward card which allowed them to extend the game.  We dutifully played another round, but it didn't alter possession of any plot points.  Various Nazis and their opponents were knocked down or recovered (Quartermain was now on form: he beat Stahl Mask's draw and shot him too), Tarzan was caught by the snake but neither side inflicted any damage and Koko caught up with the 2 cultists and flattened one of them.


So, final standings are as follows:
  • Tarzan.  Losses: all the simians KO, Koko and Caesar injured.  Gains: the native and the journal (4 victory points)
  • Cultists.  Losses: most, but not all, of their mooks.  Gains: the jewelled dagger (1 victory point)
  • Safari.  Losses: Sir Henry, Lady Constance, Goode, 2 ascaris KO, Quartermain injured.  Gains: the radio (1 victory point)
  • Nazis.  Losses: Herr Stengel and a follower KO.  Stahl Helm injured.  Gains: nothing.
If you remember from the description at the beginning, there was a 5th plot point: the luggage in the quicksand.  This was close to the Nazis, but they weren't interested in attempting to retrieve it.  Why bother when they could just shoot at things instead?

This was another fantastic game, enjoyed enormously (I believe) by all the players.  I'm beginning to think that there's little point in going for the minor plot points in a 4-player game, since no one side is likely to collect 3 or more of these.  That being so, victory will always rest with the holder of the (more valuable) major plot point!  Of course, different scenarios would alter this calculation, as would a smaller number of players...

Wednesday 10 February 2016

5 Plot Points


In my last piece, I mentioned that my friend Steve and his son had visited us last Saturday.  I've already described our Frostgrave game, but we also played a Pulp Alley scenario.  I'm not going to describe that yet (you'll just have to wait a while), but it involved Tarzan, Nazis, a deserted archaeologists' camp in the jungle and some pretty hostile wildlife!

This was our second ever game of Pulp Alley and after the first game (here), I felt that using bland, unnamed plastic chits for the objectives wasn't really getting properly into the spirit of things.  In the intervening weeks, I made some "proper" objective markers.  These are described below.

The Luggage

So, the scenario will be set at a deserted campsite.  Whose luggage is it?  Was he or she planning a secretive departure, unknown to their colleagues?  If so then what caused them to leave the luggage behind?  Is it full of banknotes, treasure maps or other incriminating evidence - or just dirty socks and other laundry?

The Radio

The camp had a radio for communicating with the outside world; the height of 1930s technology!  Was it used to relay secret messages to spies and saboteurs?  If the dials are still set then it might be possible to identify the last person to be sent a message; that would be a useful clue.  Perhaps there's a code book or some notes hidden inside the case?  It's got to be worth a look.

The Native

So, this man is hanging around the deserted campsite.  Does he know what happened to the archaeologists?  Did a swarm of army ants drive them off?  Perhaps he saw some group attack and capture the campers?  Perhaps he's a straggler from the group which captured them?  Does anyone speak his language, anyway?

The Journal

There's a leather-bound book lying in the grass near the campsite.  Was it dropped by one of the archaeologists?  It might have a wealth of clues as to what happened - but maybe it's in code?  Of course, it might just be poetry.

The Ancient Dagger

This is a particularly fine-looking knife, but it's a very unusual, perhaps somewhat archaic design.  Is this an artifact that the archaeologists found at a nearby site?  If so then it might point to an incredible lost civilisation.  Or perhaps it was dropped by an interloper - maybe it's some hidden cult's ritual dagger, mislaid in their haste to escape with more victims to sacrifice?  Hmm, I wonder if the ruby in the hilt is worth anything?


To see how we got on with these items and find out who won, who was eaten and who ran away, I'll tell you just this:

"Listen again next time for another exciting episode of The Adventures of Tarzan, Jungle Lord!"

Monday 8 February 2016

Frostgrave: The Fountain of Dreams and Sorrows


In the ruined city, there is rumoured to be a magic well that can grant visions to the wizard who drinks from its waters.  Sounds like tosh to me, but that's what they say...

On Saturday, Steve and his son came round to play games.  First up was Frostgrave; since both of my sons wished to take part (yay!) and I didn't have enough treasure markers or figures for a 5-player game, I offered to act as gamesmaster instead.  Here's how it went...

The Forces

Malcolm Firestorm (Elementalist, A.D.).  Motto "Zzzap!  Zzap!  Why doesn't anybody like me?"
Meyneth the Illusionist (J.D.).  Motto: "I will if you will, as long as you're first."
Baryn the Timeless (Chronomancer, A.H.).  Motto: "Can't we all just be friends?"
The Great and Magnificent Peltar (Enchanter, Steve H.).  Motto: "Shoot the bugger!"

The Game

The game started predictably enough, with all 4 warbands advancing towards the centre.  Baryn the Timeless summoned a thick wall of fog to screen his party from the more dangerous, shooty wizards.

While Baryn was busy creating unnatural weather, Meyneth use Telekinesis to pull a treasure away from Baryn's puzzled followers.

Meanwhile, in the opposite corner of the board, 2 apprentices came face to face at short range in the ruins.  Nemo, the goblin, acted first, but his grenade didn't have any effect.  Ellie's retaliatory fireball caught him full in the chest and took the goblin out of action.

Our first wandering monsters (a pair of gaunt, emaciated wolves) appeared on the eastern fringe of the board.  Firestorm took no chances and sent both his barbarian and his demon (yes, he summoned another one!  That's every game so far!) back to deal with them.  As it turned out, the demon wasn't needed; barbarians are very good at killing wolves.

To the north, Baryn and his warband had mostly been milling about and facing off against Meyneth.  However, a new threat now appeared: Firestorm and some of his soldiers approached from the east.  One of Baryn's archers climbed a snowdrift and loosed an arrow at the enemy wizard, but was fried by a bolt of corruscating energy in return.

Meyneth now had problems of her own, though.  Her apprentice (Loki) had tried repeatedly to heal a crossbowman who had been somewhat injured by a goblin arrow.  However, Loki just couldn't get the hang of the spell.  Time after time, the spell backfired and injured the small, cowled figure instead of closing the soldier's wounds.

As if that wasn't bad enough, a pack of giant rats appeared nearby, no doubt attracted by the smell of blood.  In true illusionist style, Meyneth took the form of  a vicious snow leopard.  That should terrify the rodents, right?

2 of the rats were indeed frightened and refused to attack the illusionary leopard despite their gnawing hunger.  However, the other pair were terrified and attacked in a blind panic!  Their furious assault rapidly drove Meyneth to her knees and then out of the fight, before any of her assistants could intervene.  Ouch!

The hirelings rapidly slew the rest of the rats, but when a pair of armoured skeletons appeared on exactly the same spot a turn later, the dispirited bunch decided to dodge around the undead monsters, slink off the table and head for home.

Finally, the over-exposed Firestorm met his end, though from a somewhat unexpected source.  Instead of being taken down by Baryn's numerous warriors, it was Meyneth's solitary archer who delivered the fatal arrow!

In a near-repeat of the last game, Firestorm's heavies assaulted the goblin infantry.  However, the goblins fought back ferociously; the little green meanies swarmed the demon and took it down!

The melee swung to and fro; both sides took further casualties.  Finally, Firestorm's squad was reduced to just a single knight, whilst more of Peltar's goblins kept appearing to join in the fight.

As we approached our self-imposed time limit for this game, a few scuffles were still in progress.  Mostly, however, soldiers from all sides were busy dragging away treasures.

  • Peltar, the goblin wizard, reached the Fountain of Dreams and Sorrows, bent down and took a deep draught.  "Hmm, refreshing" he thought.
  • Meyneth's remaining hirelings backed off slowly, following their compatriots home.
  • Baryn's warband in the north still couldn't decide what to do; they milled around some more.
  • The remains of Firestorm's crew also retreated, apart from the lone knight who was surrounded by angry goblins deep in the ruins...


This was another game much enjoyed by the participants (and me too, as umpire).  All sides seemed to stick very much with the tactics that they had used before: the elementalist strode forth, flinging out blazing bolts of energy, the chronomancer hid behind a wall of fog, the goblin enchanter had more success with archers than with magic and the illusionist messed with people's minds by pushing and pulling stiff about.

Final tally:
  • Firestorm: knocked out of action, but it was only a close shave and he's all right really.  5 treasures.
  • Meyneth: out of action (by rats, no less!), but again, a narrow escape from any real injury.  2 treasures.  Apprentice Nemo hurt himself mightily attempting heal spells.
  • Baryn: 2 treasures.
  • Peltar: drank from the fountain, plus 2 treasures.  Managed only 1 successful spell all game (though his apprentice did recover from his wounds)!