Monday, April 29, 2013

Dark Age barn part III

Not too much progress on the barn tonight as I spent a good 90 minutes clipping 10mm WSS figs into the right length strips. My hand was knacked with cramp afterwards but I bravely soldiered on with the paint brush! All that's left to do now before the roof goes on is a highlight coat on the panels and maybe a bit of mucky shading to make it properly rustic.


Painting the interior before the roof goes on was definitely the way to go. It was difficult enough to do this way, although admittedly if the OCD side of my brain had relented I wouldn't have painted the upper panels on the inside which will be pretty much invisible when complete. Oh well...

Cheers,
Millsy

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dark Age barn part II

The glue on the frame for my barn dried enough that I could do a bit more work last night before bed. This afternoon I've been at it again and have finished all the additional woodwork, the wattle and daub, plus based it as well.

It occurred to me at this point I need to at least paint the interior before attaching the roof otherwise that process will be rather problematic (to say the least). Thankfully in this instance foresight was 20/20 for a change!

Here's how she looks now before painting starts...



Not sure how much more I'll get done tonight but we'll see.

Edit: I've just realised after I posted this that the blog has reached some milestones this month. This is the 175th post, making 15 for the month (which beats the previous high of 12). The stats are also on the rise and should pass 3,000 views for the month for the first time. Some time soon the total will pass 40,000. Followers have reached 74 as well. All this begs a couple of questions:

1. Short of giveaways and competitions, what else can I do to boost followers? I'm not saying those are in any way a bad thing, only that I've been trying to encourage followers based purely on interesting and relevant content, plus quality of posts in terms of photos, etc. Maybe I need to rethink that approach.

2. Is there anything else (or more of something already present) that people would like to see? Maybe I'm missing something blindingly obvious?!? How about poetry? Recipes? 100% legal tax dodges? Dog grooming tips? Guaranteed winning lottery numbers?

Leave a comment folks and let me know what you think. ;-)

Cheers,
Millsy

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Workbench update

I'm suffering a rather severe attack of apathy right now (at least for the painting side of the hobby). Fortunately there are always plenty of other things to do, including making terrain. On Friday night we tried out SAGA and had a really enjoyable game. This spurred me on to make some additional terrain pieces for future dark age gaming.

First off is three ploughed fields. These are 3mm MDF with the furrows applied in the form of wall sealant in a tube / gun. Simple enough to do and once covered with a layer of sand + grit, some darker through lighter shades of brown paint (base and dry brishes) and a bit of static flock they come out quite well. Quick, simple and good for a bunch of periods



Next up is something a fair bit more complex from a construction point of view - a thatched barn. Stage one is mostly complete, being the lower section of framework and walls, with only some fake cross-bracing plus wattle and daub to be applied to the walls.


Next up is the A-frame upper section, followed by the thatching. I'm planning to use the same method I used on my dark age huts for the roof. I can't do any more tonight as it has to dry thoroughly before I can put the required pressure on the top half. Stay tuned...

Cheers,
Millsy

Thursday, April 25, 2013

ANZAC Day 2013

Today is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. We're absolutely blessed to live in safe, happy countries built in no small part on the willingness of our service men and women to give so much of themselves on the behalf of their fellow Aussies and Kiwis. If you have served or are serving now, thank you for your sacrifice, especially those who have made the ultimate one.

The Roll of Honour, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Cheers,
Millsy

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Home cast resin stone walls part IV - Done!

Not so much hobby work going on this week as real life took over. There were plenty of extra work hours, footy on the telly and the small matter of being presented with my National Medal for Service (following now almost 19 years in the NSW Rural Fire Service as a firefighter and deputy captain).

However (!) today I finished painting and basing my second batch of home cast resin walls. This lot included corners, gates and end sections. They've come up a treat, just like the first batch. In total I made two gates, two broken sections, six corners and four end pieces (broken and whole).


When used with the first batch I can now make a variety of decent sized and shaped enclosed spaces with one or more entry / exit points. All up it's about six feet of wall on the tabletop. These will be great for both skirmish and large games.



P.S. Not bad - an entire wargaming blog post from this weekend that didn't mention Salute. Oh bugger, now I've only gone and said it... ;-)

Cheers,
Millsy

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Servants of Lo-Meh, Laziest of the Elder Gods

This is another league I've been playing about with for Pulp Alley using my existing collection of miniatures. It initially started out as a test for my roster tool but quickly became something I'm rather chuffed with. So here we have them in all their lazy glory, the Servants of Lo-Meh, Laziest of the Elder Gods...

Brother Krull, Brother Pyro, Master Sloth, The Shambling One, Brother Snipe and Brother Hawk


Can't wait to try these guys out!

Cheers,
Millsy

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Workbench update

People seemed pretty interested in the idea of workbench updates so I'm going to run with them. Thanks everyone who commented and encouraged me to continue. So what's cooking?

Apart from the resin work I'm doing I'm also avoiding some imagi-nations stuff for Ev. ;-) Not sure why but I'm not feeling the love for them right now and these need 100% focus as the unit on the table is his guards. I am, however, mucking about with a bunch of mini projects and half finished older projects while I await the return of my imaginary enthusiasm.

The workbench in all it's glory...

Above you can see some Necromunda Ratskin Renegades in progress. I finished the juves years ago and never got round to the gangers and leaders. Those are next up for paintin.

In addition, I've just finished one of the simplest painting jobs possible - some clay golems for pulp and/or fantasy. These are Japanese samurai obviously, but the theme of the terracotta warriors is well and truly alive and well. The bowmen we've had around for 20+ years doing justice as "ghosts" (i.e. undercoated and nothing else!). The sword wielding chaps are ones I bought for Curt's painting challenge but ended up not using. They have separate heads that are an AWFUL fit and overall the posing is a bit wooden and just odd. I just couldn't bring myself to send one (or more) to Curt in payment. All of that makes them perfect golems though.

Clay golems? Yeah, why not...

That's it for now. Painting walls, Ratskins and just maybe some imagi-nations to come...

Cheers,
Millsy

Home cast resin stone walls part III

With the straight sections of my home sculpted and cast resin walls complete I've moved onto stage two - corners, broken sections and ends / gateposts.

When I started making the masters for this it occurred to me that the surviving master from the straight sections could easily be split in two, distressed a bit and used as the master for the broken sections. Nice! That just left me with the corners and ends / gateposts to make. I knocked those over early in the week and late last night poured the mold. Here it is just before pouring (I adjusted the size slightly in the end to make it a tad longer).


This morning it was well and truly set so I was able to remove the masters and cast three complete runs. The corners and broken sections will used as is. The ends / gateposts will get turned into a pair of gates with one spare set of posts. Here's the mold in use and the resulting casts which all came out a treat.



Next up for these little beauties is painting and basing. Stay tuned...

Cheers,
Millsy

Monday, April 8, 2013

ECW artillery and surgeon

Here's a couple more additions to my ever expanding 28mm royalist English Civil War army. You all know the drill regards clicking for larger images...

First up is a grisly scene involving a battlefield surgeon hard at work. I've had this for so long I don't even remember the manufacturer, although I suspect it is Wargames Foundry. If anyone knows please pipe up. I've added a few bits and bobs from Mordheim sprues to the base for a little extra colour. If I was the patient the sight of a human skull would unnerve me even more than my current situation if that's at all possible.





Secondly, here's a Bicorne Miniatures saker and crew. I hadn't realised just how nice this set was until I started work on it. The detail on the cannon alone is something else, far better than the others in my collection.





And finally a shot of both pieces along with my new resin stone walls. Couldn't resist taking this... ;-)


Cheers,
Millsy

3rd Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge winners announced

Curt has announced the winners of the 3rd Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge over on his blog. You simply can't argue with the quality of the winning entries, they are quite amazing and a tribute to the skill and creativity of their authors.

I must admit I have a little sympathy for Curt having to wade through such a massive list of material both to make his own choice and also to process all the votes for the different classifications. Thanks again for your efforts mate!

For my own work I achieved a very creditable 13th place overall in the points standings (from 47 painters). My ronin entry was also mentioned as a "popular choice" in the challenger's class (voted for by the participating painters). To have even one person from such a talented group think my effort was worth a mention has left me stoked. In case you missed him here he is one last time...



I can't wait for next year. What will the challenge theme be? What will I paint? What wonders will the other participants create??? This is worse than waiting for Christmas!

Cheers,
Millsy

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pulp Alley League Roster Tool (MS Excel 2010)

We played our first game of Pulp Alley on Friday night. Since then I've been tinkering with the League Roster Tool I put together in MS Excel 2010. I'm pretty happy with it how it works overall. It doesn't do everything I'd like but that's mainly because a couple of the higher end requirements are too much for poor old spreadsheets to handle. ;-)

Here's a sample output. This is my first league, the White Russians.


Dave from Pulp Alley has kindly given his stamp of approval to the tool so I can now make it available to the wider community. You can download a copy here. There is a also permanent link on our Free Stuff page. If people have feedback, find errors or can suggest improvements please feel free to leave a comment.

Cheers,
Millsy

Home cast resin stone walls part II

I'm happy to report I've finished work on my first batch of home cast resin stone walls! Overall I'm pretty pleased with how they've turned out. It was a great learning experience which is always satisfying, especially when it is a successful one. ;-) If you're interested in the process of making the master, the mold and the initial casting you can view part one.

In total I've produced an even dozen x four inch lengths, giving me four feet of wall. Once I'm made some broken sections, corners and gates that will extend out to about six feet. I'm going to hold off casting any more straight sections for now to see how much space these occupy on the table. I supect I'll want more but that's not an issue apart from materials cost.

Three of the dozen sections

Painting was a pretty simple process:
  1. A quick double blast of matt black enamel primer, followed by a manual touch up of the spots that still didn't get covered - mainly in the cracks.
  2. Three successive dry brushes of grey starting with 100% mid grey, followed by 50/50 mid grey and white and finally 75/25 mid grey and white.
  3. A quick touch up with black ink to correct any over painting - again mainly in the cracks.
  4. Matt varnish to seal.
Basing was just as simple:
  1. Glue to trimmed tongue depressors and add sand / gravel mix.
  2. Coat with dark brown, then dry brush mid brown and finally cream.
  3. Static grass.
One thing I noticed during the painting process was that the walls remained a bit tacky, even after 24+ hours drying time. I suspect this is because the resin was rather old being bought some time ago. It didn't seem to affect the paint however and the varnish seems to have fixed it so all good.

Here's a few more shots...


This side

That side

The whole shebang...

Stay tuned for some shots of them in use!

Cheers,
Millsy

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pulp Alley Test Drive

Last night we took Pulp Alley out for a test drive. Cory and Russ played while I took on the role of rules bi-atch.

We played a scenario I made up on the drop of a hat, borrowing from the plot point generator in the rules (with a few tweeks) and set in North Africa near Tunis in the 30s. An ancient artifact had been discovered on an archaeological dig and was being ferried back to Cairo. When the truck broke down in a an obscure town things started to go bad. The populace fled town, fearing ancient and terrible powers would visit them but not before driving off the men transporting the artifact, although they did manage to hide it somewhere in town first.

Near Tunis on the North African coast

Plot points

Mad Mullah (minor)
The only remaining person in town. He knows the location of the idol but is barely lucid. Getting him to talk will be hard. Making sense of what he says will be even harder.

Empty crate (minor)
Sitting near one of the trucks is a packing crate, clearly used to transport the artifact but now empty of all but some straw.

Old Cannon (minor)
The old cannon sits on a hill near town and the magical powers of the artifact have dragged the barrel round til it points directly at the building where it is hidden.

Tattered scroll (minor)
Hidden in the glove box of the transport truck, the scroll is magically linked to the artifact and gives the bearer a sense of the artifact's location.

Ancient artifact (major)
The artifact itself is "hidden" in one of the houses but gives off so much magical energy even a complete mook can feel it if close enough.

Perils

We declared all bridges and high walkways, the salt marches and the ladder in the old tower to be perilous areas. Players were smart enough to avoid them all so next time we'll need to enforce them a bit, maybe by making them necessary routes to some plot points.

Leagues

Cory played Henri's Heroes, a band of ruthless French treasure hunters. Here's his league roster:

Henri's Heroes

Russ played the White Russians, a band of desperate ex-pats looking for anything that can help them to power at home. Here's his league roster:

The White Russians

The game

Play took a little while to get started with both players feeling their way into the rules. We made a few errors regards the fortune cards which disadvantaged the White Russians and Russ to some extent. His dice rolls were also on the poor side too unfortunately and the combo helped Cory to a 5-0 win on plot points but it wasn't a walk in the park. Both players lost followers (all of them for Russ) and no other characters were down and out, although Cory's sidekick Yvette was feeling under the weather.

Here are some staged pics from this morning. Unfortunately the light was too poor last night for decent photos... ;-(

Henri's Heroes. Listen carefully, I will say this only once!

The White Russians - fur hats and long coats in the heat of Africa? Absolutely!

Aerial view

Close-up of the main drag

The Mad Mullah sits outside the mosque, rocking back and forth. What a nutter!

Long view of the main drag

The rules

The Pulp Alley guys have done a great job with these rules. Despite this being the first game we still finished it in a couple of hours without being rushed. The rules run to just under 50 pages, are well laid out and clearly written with a solid table of contents. There are plenty of lovely pics and if you are pulp-heads like us you'll recognise more than a few of the miniatures present.

There is a real sense of two-fisted, heart pounding action and you are encouraged to think and act quickly. I can see that as you become more familiar with the cards and initiative / activation system you could become quite canny in forcing your opponent to act to your advantage when in control (active player). The switching of the active player based on successful completion of combats or tasks encourages all players to be active as often as possible. You never win anything sitting on your hands.

The opposed dice rolling mechanism is simple but effective and gives both players choices as to how best to act, whilst still producing conclusive outcomes most of the time. It ties nicely with the fortune cards to produce various types of challenges rolled against character's differing skill sets.

Creating a league is easy and great fun. There are loads of abilities and perks that help add flavour when added on top of the six skills per character (shoot, brawl, dodge, might, cunning and finesse). We created our leagues in about 15-20 minutes each.

Finally, there is a small but active forum that seems to be growing fast. The Pulp Alley team are always in there answering questions and encouraging. I've spoken to Dave a number of times over email and he seems a great guy, really friendly and happy to offer advice.

Wrap up

I have to say it's pretty addictive (for me at least!). I've already got plans for another two leagues using figures in my current collection. Stay tuned for the Servants of Meh and those crazy commedians from the British Union of Fascists...

All up Pulp Alley is WELL worth the ten bucks I paid for the PDF and I highly recommend them. We'll definitely be getting the printed rules and nice fortune cards in the near future. For now I'm working on a nifty MS Excel league roster to make creating leagues even simpler.

Cheers,
Millsy

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Workbench update

In the past I've not been inclined to do workbench updates of my own, despite seeing other people's and thoroughly enjoying seeing the chaos and / or progress being made. However, having unofficially challenged myself to put a bit more time into blog updates I've decided to have a go. If there is sufficient interest I'll do the odd one now and again. So what's going on at present?

First up my home cast resin walls are nearing completion. They've had a couple of blasts of matt black primer and now three successive dry brushes of increasingly lighter greys. You can see my notes about mix ratios so the next batch look the same. To my mind they are really starting to look the goods. They still need some inking and maybe the odd pale colour wash in red, green or blue on odd stones for variety. Plus basing of course. They'll be done this weekend.


I'm also 90% done on my fourth artillery piece for my Royalist ECW army (um, this really IS the last I promise). This is a Bicorne Miniatures saker and very lovely it is too. I've gone for a muted timber effect as a change from my normal painted carriages. The crew are complete and sitting patiently in the background. In the foreground is a VERY old (Wargames Foundry???) surgeon's set Cory gave my yonks ago. I'm planning a small vignette with some extras from the GW Mordheim sprues for that one.


Oh and lastly I've been mucking about with the blog layout to try and generate a bit more interest, both my own and others. There's a new header with a battle scene from Blenheim plus I've added a "you might also like" widget below each post. My brief flirtation with Pinterest died a quick death as the silly pin buttons wouldn't play nice with the blog layout despite trying a good four or five versions. Given I write web code for a living I figure if I can't make it work easily then b@gger it!

And that's about it. Oops, not quite. I've almost finished reading the rules for Pulp Alley and it looks rather jolly good. Props to Dave from PA for being a speedy lad with my PDF and also being really friendly and interested. We're giving them a go tomorrow night and I'm having a great deal of trouble resisting these chaps (miniatures, not the rules).

Cheers,
Millsy

Monday, April 1, 2013

Something special - a signed Featherstone and more...

Late last week my ever expanding collection of classic wargames books broke through the magic 50 mark. I'm still a long way short of my current planned collection with at least another 55 on the wish list but I'm making steady progress.

I was particularly pleased with the one that broke the half century - a signed copy of Don Featherstone's Air War Games. I got it at a great price but it then disappeared in the post and three months later had not arrived. Cue despair!

When I contacted the seller it turned out it was sitting at the originating post office due to an out-of-date customs form. Cue relief! Well done to the book seller for chasing it down and sending it on. Not so well done the post office for failing to point out the error when it was first posted (along with two other unrelated orders also with out-of-date forms).

Given how upset I was at the thought a signed Featherstone was lost you can possibly imagine my anticipation knowing it was found and finally on the way. Even better, when it arrived it proved to be much, much more than I'd hoped for.

This particular copy previously belonged to a chap called Thomas Ralph Coveney III (great name!) who appears to have been a wargaming enthusiast, serious book collector and possibly also an aviator of some sort if the personalised book plate and inscription are anything to go by. Who do you know who has their own book plates PLUS a blind stamp?!?


Book plate and signature of the great man himself

Blind stamp on the right-hand page - much nicer in real life but hard to scan

I'm really happy with this book. It's a great piece of wargaming history from the point of view it is signed by the author, but also from the perspective that I know a little about where it has been and how much the previous owner must have loved his books. A real kindred spirit!

[Ahem] I think my inner librarian is showing...

Cheers,
Millsy

Home cast resin stone walls

There are lots of really nice commercially available stone walls in all sorts of sizes, shapes and types of stone. I could easily have bought myself some but I'd always be faced with the idea of running short and not being able to buy more to match, so I decided to have a go at making my own. Besides, making my own looked like fun....

This is one of those projects I've had on the back burner for quite a while. You know the kind of thing, where you see someone else have a go and think "I really must try that at some point..." So I did (admittedly after having purchase the materials over 12 months ago).

The process is simple, easy enough to do at home and the vast majority of the effort is in making the master as I discovered. There is plenty of reference material for the whole process on the web. Ultrawerke offers a particularly good 5 part tutorial on his blog.

Materials
You can buy the materials over the net or from specialist outlets. I've won't go into details about the types of mold making rubbers or resins because there is plenty of info on the web for that too, including Wikipedia. Most are two part compounds which are inert until mixed. The ones I used are below.

Ultrasil two-part RTV rubber
Ultrasil two-part resin

Making a master
This is the hardest part. I made two 4 inch sections of wall and it took a good 3+ hours with a couple of restarts. The stones are sculpted from blue high density foam / thin sheet foam and glued together with PVA. Simple enough but getting them consistently the same size and also in scale with 28mm miniatures is more difficult that I expected. Even after a while tweaking they are slightly different widths and heights but it shouldn't be noticeable once painted and based. I based them on lolly sticks to give a nice flat base for both casting and use. When finished I sealed them with 50/50 PVA and water. I don't know if that helped but it didn't harm the process so I'll keep doing it.

Two stone wall masters in foam and wood

Making a form

I went for the seemingly ubiquitous Lego form work which brings me to a slight digression. In any given body of Lego there will be approximately 70% bricks and 30% foreign bodies through past use. This breaks down roughly into:

10% - sand and pet hair.
5% - other toys including model cars, game pieces, dinosaur parts and unidentifiable plastic.
5% - old nut shells and lolly wrappers.
5% - cutlery (presumably for prising bricks apart).
5% - other household objects including fridge magnets, batteries and most likely ANYTHING else you've been looking for which is 3" square or smaller.


Foreign bodies
Once the foreign bodies were filtered I had to dig about to find enough bricks to make the following, including a smooth surface on the bottom.


And here it is with the masters lightly blu-tacked in place.


I discovered afterwards that mine was a tad too large so I wasted some RTV but this is a first try so what the hell.

Making the mold
You have to measure the two parts of the RTV compound very carefully to ensure a good result. Too much or too little of one part and the mold may not set or be fragile. The proportions are easy enough with digital kitchen scales but getting the total required amount is challenging. You can fill the mould with sand or something else and then measure that material or take pot luck like I did. I had to add two more mixes but it sets slowly so no harm done. Once poured in the form you need to leave for a period and being an impatient guy for this kind of thing it's TORTURE. Fortunately football and chocolate filled the emptiness. ;-)

First casts
Once the RTV has set I peeled away the Lego and removed the masters. One master came apart but surprisingly one survived entirely intact. Neither left anything behind so all good.

Mixing the resin is much simpler. It's a 50/50 mix so two transparent plastic cups is perfect. I measured the volume of one wall with water and then used that amount as the required volume for each part of the compound. Simple. It sets faster than you'd believe but you still have time to take care when pouring. I tapped the mold lightly for a few seconds but could see almost no air bubbles.

First batch on the go

See where the RTV left a whole when not mixed properly. No harm done.

Waiting for the casts to cure is where even greater patience is required but thankfully not nearly as much as the RTV. Exactly one shower and a cuppa worth of patience in fact. The mold proved to be very flexible and the casts robust enough that they caused no issues like tearing or breaking when being removed. Nice one!

The finished article
Here it is. The first cast. A few minor bubbles but these easily convert into flaws in the stone to personalise each piece. I'm stoked with how well these worked given I've never tried this before. In two hours I've made another 4 batches and will do enough for 12 sections I think. Next I'll make a corner piece, end piece and ruined section.

Cast above, master below

Stay tuned for the painted and based versions...

Cheers,
Millsy
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