Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Alternative basing materials experiment: tea?!

As the title of this post suggests, I have recently been experimenting with alternate basing materials to the traditional sand. Having grown tired of photographing my painted miniatures against the backdrop of bits of paper or my cluttered modelling surface, and reading this post over on Realm of Chaos 80s, I thought I might have a crack at making a small display board that would also be able to be used for some small-scale skirmish wargames. I didn't, however, fancy covering the whole thing in sand, as the entire thing would be like a giant sheet of sandpaper, and likely take a layer off of any miniature or bodypart that had the misfortune to accidentally come into contact with it... 

I'm sure that I read somewhere that Dave King uses dried tea in his basing, but all a quick skim of his blog gave me was the urge to buy some of his Bederken Miniatures. Forging onwards though, I decided to conduct some experiments to see whether tea is a viable option for basing wargames miniatures...

I enjoy that ours is a hobby that often leads to odd jaunts like collecting the contents of used teabags in the name of science. Point one in tea's favour - it's essentially free, as it's a by-product of my wife's excessive tea consumption. I mean, you could probably skip the next few steps and just use the tea straight out of the bag, but this way you get a nice cuppa out of it (and can make jokes about your hobby being the reappropriation of an essentially renewable resource)...

Which is why every time that I've found myself at home for the day in the last couple of weeks I've been bunging a tray of used tea leaves in the oven. Gas Mark 2, check on them every half hour and give them a bit of a scraping and turning over with a spatula and eventually you get this:

Some dry tea (and a nice smelling kitchen). Some of it is still a bit clumpy, but that's nothing a bit of shaking and crumbling between thumb and forefinger can't sort out (and in future, I'll probably put my dried tea through a sieve to sort out the more unruly lumps). Whacking the lot of it into an old margarine tub, I was ready to begin testing it's suitability as a basing material. My main concerns were how well it would take paint, and how to attach it - would it be better to do the traditional 'glue and dunk' that you would with sand, or would making a glue and tea paste be better? There's only one way to find out...

Step one was to label up some tester bases (40mm, the ones that don't fit into War of the Ring bases as mentioned in this post) and apply some tea:

Excuse the somewhat slapdash finish on these, they were quick and dirty, like all good science should be. And yes, I was struck by the ridiculousness of spending all that time drying out tea only to moisten it into a paste again... Leaving them to dry overnight, the 'glued on' base looked a little precariously attached, whereas the 'paste' base had dried to a fairly solid finish. I then set about giving them the usual simple paintjob I give all my bases. Step one, (after the traditional black gesso undercoat) is a base coat of Codex Grey:

They look fairly similar at this point, but with the application of the next step, a wash of watered-down Vallejo Smoke, we can see that the 'paste' base has dried a little clumpy:

And the other steps (Codex Grey, Fortress Grey, Bleached Bone) confirmed my suspicions - although the 'paste' base was the best attached, the 'glued' base takes paint a bit better.

For comparison's sake, here's a picture of the two experiment bases alongside a traditional slate and sand base:

All things considered, I'll probably end up using the 'glued' method when I make my board, but give it a second coat of watered down glue to make sure it stays stuck down. I'll probably mix in a little of my usual sand and grit mix to give it a little variety in texture too.

One concern I have is using biological material in my basing - what if it rots away? Presumably drying it out and then coating it in glue and paint will prevent this, but I'll let you know in a couple of years if this isn't in fact the case.

So, we're ready to start building a display board at some point in the future, having acquired a cork board:

Although given my easily distracted nature, don't expect to see anything posted up in the near future! The more eagle-eyed of you might have noticed that there are in fact two cork boards in the above picture, but only one of them is destined to end up keeping miniatures off of the floor, the other is for my wife - she plans to hang it up on the wall stick pins in it, like some sort of fetish, the weirdo...

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Blockage cleared!

You know, sometimes there are miniatures that just sit half-painted for months, taunting you from the old tile that you used to use to mix paint on, that you are determined to finish but never seem to. Whenever you try, you pick them up, turn them over, dab on a little paint here and there, and then distract yourself with clearing your work surface, or filing some mould lines off of the miniatures that are part of the project after the next one. These were some of those:

Cultists from Heresy - These are lovely miniatures (and rumour is there might be a plastic kit of them at some point in the future), but I just struggled to finish them. The leader type's staff is a bit miscast, but it was so long between buying them and starting to paint them that I decided to just use it as-is rather than bugging Heresy for a replacement! It probably didn't help that they were originally started a couple of years ago, that I wasn't happy with how I painted the robes, the skin (the list goes on) - but it got to the point where I needed them finished (in the hopes of starting D&D) and so I wasn't getting anything else done.

On the painting desk at the same time was the following miniature, that I just couldn't get a decent finish on:

A shiny, shiny Drow adventurer. Apologies for the use of flash, but it's dark in here.

Now that these are out of the way, there's only a single miniature that needs finishing (the big bad for the adventure that I've written), which I'm currently considering stripping and starting from scratch (and it's literally only the flesh that I've done so far...)

When I wasn't finishing up several year old paintjobs last night, John challenged me to identify a number of mystery bits from his bits box, the majority of which he then gave me:

No whole miniatures, so I'm not adding any points to the tally! There's what looks to be:

  •  a Daemon Prince sized sword
  • the top half of a wraith type (that could probably be attached to some mounted legs or the top of a flowing cloak to fix)
  • Aekold Helbrass, that someone has removed the sword (and a finger) from, that could probably be fixed with a sausage of green stuff and the addition of the aforementioned large sword
  • a bird, from the old Wood Elf Special Character Skaw the Falconer, that will most likely become part of the ASOIAF project when I get around to doing wildlings and make myself a Varamyr Sixskins type skinchanger
  • A weaponless Kislevite, that's pretty cool - likely to end up in the Zombieslayer project, when I get around to it
  • The legs from the Blood Bowl thrower John gave me two and a half years ago - alas, the person that cut off the torso also apparently cut out the belly, but these could still be used to make an injured chap on a stretcher...
Speaking of Uncle Johnny, he mentioned the idea of making an Underworld Blood Bowl team, as he had a few 2nd edition goblins and skaven, so I dug him out this to bulk up the numbers:

an old skaven blitzer that I picked up at Salute a couple of years back. When I went to deliver it though, he had his Blood Bowl collection out on the desk, and it seems he owns 90% of the old-school BB minis ever released! There's a lot of nice stuff, but I think I still prefer 3rd :p

So, when all's said and done, it's time to turn to the tally:

25 vs 440 (yes I'm counting giving away the skaven as minus one to the acquired total!) = -415

So, at this rate by the end of the year I'll have painted a miniature every other week... Admittedly, I've not bought any miniatures in a while, so it's likely that this year's total won't slip any further away from the centre, although it's almost Christmas and yet again I've forgotten to buy a Sanity Claws to paint for the occasion...

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Torches together

Mewithoutyou references aside, this afternoon I set to making some 3d dungeon furniture for Dungeons and Dragons, because although a counter is easy, a model is always better!

Before we begin, I have to mention, this idea is totally stolen from someone else, but I can't remember who to give proper credit!

First, I gathered my materials:

20 & 25 mm gw bases, and some beads. Not pictured: cotton wool, glue, and a hot glue gun.

I glued two bases together to create a plinth, using a hot glue gun (which really did not want to stick, so it took several goes in some cases, where I'd not waited for it to hear up enough, or not used enough glue):

And then glued a bead to the top for the actual fire pot:

No, that's not an olive in the background, I wasn't sure until the last minute whether to use the smaller bead, or to use the larger bead cut in half. I went with the smaller one in the end, as it looked like it'd be the right size for an adventurer to kick off of the plinth at an enemy... 

Lastly, I took some cotton wool, and dunked it in diluted pva, and then using a cocktail stick tried to mash it into the top of the bead and sculpt it into a vaguely fiery shape. That didn't work though, as the cotton wool was far too wet, so I instead applied it dry, and gradually added the pva with a knackered old brush, until I had this:

Once the pva has dried, I'll give the tops of the plinths a once over with some basing paint to give them some texture, then a quick lick of paint and we're away!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

DND - the N is for nostalgia...

As the wife was out for the night, I decided it was high time I put the finishing touches to my 4e adventure, and set about allocating treasure to the various encounters. Soon enough though, I found myself in the mood for some procrastination, and decided to dig out my old Dungeons and Dragons starter box, as I recalled there being a chart that suggested different types of gels for different GP values, which I thought would come in handy (but I was really just procrastinating).

Cracking open the box though, I found a sheaf of notes written by my younger self, probably some fifteen years ago, including a full dungeon with a room by room breakdown:

 I was tempted to see if it could be run in 4e, but glancing over the contents I think a party would walk out with so much money that they'd have to make several trips to cart it out - highlights of the random nature of old-school dungeon creation include a room (an otherwise nondescript corridor) with a single troglodyte with (presumably wearing) a necklace, tiara and bracelet with a combined value of 3500 GP, not counting  the gold, platinum and electrum in the room; or the final confrontation, as the party faces down a horde of 16 kobolds (and a bone golem that comes to life if the elven princess they've come to save gets sacrificed) with 8000 GP in cash on them, before you even start on the magic items cavalierly left on the altar...

I even found a useable campaign arc, which I'm fairly certain is a mishmash of a Terry Brooks novel and an old PC game, which I won't post a pic of as I may well try and shoehorn into my campaign, and one of the players might see.

Also fun are some of the character names:

(Nobby Natwort, fighter, was apparently one of mine)

(Whereas Thorin Orcbiter, traditionally named Dwarf, was one of my little brother's)

I also enjoyed being reminded of the serious, high-stakes drama of some of our games:

Which is odd, as I seem to recall being surprised when I read Critical Miss and discovered that not everyone took roleplaying as seriously as we did when we played...

Also in the box were some oddities, including the beginning of a set of rules for a post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk-esque RPG called Nucleus (although I honestly have zero recollection of writing this, so it's entirely possible past me stole chunks of it wholesale):

"There is a world. There has been a war, but the world refuses to acknowledge this. Above are gleaming cities, bright lights and splendour, but below, there are wastelands. Outlaws and mutants roam free there, with no law apart from the rule of the strong.
And there's another war coming".

Surprisingly, it isn't just a re-skinned DND (but don't get me wrong, it wears it's influences on its sleeve), but instead involved a mechanic whereby it was how much you beat a number by that determined the result - for example, in hand to hand combat, the amount the attacker's roll beat the defender's (including bonuses) was the amount of damage dealt, and armour prevented set points of damage; different classes used different 'Battle Dice', so a top class soldier rolling well on a d12 would most likely easily overcome the defences of the  hapless medic, who unless he rolled exceptionally well at character creation was only rolling a d6... 

Impressively, in the 3 and a half pages of scrawl past me managed to cram in character creation, basic combat, and six classes! Alas, movement was evidently deemed not important enough to discuss (although in the olden days we didn't use a battle grid, movement was assumed and combat was improvised), and the 'Fixer' class only gets one line of descriptive text, his HD, BD & BS (hit dice, battle dice & ballistic skill), and the rule "fixers can use the special fixer drugs", which I apparently then never got around to writing. Other oddities include the raw deal gotten by the medic - although characters only start with 3d6 x 10 credits, "medics must have a medi-kit, or they cannot be a medic". A medi-kit cost 100 credits. My favourite line from past me would have to be in the special rules for the Scout class, where it describes them getting to attack first by surprising their opponents, "(from behind walls, out of boxes etc)", a mental image that makes me chuckle...

Woo, that was a chunk of text almost as long as the chunk of text it was about! I also discovered a small chart that suggests than I might have invented something Thornwatch-esque, but again I have zero recollection of it...

In other procrastination news, I've been whiling away some time on the new D&D app Arena of War, whaling on everything from Beholders:

To Gelatinous Cubes:

If anyone else happens to be throwing hours into this terrible, terrible time sink, feel free to add me, my friend code is: Q2uSmc

Right, so it turns out suitable gems for a 100GP value are Amber and Garnet. What's that on the next page? A Bag of Devouring?