Sunday, 19 November 2017

A 28mm Steam Launch


In my last few posts, I've mentioned in passing that I'm working on terrain for a colonial African settlement, with a trader's or missionary's house, some huts (yet to be bought/made) and a river (also yet to be built).  This will be used for Pulp games and for the Congo rules.

One of the items which is quite important to this setting, at least in my vision, is some river traffic.  I've got some small dugout canoes waiting to be painted, but I also have a steam launch that can be used to take goods and/or passengers up the river.  I just completed the model this morning, so now is a good time to describe it!

The Steam Launch

Firstly, this model is a laser-cut MDF kit from Sarissa Precision, costing the grand amount of £10 at the time of writing.

The hull went together very easily - it has a stepped appearance which gives the impression of a clinker-built boat (look it up if you need to know what this means).  If you wanted a smooth hull instead then I imagine it would be straightforward enough to apply a combination of filler and sanding to achieve this.  I was happy enough with the basic effect.

The boiler and condenser were made up from a large number of not-quite-identical MDF disks stacked on top of each other, with a guiding rod down the centre.  They were all numbered, so the job is simple - though a little care is needed to ensure that they go on in the right order (and the correct way up!).  I found it useful to smooth over the edges of the stack of glued disks with filler so as to remove all the join lines.


Laser-cut MDF works very well for large, flat surfaces.  However, it's not so good for thin items such as poles, masts or gun barrels; in my experience such long items tend to be rather fragile.  Consequently, I replaced the MDF mast with a simple length of bamboo skewer, carefully selecting the straightest piece I could find.

Similarly, I cut a length of drinking straw to use as the boat's funnel.  This fitted over the spigot that the manufacturer had provided at the top of the boiler.  [I built this model a long time ago and cannot remember if Sarissa Precision provided MDF parts for a funnel.  I think they must have done so, but either way, I did my own thing here.]

Finally, I constructed the awning slightly differently from the kit, partly through concern about the possible fragility of the corner posts and partly because I wanted easier access to the deck during gaming.

I replaced the corner posts with lengths of bamboo skewer, one at a time.  As I did so, I drilled a hole down the centre of each skewer and glued in a cut-down nail.  This was not for added strength, but rather because I wanted the flat, iron heads to be on top of the posts so that they could act as landing pads for magnets.

When I finished each replacement post, I cut the corresponging MDF support post from the awning and replaced it with a small, rare earth disk magnet (4mm x 1mm, if I remember correctly?).  Once all four supports had been treated in this way, I was left with a canopy that holds in place well - the magnets are quite strong - but which can be popped off easily when greater access is needed.

The rest was just painting: the hull is white with a red waterline, the decks are a reddish brown and the machinery is a black/grey.  Add on some weathering, some mast stays and a coil of rope on the foredeck and we're done!


The Sarrissa Precision Steam Launch is a straightforward kit which provides a very versatile model of a fairly unusual subject.  It's obviously inspired by (but not identical to) The African Queen - the story of which was set in the early days of World War One.

I'm not convinced by the use of MDF for all the components, though obviously it makes the kit simpler for the manufacturer.  As I mentioned before, MDF is especially fragile and/or unrealistic for long, thin, round parts.  Fortunately, the mast, funnel and canopy supports can be replaced easily and cheaply by an experienced model maker.

Overall: a very welcome addition to my Pulp and Colonial games, after a few modifications have been made to improve robustness.

Sunday, 12 November 2017



Last week, I showed some pictures of my cluttered workbench (here).  Even if you didn't realise it, I noticed from this article how many of the models present were "blockers"; they had sat around waiting for attention for weeks, months or even years.

This thought shamed me so much that I decided to try to finish some of these stalled projects, or at least put more paint on such models.  Often, the inactivity is self-reinforcing - when I finally started to work on the pieces below, I found that often they weren't so difficult (or so far from completion) as I had imagined after all!

The Strathclyde Welsh

Some time ago, I started to build a SAGA "Strathclyde Welsh" warband.  Where I live, these are the local boys (at least, the Strathclyde part of their lands is local, not so much the Welsh part).

I started this warband so long ago that I daren't even look it up in the blog; I'd probably be horrified at just how long these have taken.  Anyway, these are the last 6 of the 16 warriors, 8 hearthguard and a warlord, thus completing a basic 4pt SAGA force - hurrah!

Of course, I've got another 8 Strathclyde foot warriors that are still mint-in-blister...

The Steam Launch

Progress has been made on the MDF launch; it turns out that only a few colours are needed to paint this model.  I've still to dirty it up a bit, since I'm aiming more for a working boat "African Queen" look rather than a modern-day cherished & polished Victorian heirloom.  When the painting is done, I intend to add some rope - probably a coil on the foredeck and some mast stays.

The Missionary's/Trader's House

My other "colonial" project at the moment is this house.  The basic building was almost finished anyway; I've added the interior floor since last week.  Mind you, that hasn't gone very well as the paper on which the flooring is printed has wrinkled terribly.  I might have to think again about how to do this...

Behind the house is the tiled roof which came with the model.  I've base-coated it, but haven't detailed or weathered any of the tiles.

Having considered it a little, I thought that it would be nice to have a thatched roof for the bungalow; I could then use it in slightly less "civilised" parts of the world.  Initially, I thought of just covering the already-built, tiled roof with teddy bear fur, but in the end I cut out new pieces of MDF to make a scratch-built, second roof.  This is the first time I've ever worked with fur fabric - it seems to be going well so far.

The Generator

Finally, the generator got a little love.  I have almost finished a new "hoop"; this will fit in the middle of the existing piece.

After that, I'll need to build some platforms and handrails in the gaps on either side.  At this stage, I have no idea how I'll do this!  It sounds like a job for which the old "Platformer" kits would have worked well - but I don't have such a thing in my spares box.  Oh, well - I'm sure I'll have an idea sooner or later...

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Workbench, November 2017


It's been a while since I did a workbench post (June 2016, to be precise), so I thought it might be time for another.  Have I completed all the models which were present then?  Is the area less cluttered than 17 months ago?  Let's find out...

The Workbench

Nope, it's even less tidy than before, if that's possible.  I even have the leaves of the desk extended and covered with models, as well as piles of boxes and other stuff down the sides.

Let's take a closer look at some of these ongoing projects...

On the left are a couple of boats (a steam launch and a sampan) for Pulp and/or colonial games.  On the right you can see the ponies for my final six Strathclyde Welsh warriors.  After I've completed them, I'll have a basic 4 point Strathclyde warband for SAGA and will therefore be able to play them in a game.

The paint station is covered in a huge mix of different models, all part-completed.  Amongst other things, you can see:
  • A ducking stool (and Puritans to man it); this will be used in witch-hunting games.
  • Some members of my Frostgrave "red" warband.
  • Various figures for my Hordes of the Things "Barbarian" army, including more foot warriors and a wooly rhino (in the small, black box).
  • Some of my son's Warhammer 40K Tau models: a missile turret and a battle suit.
  • Part of a relic/mecha from Relic Knights (also in the black box).  The large circular base for this is partly visible in the bottom right of the picture.

To the right of the paint station, but still on the desk, is a box of Relic Knights figures.  These are Star Corsairs and are a mixture of very nice and quite awful poses!

On the right-hand leaf of the desk you can see my long-promised generator model.  I'm thinking that this is more 20th century (so, Pulp or Spy-Fi) rather than futuristic, but who knows?

Behind that is another of my son's Tau models, plus a cardboard space fighter and another cardboard model (a refuse truck) on which the glue has failed; the components are all falling apart and I haven't yet decided whether it's worth trying to rescue it.

Moving on, here is a pile of 3 sci-fi "colony" buildings, partly painted.  I really must make more progress on these.

Finally, this is an MDF building (minus the roof, which hasn't yet been worked).  It's going to be a colonial trader's or missionary's house.  I've ordered some fur fabric with which to "thatch" the roof; hopefully that won't take too long once I have the material.


I really need to finish some of these models, if only so that they can be put away and not take up so much room on my desk!  The thought of having so much incomplete stuff was so depressing that recently I couldn't face painting.  Instead, I spent much of last weekend building some Saracen heavy cavalry to start a new SAGA warband...

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Batrep: The Witches' Revenge


Fore several years, I've played an annual Halloween game.  Usually, this has involved witches and has been gamed with the marvellous "Song of Blades and Heroes" rules.  Here are some of our previous efforts:
So far, the record for the forces of darkness in these games has been poor.  I'd even go further and say that they have performed dismally!

This year I've made some changes to the attributes for both sides, but especially for the witches and their minions, hoping to make them a bit more cost-effective.  In particular, I've removed Flying from the witches and added a sorely-needed Leader instead.  Also I've toned the ghouls down a bit by removing the Savage attribute to make them a bit cheaper.  Can the evil-doers win a game?  Read on to find out...

The Scenario

We decided to repeat the scenario that I created for The Flames of Justice: one witch has been captured and is about to be burned at the stake.  It's up to the other two sisters of the coven to rescue her before the Puritans can light the bonfire!

One adjustment was made to the setup rules for this scenario: we decided that any attackers with Swarm or Stealth attributes. or which was designated as a Ghost, could set up without being limited by proximity to a defender - as long as they were placed in or touching a piece of terrain.  This would represent them having infiltrated the town ahead of the battle and then appearing suddenly from under a hedgerow, through a wall or similar.

Forces were slightly larger than the previous time we played this game: each side had 2 commands.  There were 3 players; Steve took all the evil-doers and my son A. and I each took half of the humans.  Roughly speaking, these were the forces:
  • Witches: 2 witches, 2 hell hounds, several ghouls, 1 ghost.
  • Ratmen: 1 leader, several dog-sized rats, 5 swarms and 1 gigantic, berserk rat monster.
  • The Colonel's Men: Colonel Brandon, Sir Jasper (the magistrate), Sergeant Stone, several musket-men and several other soldiers.
  • The Witch Hunter's Posse: John Sterne (the witch hunter), Brother Matthew (the mad monk), Major Fairfax, several musketeers and several swordsmen.

From the other perspective: The rat monster contemplates an apparently-deserted village street, with just the pyre in the distance.

The Game

Fairly predictably, the combined forces of evil (witches and rats) advanced.  They were very successful with activation rolls and even managed to assault the nearest defenders.

In return, most of the men just stood around, bewildered at the sudden onslaught.  A notable exception to this: Sir Jasper, the magistrate, lit the pyre.

On turn two, most of the men again held their positions; their leaders were all engaged in combat and the ordinary foot soldiers weren't going to move without specific instructions, or so it seemed.

One dog-sized rat was shot by a musketeer (so, first blood to the humans!), but otherwise Colonel Brandon was hard pressed by a hell hound and a pack of ghouls.

In a most unlikely turn of events, the captive witch on the pyre caught fire and blazed brightly; within a moment she was consumed by the flames and killed!  [What?  That happened in our last game too!  On the first possible turn where the fire might injure the captive, we rolled a 6:1 split on the dice.
  • Witch: combat score of 2 + roll of 1 for a total of 3
  • Fire: combat score of 1 + roll of 6 for a total of 7.
Fire doubles witch, so witch dies].

At this point, the men have technically won the game as the captive cannot be rescued alive.  We decided to play on anyway - and I made a mental note to revise the victory conditions for this scenario.

Before the soldiers could celebrate, a horrendous rat monster charged through the smoke, grabbed the nearest man and smashed him to the ground.  Major Fairfax and his immediate group were sandwiched between various rat swarms, giant rats and the black-robed rat priest.  One swordsman perished immediately; the rest of the band were forced to fight back-to-back against the seething horde of rodents.

Their desperate plight was saved when Major Fairfax fired his pistol into the sea of grey bodies.  He must have loaded the weapon with some special ammunition in anticipation of such a foe, for he caused a gruesome kill on a section of the rat swarm, causing the rest of the rat tide to part like the red sea and scatter in several directions.

On the other side of the bonfire, the rat monster flattened the next man to stand in front of it.  Only John Sterne (the witch hunter) now stood in its way.

Colonel Brandon was harried backwards by hell hounds; only his skillful direction of his horse enabled him to stay in one piece.

His retreat was covered, in part at least, by Sergeant Stone.  The portly NCO held his ground as if rooted to the spot; neither the hell hounds nor the ghouls could move him or penetrate his armour and cause him injury.

The rat monster tore through John Sterne as if he was of no more consequence than any of the other men.  In desperation, Colonel Brandon broke off from his fight with the hell hounds and faced the gigantic creature.  At least being mounted, he could strike at it without being disadvantaged by inferior height.

Taking advantage of the scattering of the rat swarms, Brother Matthew charged up to the plague priest, screaming some very unholy imprecations.  He swung his staff so hard that the rat-man's skull was shattered and its brains splashed over the cobbles [another gruesome kill, though not very many other rats were close enough to require a morale check].

Colonel Brandon survived his initial encounter with the rat monster, but then decided to withdraw and seek reinforcements [the rat ogre killed another musketeer; this took the Colonel's force below half strength and he partially failed a morale check, as did Sergeant Stone].

The monster, perhaps confused by the smoke, didn't follow the Colonel.  Instead it moved around the other side of the pyre to seek fresh prey [it was still berserk and therefore had to attack the nearest enemy.  Although it could see Sir Jasper on the other side of the bonfire, it couldn't quite reach him - yet].

Elsewhere on the field, Major Fairfax's men were hunting down the rat swarms.  Although this wasn't entirely one-sided, they did manage to kill enough to reduce the rats to half strength.

No-one really cared about the resulting morale checks for the swarms, but everything swung on what would happen to the rat monster.  Of course, it rolled a triple '6'; the huge creature's blood lust was so fierce that it didn't even notice that it was almost all that remained of the rodent force!

A collection of heroes surround the rat ogre.  From the left: Colonel Brandon, Sir Jasper, Major Fairfax, Brother Matthew.

In one desperate gamble, all the remaining men who could reach assaulted the monster at the same time.  They had basically one shot at this before the completely undamaged witches' force overran the centre of the village.

The dice were rolled, but it was only enough for a push-back - probably about the worst result possible for the men, since they hadn't (quite) managed to place figures to prevent the monster from retreating.  At least the defeat cost the rat ogre its berserk status...

After this, it was all too obvious that the humans were doomed.  The valiant Sergeant Stone, who had done so much to hold up the dark forces to the west, was surrounded by ghouls and torn limb from limb.

Once the witches and their hell hounds attacked Colonel Brandon from behind, the game was effectively over.  Rather than fight it out to the bitter end, the defenders conceded and we went off to get some lunch.


Yikes - that rat monster is an unholy terror!  It has a combat score of 5, plus 2 for being berserk (at least until the first time it is defeated), plus another 1 against opponents who are smaller than it (i.e. just about everyone).  That means the only way to defeat it is to gang up on it, ideally with 5 or 6 men at once.  In this game, we weren't able to concentrate our forces in such a manner until too late - and even then it was too little.  Contrast with the last time that we used the rat force, where the monster was killed almost immediately!

The witches handled their force competently and didn't lose even a single model, but were stymied by the often sluggish behaviour of the hell hounds (this has happened in other games too; these beasts just don't seem very biddable) and by the heroic resistance of Sergeant Stone.  He may not have landed any blows of his own, but he just couldn't be killed or pushed out of the way for much of the game.  Also note that the ghost underperformed: it drifted about the battlefield but didn't do much other than moan softly!

Finally, the captive at the stake was burnt to death.  I'm going to have to revisit the victory conditions for this scenario, as an against-the-odds, technical win for the defenders in turn two just doesn't feel right!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Zomtober 2017, Week 5

<==  This way for Week 4


Thank goodness: it's nearly over!  This is the fifth and final week of Zomtober 2017; I've really struggled to motivate myself to paint enough models this month.  Here's the final entry at least - I made it after all!

Last week, I showed a survivor who was, in my view, not dressed appropriately for the apocalypse.  This week, I have another survivor who isn't taking it seriously, though for a very different reason, I suspect...

Freya vs. Female Army Zombie

So, today's duel is between a woman called "Freya" and a model of a female soldier turned zombie ("Female Army Zombie", henceforth "FAZ").

Freya is harnessed to a flame-thrower and holding a gold cigarette lighter; it seems as if fire is very much her "thing".  At a casual glance, she appears to be dressed in a wet suit, but closer examination (especially of the placement of zips on the upper chest) suggests that it is some form of fetish wear.  This assessment is reinforced by the inclusion of pink platform boots and elbow-length gloves.

I cannot see that this is appropriate wear for any situation beyond a handful of bedrooms, let alone as survival gear for the zombie apocalypse.  The inclusion of flame weapons (which as everyone knows aren't good for anything apart from being mauled by burning zombies) suggests that Freya is - how can I put this delicately - a bit of a wacko!

FAZ is a Mantic "Plague Zombie"; I've showed at least one of these before in a Zomtober duel.  They're technically sci-fi models, though I've shaved off most of the protruding spikes and excrescences which were bursting out of the figure.  This isn't the greatest model I've ever painted and it only has a very simple paint job.  Still, FAZ should do as a "disposable" horde opponent.

In contrast, Freya is an old metal figure from Wargames Foundry's "Street Violence" range.  If I remember correctly then she was a promotional figure entitled "Hot Whacks"; I've no idea whether the model is still available or not.  It's taken me many years to paint Freya, not because she's especially difficult but rather because I had difficulty in deciding how to do the job (just what colour should a gimp suit be?)


As ever, the question is this: who wins?

Personally, I think that Freya will turn FAZ to ashes, but I'm not sure that she actually cares whether she wins or loses.  Indeed, I rather suspect that Freya intends to go out in a blaze of glory, fulfilling some half-imagined immolation fantasy in the process.  It's the first time that I've ever felt that a human in one of my duels might actually not wish to be a survivor!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Zomtober 2017, Week 4

<==  Week 3 is here


Zomtober - is that still going?  I feel as if I've been posting these articles like, forever!  Ah, well - there's no rest: here's another Sunday and so I owe my readers another zombie/survivor duel...

Danny vs Men-In-Blue Zombie

Today's pairing is between a very newly-completed survivor named Danny and a newish build of a zombified agent from the Men-in-Blue organisation.

I've hinted at my Men-In-Blue agents before in a couple of posts (one of which was a Zomtober duel some years ago between a MiB female agent and a zombie.  Sadly, I cannot remember which article and I can't be bothered to look, so if you want to know then you'll need to find it yourself :-) ).  However, I've never really explained what type of organisation MiB might be.  The truth is that I don't know myself, yet!  I've painted up 2 live agents so far, plus a zombified ex-agent - but without much of an idea as to what they do...

Men-in-Blue zombie (MiBZ) has got a gun in his right hand.  However, he doesn't appear to know how to use it.  Indeed, he seems to have only just noticed his left hand for the first time; it's clearly engaging a lot of his very limited attention.

On the other hand, Danny is dressed for a day at the beach, or maybe for a visit to Disneyland or a sports match.  His sandals, tee shirt and shorts don't suggest to me that he is particularly likely to survive zombie fighting for long.

Then again, he's picked up an assault rifle from somewhere - and he has a water bottle as well.  I've mentioned before the importance of having good access to hydration during the apocalypse, so maybe Danny isn't as helpless as he looks?  Or maybe he just got lucky with the gun and the sports bottle?

Both of these figures are out-of-the-box builds of Warlord Games plastic kits.  Danny is from the "Apocalypse Survivors: Men" set that was previously owned by Wargames Factory, whilst MiBZ is from the new-ish male zombies set.  The man is on the base which came with the kit, whilst MiBZ is mounted on a resin base from Escenorama.


The final part of each of these duels is always the same question: what happens next?

My 2c worth: they're both pretty rubbish at their jobs: MiBZ is too busy staring at the five wiggly appendages on the end of his hand and Danny, despite lucking out in obtaining a gun, just isn't prepared for the fight of his life.

All other things being equal, I think I'd give the win to the man because he has the greater intelligence and dexterity.  Even if only slightly...

Onward to Week 5 ==>

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Zomtober 2017, Week 3

<== Week 2 is here


Right, I've just returned from a week's holiday in Kintyre (it was muddy!) to find that I owe another Zomtober post.  Is there no respite?

At least this time I had prepared a couple of figures in advance to present as this Sunday's zombie vs survivor duel, so that's not a problem.  Of course, there are 2 more weekends yet to come in October this year; I still have to paint up some models for them...

The Duel

This week's confrontation is between an unarmed survivor named "Lee" and "Orange Boilersuit Zombie" (OBZ).

Lee is a short, thickset man, dressed in denim dungarees and a white tee shirt with strong, thick-soled work boots.  He could be from almost any manual trade.

Judging from his actions, Lee knows a bit of Kung Fu - or at least he thinks he does.  Perhaps he is indeed an expert, but I suspect from his slightly ungainly posture that he's more of a Jackie Chan fan than the real deal.

OBZ is a straightforward zombie in a brown boilersuit; he might have been an electrician, mechanic, plumber or similar artisan when still alive.  But why is he handcuffed - and what happened to the rest of the person to whom he was thus shackled?  Also, all the skin has been torn from his face, leaving just a grinning skull.  How did that happen?

The zombie model comes from Warlord Games' male zombies frame; he's mounted on an Escenorama resin base.

Lee is from the slightly weird Golgo Island range, specifically from Character Pack 5.  These are available from East Riding Miniatures, at least in the UK.  He's on a simple, home-made base.


So, what happens next?  If Lee is smart enough or lucky enough then he'll use his steel-capped boots to crush OBZ's kneecaps.  He can then run away (or walk, indeed) without being pursued.  However, if Lee has delusions of grandeur and believes that he can emulate Chuck Norris then I fear the worst for him.  If the zombie catches him then I think it'll end badly for the man.

Of course, if Lee really is a kung fu maestro then he'll kick the cr*p out of the zombie!

This way to Week 4 ==>