Sunday, 7 February 2016

An Oak Tree


When pootling around 'Salute 2015' I happened to spy that '4Ground' had started to expand their buildings range to include scenic elements such as trees.  All looked rather splendid, but came with a hefty price tag that saw me, quite unusually, be sensible and pass them by.  Unfortunately, try as I might, I couldn't dislodge this discovery and during one particular late night shopping session* I succumbed, after all if you don't hand the money over in person it doesn't feel so painful! 
*Harveys Sussex Best Bitter has a lot to answer for.

I had opted for a rather splendid oak tree to add some gravitas to the forestry here at 'Awdry Towers', but at £19, I have to say that I was a little disappointed when it arrived.  Yes, it comes with a useful pre-painted MDF base, yes the additionally flocking on top of the clump foliage is a nice touch and yes the sturdy and well sculpted plastic trunk looked good, but was it worth the price tag?  I certainly didn't think so.  
Feeling the need to somehow justify the purchase to myself, I rooted around periphery of the lead pile until I discovered my quarry - 'Warbases' rabbits and pheasants; it's been a while since I returned with such a bountiful game bag, but I digress.  These tiny little additions of fur and feather were safely secured to sticks to aid the painting process and then liberally distributed around the base of the old oak tree.

With the addition of some pumice gel, a few stones and then the customary tuft or two, I was starting to feel a whole lot brighter about my purchase.
So have I learnt my lesson and will now refrain from buying things on a whim?  Obviously not, but I might be more inclined to go back to building my own using armatures; if I could get my hands on the one that '4Ground' use.  That said I they did have some splendid willows and then there were the poplars! 
Speaking of rabbits, as we were, I happened across a rather exciting section over at the 'Hasslefree Miniatures' site, where you can get your hands on some rather exotically flavoured jerky from 'Cowley's Fine Foods'.  Now I appreciate that the sight and taste of dried meat is not for everyone, but it has become a guilty pleasure of mine and find it just the sort of nourishment a chap needs when planing a long expedition to the painting table.  The  Rabbit Jerky, amusingly dubbed Watership Doom, is particularly tasty! 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

I have a cunning plan!

‘Defensive Terrain’, as soon as I read this all I could think of were the trench systems of the First World War where both sides ‘dug in’ to take cover and hold their ground. With a continuous line of trenches covering some 400 miles from Switzerland to the North Sea, positions were lost, retaken and lost again with seemingly no escape from the mud and the imminent threat of death. Like many, I have been fascinated and moved by the exploits and memoirs of those that lived through this particular hell on earth. So it was that this ‘Defensive Terrain’ was to become the subject of my submission with the emphasis on one dugout in particular.
As with previous builds, foam board, balsa wood and cooks’ matches were pressed into action to give the basic structure before the bits box was raided to ‘dress the set’. This, I have to confess, was great fun and before long the piece was growing as sandbags and barbed wire were added, hinting at what was beyond the comparative safety of the dugout. Each addition brought new challenges like scaling down the maps and posters or creating chin straps to hang the helmets to the wall – the whole process became totally absorbing.
Finally, then, to the miniatures themselves; after an exhaustive search my hand fell upon a delightfully whimsical pack of ‘Scarab Miniatures’, entitled, ‘British Captains, Generals and Characters’ and whilst I acknowledge the glaring historical inaccuracies of my build, I make so such apology for these miniatures. 
[discussing how the war began]
Private Baldrick: I heard it started when some fella called Archie Duke shot an ostrich 'cos he was hungry.
Captain Blackadder: I think you mean that it started when the Arch Duke of Austro-Hungary got shot.
Private Baldrick: No, there was definitely an ostrich involved.
A sheer delight to work on, requiring the minimal of preparation this character pack bears a striking resemblance to a certain Captain Blackadder and chums. They are almost caricature in appearance, and as such will not be to everyone’s taste, but I cannot remember enjoying painting a set of miniatures more. This may well have been because I kept replaying episodes of the tremendous ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, for research purpose only you understand, whilst painting them and found myself chuckling throughout. In fact it seems incredulous that it is now over twenty five years since the final episode of the series was aired. A program that, in my humble opinion, managed to combine humour and pathos in just the right balance to create a truly uniquely British institution.
Captain Blackadder: How are you feeling, Darling?
Captain Darling: Ahm... not all that good, Blackadder. Rather hoped I'd get through the whole show. Go back to work at Pratt and Sons, keep wicket for the Croydon Gentlemen, marry Doris... Made a note in my diary on the way here. Simply says: "Bugger."
Once again, I have become totally sidetracked by yet another bonus round but I am I worried?  Not a bit of it, especially when the process was so much fun.   Of course my entry is only one of many and I would urge you to go and see the others here; perhaps vote for your favourite?

As a final aside, I need to thank Mark Hargreaves, of 'Over Open Sights' fame for sharing with me his WWI painting guide for 'Tommies'.  Not only a very talented painter and modeller, Mark is a Gentleman and a Scholar, thank you Sir. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Cetshwayo Challenge

Perhaps  not unsurprising to some my ‘Challenge’ has been somewhat derailed by the wonderfully, ambiguously titled bonus rounds.  With two already completed, I have been totally absorbed in preparing miniatures and ideas for the remaining four, but I mustn’t forget that I have a couple of side duels that I need to attend to.  
The first, the 'Cetshwayo Challenge’, is my ongoing battle with Martin Cooke, of ‘28mm Heroes’ fame to paint as many Zulus as possible during the course of the challenge.  I say ongoing, but Martin has actually finished his already!  151 Zulu Warriors to good, you would think that this is an unassailable lead, but thanks to Martin’s incredible generosity and sportsmanship we have agreed a handicap system that sees every one of my efforts equal to four of his.  This means that my total is a more manageable 38, surely I can do this?  Well so far the omens are not good!
Preparation started well with the construction of these Warlord Games/Empress Miniatures Unmarried Zulu Warriors box, consisting of 32 self assembly hard plastic miniatures. The purists will undoubtedly bemoan the historical inaccuracy of these chaps wearing their full ceremonial regalia in the heat of battle, but I have to confess that I rather like them.  I have managed to submit eight of these noble warriors to the Challenge proper, painting them with black shields and a white spot in the lower half to represent the Indluyengwe (Leopard’s Den) Regiment that fought at Rorke’s Drift.  That unfortunately is as far as I have got!  I still have time* in which to chip away at Martin’s tally, but I think that I had better add an Induna to my painting queue, the agreed forfeit to be presented to the winner on completion of the challenge.
*not to mention a half term break
If you get a chance have a look at what Martin achieved in only eleven days of painting – inspiration stuff!

Monday, 18 January 2016

If it bleeds, we can kill it.

Epic Fail?  A title that could so easily have been referring to my contribution for this bonus round as I was totally stumped for ideas when I first read it.  Still unperturbed I took it upon myself to indulge in a bit of web based research only to lose an hour of my life chuckling at the great many de-motivational posters that appear when typing in said title – people can be so cruel, but then again people can be so stupid!    Humour was going to be important in this round, something mildly absurd that it draws a smile over the most cynical of faces.
I considered famous military blunders of which there are many; the Charge of Light Brigade, Little Big Horn and Maginot Line to name but a few.  In the end it came down to using miniatures that I already had and in this case I fell upon the Dogs of War set from 'Rogue Miniatures'.
This seven piece team of exquisitely sculpted mercenaries, armed to the teeth with a vast array of weaponry, bore an uncanny likeness to a certain team of commandos.  A team that was last seen on a mission in an unspecified Central American jungle only to find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial trophy hunter;  I refer, of course, to one of the Austrian Oak’s finer celluloid outings – Predator.  I have to confess that I love this film, probably because I was of a very impressionable age when it received its theatrical release in 1987 and there is one scene, above all, that qualifies it to represent in the epic fail round.
How is it that a crack team of elite Special Forces troops manage to 'unload' vast quantities of ammunition into the jungle and miss everything?  For a full sixty seconds* the team decimate the rain forest faster than a logging company and fail, epically, to bring down their target!
 *I know because I timed it!


"No blood, no bodies... We hit nothing!"
Still not all was lost as a splatter of lurid, green blood on one of few remaining plants in the vicinity suggests that the Predator was now, at least, be sporting a flesh wound! Yes this was cinematic gold and hugely entertaining nonsense, held together with some fine scriptwriting that proffered such memorable lines as,
"I've seen some bad-ass bush before, man, but nothin' like this."

"You lose it here; you're in a world of hurt."

and the immortal,
"Get to da Chopper!"
So my contribution to second round was made up of eight** 28mm miniatures on a scenic base and is intended as a homage rather than an actual representation of the infamous scene; especially as devotees of the film will be quick to point out that it was Blaine, the self proclaimed "god damned sexual Tyrannosaurus", whose untimely end prompts the ensuing 'lead fest', with Sergeant Mac Eliot picking up, "Ol' Painless", a hand-held M134 Minigun, and firing off two hundred rounds - Epic Fail!
**I had considered just painting seven and claiming an additional five points for a 'cloaked' Predator,!
The Predator was an impulse buy from the Predastore, a curious consortium of sculptors commissioned from a central base in Switzerland. The company produce a range of exquisitely sculpted 'hunters'; this one imaginatively dubbed, 'Chasing Hunter' is sculpted by Remy Tremblay. Each miniature is limited in its run and when this number is reached is never cast again. From the outset I was a tad apprehensive as I was venturing into a more exclusive market and unsure as to whether or not I would be able to do justice to the miniature. When it arrived the apprehension rose a notch or two on seeing so many tiny pieces that needed to be assembled.
On a positive note there were a minimal amount of mould lines and where there was any flash it was so paper thin that it disappeared when I washed the model - this was serious stuff! I instantly packed it away and tried to forget just how much I had spent on a single miniature. When I say packed away I mean carelessly threw it into a box with other miniatures, for when I came to assemble it for this project, I was missing some flaying dreadlocks and the beast's mandibles were somewhat denuded!
I managed to fill the gaps in his scalp with greenstuff, but my dentistry skills are clearly not up to scratch, but having tentatively drilled and pinned his wrist I wasn't prepared to chance my arm much further. When it came to painting I was pleasantly surprised how straightforward it was and having established a palate for skin, leather and armour it all rather fell into place much to my relief.
 Finally, then, the jungle which went through several incarnations before I settled on the current offering based again on a 'Warbases' 120mm MDF disc, with smaller discs to aid standing the miniatures on.  The palms, from 'The Model Tree Shop' are slotted into root like holders so that they can be removed and reused, whilst the etched brass tree ferns, available through 'Hasslefree Miniatures', are fixed with little lumps of green stuff.  
From the most unlikely of starting points, I have to say that I am delighted with how the entry progressed and thrilled to have finally tackled some miniatures that have been too long overlooked.  Of course my entry is only one of many and I would urge you to go and see the others here.

Friday, 15 January 2016

A Barrel of Laughs!

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why the 'Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge' has proved to be so successful.  With this been my fourth year of contributing I have seen its exponential growth to the current roster of eighty eight, showcasing an incredibly diverse array of talent, styles and miniatures all combining to form a formidable hobby showcase.  The congeniality of our host, Curtis Campbell Esq. must certainly be identified as a contributing factor to the success of the venture, as to the hugely encouraging and supportive nature of my fellow challengers.  For me, however, the thematic nature of the challenge also proves important and this year’s, celebrating risk takers, daredevils and gamblers, is no exception.
Carlisle Graham rapid shooting daredevil
As in previous Challenges, we are asked to provide a small memento in the form of a single 28mm figure characterised as a risk-taker, daredevil or gambler and this started the old grey matter cogitating.  I can’t tell you why or how, but one morning I awoke with the germ of an idea that saw my ‘fee’ come to fruition.  The spirit of human endeavour seems to breed risk takers, people that have undertaken Herculean tasks simply because they are there to do so.  The annals of our very existence are littered with such feats, but my attention fell on one particular group of thrill seekers – those brave souls that looked to conquer the Niagara Falls!

Given this natural phenomenon’s proximity to the fine nation that is Canada, home of our beloved benefactor in this annual painting challenge, this seemed to good an opportunity to pass up. The list of those that have tried to tame the falls is impressive with the likes of Annie Taylor, the first person to conquer the falls in a barrel back in 1901 or Englishman Charles G. Stephens who equipped his wooden barrel with an anvil for ballast, an ingenious idea but not wholly practical – only Charles’ right arm was discovered after his attempt!

With the die cast, it was just a matter of locating a miniature that would suffice and as luck would have it ‘Hasslefree Miniatures’ had just what I was after – ‘Gambler Kev’.  Although listed as 28mm this delightfully quirky sculpt is small, perhaps more suited to representing a very short man or a teenage boy with a shaved head.  As a result, I felt I needed to add a little extra and stumbled across a rather splendid tutorial for splashing water effects.  So without any further ado let me present my homage to those risk takers, daredevils and gamblers who have tried, with differing levels of success, to tame the mighty Niagara.
Now back to finishing of my entry for the latest bonus round entitled 'Epic Fail'!

Monday, 11 January 2016

2015, a year in review...

… and new targets for 2016
Once again, I seem to be somewhat behind the curve with the start of the new academic term and my involvement in the hobby juggernaut that is the 'VI Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge' slowing publication of this yearly review.  I appreciate that there has been a veritable glut of these of late, but I do enjoy a review of the year and I promise that I will keep this brief. 

Hobby wise, 2015 was a difficult year, here at '28mm Victorian Warfare'; the day job threw up all manner of new and demanding distractions leaving me exhausted and causing all concerned a great deal of anxiety. There is little to do in times like these, but remain professional and work one's way through the difficulties even if they appear to occur on a daily basis.  During this time the blog rarely ran more than a weekly 'Paint Table Saturday' update as proof of life and the 'Saintly Mrs. Awdry' needs special mention as her continued love and support saw me through this particularly problematic chapter. There was to be light at the end of the tunnel and I was pleased to see an upturn in posting towards the end of the year perhaps brought about by the hugely enjoyable theme months of 'Zomtober' and 'Dinovember'.

Another hobby frustration has been Blogger's recent memory loss.  Several of my favourite blogs have vanished or appear intermittently on my blog roll, meaning that I often miss much of their content. I can't seem to find an answer to this phenomenon and certainly don't want to delete the several hundred blogs I follow and start again.  All I can do is ask that you give me a gentle nudge if you feel that I have been absent far any length of time.

The lure of the crowd funding platform that is Kickstarter, saw me pledge repeatedly and far too frequently throughout the year, backing hugely popular games like Zombicide, Rum & Bones and Conan. There were also some more modest, but nonetheless creative, endeavours backed such as Westphalia's Wasteland Warriors, Studio Miniatures Medieval Mayhem and Integrated Wargames Buildings to name but a few. This probably needs to be looked at before it becomes a bonafide addiction, but I do get quite a buzz out of the process and enjoy being part of something from the start.

An unexpected hobby avenue was to be the 'Batman Miniatures Game'. Completely absorbed by the related posts of Messrs Templar & Feb, I succumbed and started collecting and creating my own Penguin Crew that culminated in a couple of games here at 'Awdry Towers'. Although the gentlemen concerned have moved on to newer and shinier distractions, I still have a hankering to explore the world of Batman a little further and, having received a copy of the rule book as a Christmas present, I hope to lure the Joker and the Caped Crusader into a game or two in 2016.


So on to the review of last year's targets:
1 Play more games! Target Met! - Just as last year my gaming exploits were predominately board games, although 2015 did see some Batman Miniatures Game, Zombicide, Space Cadets - Away Missions, Rum & Bones, Zombicide - Black Plague action.

2 Maintain a credible level of posts throughout the course of the year. I do not want to be prescriptive on this but will certainly look to maintain the interest in '28mm Victorian Warfare' by looking to post between 5 – 10 posts per month (a minimum of 60 posts for the year).   Target met! 71 posts made in 2015 and although considerably down on previous years, I think this level of posting reflects a much more realistic and manageable target.

3 Attend at least one convention/exhibition/expo this year. Target met! Salute 2015. Sadly we were unable to attend Euro Militaire, but Salute remains one of my hobby highlights of the year. I thoroughly enjoy a brief time out of the shopping scrum to shake a few hands and tell a few tales. 

4 I would like to try to curb the additional expenditure on miniatures this year, or at least try to bring it into line with output. A simple tally score will suffice, hopefully something that will 'shame' me into being a little more restraint when it comes to all things hobby related. Target Met! Painted 178 - 101 Bought = +77 in credit! Half the fun of the hobby is adding to the ever growing lead pile, but I am pleased that I am starting to address the balance a little more favourably.  Although not as much painted as in previous years, I was pleased with the level of consistency that I am currently achieving. 

According to my tally counter the numbers are as follows*:
Painted/constructed: 178
Bought: 101
Balance: +77

Detailed breakdown:
Foot: 83
Mounted: 7
Artillery: 2
Vehicles: 3
Buildings/Terrain pieces: 43
Livestock: 38

*All miniatures are 28mm scale unless otherwise stated

So what has 2016 in store for '28mm Victorian Warfare'? Well simply put, more of the same. Over the last five years or so, I have come to accept the futility of writing over prescriptive lists. I like lists, but just seem incapable of sticking to them, preferring instead to simply write new lists! There have been moments when I have questioned just what it is that I want to pursue hobby wise, but I'm not sure that I want to have that conversation with myself just at the moment. I would like to see more Batman games played and also to take the zombies from the board game to the tabletop proper, so to speak. There is of course the 'Witchfinder General' project that continues to rumble on and I am interested in investigating 'Pulp' rules, particularly those related to dinosaur hunting expeditions, but already I feel that I have highlighted more than I know that I will realistically be able to achieve.

Once again, my interest in Victorian Warfare seems to be woefully overlooked and I am acutely aware that this needs to be redressed. Rest assured, gently reader, that there are no plans to rename the blog and that this will always remain a period that I will continue to return to.  So time to reset that 'Tally Counter' and present, in a roughly chronological order of creation, my efforts from 2015!

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