Wednesday, 27 February 2019

"Would you like a Jelly Baby?"

Tom Baker, as the fourth incarnation of the alien Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, was my Doctor. His tenure, lasting longer than any other, ran from 1974 - 1981, was just when young Master Awdry was starting to take an interest in all things Science Fiction. Whilst I wouldn't call myself the most die hard of Whovians, the series did, and still does, hold a special place in my heart. So when it came to conjuring up ideas for the 'Childhood' round, of the 'VIII Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge', I found myself instantly transported back in space and time.
There is a misconception that we spent the 70s hiding behind the settee, fearful of the monsters that sprang fourth from our television sets, but not I, I would rather be sat, front and centre, best placed to deal with whatever befell the Doctor and I.  This was the premise that I built my submission around and fortunately I had been quietly taking advantage of 'Black Tree Designs' regular sales to build up a small collection of Time Lords. 
With the Doctor and his robotic companion K-9 completed my attention turned to the most iconic of the Time Lord's adversaries, the Daleks!  Relatively simple in principle, I had been advised that using a small tube dipped into paint would speed the process up no end.  Sadly for me, the innards of a Bic biro proved just a little too wide in diameter, but some styrene tubing proved more suitable and so the initial setback was soon forgotten as I raced on to the Cybermen. 
I knew that I wanted to allude to this being an important moment in my childhood and eventually hit upon the idea of having the Time Lord beaming into the front room from the television set.  Ready made doll's house furniture was proving a dead end, either too expensive or just not the right style, but fortunately I happened upon Jane Harrop's retro kits.  I chose a couple of pieces of furniture and an iconic Decca television in 1/24 scale to 'sell' the idea that the miniatures had emanated from the screen.  
The kits themselves are exquisite in their detail and the materials used, a real treat to assemble although fiddly in places - I even had to glue the buttons on to the television!
Once completed the miniatures were suitably arranged on a 'Warbases' disc that I had covered in strips of felt to add to the lurid colour scheme of the decade and all was set, just in time, to sit back and enjoy another piece of surgery confectionary!
"Would you like a Jelly Baby?"
I am claiming a square on my Bingo card with this post: 'Paint a model for an army that you don't already collect and play'.
Also added to the 'Command Stand' page.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Non Playing Characters and Livestock

As a final piece of set dressing, I was keen to furnish the Witchfinder game board with some non-playing characters and livestock.  Now, I have form for being distracted, the slightest whim often leading to the abandonment of full blown and even well established ideas.  However, given the immediacy of the game, this was a luxury that I couldn’t afford to indulge in.  So it was that I found myself dipping within an inch of my life in a bid to get things finished and on the board. 
It made no difference, whether it be bovine, buxom beauty or Blacksmith’s boy all were bound for the dip.  In my haste I wasn’t as careful as I should have been and allowed the staining substance to build up and pool, which had the adverse effect of making everything appear dirty.  Some of this was remedied in the highlighting stage, but nonetheless it was an important lesson learnt.
So a final selection, destined to breathe life into the 'Vale of Muchwhinging'.  We have cattle and sheep from 'Warlord Games', with Musket Men and villagers from 'Redoubt Enterprises'.  There should have been more, but here then, hangs a tale.  I placed an order with Redoubt back in June 2018.  I was surprised to see that ownership had passed to Mr. Andy Grubb, but happy in the knowledge that one of my favoured collections of miniatures was still going to be available for purchase.  Given the logistical difficulties involved in the transfer of the operation Mr. Grubb had very sensibly posted a polite notice forewarning customers to an inevitable delay.  All of this is perfectly reasonable, not to mention understandable.  Whilst disappointed that my order wasn’t ready for the game some weeks later, it wasn’t the end of the world, but I was starting to be troubled by the delay.  I wrote, and continued to write, but to no avail; I may as well have been shouting in the wind.
The amount concerned was not so much that I was overly worried, but the principle of the thing was starting to bother me so, now some six months later, I decided that one last push was in order.  I had read on one of the many online forums that Mr. Grubb was a splendid chap, but that there had been definite issues arising over the change of ownership.  One gentlemen suggesting that a simple email would normally resolve any issue, he even supplied the email address.  As I looked closer, I could see that this was a different address to the one on the invoice that I had been using and decided to give it a go.
Within hours I received a reply that could not have been more apologetic and within days the missing items arrived safely here at Awdry Towers, with yet more apologies and some bonus miniatures.  So thank you Mr. Grubb and here’s to a long and profitable tenure as proprietor of a such a wonderful range of miniatures.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Windmills of your mind.

I have noticed, over the years, that hobby related gifts from The Saintly Mrs. Awdry depend very much on her understanding, or enjoyment of, the individual piece concerned.  For example a pack of ‘cute’ African animals is a surefire winner, but not so a limber for a 9lb Field Gun.  Imagine my delight then when the proud sails of '4 Grounds' European Windmill burst forth from the exquisitely wrapped, not to mention exceedingly generous, birthday present.
Whilst slightly anachronistic for my Witchfinder world, it is such a lovely kit and I thoroughly enjoyed assembling it, although the glazed windows proved to be a frustration as I was instantly transported back to my youth and the glue smeared cockpit of a hapless Airfix model.
Safely constructed and standing proud on the tabletop, I felt that it warranted more gravitas and started to consider the possibility of a small hillock, or suchlike, to raise the sails above the treeline.  As luck would have it, I had recently seen such a build by the oh so talented James on his Jimbibblyblog blog.  This build called for a couple of new techniques and I was keen to give them a go.
Plaster was poured onto a crumpled carrier bag* and when dried broken into chunks. These would form an interesting rocky outcrop that could be sloped down to the base, allowing access to the mill. Using a piece of 2mm MDF as a base, I loosely placed the pieces of plaster to form the rocks, bolstered by off cuts of insulation from to give me the basic structure.
*next time I might try crumpled aluminium foil.
These were then covered by a new product to me, Scuptamold.  This has a consistency of Papier-mâché, which you add water to.  It can be manipulated like clay and as it starts to dry can be smoothed to give a nice finish.  Once dry it is light weight and durable and can even be sanded making it a very versatile product for the budding hobbyist.  Once completely dried it was painted and flocked in my usual manner to tie in with my existing terrain and miniatures.  I have to say that I was delighted with the final outcome and need to once again thank James for the inspirational build that gave me the confidence to try my own.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Guardsmen of Blind Obedience

Following on from the Doom Riders post, I needed to find some troops to represent the Guardsmen of Blind Obedience, or Blinders, the rank and file of the Dark Prince’s army. I had an idea that these were to be uniformed, in stark comparison to the rag tag units fielded by the villages. I imagined that those in the employ of evil always get to wear the smartest clothes, the devil has the best tailor don't you know.
Having taken advantage of a ‘Warlord Games’ half price sprue sale, I was able to put together some likely candidates. I quite liked the European look of the Morion helmet and decided, for the sense of uniformity that this was the way to go. With time against me, I decided to try another new technique, that of the dip! Now when I say new, I realise that this process has been around for ever, but it was new to me. So having blocked in my chosen colours, I had to take that difficult leap of faith and smear the dark, treacle like substance all over my carefully painted miniatures!
Once dried the high gloss finish has a charm of its own, but it wasn’t for me and the troops were dutifully given a matt spray before picking out a few highlights. The Hag underwent a similar process, although with hindsight shading black with the dip probably wasn’t worth the effort! Having said that the skin and broom worked well and this ‘Westwind Productions’ storybook Witch was ready to take the field, causing mischief and mayhem wherever she went.

Monday, 4 February 2019

The Doom Riders!

Thundering across the battlefield the sun reflecting blindingly from their ornate plate armour, could there have been anything more terrifying that a troop of Cuirassiers? My Witchfinder world has thrown up all sorts of challenges not least being choice of miniatures to represent cavalry in the employ of the Dark Prince.
These ‘Warlord Games’ English Civil War Cuirassiers were the perfect choice to represent my Doom Riders with their faces obscured by heavy metal visors.  Truth be told they have been in the painting queue for an incredible length of time, I just find it difficult to start units of cavalry.  That and the fact that they were a real pain to prepare!  The horses themselves are plastic and relatively straightforward to assemble, with options for additional holsters but it was the riders that proved the chore with some badly cast and misshaped. 
Finally assembled they have languished on the side of shame for over a year until the grim realisation dawned that I needed them for a scheduled game.  Looking for a way to help speed up the process, the trusty airbrush was unpacked and the mounts were given a base colour before the saddlery was picked out in a bit more detail.  Having blocked the riders in with a metallic colour, I set about them with a series of washes, the last one designed to give them a hellish feel, with the subtle use of red. 
As is always the way, I am delighted when I finish any cavalry, often wondering what all the fuss was about?  That said there are still half a dozen that didn’t get done, but those that did proved their worth on the battlefield, with devastating effect.
Interestingly, I had taken a number of photographs of the troop fully assembled and ready for painting, but when I checked the date it rather alarmingly declared 4th May 2015!  As a result, I am claiming my first square on the 'Wargame Hobby Bingo' card, namely, 'Finish painting a model that's been in your to-do pile or that's remained unfinished for more than a year'.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

A Wind in the Willows.

Regular readers to '28mm Victorian Warfare' might remember the last time that I was seduced by the look of the rather splendid trees from '4 Ground', the mighty 'Oak Tree' being a case in point.  You might also remember that I had decided that, whilst very lovely, they were a tad pricey and one was better off building from scratch.  Well it will come as no surprise to many to hear that I have succumbed again! 
Now in my defence, I was at 'Salute', I had counted up my pocket money and knowing that I was looking to create a river system what would be a better accompaniment that a weeping willow?  Let me tell you, a weeping willow and three smaller willows, that's what!  Before you could say, Toad, Badger, Mole and Ratty, they were paid for and in the swag bag.  
As this summer's 'Witchfinder' game grew closer, I finally got around to basing them up and I just couldn't pass up an opportunity to incorporate some of the characters from Kenneth Grahame's much loved classic.  Badger and Ratty are from 'Warbases', whilst Toad was a lucky find on the 'Master Crafted Miniatures' stand.*  Sadly Mole is not represented, I did toy with the idea of creating a couple of molehills on the final base, but time was against me and so he remains conspicuous by his absence.
*Not sure what I am going to do with the tortoises that I picked up at the same time, but I am sure they will come in handy!
So has all this changed my opinion on the pricing of the trees?  Well not really, they are very expensive for what you get, not even a pre-painted base this time!  That said, they are very nicely crafted and their distinctive shape and particularly the size of the larger models really does add something to the table.  So whilst I shall continue to whinge about the hefty price tag, I am thrilled to have them in my collection.

“It's my world, and I don't want any other. What it hasn't got is not worth having, and what it doesn't know is not worth knowing.”
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows



Saturday, 12 January 2019

A Swarm of Bats

Since the refurbishment here at ‘Awdry Towers’ there has been a certain amount of relocation, by this I mean that my little cosy corner of the dining room table has been banished!  With this banishment the lead pile was spilt over a couple of locations with the more esoteric elements of the collection finding further isolation in the loft.  
This was carefully considered at the time, with a degree of sorting out and labelling, but alas as with all good intentions the system has fallen by the wayside!  What this now means is that when I go in search of something it is now over several floors of the house and takes an inordinate amount of time!  All griping aside, this arrangement does have an unexpected upside, namely that when rooting around for one miniature you come across a number of others that might inspire a complete change of direction. 
So it was that I came to find a Vampire Knight, a Man-Bat and a swarm of bats in my hand at the same time!   Although not completely sold on the idea that the three pieces could show the transformation from human form to flying mammal, I started the process of preparing the miniatures.   The Swarm is from ‘Reaper Miniatures’, whilst the Vampire Knight was an impulse buy in one of ‘North Star Miniatures’ clearance sales and has more than a passing resemblance to Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the immortal Count, in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Finally, the Man Bat was from ‘Heresy Miniatures’ and was the most involved to prepare and took some pinning and filling to secure the wings to the body.  As with all Paul Muller’s work, it is a finely sculpted and balanced miniature and so worth spending some time to get the construction right. 
When it came to painting, and having spent so long building the thing, I panicked and just used the website’s images as a guide.  There was an idea that I could use some of the colours in the Man-Bat to tie the three elements together.  On reflection, I am not convinced that it has worked, but I certainly matched their bases to further reinforce the idea.
I am happy to report  that both the Man Bat and the Vampire Knight have both been blooded in action, taking on the roles of Alain de la Slaughter and Gareth of Oldham respectively in last summer's Witchfinding fun, 'The Scouring of Muchwhinging'.  I wonder what will crop up next?
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