Sunday, 28 July 2019

Tentative Beginnings

It's all very well running headlong into a new project, buoyed by the childlike, naive enthusiasm that never seems to leave us, but then comes the reality check, the moment when you stop and ask yourself, "what on earth am I playing at?"

To his great credit, James had seen this coming and had started to consider a project management spreadsheet, something that now seems a rather splendid idea as I run around like like loon deciding what to do next!  We also considered trying to record some of the progress made via blog or Instagram posts as a way of encouraging vicarious collaboration from a wider audience, and so this is one of those posts.  As we broke up for the summer holidays our respective tasks were clear insomuch as James was going to battle on with the castle design, whilst I was going to consider the feasibility of building a game around the structure.
I am now starting to finally relax and have put the thoughts of a difficult academic year behind me; this mental decluttering has allowed me to give some time to the prospect of the rules for the game.  I have fleshed out my original thoughts, and although very much a work in progress, they have been offered up for consideration to others.  This is all very exciting as it is something completely new to me, but it remains the painting and modelling aspect of the hobby that I find the most relaxing, not to mention rewarding, and so have indulged in a little 'palette testing'.  I had a sprue of 'Warlord Games' plastic American G.I.s which were attached to the front cover of a copy of 'Wargames Illustrated'.  These have been duly assembled and based and colour has started to be added, aided by some rather splendid reference material that I have amassed along the way, but what I really wanted to try was a tank!
This is a completely new era for me and I was keen to cut my teeth on some Allied Armour and so ordered up a 'Warlord Games' M4 Sherman Medium Tank.  Gluing together the plastic kit took me right back to my youth, when young Master Awdry would spend many a happy hour assembling various Airfix models, the heady aroma of plastic cement filling his nostrils.  
Assembled straight from the box, without any additional customisation,  I was fortunate enough to be directed to the rather wonderful 'John Bond's Wargaming Stuff'.  What a veritable mine of fabulous work this turned out to be, carefully ordered and clear to follow.  I shall refrain from repeating John's post, suffice to say that I followed it almost to the letter.  A couple of notable exceptions being that I was fortunate enough to have a spray can of Tamiya Olive Drab that worked well for the base coat and used some of the 'Games Workshop' Typhus Corrosion along the edges of the vehicle.
I have to say that I was rather pleased with my first efforts, but have subsequently realised that the tank involved in the battle was in fact a later version,  M4A3E8 or Easy 8 Sherman, fondly known as Besotten Jenny - I have so much to learn!
So we are off an running, so much more to do, but having a lot of fun along the way!

Saturday, 13 July 2019

We're going to Salute 2020!

It might seem a tad early to be considering a visit to one of the biggest independent, one-day wargaming and gaming events in Europe, but Salute is very much on our radar at the moment and I am thrilled to be able to share some exciting news with you here.
Schloss Itter at the time of the War.
So taken, were James and I, with how much interest and curiosity that the Pegasus Bridge project generated, all through its construction and beyond, that we were keen to repeat the idea and ultimately see if we could take it that bit further. 

 An obvious starting point was to celebrate the 75th anniversary of V.E. Day, 8th May 2020.  As we looked around for a suitable tale to tell we stumbled across the Battle for Schloss Itter, the incredible story of a group of German Soldiers, American G.I.s and French Prisoners of War that fought alongside each other in the final days before the War in Europe came to an end.  This really is the stuff of Hollywood, but this remarkable true story would be perfect for a lecture to the school and would provide us with another modelling challenge - Austrian Castle anyone?!

As with Pegasus Bridge, our primary goal is education and given the increased scale of this project we are keen that the pupils will be able to contribute in the construction in some way and hope to hold a club in the Spring term.  As I mentioned at the start we are keen to push ourselves that little bit further, and that progression is leading us down the totally unfamiliar path of game design.  

In short we have decided to design and build a participation game to commemorate the Battle of Schloss Itter ahead of the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.  To use the model to illustrate a talk to the school, but also to take the game to Salute 2020, just because it would be an awesome thing to do.  Having registered with the South London Warlords we were thrilled to receive the news that we have bagged one of the Early Bird slots and have had the 'green light' to "crack on with whatever bit of genius/madness you have planned."

So crack on we have!  Working form photographs taken at the time of the battle, James has started to map out the floor plan of the castle, getting a sense for how we could construct it.  This is no mean feat and I am continually impressed at the skill James displays in bringing the past to life.  As we broke up for the summer holidays a couple of test pieces had been cut and immediately we were staggered at just how big this project was going to be!
Castle and playing area, concept design James Walters
There may yet be concessions made in the interests of gameplay, but James' first goal is to create a castle that is true to the photographic evidence, otherwise what is the point?  The drawings are moving forward and I am happy to share them here to give a sense of where we are headed and to generate some momentum and excitement about the project.
Castle Design, concept design James Walters
I have been tinkering away with ideas for how to 'play' the battle, again trying to put education at the fore with a large smattering of humour, and look forward to running them past the more experienced gamers, Mike 'The Dark Templar' Reynolds and 'Bullcher Feb'.  
Castle and Gatehouse, concept design James Walters
Our goals for the summer holidays are to flesh out our ideas and hopefully start construction on some of the landscape elements, if for no other reason than to get a better understanding as to how the game plays.  I want to try and create a 'shopping' list of the miniatures needed and plan out some colour palettes whilst James wrestles with the intricacies of a castle, gatehouse and bridge!  

We hope to share updates as we progress, particularly of areas that might be of interest to the larger modelling and gaming world and would welcome any feedback or suggestions that you might have as we are acutely aware that we are somewhat out of our comfort zone, but relishing every creative minute of the experience.  

Friday, 12 July 2019

Fellowship!

The final themed bonus round of this year's 'Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge' was simply titled, Fellowship.  After much head scratching, I brought together a selection for miniatures and ships for Star Wars: Legion, loosely arranged to give a sense of the battle that raged on the frozen planet of Hoth during the Empire Strikes Back.  
The concept, such that it was, is the idea of never leaving someone behind, here transported to a galaxy far, far away.  As the stricken pilot fumbles with the emergency radio controls, his co-pilot bravely strides towards the towering behemoth that is threatening to crush everything in its path.  Then, and just in the nick of time, air support arrives to halt the advance.
The T-47 Airspeeder, will always be a Snowspeeder to me and even though I have a hankering for a Tatooine themed board, I was struggling to see past the ice fields of Hoth. I decided that there was only one thing for it and that was to create a second flight stand, so that I could deploy the ship in both climates. I sourced some acrylic rod and attached a rare earth magnet to the top and fixing another to the speeder; this will mean, I can simply swap out the ship and fix it to another base. I had tried to get it to tilt, but had to settle for just swivel at the moment.
The obliterated Probe Droid was sadly not an original idea, but one that I had seen on an Instagram account that I follow and was just too cool not to try and replicate. I couldn’t bring myself to cut up one of my original probe droids, but managed to cast the head of one using insta-mold and some Greenstuff. A few foam rocks and some pumice gel, completed the illusion.
The basing technique was repeated with the downed Snowspeeder. The craft itself is a Revell plastic kit, that I assembled, then broke! They are available at Amazon for a few pounds and although slightly smaller than the Fantasy Flight model it is not so small to prevent it being used as a terrain piece.
 Finally then to the miniatures and again these are 3D prints from Skull Forge Studios.  I don’t know how often young Skywalker will be used in battle given the incredibly delicate lightsabre, but again both were exquisitely designed and make really interesting additions to the collection.
When it came to the photography, some fake snow was used and eagled eyed viewers may have spotted the probe droid from an earlier post, lurking in the distance.  
The AT-AT leg, is actually just the leg, I haven’t yet completed the whole Revell 1:53 scale model.  That said it was enough to sell the illusion and I gave it a little shake when the shutter was open to create the effect of movement. 
Finally the special effects used for the blizzard, laser fire and lightsabre are all created using LenFX; thank you Barks for the heads up on such a fun app.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

“Well, there are two banthas down there, but I don’t see any...

...wait a second, they’re sand people, alright.
Sadly not two Banthas, just the one and the briefest of posts to finish of this run of Tatooine themed Star Wars related offerings.  Again looking for a bit of native colour for a Tatooine themed board, I came across this splendid piece originally intended for Imperial Assault.  Although not a fit, scale wise, with Legion models, I wondered if it might make a nice background piece? 
The Bantha and rider comes as a multipart kit and so the first job was to glue the beastie together.  Just as an aside, I went on to use another Sorastro painting tutorial where he suggests painting the head first before assembly - I can now testify that this would have been a good idea if I hadn't been so quick out of the blocks! 

Relatively straightforward with regards to colours, which all had a muted, worn feel.  Plenty of washes and some 'dusty' drybrushing and another piece was completed.
Whilst I was gluing things together I took the opportunity to assemble the water vaporators and some boxes from the Priority Supplies set along with a Satellite Array from 'Sarissa Precision'.  
I tried to tie the colours together to give a unified feel, again with help from a Sorastro painting tutorial.  Great fun to do and I would never have thought to put a brass colour down first, before covering with a clear, red paint to create a vivid lighting effect; that Sorastro is a clever chap!   


Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Droids? What Droids?

Hot on the heels of the Droids from the previous post, I present the most luckless search party in celluloid history!  I am tinkering away with various bits of terrain for a Tatooine themed board and needed a couple of ‘extras’ to set the scene, as it were.  
To that end I have grabbed my Imperial Assault Dewback and five Stormtroopers from the Star Wars: Legion core box to represent the Imperial presence.  Once again I used Sorastro's painting tutorials for both, which this time saw me take on wet blending with a glaze medium.  Another leap of faith, this technique was made all the easier for some cheap palettes, as seen above, found on Amazon for a £1.
I have become so impressed, and perhaps a little bit dependent, on this man’s work that I have decided to become a patron and was pleasantly surprised at the additional PDF guides that this allowed me access to.  There is no doubt in my mind that these guides have seen me change my painting style and I would like to think for the better?
Once again the scale discrepancy is notable between the two game systems, but interestingly the backpack on the Dewback rider and that of the Heavy Weapon Trooper are identical in size!  Speaking of the Dewback, I needed to adapt the shock lance using some brass rod as the original model's was a bit bendy.  
The Stormtroopers are, of course, not really Sandtroopers, but will suffice although they have clearly only just arrived on the planet judging by their mostly pristine armour!  If the truth be told, I just couldn't bring myself to wash over my carefully painted work!

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Any old iron? Any old iron?

...any, any, any old iron?
I have a hankering for a Tatooine themed board for Star Wars: Legion and nothing says Tatooine more than Jawas and Droids.  I had already painted several of these wasteland natives curtesy of Imperial Assault, but have added to these with some Wizards of the Coast pre-painted Star Wars Miniatures and some new 3D printed sculpts from Skull Forge Studios.  All were primed, including the pre-painted ones, which on reflection seemed a waste of time, and based to match the existing models in my collection. 
 The 3D printed sculpts were lovely, but a little smaller than I imagined so I decided to raise them a little with an additional washer.  Then, following a painting tutorial from Sorastro, set about polishing off half a dozen of the little scrap metal merchants, before turning my attention to their stock and trade.  
I seem to have amassed quite an assortment of Droids from various benefactors and manufactures over the years.  They have sat idle for far too long whilst I pondered over colours and designations.  Now, with a little more time at my disposal, I decided to stop prevaricating and get on with it!
With decisions made and research completed, I was pleasantly surprised and how quickly I managed to get through them.  Having decided that these droids were going to have found themselves abandoned on such a desolate place, they were given a fair amount of rust and weathering, which had the added advantage of concealing a multitude of mistakes.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Bring on the Dancing Girls

This most wholesome of hobbies is a wonderful thing, it allows me be creative, to escape any real world difficulties and has introduced me to some truly wonderful people.  One such individual is Dave Stone of 'Wargames Terrain Workshop'.  I have already made mention of Dave's generosity in the past, but he also has an unerring knack of bringing a smile to my face at just the right time.  At the start of the academic year, I had dropped off the blogging scene due to the difficulties at work, a sad portent of what was to unfold.  There I was quietly going about my business when I was roused from my lethargy by a sharp rap on the door.  
Having padded to the front door, I thanked the Postman for the parcel he was delivering and headed back upstairs to my little corner of the spare room.  Having seen the W.T.W. sticker on the front of the box, I could hardly contain my excitement as I opened the package to find more exquisitely wrapped goodies inside.  As I carefully unwrapped each piece I was somewhat overcome at the generosity of the gift.  Dave had gifted me a collection of bespoke Star Wars miniatures, crafted by his own fair hand, and not available for sale.  
I wiped the tears of joy from my eyes as the largest smile broke across my reddened face; this was just too much.  As I arranged each piece carefully on the table in front of me I realised that I was now the proud owner of a complete set of Jabba the Hutt's dancers and indeed the rest of the band that played in his courtroom.  It gives me great pleasure to finally present the dancers here and therefore have the opportunity to publicly thank Dave for his incredible generosity.  
The dancers include, Oola, who met her grisly end in the Rancor's pit, Greeata, Lyn Me, Ryst├íll and Yarna d'al' Gargan.  They are cast in resin and although the extremities are delicate, they take paint rather well.  
So all that remains is to once gain thank Dave for his wonderful gift, I am just sorry you have had to wait so long to see them finally posted here.  I would like to say that the rest of the band are next, but it would seem that I have been somewhat distracted of late, but rest assured I will get to them in due course.
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