Saturday 30 July 2011

Meerkat Manor in 28mm - 'Simples!'

Part 1 - The Build

With miniatures at just over 6mm tall this project was already starting to cause concern; it's difficult to explain what  possessed me to purchase these tiny meerkats from Northstar Figures but there is no getting away from the fact that the Meerkat has stolen its way into the herat of the nation, not to mention that of the good Mrs. Awdry.  There really is  a  'Compare the' website with hours of fun for those, who like me, have the attention span of a goldfish! 

The Battle of Fearlessness
Still I kept justifying the purchase by saying that they would be part of a terrain piece ultimately destined for an African board.   It was to be loosely based on Meerkat Manor affording low cover for skirmishing troops and after a few hours into the obligatory trawl around the infoweb looking at the habitat of the these furry celebrities I had Initial sketches already in hand.  It was at this point that I came across a website for Snapdragon Studios, who sadly seem to no longer be trading but who had produced some amazing pieces of terrain and accessories for the wargamer.  One in particular, the 'Rocky Mound' was exactly what I was looking to achieve and consequently became the inspiration for my own build.
How small? - 'Simples' indeed! 

The build itself started life with a small off cut of plasticard (never throw anything away!) and a rough outline.  The edges were bevelled with the trusty 'Dremel' and small but useful sized piece of foamboard stuck on.  Having survived a recent route march, with the Lady Wife, along the 'Sunshine Coast' I already had the required stones and pebbles so just needed to cut them into the foam and hold in place with a dab of glue from a gluegun.  The pebbles were arranged to allow a platform for the lookout and as many liittle caves as possible to give the imprssion of an active burrow.

An inspired find turned out to be the remains of last year's Christmas tree that was still languishing in the garden but whose branches were wonderfully textured and perfect for the project.  With the addition of trees came the need for roots, so a little Green Stuff was added to fulfil the need and while I was at it a little more was used as another tunnel entrance.

As my little meerkats came on a small moulded base I decided to have them attached to the build and paint them in situ at the next stage; a little household filler was enough to cover the cracks and their bases. All that remained was a P.V.A. and sand mix with a few addional small stones and the build was complete.

Base coat applied.

Friday 29 July 2011

Is there anybody out there?

Have you checked the date of the post that led you here?  Yes it was the 1st of April - sorry!


Once again it appears that 'Blogger' is destined to drive me to distraction!!!  I have noticed that when I make a new post that it doesn't register on the dashboard or blog roll of the good people who take the time to follow.  I can only apologise to you and beg your indulgence a little longer.  

Has anyone fallen foul of this before?  Has it come about due to something horrendous that I have done?  Either way until it is resolved I'm afraid that there is no way that I can notify you of new post! Ahhhhhh!

Thursday 28 July 2011

Skin Deep - Empress Maoris

I’ve been desperate to start the new Empress, Maori range for some time having picked up a couple of sets of the mighty warriors themselves at ‘Salute 2011’ earlier this year.  A combination of my inability to remain on one task and the shear terror at trying to achieve a facial tattoo on a 28mm miniature has seen them slip further down the paint queue.  “Enough is enough!” I have now declared and it’s time to give them a go and instantly I am struck with difficult decisions! The most pressing is a workable palette for the skin tone, which at the moment is veering towards a Native American Indian.

On the ready line!

First attempt.
These first three were all based Vallejo 'Red Leather', which seemed to be an encouraging base but I then added Foundry 'Oriental Flesh', highlighted with Vallejo 'Rose Brown'.  This gave a somewhat jaundiced appearance and need to be saved with a sepia wash before I was happy.  Plan 'B' saw the original base but this time a Foundry 'Flesh Shade' was added before a final highlight with Vallejo 'Brown Rose'.  In the end this is palette I'll think I'm going with just need a little tinkering with the highlight mix.

Plan 'B'
Final mix.

The tattoos themselves or Ta Moko, to give the process its traditional name, are absolutely fascinating.  Unlike a modern tattoo, the traditional Maori permanent marking of the body and face is different in that the skin is actually carved by uhi (chisels) instead of being punctured with needles. This apparently leaves the skin with textured grooves, rather than the smooth surface of a normal tattoo.

Traditional Uhi
The process, Ta Moko is a fundamental element of the Maori culture representing commitment and respect; the practice itself is considered a tapu or sacred ritual. It is customary for men to wear Moko on their faces, buttocks, thighs and arms, whereas women usually wear a Moko on the chin and lips only.

The design of each Moko is unique to the wearer and conveys information as to their genealogy, tribal affiliations, status, and achievements.  Now clearly I’m not about to try to replicate this at such a small scale but do feel that it is important to acknowledge them in some way.

Two of the gentlemen's whose blogs I follow were a wonderful starting point and I must extend my thanks to both Arteis over at 'Dressing the Lines'  and Giles at 'Tarleton's Quarter'. Their examples have been very inspirational as too has been the wonderful online  'Tattoo Museum', definitely worth a look.  In the end I identified various repeating examples of geometric patterns and simplified them to one or two marks using blue ink as this seemed to be closest to the colours portrayed in contemporary paintings.

The results to date:

I think I've got to the stage where I feel confident enough to go on a finish the small unit that I have prepared.

Moko - is generally divided into eight sections:

Ngakaipikirau (rank). The centre forehead area
Ngunga (position). Around the brows
Uirere (hapu rank). The eyes and nose area
Uma (first or second marriage). The temples
Raurau (signature). The area under the nose
Taiohou (work). The cheek area
Wairua (mana). The chin
Taitoto (birth status). The jaw

Wednesday 27 July 2011

One for the Pot!

Purely as a piece of frippery, and of course as an excuse to get the Dodo birds onto the table, we have here a somewhat slightly alternative reality where a small detachment of British infantry stop off on the Island of Mauritius en route to Australia.  Whilst taking the opportunity to stretch their legs, and test the new fangled daguerreotype camera the shore patrol also looked to subsidise their meagre rations of hardtack, or ship's biscuits, by hunting for some fresh meat.

And so we have it, the last known photographic evidence of the now extinct Dodo, (Raphus Cuculatus) may he rest in peace.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Book Review#4. - Explorers of the New Century

This short story or novella by Magnus Mills should have been so much more; a wonderful title and a premise that saw two teams of explorers attempting to reach the "agreed furthest point" from civilisation before the other.

At one level it reads as a good old fashioned adventure yarn with the make up of the two teams, apparently intrinsic to the plot, forming part of its charm.  On one side we have Johns' volunteers, an eclectic and eccentric band armed with little more than old fashioned derring do pitted against Tostig's professional, well equipped, dare one say automated, team.  Both exist in a fictional world where religion has been replaced by scientific  rhetoric and where strength of will and power determine policy.  So many intriguing plot lines, but that is part of the problem, there just isn't time to explore them fully resulting in a curtailed development of the plot and formation of the characters.  There are genuinely exciting and humorous moments but all too often we are left wanting more particular when the final twist, that you will probably have already guessed, is revealed.

At the core of this book are the themes of ethnic cleansing and racism, I can't go into further detail without spoiling the plot, but again we almost stumble upon them in the closing stages of the piece without giving them the depth of understanding they require.  I desperately want to give this more from the point of view of a rating but ultimately I was a little disappointed by it; a frustrating two crowns.

Monday 25 July 2011

Empress New Zealand Wars, British

Having finally got the bygone world that was Timpo Toys out of my system it is well and truly time to get back on track, this time Empresses new range for the New Zealand War of 1845.  I had actually picked up a couple of packs of Maori warriors at 'Salute 2011' but have bottled starting them just at the moment; all those full facial tattoos proving to be far too daunting.  Instead I ordered up some of the British counterparts and have been very pleased with them.  Good, dynamic poses and faces full of character have become the trademark of the talented Mr. Hicks, the sculptor responsible for this series.  

These gentlemen have been painted to represent the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment who arrived in the country from Australia on the 22nd April 1845.

This set also marked a 'coming of age' with regards to the basing of my miniatures.  As you will see from previous posts I had been seduced by the large lipped bases and managed to find different variants for all occasions (cavalry, command etc.)  that said I was becoming only too aware that I was ultimately restricting myself when it came to games so I have finally bought some 25mm washers from 'Products for Wargamers' as depicted above.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Timpo Time#12 'The Crusades'

So this is it; finally we come to the end of this terribly self indulgent trip down memory lane.  I thank you for all for your patience and the comments along the way, it is clear to me that these brightly coloured pieces of plastic still have a place in all our hearts, even today.  Something about the range still strikes me as being wonderfully politically incorrect; the company seemed intrinsically understand exactly what its we   wanted and delivered accordingly.  

The final post of the collection has to be the Timpo Crusader Knights, refreshingly simple but sadly with no obvious rival combatants.  That said, with a little imagination, the Timpo 'Desert Fighters' could represent Saladin's Saracens; just remove their muskets and replace with scimitars.  This range also contains one of the most unusual model toys; look at the chap in green, he is actually holding a large boulder - genius!

And there we have it, all destined for another spell in the loft but I'm sure they will resurface from time to time.  There were so many other models that I missed out on; I would love to have had some of the 'Great Helm' knights and I have vague memories of a two man submarine from the WWII range, sadly they will have to remain memories as the chances of getting any more Timpo past the good lady wife are slim to no existent.  Now I must find out where I left my paintbrush and get back to work!

Saturday 23 July 2011

Timpo Time#11 'The Frozen North'

A slightly unusual departure for Timpo, the Frozen North Series sees us travelling through snow and ice to witness the everyday life of the Eskimos or Inuits.  The sets would include more bright coloured heroes this time wearing fur lined jackets and snow shoes.  The Igloo comes complete with a nifty ice window and is the perfect respite from the howling winds.  A kayak was included but care would be needed to navigate around the ice flows in search of seals and walruses. 

Nothing, however, was more dangerous or terrifying than a polar bear attack!

Timpo Time#10 'Messing about on the water'

What on earth could these two heavily moustachioed gentlemen be up to? Well clearly anything is possible in the Timpo universe, but in this case they are travelling down stream in a hastily created raft of planks and barrels.

Perhaps they were trying to evade capture from these chaps or even ...
the mighty Timpo four man war canoe.  Of course not everyone was in fear of the Indian, some managed to coexist peacefully, even trade with them provided of course you wore the obligatory racoon headwear.

Mind you not everyone was lucky enough to have a canoe and these gentlemen have had to resort to an alternative mode of transport - the log!  Nearly all the Timpo waterborne transport came with a metal keel that enabled the craft to sit well in the water without rolling over.

Timpo Time#9 'The Long Arm of the Law'

It was a tough place the 'Old West' where disagreements would often spill over into the lives of the good honest folk.  Towns sprang up and to enforce the law sheriffs had to be fast on the draw.  The Timpo world of Clay County was no exception with our illustrious marshall and his plug in star breaking up this disturbance.  The 'bad guy's' bag actually says, "US Bank".  The chap with the knife is a Timpo third series cowboys released in 1972. 

Fortunately for the sheriff he could pack off his nefarious outlaws in the Timpo jail Wagon and rest easy for the evening; or could he ...

Trouble was never far away, the outlaws becoming more and more adept at evading the 'Long Arm of the Law'.
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