Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Norman Infantry Unit!

Got a little sidetracked with work towards the end of last week, so this unit was completed about 3 days later than I planned.  But it's done.  Norman infantry in a shield wall.  Four bases of 4 figures each.  Here they are being screened by a skirmish line of Norman archers.
And a close up.
From the right side.
Left side.
And rear.
These three new bases are identical to the "test base" I did a couple of weeks ago except that for two of the bases, the ones that make up the rear ranks of the unit, I put three spear men and one guy with an two-handed axe just for variety and because it looks cool.

Given the total number of units I'm going to need for a Hastings game, this is going to be my historical 2018 project, and here is hoping that I can finish it by November for Fall In.  I'm not terribly confident about that, but I may surprise myself.

I'm going to do a fantasy figure next, but after that, I'll do a unit of Norman cavalry.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Norman Archer Unit!

Finished 3 more stands of Norman archers yesterday, completing the four-stand unit.  Here they are skirmishing from the wood line.
Again, I tried to make them look at least a little "un-uniform" with some with helmets (one with a leather helmet!), some bare headed, some with hoods, some with mail armor, some with leather armor, etc.  Evidently there was a cap that was popular (the guy with the orange head wear) that I just made with a strip of paper in a circle around the head and a small bead split in half.  I think he looks a little "Baltic Sea area" in appearance, but that's okay with me.

Here are a couple of close ups of all the stands.
And finally here is a shot of a 2 x 2 stand configuration which would be used in many rule sets, including Neil Thomas's Ancient and Medieval Warfare rules.
With simpler figures like these, they always look better to me en-mass than individually.

Next up, three more stands of Norman infantry to complete that unit!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Watcher in the Water Tentacles

I finally got a copy of the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game The Fellowship of the Ring campaign book on ebay for a reasonable price.  First tough part was the title.  It is somewhat generic and when you search on the title you get a zillion listings for the core rule book.  Not what I wanted.  I wanted the campaign book because it allows you to play the entire campaign of mini adventures for the Fellowship of the Ring movie and novel.  This is actually something I can do in my basement with only one other player, but I do plan to run at least some of these at my gaming club.  Second tough part was when I did find it, getting it for a reasonable amount of money.  Some of the prices for this old GW LotR stuff is really staggering for some reason.  Some books they are giving away, others, like this one, are usually really expensive!

What I really want to run for the club is the Mines of Moria section, which is made up of four mini games/adventures, specifically The Watcher in the Water, Balin's Tomb, The Escape from Dwarrowdelf, and finally The Bridge of Khazad-Dum.  Already having the Fellowship figures and goblins and cave troll done, and having done a test run of the Balin's Tomb game, I decided to try and tackle the rest of the figures I would need to do all these games in order.

For The Watcher in the Water game, in addition to the Fellowship figure wise all you need in addition are 6 of the Watcher's tentacles.  So I decided to have a go at making my own Craftee version of the tentacles.  I only need the tentacles for the game, but I'm sure I am going to make a head sticking out of the water as well, just because it looks cool.  But at this point, I've just got the tentacles.

All they are made of is beads of various sizes, from larger on the bottom towards smaller at the top, that are glued together with PVA for strength.  After they are dry, I took a hot glue gun and wrapped bands of hot glue first in the space between each bead, then around the center of the bead itself.  Finally, I used hot glue to make ripples of water on the base (I believe these are 1.25" round precut thin wooden bases).  Then, I just painted them up to taste.  At first I tried to do it all with the hot glue gun, but when you start adding the bands of glue around the beads and in between the beads, the new hot glue heats up the old hot glue that is holding the beads together, and it just kept falling apart in my hands.  So this took longer to glue the beads together with PVA before adding the hot glue final touches, but it was much easier in the long run.

Here is what they look like with some of the Fellowship figures I finished a while ago.  You get a better sense for the scale.  What I don't like about the ones from GW is that relative to the Fellowship figures, although the tentacles are very tall, they look a little thin and wimpy.  I wanted mine to look very thick and scary, clearly capable of taking poor Frodo down into the murky depths.
The four hobbits as well as Gandalf, Legolas, and of course Aragorn.
Closer up just with Frodo, Sam, and Aragorn.

I'm pretty happy with them, I think they'll look good on the table top when I get the rest of the terrain done for the game.  And honestly, they were a piece of cake.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Finally got around to painting the trees I bought at Michael's a while ago.  Nothing fancy, but I did base them.  Even though each tree has its own built in base piece, I glued each one to a thin round precut 2" piece that comes in a bag of different sized circles.  Especially if I am going to use these in wargaming, I think I need more stability than the built in base provides.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Norman Infantry!

I did a test base of Norman infantry at the same time I was finishing up my undead bosses.  I often work that way, having multiple projects going on at the same time.  It keeps me motivated and makes it more fresh for me, especially when I am having to do several of the same figures at the same time.

I compared what a three figure vs. four figure stand would look like.  There is no comparison, the four figure stand for infantry in a shield wall like the Normans would typically be in looks infinitely better than the three figures.  Plus, I may want to use the three figure bases to indicate differences in quality of the unit.  Anyway, I attached the four figures to the base before painting them.  Then glued on everything (arms, weapnos, etc.) except for the shields.  I also did not paint the flat side of the arm where the shield would eventually be glued to, and in fact if I got paint on that part of the arm I immediately wiped it off.

I painted the figures fully on the stand, after they were totally constructed except for gluing their shields onto their arms.  This turned out easier than I thought it would be, even though they are pretty close together.  I then painted the back side of the shield piece and glued the shield onto the figures.  Then I painted the front side of the shields, with the details, after the glue had dried.

I only took one picture of them, but this is enough to get the idea.

This means there will be 16 figures in a unit (for bases) but I think it will be worth it in the long run.  But I've clearly got a lot of figures in front of me still.  I hope to put on a Hastings game this September.  I should be able to get them done by that time.

Two Undead Bosses!

Finished up my undead project today with two "boss" figures, a wight (which I've never done) and a 2.0 version of a lich.  Here be the pair!
I'm not that much of a "fan" of the new way that wights are being portrayed in fantasy rpgs, mainly as these armored, weapon wielding horrors.  I get it, I know that there is a strong Tolkien influence in this, but that's more from the movies than from his writings.  I'm more of a traditional "barrow wight" kind of a guy that remembers way back in the 70's playing D&D and coming upon these terrors.  No weapons.  They don't need them.  Their touch drains 1 level.  Far more terrifying than any weapon to a lower level PC!  I wanted the wight to have a "you there, get out of my barrow mound!" look to him.  I also went with the traditional 1st edition AD&D "wight hair" for lack of a better term.  I always thought that a wight should look like an evil Ozzie Osborn, and I think mine does.

The lich is the same skeleton construction, I just put a cloak on him and a magical staff in his hand.  I know they are often put in clothing, but I've always thought of them as thinking that clothing is beneath them.  They are so obsessed with understanding the secrets of magic that they made themselves undead ... I honestly think they could care less if they are wearing pants.

Hope you like them!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Skeletons 2.0

I will start this post with a confession.  You all get to see the final product.  What you don't get to see are the mistakes.  On average, for each of my first-time builds, there are about three prototypes that failed that I do not post about.  I'm not saying that my first attempt at skeletons that I've posted several pictures of a while ago was a "failure," but I will say that one of the challenges with doing your own hand-crafted miniatures for gaming is that you will always, always, always find a better way later to make the figure, after you have made a whole bunch in the now-outdated way of making the figures. 

This is exactly what has happened with my skeletons.  The first posted skeletons were fine.  However, they were a bit on the brittle side.  In general, the biggest issue with my builds in terms of challenges for gaming is what type of material is contacting what type of material has a huge impact on how strong that joint is.  For example, wood to wood contact is always strong (I've got figures that I've tried to deconstruct where I cannot break the bond created by the think PVA glue and two pieces of wood!).  Wood to tile spacer contact can be fairly strong IF you have a lot of contact surface shared between the two pieces, or you have two or more places where there is contact.  I'm no engineer, but I would imagine these multiple sources of contact disperse any stress put on the two pieces in terms of breaking them apart, so two is better than one, three is better than two, etc.  Without question, the weakest contact in my figure builds is tile spacer to tile spacer.  The glue cannot permeate the tile spacer so it doesn't soak in.  At best what you have is what you would have it you used hot glue ... a smooth glue joint connecting the two smooth-sided tile spacers and it doesn't take a lot of pressure to break this smooth glue joint.  My skeletons suffered from this in a very bad way, because the tile spacer used to create the vertebrae was glued to a tile spacer pelvis.  That's directly in the middle of the figure and honestly the worst place to have that kind of a joining.

So what I wanted to do was create new skeleton figures that had as many wood to wood contacts as possible with no tile spacer to tile spacer contacts.  And when there had to be a tile spacer to wood contact, I wanted as much surface area as possible for both the wood and the tile spacer in contact with glue, or I wanted multiple contact points.  After many failed attempts, I hit on a few designs that I liked and met these design requirements.

Before I show them, I also wanted to say a little something about the "style" of the skeleton figures that I was going for.  All do respect to the brilliant Ray Harryhausen, who created the stop action skeletons from those classic Sinbad movies as well as the wonderful Clash of the Titans movie from 1981 (one of my favorites of all time!  Love that clockwork owl!).  But, rather than looking like and walking like a person without skin, I like my skeletons to look like they are about to fall apart.  They are clearly held together by some magical or supernatural force, which is not necessarily going to get them to behave as they did when they were covered with flesh when the creature was living.  So I tried to at least for some of these poses, to make them very dynamic and look like they were about to fall apart.

So here are four different versions/attempts at creating a new skeleton.  Except for the tile spacers, I've posted a picture below with the different wooden pieces I used to make these different versions (although I did leave out one piece but I talk about that later).

 In general, they are made up of a 3/8" bead for a head with a tile spacer end glued (square side first) into one of the holes in the bead.  This makes the neck vertebrae.  The head bead is the first round bead in the picture, at about the 2 inch mark on the ruler.  For most of them I filled in the other hole with glue.  For others I didn't.  I don't think it makes that much difference because I end up painting the nose holes in the skull where the hole would be anyway.  The nose holes are triangular in shape and the hole in the bead is obviously round, but from 2 to 3 feet away when playing with the figures, I'm not so sure your eye can really pick up that difference.  In the picture above you can see that little tiny round bead next to the larger one used for the head.  That bead is split in half, and then the half is cut starting in the center of the bead on the inside where the half hole is and cutting at a 45 degree angle away from the center of the bead.  This allows you to have a flat but pitched surface on which to glue the "jaw" (that's what the little bead becomes) onto the larger round bead "head" below the hole.  This creates the effect of a jaw.  It is a tremendous "under bite," but I think it creates the illusion of a skeleton skull where the jaw is so pronounced, at least to our eye.

The pelvis and the legs and feet are the same for all figures as well, just like the head.  The pelvis is made from a smaller oval bead (I think it is 9/16" long) that is split in half lengthwise.  In the photo I have a hole bead and then a bead that has been split in front of it.  It is hard to split them exactly in half, so if one is larger than the other, you want to use the one that is a little larger.  I'll explain why in a second.  The legs are a tile spacer with the rounded edges cut off to make an "X" shape.  The top of the X is the top of the legs and the bottom is the ankles.  This creates a sort of "knee knock" look where the skeletons knees and pushed inwards and touching, but again I think it adds to the chaos and the "looks like he is about to fall apart" look that I am going for.  The top of the X is glued into the split oval bead.  The reason you want to use the larger half of the bead (if there is one) is because you can insert the tile spacer well into the bead half and it will almost "grab" it, making that wood to tile spacer joint stronger.  The bottom of the X is glued to the base and feet made from tile spacers are glued to the base and up against the legs of the skeleton.  This is probably the weakest joint in all the figures, but by gluing the feet up against the bottom of the legs, even though this is a tile spacer to tile spacer joint, because both pieces are also being glued to the wooden base, it creates a pretty strong joint.

The shoulder and arms are the same for all as well, although I did vary the size of the tile spacer from skeleton to skeleton.  The shoulder is just a tile spacer with two sides cut away (creating a long straight piece with two rounded ends) and each arm is a tile spacer cut to shape (bent or straight arm, taper down towards the hands, cut thumb and fingers if you want, etc.).  These are then glued onto the tile spacer shoulder but not until it has been glued to the rib cage piece (discussed below).  This allows you to have tile spacer to tile spacer contact (shoulder to arm) but also tile spacer (arm) to wood (rib cage) contact.  Use more glue than you think you will need.  I literally created a "7" shape with the glue with the glue being applied to the entire underside of the should piece and the entire side of the rib cage piece, then I just placed the arm in the space.

The main difference in the figures are the bodies.  And this was where the original problem resided that I was trying to improve upon with the 2.0 version of the skeletons.  I wanted wood to wood contact for as many of these parts as I could do for strength.  This is where people are going to be grabbing the figure, the middle of it is where most of the force stresses against the figure when it is picked up and played with, this area of the figure had to be strong, strong, strong.  The look I was going for was a rib cage (which would be glued onto the shoulder piece described above), with some vertebrae (which would then be glued onto the pelvis).  I came up with 4 ways to do this, each has it's own strengths and weaknesses.

I'll start with the three on the left, what I thought was going to be my favorite design.
Before I start, the one on the far left sometimes tips over because he is leaning so far forward, but I don't care.  His pose is so dynamic that the tipping is totally worth it.  The rib cages on these guys is the flat plug in the picture, at the 4 inch to 4.5 inch part of the ruler.  The strength of this pieces is that both sides are flat, which makes the joint between the tile spacer shoulder piece and the rib cage as strong as it possibly can be.  Nearly the entire tile spacer is contacting the rib cage, so even though it is a tile spacer to wood contact, it is as strong as it is going to get.  The two vertebrae pieces are thin, flat beads I got in a batch of multi-shaped beads.  In the picture it is on the far right.  Two of these were glued together (wood to wood contact) and then they were glued to the rib cage (also wood to wood contact) and finally the entire piece was glued to the pelvis (also wood to wood contact).  I think they look pretty cool, my only complaint is that the rib cage is a little crisp and not rounded enough.  But that's a minor issue.

The last figure I did I will cover next because it was an attempt to make an improvement on the above figures with a different wooden rib cage piece that was more rounded.  You can't really see it in the picture of the figure, but here is that figure.

This figure's construction is identical to those three above except that the rib cage piece was not the flat plug, it was the axle cap that I am so fond of.  In the parts picture it is located at about the 3.5 inch mark on the ruler.  The nice thing about the axle cap is that it is flat on one side (the side that connects to the tile spacer shoulder piece) but rounded on the other side (which looks more like a rib cage).  You can see the difference in the picture below.  The one on the left has the flat plug rig cage, the one on the right has the axle cap rib cage.  I'm honestly not sure which one I like best, they each have their pros and cons.
Down to the last two designs.  These were made mainly for strength, and they are very strong, but they do not look quite as good in my opinion as the two above.

This first one is identical in construction to those above except for the body part of the figure.  I just used a mushroom cap, with the flat side connecting to the pelvis and the rounded side connecting to the shoulder piece.  It has a nice rib cage look, but the figure is a bit too "compact" (not sure how else to describe it) and it is harder to do the more dynamic poses with this construction method.  It also makes the pelvis look too big for the rest of the figure (it sort of looks like a fantasy dwarf skeleton I think because of this!).  But as far as strength goes, it is really strong.  Without separate vertebrae, that middle section of the figure is super strong.
The second one is a flat plug rig cage with a 1/2" bead (sorry forgot to put it in the parts picture) as the vertebrae.  It gives a little more height and doesn't look as "squat" as the one above.  It has one less vertebrae joint that the first pictures, so it is also pretty strong relatively speaking.  What I don't like about this one is the vertebrae are too large proportion wise for the rib cage.  Also, both of these figures suffer from having no physical representation of the vertebrae ... they would have to be represented just by painting them on.  But I did solve that problem by splitting some of the 1/2" beads and gluing them to the back of these figures as vertebrae, see below.
They look pretty cool, although they are out of proportion with the rest of the figure, and they do not match onto the vertebrae painted onto the front.  But still, they look pretty cool.

Now it's time for the action shots!

Our intrepid adventurers have stumbled into a burial chamber.  There must be something of value in that tomb, so the thief goes over to check it out.  When she touches the tomb the seemingly harmless collection of bones in the corners and sides of the room spring to life, animating and attacking the party!

Better shoot fast and switch to a melee weapon!
Behind you!!!
A dagger through the skull, if the dice are kind!
But what if the recently finished zombies also joined the fray!?  Cleric, behind you!  Turn them, man, turn them, or they will overwhelm you!!!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Norman Archers!

I have been missing doing some historical guys, so I decided to try and start a new historicals project.  I've always wanted to do Hastings and the battles before it, but the thought of painting hundreds of 28mm miniatures of Saxon-looking guys for all three armies (Norse, Saxons, Normans) was just too depressing to fathom for me.  But, painting that many of my wooden guys?  That's an option!

However, I have done some Dark Ages/Early Medieval guys before and didn't really like them much.  They never quite captured the look of the mail coat look that most of these troops have.  However, with my new way of doing the fantasy figures with the upside down milk bottle body, cool nasal helm head, and paper "skirt," that is exactly the way these figures should look.  So I decided to start a new historicals project, that being Hastings, and kicked it off with a test base of Norman Archers.

I wanted to do a game that is more of a stand-based approach rather than individually mounted figures (or even pairs as I had been doing in my ancients games).  I decided to go with the precut thick 3" by 1" wooden rectangles I get from a craft supply place online.  The bases are so thick that people will be likely to pick the figures up by the base instead of by the figures.  I usually don't like thick bases, but I think for these guys it makes the most sense to use a thick base to protect the figures as much as possible.  But, the issue with that is that the figures are not very stable on the larger base, and any sort of tipping, etc. will likely loose the figure from the base, regardless of how much glue one uses.  But I came up with a solution.

I knew I wanted to screw the figures onto the base from the bottom.  I thought I could countersink the hole on the bottom and use a flat head screw.  No problem.  I also realized that the milk bottle "top" (the lower legs of the figure) actually has a little indentation in it, which is almost like a guide hole for a screw.  So this should work perfectly.  I should be able to drill a hole in the base, glue the figure down, and before the glue dries screw the screw in from the bottom and into the base of the figure.  Glue + screw should be plenty strong.  Turns out if I was right!

Here is the base from the bottom.  You can clearly see the two screws that go up through the base and into the figures.  They are countersunk (is that a word!?) so the base still sits flat on the table top.

And here are the two archers.  I wanted them to be a bit "un-uniform" so one is in a hood with a mail coat and the other is in a leather coat with a nasal helm.  Standard milk bottle body construction, paper hood (where appropriate), paper skirt (bottom of the mail coat or leather coat depending on the figure), tile spacer arms and quivers, with tile spacer feet.  Ah, the feet.  I couldn't do what I was doing with the fantasy figures.  Screwing up through a rubber tile spacer and then into the wooden body of the figure would have been a nightmare.  I'm sure it would have turned out where the body would have spun around because of the torque of the screw driving process, or the feet would have become unglued from the body, etc.  So, I still like the looks of the feet, so instead I just glued them to the base of the figure up against the body of the figure.  First, they are not likely to come off because they are in a position where they will not be touched by human fingers.  Second, the figure is no less strongly attached to the base because the feet do not enter into that equation.  They are a bit shorter in height than the fantasy figures, since the bottom of the figure is not sitting on the top of the tile spacer feet, but I still think they look pretty good, and with a whole table full of the same construction, no one will know the difference.

No swords and such for these guys.  Just the basics.  I plan on doing four bases for each unit, so I don't have time to put a lot of the details on them like I do for the individual fantasy rpg character figures.
I think they turned out pretty good, I'm pleased.  Next up is a base of Normal infantry.  I can't decide whether to do three or four per base.  What was nice about these archers was that I actually attached the figures to the base first and then painted them (there was enough room to do that).  This is very handy because I did not have to try and hold the finished figure in place while screwing it onto the base.  I think trying to do it that way could get very, very dicey and I might end up breaking a figure (arms off of it I mean) if I try and screw them into place after I've painted them.  If I did three Norman infantry to one base I could probably paint them after screwing them onto the base.  If I do 4, I'm going to have to paint them first.  Not sure what I'm going to do yet.



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