Saturday, March 17, 2018

Norman Cavalry Test Base

Finished painting the Norman Cavalry test base I put together about a couple of weeks ago.  I was worried if three on a base would be too many, and also I was worried that I wouldn't be able to paint them because they were too close together.  Both concerns ended up being "challenges" but not anything that would change my mind in basing them this way.  That said, with the four base unit, the two in the front are going to be three figures, but the two in the back are only going to be two figures.  My main concern is that the bases are not deep enough to allow two bases with three figures each being able to line up back to front without the horses hitting each other before the bases are flush.  Not only does that not look that great (too close together front to back) but I also want the bases to be flush if I can.  I ran into this problem with my old cavalry figures like the Macedonians and Romans as well but because the unit was several individual figures on a tray I could space them out so that they didn't bump or look funny.  With these, because the number of figures on the base is less important to me or the rules I will likely use with these figures, it is fine if the two rear bases have fewer horses.  Probably more accurate in how the unit would look en mass while moving about the battlefield anyway.  Anyway, here they are.

The Normans themselves are the same heads as the infantry figures construction wise.  The bodies, however, are 1/2" x 1/2" spools (slightly shorter than the more common 1/2" x 5/8" ones you will find in a craft store, I had to order these from my online craft parts supplier).  You need this shorter spool so that the figure does't sit too high in the saddle.  Same arms, same spears, same shields, same paper chainmail skirt as the infantry.  You can't see it in this figure but I did do the legs differently than I normally do.  They use stirrups so I wanted the leg to be straight and extended (rather than bent and clinging to the side of the horse like the Macedonians or Persians or Romans would have ridden during that earlier time).  So I used a tile spacer for the leg (straight with the curved end glued up under the chainmail skirt so that I could pivot the leg to a desired angle easily) and on the flat end I glued a little "foot" also made out of tile spacer.  You can see this better in some of the other pictures.  Also, painting wise, I realized that although I like the larger, extended helmet look I have on the infantry figures personally better, historically that is not what they would have looked like most likely.  The helmet would have been more of a cap and the metal around the backs of their necks and around their face would have been chainmail, so I painted these that way.  I like the other look better from an artistic point of view (this is a LOT of chainmail to be looking at) but historically, this way of doing it is more correct so I am going to stick with this from now on, at least for the Normans.  For their allies, I will probably use the older way of doing the helmets just so we will be able to tell the allies apart from the Normans on the table top.
From the rear.  I paint the tail on the horses but the manes are what I've always used, this extra fluffy pipe cleaner I get at Michaels.
I debated on whether to have the shields at the ready, or slung on their backs.  I think for the rear ranked bases I might actually have one of the figures with the shield on his back.
You can see the rider's leg better in this image to see what I'm talking about with the tile spacer and foot.  In terms of the horses I altered my construction slightly.  I've always been a little disappointed that my horses, unlike Dale's for example, do not have visible "necks."  So for these, I used an axle cap to create the feeling of a neck on the horse.  It works better with these figures too than my old ones because the Normans due to their construction are taller anyway, so without a neck the horses' heads would be too low.  And also even though the horses have necks now and are taller, the Norman riders are still tall enough to be looking over the horse's head, which is obviously important.  I used the same small (the smallest I can find actually) split eggs for the head, and both sets of legs (front and back).  I used a different body for the horse than I usually use as well.  I used to use a 1/2" x 5/8" spool, but I found this "Barrel Bead" that is 5'8" wide 3/8" hole that is also about 5/8" in length.  Not only does it create a smoother and better (IMO) body profile for the horse, it is a bit "beefier" than the spool which again goes better with these Norman figures because they tend to be a bit bigger than my previous attempts at figures like the Macedonians and Persians.

Finally, here is the base in the same picture with an infantry base so that you get a sense for the scale with the infantry figures.
I think they look pretty good together and I'm happy with how they turned out and that even though it was a little more challenging to paint them than the infantry all on the base when I do it, they were still "doable" and I will continue to construct and glue everything first (except the shields) and then paint them (gluing the shields and the manes on as the last step in the process).

Monday, March 12, 2018


This figure is supposed to be a male Halfling, since I already did a female Halfling before, but at the scale of these figures, the gender of the figure could be anything you want.  I decided to put a mask on him to make him look a little different than the other figures I've done.  I might do a rogue at some point with a mask as well.  Anyway, here he is.

Same construction as the female halfling.  Oblong bead body, small bead head, tile spacer arms and feet (the feet tile spacer is cut in half so that it is thinner which obviously takes some height off the figure which is desirable in this case.  Paper hair, paper skirt for the armor, the mask is just painted on, and the two daggers/short swords are tile spacers.

Here he is being brave leading a party of humans for size comparison.

Thoughts for the Day

I've been thinking recently about this whole process of making miniatures from wood craft bits like I do, or developing them from a pawn or clothespin base form like Dale, Ken, and Stephen do, or the clay sculpture figures that Vicente does.  I have also started to think more and more about the general "crafting movement" in rpgs, in particular work on terrain by people like DM Scotty and DMG (check out their youtube videos if you haven't, they are both awesome).  I know we do it primarily out of a gaming need/desire.  But it has to be more than that. 

We are fortunate enough to live in a time when there are pretty much professionally sculpted miniatures and terrain pieces for anything you would want, and if you happen to hit on something that you can't find, I highly recommend doing a Kick Starter search before concluding that "that miniature doesn't exist," because much of the time you'll find a KS for it ... it may never get finished, but at least there is a mention of a KS for it.  So it isn't like the 1980's when we might be making miniatures because the ones we need to not exist.  We can get professionally made miniatures and terrain of whatever we want, all we need to do is paint them.  So why do we do the stuff that is covered on this blog?

I then got really reflective and thought back to the art appreciation courses I took when I was a wee lad in college and it sort of hit me.  And I came to this conclusion.  I think that one of the main reasons those of us who do this whole miniature construction and painting thing is out of individual artistic expression.  These pieces are art to us, not just purely functioning objects to use in a game.  Sure, that's part of it, but the amount of blood, sweat and tears that we put into these little fellows far exceeds any benefit provided by creating a functional gaming piece.  And again, all those gaming pieces already exist, sculpted by professionals.  All we have to do is paint them.  And yet, we continue to do this "art."

So the next obvious question is "okay, but what kind of art?"

I'm starting to think that one could classify what we are doing as "folk art."  Here is's definition of "folk art":

"Artistic works, as paintings, sculpture, basketry, and utensils, produced typically in cultural isolation by untrained often anonymous artists or by artisans of varying degrees of skill and marked by such attributes as highly decorative design, bright bold colors, flattened perspective, strong forms in simple arrangements, and immediacy of meaning."

Wow, that definition seems to hit on a bunch of things that appear to be true for the artistic process covered on this blog.

1.  Produced typically in cultural isolation:  Seems certainly to be true.

2.  By untrained often anonymous artists or by artisans of varying degrees of skill:  Check.

3.  Marked by such simple attributes as highly decorative design, bright colors, flattened perspective, strong forms in simple arrangements, and immediacy of meaning:  CHECK!!!

It seems to me that one could consider these little wooden warriors that we are making to be a type of folk art.  

Others agree?  Disagree?  Could care less, I just want to see more little wooden guys? 

Thursday, March 8, 2018


I do enjoy making scenery pieces for the table top, so I decided to do some simple sarcophagi.  Can't have too many of those.  Nothing fancy, just some nice scenery pieces I can throw on the table top.  I did get fancy with the one in the middle and had a skeletal hand grasping the edge, begging the question of "what's inside?!"
They are all basically made the same way.  Two 1 inch cubes glued together with a 2.25" x 1.5"
"sign" precut wooden part from a craft store for a lid.  I then added some thin craft foam pieces to some of the tops, some of the sides, and for the blue one I used the same small round thin precut pieces I use for shields to the front for decoration.  The red one has a small split bead on the top as well, and the skeletal hand is just made out of time spacers.  The skull on the dark brown one is just a split bead for the skull with a smaller split bead for the open mouth.  I glued it so that the split side is facing up to create the "mouth."

Very quick, very easy, and definitely something I would be happy to put on my game table.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Goblins 2.0

I finally got around to finishing 5 more of the 2.0 way of doing goblins, more like what the monster appears like in modern D&D publications.  I had the test figure that I did a while ago, I just added in 5 friends for him.  Here they are.

I am pleased that I am getting more dynamic in my arm poses.  I must say, the tile spacers make it really quick and easy to shape whatever arm shapes you want using a craft blade to cut them.  Whenever I try out a new arm pose I invariably go through anywhere between 2 and 12 (2d6?!) tile spacers before I cut it like I want to, but they are so inexpensive it doesn't matter.

I think I covered construction before, but I'll do it again.  Pretty simple.  Small tapered bead bodies, split small round bead heads, tile spacer feet, arms, weapons (except for the spear), and ears.  Small round precut pieces for shields, toothpick spear.  They were pretty quick to design and build.  They have been sitting on my painting table for about two months and I had a "hole" in my assembly process where I had several batches of figures not quite completely assembled, but nothing on my painting table but these guys and I knew I could knock them out in a night or two, so I did.

Here they are with some heroes for scale (human heroes and the one female dwarf so you can get the full effect).



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