Television is rather a frightening business. But I get all the relaxation I want from my collection of model soldiers.
Peter Cushing

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Building a better future

So work has continued here and there on the diorama but I've held off an update as it's been just little bits and pieces.

The base is now, however, finished. It now seems like a good time to explain why I've done it the opposite way round to before. Those of you who saw the VSF diorama under construction - back at the very beginning of this blog - or the Folk Horror one which followed will have seen that I sketched out the basic look then constructed and painted the miniatures. This was perfectly fine but I started thinking about a different approach. If you're not interested in my musings, feel free to just skip down and look at the pretty pictures.

In a previous life I was a photographer; in the life before that I was an actor and director. The visual sense of the photography has informed all my dioramas (indeed this one, if you look at the ratios, is an almost perfect portrait orientation and uses classic leading lines) but there was something nagging at me about the figures.

The problem was that I had figures and then a landscape and the two didn't quite match. The only one that looked as though he really belonged was the legless zombie in the folk horror one and that was because he was constructed last after the slope was made so that I could get the angle of his head right.

As an actor, you're looking for a dynamic way to use the performance space: whether it's the furniture that's there or different levels, you're using the space to communicate the emotion you want the audience to read.

So this time I built the location and now I'm starting to make the figures. As they are being constructed to fit within the environment I'm starting to get more dynamic poses. Whereas before I would more or less stick the figures together right out of the box, here I'm having to cut-and-shut to ensure that the body is turned the right way, the arm is pointing in the right direction, the head is tilted for the right line of sight...

Rather than try and explain it further, I'll invite you to look at the pictures below to see what I mean, and compare them with the two posted previously. And my question to those of you that make dioramas is this - which way round do you do it and why?

This is the basic structure completed...

...and here is the detailing. All junk from the bits box and some gardening wire left over from training some Firethorns. 

The finished thing...

...under coated. 

Figuring out the poses became very simple when done in situ. The figures are again constructed from random odds and ends out of that set of bits The Good Lady Er Indoors picked up for me a year or so ago. 

While I had the airbrush out I used some of the leftover colours from the Carnosaur to tint the undercoat: 

So the next step will be constructing the attackers and then deciding on the colour palette. 

Total cost: £0. 

Jurassic Dork

So having watched a lot - a lot - of dinosaurs over the last few weeks, I felt ready to start on the Carnosaur. 

The basic idea here is that I will use this carnosaur to lead my evil Dragon Rampant force, so I want it to match. 

The original reason, many years ago, that I started with Warhammer Dark Elves was the idea of the Cold One cavalry. So here is one of my old Cold One Knights: 

As you can see, I mixed and matched the  various eras to get the look I wanted. So that is the same basic palette and feel I want bit slightly more complex as we have a larger canvas. 

This is a job for the airbrush. 

It had been lent to the Art Department at work for a year or so an so it took me an hour or so to get it set back up right. In any case, it only took about 10 minutes to get the base coat down. 

The irritating thing about airbrushing, of course, is that your work doesn't show - there's four different coats and colours there. 

Some glazes and washes to come before we start detailing. I'm quite happy with the basic look, I think. 

Sunday 25 October 2015

Using My Powers For Good

A decent update on current modelling work will drop tomorrow but I got a little distracted this week...

My eldest son, all of 3 and a half, really likes the CBeebies programme Andy's Dinosaur Adventures. Indeed, our house has pretty much every surface covered in trains or dinosaurs. 

One of his favourite games is to go out into the garden and have a dinosaur adventure wearing a hat, jacket and gizmo just like Andy.

What's a gizmo you ask? It's the thing that Andy wears on his wrist that gives him information about dinosaurs. It looks like this: 

The Eldest took to wearing a watch when he goes out on his adventures. 

Enter daddy. At the car Boot sale I bought a nice black leather watch strap. Then I cracked out the plasticard.

A bit if measuring, cutting and a slap of paint and an hour or so later we have this:

Which goes into the strap like so:

And so our wee adventurer is ready to go off to the Lost World:

I told my wife that all this time faffing about with modelling stuff wasn't wasted. 

Sunday 18 October 2015

Game Night Reviews - Memoir 44 and Battle of Hoth

frankly, Battle of Hoth sounds really wrong to me. For some reason, in my head, Battle For Hoth sounds correct. Anyway.

Last night was game night, and we played two fairly abstracted wargames. So here's my review:

Lego: Battle of Hoth

Like all Lego boardgames, this is short and sweet with a very elegant set of rules. There are four different troop types, each of whom can attack in a different direction for different ranges. In practice, you can't go far wrong if you regard it as chess on a strange shaped board. It's a lovely little starter game, taking about 10 minutes to play with fabulous little pieces. It also affords the possibility of a guy on a tauntaun taking on an AT-AT and I don't care where you're from, that's entertainment.

All of the bits are of a high quality as you'd expect from Lego and there are enough rules variations to ensure that the game has replayability. As long as you don't expect much tactical depth and you're happy with a large amount of random chance you'll enjoy it.

Memoir 44

Firstly, as a boardgamer, you have to respect a game that puts this many toys on the table. Like Merchants and Marauders and other 'ameritrash' games (a term which isn't perjorative to me, I love big sprawling monsters as much as I love delicate, elegant eurogames) your table is soon full of cards, infantry, armour and terrain. It's like having a proper wargame but all in one box.

The basic game refights the Operation Overlord campaign from the parachute drops on the 5th June through to the liberation of Paris. The key engagements are represented by scenarios. These scenarios are historically accurate within a given level of abstraction and are often asymmetrical to the point of being one-sided which leads to one of the game's master strokes; you play each scenario twice, with players swapping sides each time. This keeps the 'game' side of things fair and also immediately doubles the playing life of the game.

Myself and m'learned colleague, by the way, are three sessions into the game campaign so we've experienced most of the rules.

The basic game system is, I believe, adapted from command and colours. You have a certain number of cards which allow you to give orders to certain units. I'm a big fan of friction in game systems; real life us never mechanistic, so rules systems that allow for difficulties in getting units to do what you want are fine by me. Combat is by dice, so we have two elements of random chance - the cards you've drawn and your rolls on the dice.

This game is honestly excellent. Anyone interested in WW2 or wargaming should own a copy. My only big caveat is this: it is entirely possible to have an appalling run of luck due to the two chance systems running together. I had that experience when playing as the Allies trying to take Pegasus bridge. I didn't have the cards I needed and when I did get a decent card, the dice were against me. Needless to say, D Day needed to be called off.

This chap is in trouble as soon as their orders come through. 

Updates on the painting stuff after the weekend; hope to see you then. 

Saturday 17 October 2015

Another Brick In The Wall

So today I took the bricks I salvaged when I cannibalised the Bloodbowl dugout in order to complete the main structure of the base. 

As Michael - fellow history teacher that he is - had more or less recognised the general vibe it seems pointless to maintain an air of mystery. We're going for an SF rendition of General Gordon's last stand - hence the stepped structure of the base which should lead the eye to the main figure standing at the top of the steps. 

The purpose of this bit of terrain is to provide a frame for the main figure. There's still some detailing to do but this is where we're at. 

And here is Bridadier Alistair Gordon Leighbridge-Stewart standing in for his ancestor to show scale:

More to come Monday. 

Current cost: £0. 

Friday 16 October 2015

Can we build it?

Yes we can.

So currently all we've used is some of the slate, some leftover polyfilla and some weird bits of plastic strut I had in my bits box. There's also the stone steps which came from... Well, somewhere.

Total cost so far: £0

Wednesday 14 October 2015


Yes, with depressing regularity, the stream of 'I've not given up, honest' posts starts as the new term begins to bite.

Actually, I have been busy conceptually even though I've been knackered between kids and work for the last few weeks. I have worked out some plans for some interesting bits and pieces as well as desperately trying to resist the temptation to buy Frostgrave. 


Having finished a couple of major projects over the summer I don't really have the appetite to start on my Vikings or In Her Majesty's Name forces yet; so instead I've decided to do another diorama (those of you who've been loyal readers will know that's how I eased myself back into the whole painting and modelling thing). 

The difference is that this one is to be made entirely from stock. This will cost nothing - I can use only the tools, materials and miniatures that I have kicking around. 

I have a sketch which I will post at the end for comparison purposes but here you can see I've broken ground:

And here is the bowl full of junk which is going to be the guts of the terrain:

Leftover blue foam from the Folk Horror base; leftover foam bricks from the Bloodbowl dugout and some chunks of slate from a fossil-hunting expedition with the Eldest to the beach. The bits of plastic I'll cover in another post. 

So here's hoping that this will help provide some respite from the stress of the everyday grind.