Saturday, 29 September 2012

Forests and Fences

Last time I blogged I wrote about the Splintered Light miniatures I had started painting for Song of Blades and Heroes.  Between last blog and today, while I haven't been blogging, I haven't been idle either.  Aside from paving an area here at the Castle and generally seeing to the grounds, I've also managed to paint a couple more figures and make some terrain to decorate the battlefield.

All in all I'm very happy with how it's all turning out.  Here's a quick run down on what I've managed so far.

I already had a handful of model trees from years ago when I played DBA, but being rather top heavy, they tended to fall over whenever anybody within 20 meters sneezed.  As well as stability I also wanted to provide some base for the trees to sit on, but not something with the trees stuck to them - I want to be able to remove the trees for storage, and if done right I could also use the base without the trees for rough ground or similar.  I bought a pack of washers and glued them to the tree bases, as well as a couple of rectangular drinks coasters - cheap and thin MDF board, but perfectly strong enough for the purpose.  Using wall filler I created a texture on the surface of the coasters, and cut out the spaces where the trees would eventually fit.  I also added some rocks for general effect (nicked from our garden no less).

Once the wall filler had dried I painted it thinly with watered down PVA glue, and then applied sand in different clumps to provide an additional texture.

In the background you can see some stone fences I also made - these were constructed from icy-pole sticks with small rocks glued layer on layer, and then sand added to the base.

Once done I undercoated them all.  I used black for the fences, and white for the forest and tree bases (white because I wanted them to match with the bases of the miniatures I have already painted).

Once done and dried the painting could begin.  The fences were easy, several layers of gray, from a dark gray to a lighter gray were dry brushed onto the surface, in successively lighter coats.  I then added clumps of the foliage one uses for model trees in spots to create a mossy/overgrown look.

The forest and tree bases were done in a similar fashion, several coats of a dark brown, followed by two layers of lighter browns, and finally a very light dry brushing using a skin tone.  The rocks were painted black and then given the same treatment as the fences, foliage included. To these I then added grass flock, and some grass clumps from the Army Painter company.

Here are the results:

And here with the figures I have painted so far:

So far I'm very happy with how they're turning out.  Now to get the rest of the figures done!


Thursday, 20 September 2012

From under the boughs...

A couple of blogs ago I wrote about my experimentation with various paints, undercoats and so forth using the miniatures from The Hobbit board game, by Reiner Knizia and from Fantasy Flight Games.  Since then my new Army Painter paints have arrived and I have begun to paint my Splintered Light minis.

Splintered Light is a company that produce various ranges of miniatures, from historical to fantasy, the ones I have at the moment are from a fantastic range of 20mm anthropomorphic warriors - the Woodland Warriors range.  The miniatures are of a nice quality, and I've been looking forward to painting them for some time.  For those who have been reading my irregular ramblings here you might recall I have been enjoying Song of Blades and Heroes a lot recently, and the Splintered Light minis, once painted up, will form the recruits from which my warbands for Song of Blades and Heroes will be drawn.

So far I've been very happy with my new Army Painter paints, my new brushes (also from Army Painter), and of course the minis from Splintered Light.  It's been a couple of nights, and I'm going slowly, but I'm enjoying the process of painting and basing these minis immensely.

So, here are some of what I've managed so far...

Already based and primed, ready to paint...

Base colours blocked in...

A wash, drybrush and a little highlighting done...

Beginning the base coat on the Hedgehog...

Highlighted, varnished and based, in a word: done...

And the next one waiting for his base to be completed:

And so, slowly, my warband is beginning to emerge from beneath the boughs of their woodland home...


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Gaming the Weekend Away...

This weekend past my dear brother happened to chance our hospitality here at the Castle.  While much time was spent kicking footballs around the backyard and playing dinosaurs with my energetic son, we also happened to play several games.

It was a great opportunity to attack the growing pile of unplayed games that have been accumulating around the house.  Some of the games played and some very brief thoughts follow:

Knights of Crylail

A fun little dexterity game for two - a game my son absolutely adored, even if the subtleties of ‘rules’ avoided him.  Players flick disks down the length of the table toward some evil monsters (well - scoring tokens really), each players’ disks have individual special powers that allow them to be used or scored in different ways.  It’s not a bad game by any stretch, certainly a quick and fun dexterity game - perfect for playing on the outdoor table while sausages and various snacks are sizzling away on the barbeque.


A rally racing game, where players push their luck to see how far they can move by ‘chaining gears’ - each gear allows for another dice rolled, but the risk is that if too many dice come up with bad results the car will spin out and a whack of time will be added to the players race-time (having the shortest of which is the winning condition).  It’s an interesting game, but one that invites the players to think too much about how to optimise their turn when the pay-off for such pondering is perhaps largely negligible.  It’s a good game, but I’m not sure how often I’d bring it out given I also have Formula D - a wonderful racing game that is a little simpler and equally fun.

Klop (or Mollky):

An excellent game
I’ve blogged about this game before, it really is an excellent outdoor game.  I can say little more but to heartily recommend it.

Omen: A Reign of War:

The second best game of the weekend.  Players are trying to win by either sacking the most treasures or by achieving the most feats. There are two currencies - the hand of cards and money, both of which must be kept in balance throughout the game.  The key is the special powers of the various cards, some of which activate when a card is played, some when a card is discarded and some can be used turn in turn out.  These special powers, when used in combination with one another, allow for some fun, sometimes devastating game effects.  It was a good game.  The artwork is also very nice, and the metal coins that came with the kickstarter version add to the joie de vivre, yes - I am that shallow when it comes to nice game pieces.

Song of Blades and Heroes:

Set-up and ready to play...
Undoubtedly the best of the games played this past weekend.  This is a small and quick skirmish style miniatures game.  We ended up playing 3 or 4 times, and each time played a random and simple scenario using my Splintered Light anthropomorphic warriors.  The scenarios added a lot of fun to the game - certainly they were at times unbalanced a tad (by board gaming standards at least), but they gave a purpose to each game from which rose a fun and enjoyable story.  That each member of our warbands were given names only served to add to the tales (Cedrik the hedgehog, Alby the shrew, The Wrecking Machine (aptly named, as both Alby and Cedrik fell by his hand - accompanied by his catch-phrase "He's a wrecking machiiiinnnnneeeee")).

Cedrik corners an enemy mouse by the ford...
The rules are simple, and the gameplay is enjoyable and quick moving.  While scenarios can be a touch unbalanced (some might favour one set of abilities or the kind chance of set-up), the games are nonetheless engaging and a lot of fun.  With the Splintered Light miniatures it was all rather like Wind in the Willows crossed with Robin Hood, and I for one found that a rather pleasant and entertaining mix.  

A treasure discovered...
If you happen to be looking for a light skirmish miniatures game I can heartily recommend Song of Blades and Heroes - one of the best aspects of the game is that each warband only requires a small number of miniatures, so the price to enter the game is nowhere near as prohibitive as some miniatures games out there.

So that was the weekend, undoubtedly the gaming highlights were Omen and the most enjoyable Song of Blades and Heroes - I can’t wait to get my miniatures properly painted!

Other highlights included chasing dinosaurs and trying to catch disks from Knights of Crylail as they came spinning and flying across the table.


Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Hobbit - a Painting Project

Some months ago I blogged about various miniatures projects I have wanted to start.  Painting miniatures is a cathartic experience, the only downside being the conundrum of where to store them after they are done.  I have a collection of Splintered Light miniatures waiting to be painted ready for employment in some games of Song of Blades and Heroes.  Before getting stuck into those I have been wanting to test out my paints, which are cheap craft paints and frankly, getting on in age now (it’s been many years since I really put brush to miniature).

Rather than begin my main project I wanted to start with a smaller one, I looked over my collection of board games and found The Hobbit - an easy playing family style game, designed by Reiner Knizia and published by Fantasy Flight Games.  The game itself isn’t the best I have on my game shelves, but it’s one that’s fairly simple, and one I hope will make for a fun little family game as my son and daughter approach ages more appropriate to such activities.  I also love The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books.

After experimenting with various undercoat sprays it took me a little while (I was mainly distracted by the launch of the Games in Schools and Libraries podcast) to get around to putting paint to figure.

Undercoated and ready for paint...

I started with the base coats, then liberally washed the miniatures with a black wash mixed from acrylic paint (not ideal, but there you have it), after the wash I used various coats of paint, from the base colour to lighter shades, to highlight and drybrush and pick out the details.  To finish I used a gloss spray varnish, and then flocked the base of the Bilbo figure.

Base coats...

Bilbo nearly complete, Smaug has just had a wash...

All in all I am reasonably happy with the results, though I certainly think I’ll change a few things around before starting my main project (the Splintered Light figures for Song of Blades and Heroes).

And all done:

The things I learned:

My current paints aren’t good enough - it may be that the undercoat is too smooth for the paint to purchase, but the pigments in the paints I have are paradoxically both too watery and too thick to give proper cover.  I have ordered a new set of miniatures paints - The Army Painter paint set.  This will give me some new brushes (which I need), as well as a good range of colours, metals and some proper washes.  Hopefully these will fare much better.

I will be changing from a gloss to a matt varnish - I am happy with the finish for The Hobbit figures, but the gloss varnish is perhaps a little too much for what I want on my Splintered Light minis - I think a matt finish will produce a better effect.

I need to work on my basing techniques - I have some flock, static grass, sand and tufts of grass to use, and while Bilbo wasn’t going to be a complex base, it’s still not something I’ve ever done - even when I was painting miniatures all those years ago.

I am still not 100% convinced of the undercoat I have hit upon - it certainly covers well and doesn’t obscure the detail, but it may also be too shiny to serve as a really good undercoat.  This may have been entirely the fault of my current paints - which are very poor at covering, well, anything, but the undercoat may also have exacerbated the issue.  We shall see.

I am reasonably happy overall with the end results - hopefully when my new paints arrive I’ll be able to get stuck into my Splintered Light figures with pleasing results.

What next?

Well - I have already mentioned several times that I have a bunch of Splintered Light figures ready.  I got these to use as warbands for the ‘Song of Blades and Heroes’ rules set - a great little simple table top game.  I also have a figure from Gripping Beast I will be using to replace the figure I ruined from my Beowulf game while testing undercoats (and it’s a far better mini as well - and will stand in for that great Geatish hero).  Lastly I have some lance wielding unicyclers for the bizarre little game ‘Pig Tickler’ - a rather odd little game from Eureka in Melbourne about Victorian era officers on unicycles trying to lance a mechanical pig. Yes, you did just read that.

I am also looking forward to the arrival at some point of the Dux Britanniarum rules - a set of early Dark Age miniatures rules that look fantastic.  Undoubtedly after my Song of Blades and Heroes figures are ready to use I’ll be looking for some Romano-British and Saxon figures for that game (which I think I’ll collect in 15mm - for both quickness of painting of ease of storage).

I think that’s enough to be going on with!