Wednesday, February 25, 2015

28mm Servitors of Nyarlathotep from ‘Achtung! Cthulhu’ and Greyscale Mat from Deep-Cut Studio

This entry sees me return to some pulp adventure figures. This time it's a trio of models from the game where the world of H.P. Lovecraft meets the Second World War: ‘Achtung! Cthulhu’.

Several weeks ago a friend had mentioned that many of the Cthulhu miniatures currently available are not really horrific enough to convey the vision of the literature.  For the most part I tend to agree, but I think there are some exceptions, such as these creepy fellas below. 

These rather disturbing creatures are described as Servitors of Nyarlathotep. They’re beings that use a human host as both an incubator and delivery device.  Lurking until their dark designs are required and then tearing themselves into our reality in order to wreak havoc.  Sort of like tax assessors with a skin condition. ;)

These are 28mm figures from Modiphius Entertainment’s ‘Achtung! Cthulhu’ range.  Nice figures, with very fine features and excellent detail.  They're perhaps a smidge smaller than most other 28mm WWII lines, but not markedly so.

Many of the paint schemes I’ve seen online for these figures depict the emerging creatures' bodies as a single uniform colour/texture.  As the figures' design reminded me of the art of H.R. Giger (famous for his conceptual art of the first Alien movie) I chose to portray them as something almost quasi-sexual, with a nasty pink pseudopod emerging from a carapace.  Ewww, yeah, sorry about that.

Okaaay, so to help take your mind away from that disturbing image I’d like to point out to you the wonderful cobblestone mat that I've used in my photos. Yes, if you look closely you’ll see that the mat is in greyscale. Now, how neat is that!

You see, when I approached the good people from Deep-Cut Studio about the possibility of them being a Challenge sponsor they recollected my Great War greyscale work and so offered to do up a cobblestone PVC mat in a similar motif.  Very flattered, I happily accepted and am extremely delighted with how it turned out.  


Georges Boillot and his Renault 'Taxi de la Marne'
As you can see it works very well with my greyscale collection and building facades.  The original coloured mat had a few manhole covers as part of the design, but I did not want to have to work around them in laying out my buildings so I asked to have them removed.  No problem, the designers quickly made the necessary adjustments and I now have a wonderful 4x4 cobblestone layout for my Great War and Pulp gaming. Thank you very much Deep-Cut Studio - you did a brilliant job!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

28mm Retiarii Gladiators (Retiarius) armed with Trident and Net

Here are a couple more gladiators to add to my existing Ludus.  This time it is two Retiarii ('net-men') which were gladiators whose fighting style focused on the use of the trident and throwing net.  From historical evidence it seems these fellows were often set against two Secutors ('chasers'), with the Retiarius placed on an elevated platform, sometimes over water, and the Secutorii set to assault him.  Sounds like pretty harrowing stuff - it would seem that gladiators didn't have a very good Workplace Health & Safety policy...

These two 28mm figures are from Brigade Games (It would seem that I'm on a bit of a tear with Brigade's stuff lately). Great sculpts and very easy to work with. Similar to my previous gladiators, I’ve done the groundwork with a gratuitous amount of gore so it better blends with the ‘Spartacus’ game-board.

The last shot is of the Ludus as it stands now, with all seven gladiators arrayed for the arena.

‘Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant.’

Friday, February 20, 2015

28mm Napoleonic Spanish Guerrillas

Cripes, I started these figures back in December and have been slowly nudging them along in fits and starts. It’s funny; I find that when I’m not following a common uniform ‘template’ it can take me forever to come up with the goods. I’ll hum and haw over how to paint every item of clothing, every strap, every hat, almost paralyzing myself with indecision. It’s quite silly really. I know I could have probably done-up the majority of these figures in simple browns, greens and blacks, but that seemed pretty uninteresting and frankly a bit of a cop out for such fine figures. So I painfully plodded through them, model-by-model, and I’m have to say I'm happy to finally see the backs of them. 

These fifteen 28mm castings are from Brigade Games. Most are listed as ‘Napoleonic Guerrilla’ figures, but a few are actually Napoleonic naval crew, nonetheless, I found they blended together relatively well. By the looks of them I would say that Paul Hicks was the sculptor, but I’m not sure on this. No matter, they are excellent models – requiring little in the way of preparation and were a real joy to work on. 

From my understanding many of these guerrilla units were composed of Spaniards from all walks of life so I decided to paint them in a motley assortment of civilian garb and re-purposed bits of uniform, both Spanish and French. (And, yes, you apparently have to have a fierce priest and armed monk with any Spanish guerrilla unit.)

I stuck to my standard method of basing for these. For ease of identification the force commander is based on a hex base, while the lower level leaders are on squares and the troops are on rounds. 

The roadside shrine below is from Grand Manner. It’s quite a nice hunk of resin. I often find a small characterful terrain piece can speak volumes to a setting than a bunch of nondescript models. When I put this on the tabletop it immediately says to me, ‘We’re in the Iberian Peninsula. Genuflect, put on your wide-brimmed hat and enjoy some hot chocolate and churros.'

I picked up this shrine along with a few other pieces from Grand Manner this past Christmas during a promotion. It was the only way I could rationalize getting them, as with shipping they’re quite expensive. Nonetheless, while some of their range has been around for quite awhile, I still find Grand Manner offers some of the best terrain available, so it's nice to be able to treat oneself from time to time. 

Next up for this little project will be some dismounted French dragoons for these Guerrillas to tangle with…

Saturday, February 14, 2015

'Bring up the Guns. The British are Landing' - Egypt, 1801

In the early spring of 1801 General Friant, commanding approximately 2000 French along with 10 guns, obstructed the British amphibious landing at Abukir, near the Nile Delta, causing serious casualties amongst the Redcoats assembling on the beach. 

Under the hot Mediterranean sun, enduring a fierce bombardment, the British managed to gather enough men, send them forward with the bayonet and force the French away from the heights commanding the landing area. This campaign ultimately led to the French surrender at Alexandria on September 2nd and their ejection from Egypt (and, as part of the spoils, securing the Rosetta Stone for the British). 

This small 28mm vignette is from Brigade Games. The palm tree is home-made: wire wrapped with medical gauze, painted and then topped with hot-glued artificial leaves (my thanks to Brian H for the recipe for this).

The group  images show some mounted troopers from the French Dromedary Corps which I painted last year. The obelisks are from Scotia Grendel the desert mat is from the good folks over at Barrage Miniatures.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Limerick Twins - 'See You in the Funny Papers...'

(Please excuse this cross-post from the Challenge blog.)

We played a big game of ‘Strange Aeons’ the other night and I quickly realized that, while I have quite a good collection of nasty beasties, I'm woefully short of heroes or, well, at least humans unencumbered by eyestalks, creepy robes and tentacles. True, I have a few figures set aside for my continuing ‘Carro Family’ pulp project, but my collection needs a big injection of two-fisted heroes and savy heroines to do the heavy lifting for the Good Guys in our games. So I put on my winter boots, toque and parka and tromped off to the ‘Lead Shed’ to see what I could excavate as possible candidates. 

As it turns out I have more than a few castings from Copplestone, Pulp Miniatures and Musketeer that fit the bill, and all of them are just crying out to be introduced to a paintbrush. 

As a result, I present to you the first pair of figures of what I hope will be an expanding series of guys and dolls from the interwar period: ‘The Limerick Twins’. 

The Twins are Sean and Sioban Ryan, a pair of talented ‘cleaners’ who have recently emigrated from the Emerald Isle to make their fortune in America. 

The Ryan twins are known (or perhaps notorious) for their preternatural connection with one another and as such are very difficult to surprise, always working in tandem, covering each others' back. We’ll have to see if they have the Luck of the Irish when they make their debut on the tabletop. 

These figures are from Copplestone Casting’s excellent ‘Gangsters’ range. I’ve decided to paint them in an over-saturated, quasi ‘Dick Tracy’ style – something I may try to continue with a few more figures just for the fun of it.

In watching the last season of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ one of lines that stuck with me was 'Lucky' Luciano saying, ‘See you in the funny papers.’ So as a tip of the hat to this I thought I’d add a few pages of discarded newsprint at their feel along with some still-hot spent .45 shell casings from their Thompsons. 

'Here's looking at you, kid...'

Monday, February 2, 2015

Proof of Concept - 3mm ACW Regiments at 1:1 Scale

(Note: This is a cross-post from the Challenge blog.)

Alright everyone, this post exhibits a certain amount of nostalgic obsession and nerdy madness so please bear with me.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by miniatures and their relative scale. I have great memories of packing my Airfix plastics out into the garden and placing them at distances relative to their size (or the best I could determine, as math has never been my strong suit). So when the British were deployed amongst the peas and potatoes, and the Germans settled in amongst the corn and cabbage, they all somehow related to one another and therefore seemed more real to me. 

Anyway, when I started getting into historical wargaming in my teens I understood the need to abstract scales in order to fit scenarios onto tabletops, but I still held a desire to see these historical formations in their true form, at distances that reflected how the men of the various periods gathered, moved and fought.

Don Troiani's work seems to capture what it must have been like to live within the chaos of black powder battles...

These 3mm (1:600 scale) ACW figures (yes, they are very, very tiny) are from Pico Armor. I picked these up a few years ago in a fit of madness knowing I could finally indulge my fascination with 1:1 scale formations. I started working on a few bases, but soon became distracted by other projects (I know, how typical). Nonetheless, I found them tucked away in a drawer the other week, so pulled them out, the spark took light once again and so here we are.

What you see here is two American Civil War Confederate regiments. The one regiment on the left is made up of close to 500 figures while the other is about 340. These numbers align roughly to the historical strengths of average, campaign-strength ACW formations.

Each regiment is made up of 10 bases, with each base being a complete infantry company at 1:1 scale.

Below is a great educational photo. You can clearly see the incredible length of a mid-sized regiment drawn up into line (with another regiment in the distance). When I see this I’m immediately struck by what must have been a huge challenge of command-and-control for officer to exert their will over such a strung-out formation. I look at this and understand that having a good cadre of experienced NCO’s and junior officers was an absolute necessity for having any kind of battlefield effectiveness. 

Both regiments drawn up in line.
When you see the same regiments drawn up in open and closed columns it illustrates why so many generals (certainly in the Napoleonic period) liked to keep their soldiers in more compact formations as it enabled them to be better controlled and also it had a morale effect as they typically gained confidence by the closeness of their comrades. 

Column of divisions, two companies wide at full intervals.

Close column, two companies wide. Highly inefficient for combat but much easier to control.

Column, one company wide and at full intervals for ease of maneuver.
The 3mm farmhouse is from Pico as well. I’ve placed it on a pill-shaped base and made a snake-rail fence out of cut card ('Nells' the workhorse is in the paddock). 

Painting in such a tiny scale required me to rethink how I approached the whole process. The sculpting detail is surprisingly clear so it would be easy to go down the rabbit hole and attempt to paint these figures as individual models. But that way madness lies. Instead you have to think of these strips of figures merely as components of a mass and not get drawn into details that nobody will ever see. So with this in mind I primed them black, drybrushed them light grey, thin coat of brown wash, popped in three blobs of flesh for their faces and hands, brown for the musket stocks, bright silver for the bayonets and then put in some varied colours for blanket-rolls and hats. That’s it. Done. 

My first base. I has the Regimental Colours as part of a company (which is incorrect).

To me, the trick to doing microscale figures often comes down to the basing. It has to be minimalist enough for the figures to be clearly identified, but not so stark as to leave them looking simply like little nubs on strips. These come in strips of eight figures, so I mounted them in two ranks, but situated them off center on the base so players have a better sense to place facing the same direction (more on this in a moment). Then I used a smooth gel medium to build-up the base roughly to the edge of their bases so they are better masked. Once the gel medium cures I then drybrushed them shades of light brown and then use a green semi-opaque emulsion to infer grass. The only basing material I’ve used with these is a few traces of clump foliage to mimic bush and brush.

When I first started basing these I quickly realized that players needed some sort of visual queue to which way the units were supposed to be facing. So with this in mind I decided to design a special base for the colour party. As you see here it’s shaped roughly like an arrow with a rectangular tab at the rear in order to place unit identification (thanks to Martin at Warbases for manufacturing these for me). As an experiment I’ve tarted up one of these bases with a small piece of L-shaped plasticard and rare earth magnets so nameplates can be easily ‘clicked’ into place but otherwise be stored separately.

The Colour Party with arrowhead front and rear tab.
Magnetized rear 'L' tab.
I’ll be up-front right now in saying that this project is largely just a silly aesthetic and intellectual proof-of-concept, but who knows, if I get enough stuff accumulated I may try using something like ‘Black Powder’ to do a clash of brigade-sized forces in 1:1. Otherwise I think I may use four of these bases along with a colour party base to serve as a regiment in ‘normal sized’ games like Longstreet’. 

I have an artillery battery that I’m currently working on but more on that later. I’m not really sure if I’ll expand on this collection that much as what I’m really keen to do is Napoleonics in this scale. I have a suspicion that massed cavalry formations would look amazing done at 1:1 scale…

Thanks very much for sticking with me through this overly long post!