Saturday, March 28, 2020

Loo Roll HazMat Team

I'm still undecided if this post is in very poor taste or ingeniously apropos... No matter, I'll put my head down, brass it out and hope for the best. I present to you a quartet of  special forces operators in badly clashing hazmat gear. 

To my way of thinking, in a perfect world, these would be the guys we'd call in to 'have a chat' with the loo roll hoarders and those tw@ts who refuse to take 20 seconds to wash their hands.

Some may think those backpack canisters hold oxygen, but I think they are just clever toilet paper holders...

These are Ebob sculpts offered through Hasslefree Miniatures. Great minis to paint, with lots of foldy relief and neat details to have fun with. I thought I'd save time using yellow contrast paint, but it all just ended up with me layering them similar to my normal method. This being said, I still enjoy the funky colours you can achieve with these paints, depending on how you mix them and on how you prepare the surface (i.e. use of various shades of grays and whites as an underlay to skew the colour saturation).

I was originally planning to put them on clear bases like my other modern skirmish stuff, but I thought that I had run out of stocks, so I muddled along without them. As it turns out I had scads of them in another drawer (facepalm), but being lazy I just dashed ahead as is. Sigh. I think they look okay.

Thanks for dropping in for a peek!


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Analogue Hobbies Quarantine Challenge

Hi All!

A few weeks ago, when the world was realising that the Covid-19 outbreak was escalating to be a VERY serious thing, we were just beginning to wrap-up the 10th Annual Painting Challenge. With more and more people going into isolation, keeping safe and taking care of those around them I thought it might be helpful to provide a space for people to keep in touch, post their hobby projects and to simply unwind. So here I present 'The Analogue Hobbies Quarantine Challenge'.

- Curt

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Maltese Militia, 1565

The 1565 siege of Malta is often seen as a contest purely between the Turkish Ottomans and the Knights of St. John. Nonetheless, the realities of the campaign were much more complex and interesting. 

The 40,000 man Ottoman host was not only composed of Turks, but also drew upon the many ethnicities from its sprawling empire. Greeks, Bulgarians, Algerians, Libyans, all along with a smattering of coastal corsairs and assorted religious fanatics were allied with the Turks laying siege to the island. This provides a veritable feast of character and colour for hobbyists to represent on the gaming table. 

Also surprising (well, to me anyway), was that of the 6,000 defenders, the Knights themselves only made up about 500 of their number. Another 2000 were composed of marooned Spanish sailors, along with various companies of 'Gentlemen Adventurers' from Italy, Spain and Greece. The largest contingent of defenders (at least half of the total number) was made up of the humble Maltese themselves. 

A small number of the Maltese would have been previously trained as militia, whereas the vast majority were simple island folk, rising in defense of their island. A few of them would have had the means to possess a studded shirt and a morion helmet, but a large proportion would have fought in their civilian dress, bare limbed, indifferently armed and reduced to mere rags by the end of the siege.

The histories indicate that the Maltese were often organized into large units with a Knight or soldier of fortune acting as their leader. Several accounts depict their local priests and women sharing the risks with them.

Gaming wise, one can find many suitable figures for the Knights and gentleman adventurers, but no one that I know of that has a range of figures which specifically depict the Maltese militia. Nonetheless, like the brave Maltese themselves, there are good proxies out there that can be pressed into service. The best figures that I've come across are the Portuguese Conquistador range from Eureka Miniatures. They are wonderfully sculpted and hit the highlights of what I think a Maltese fighter would look like: bare legged, lightly armed, scruffy and most importantly: scrappy.

Eureka Conquistadores
Common weapons amongst the Maltese would have been half pikes, short swords, long knives with maybe a smattering of firearms, bows and crossbows.

A couple other figures I pressed into service (a Foundry German barbarian (left) looked just fine for a slightly hirsute Maltese)
Undoubtedly the most powerful weapons in their arsenal would have been the incendiary devices which they created in an attempt to fend off the large masses of Ottoman infantry. 

One of these were the use of pimkins, basically earthenware jars filled with an incendiary concoction (some sources say Greek Fire) with a simple fabric fuse. A rudimentary grenadoe, these pimkins would be thrown into the Ottoman ranks in the hope that they would shatter and catch fire upon impact. 

Another weapon, quite ingenious in its brutal but effective design, was the use of reed hoops that were coated with an incendiary paste. The hoops would be lit and then, using long tongs, would be thrown, or rolled towards the Ottoman formations. This weapon was  particularly nasty as it would entangle the legs and long robes of the Ottomans during their advance, causing havoc in the ranks.

I made a rendition of the burning hoops by coating a circle of florist wire with texture gel and teasing it to look, well, sorta flame-like. I made a set of them laying flat on the ground and another set with them rolling along like demonic hula-hoops, which while neat looking is probably a bit fanciful. 

Finally,  the Maltese also employed what was called the 'Trump' (I know, really...). Not much detail is recorded regarding these weapons, but it is understood that they were hollow tubes filled with incendiary fluid mounted on half pikes. 

When lit, they would gout out flames for 2-3 meters, like a crude, short-burn flamethrower. Unreliable and incredibly dangerous to friend and foe alike (and so quite appropriately named), these would be used to block off weak points in the fortifications, or in point defence to help turn back Ottoman assaults. 

Flame effect made from a 3D print.
I also picked up a few wall sections from Vatican Enterprises to represent the walls of the various Maltese strongpoints. 

Though they are not a perfect match to the Hospitalier designs (which were more blunt and angular) I think they do a good job in conveying the overall sense of the fortifications of the island, and could be used for gaming other historical periods as well (Constantinople, Vienna, Badajoz, etc.).

I especially like the damaged sections as I think they will provide great set-dressing for a a wide assortment of breaching/sally scenarios.

So there you have the beginnings of my Maltese militia, along with a bit of terrain for them to defend.

Thanks for dropping by!


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Dutch Red Lancers

Sarah's Balloon sets me down upon picturesque 'Hawkin's Hill'. Here, our pal Phil asks us to finish something that we've had sitting around for three years or more.

Looking through my out-of-control lead stores, I'm ashamed to say sourcing figures for this task was nooo problem at all, in fact it was more about prioritizing what I should do. Actually, as it turns out, it was no contest at all, as I've had something needing to be done for a very, very long time. So, I present here a regiment of Napoleonic cavalry, but not just any unit, but the 2nd Regiment of Guard Lancers, the 'Dutch Red Lancers' whose uniform is perhaps one of the most beautiful from that sartorially splendid period.

This post is special to me for a few reasons. 

First it's Napoleonic themed, which is wonderful in of itself as Napoleonics were my first 'wargaming crush' and I haven't done a proper regiment for ages. To me, the period is the most beautiful example of Paper, Scissors, Rock. In it, none of the martial arms had complete dominance, making for some very exciting military history, and the uniforms were the perfect blend of ostentatious beauty and brutal function. 

But, for me, the most important aspect of these particular figures is their background.

I received these models 10 years ago as a thank you gift from my very good friend Greg for standing up as a groomsman at his wedding. Yes, this year Linda and Greg will celebrate their 10th anniversary (congratulations you two!) and so I thought it high time to get these figures properly attended to before another decade slips by.

Sarah and I met up with Greg and Linda for a few days during their honeymoon in Paris. During our visit Greg and I spent a wonderful day at the Musee d'Armee at Les Invalides, where I think he became bitten by the Franco-Prussian War bug (such beautifully curated displays, wow). The museum also had a gorgeous example of a Dutch Lancer uniform which, in turn, prompted this gift of miniatures.

While I typically enjoy working on Napoleonic figures I absolutely dread painting cavalry, especially from units as ornate at the Dutch Lancers. True to form, these were complete swine to work on, with all their varied colours and intricate uniform detail. They almost gave me fits. I started them in the first week of the Challenge and barely managed to get them completed for our final run-in. And I still have another dozen of them waiting in the wings! (Earmarked for your 20th anniversary, Greg!) Well, all this being said, I'm pleased with how they turned out and they will be a wonderful addition to my French cavalry contingent. 

As an aside, during the past few days while I've been working on these, I've been listening to Bernard Cornwell's 'Waterloo, The History of Four Days, Three Battles and Three Armies'. I have to say I'm surprised at how crap it was for the most part as I really enjoy his fiction. Sadly, I found it quite derivative of other, better written histories, and on the whole it read as an unabashed Anglo/Wellington love-fest. It was actually pretty hard to take at times. It certainly doesn't hold a candle next to other recent monographs such as the brilliantly written 'Waterloo' by Mark Clayton (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in a balanced perspective of that campaign).

Anyway, forgive my self-indulgent book review. Here are the Dutch Red Lancers, all done and ready to skewer the enemies of the Emperor.

Greg, thank you very much for these wonderful figures! The unit will be a wonderful memento of your wedding and of the great time we had in Paris!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Shirley Shutter 'The Photographer'

Needing to get to Hawkin's Hill, I just realized last night that I had stranded myself on Sander's Sand Dunes without fare for Sarah's Balloon! So, in a rush special appearance, and breaking from my usual 'Mansions of Madness' trope, here's Shirley Shutter, paparazzi photographer and part-time private investigator.

I'm not actually sure where I got Shirley from, she looks like a Paul Hicks sculpt to me. 

I quite like how she's posed. She looks to have just taken a photo of someone, or perhaps something, that she shouldn't have and is about to leg it. I gave her a natty patterned jacket and blue flats to match her hat band. 

Next Up: Something both pointy and horsey for Hawkin's Hill!

Monday, March 9, 2020

'The Scorned' - Sisters Repentia

Sander's location asks us to paint up something red. Being that our local group has been quite keen on the fan-based 40K rules from Grim Dark Future (a breath of fresh air in comparison to GW's core set), I decided to do up a small unit of scarlet clad 'Sisters Repentia' for my slowly expanding Sisters of Battle collection. 

The story behind the Repentia is that they are essentially defrocked Sisters paying their penance by charging virtually naked into enemy lines with HUGE chainsaws. Yep, bonkers, but completely in-line with the 40K universe. 

One does wonder what horrible things they could have possibly done to have been assigned such a dire role? Cowardice? Blasphemy? Maybe they left their hair straighteners on overnight, or got caught borrowing their Sister Superior's special black nail polish? Who knows, but it definitely must have been baaaad. 

I've named my Repentia 'The Scorned' as a nod to the famous quote from Concreve's play The Mourning Bride, 'Hell hath no fury...'

In game-terms, these gals are very susceptible to getting shot to bits, but if they do manage to get into melee they are absolute BEASTS. Their 'Eviscerators' (yes, the name says it all) can really wreck someone's day, even giving serious pause to AFVs and Knights. They are one of those units that your opponent simply can't ignore, having to dedicate some valuable firepower to deal with them before they get too close with their uber hedge trimmers. Great fun. Ultimately I'll need at least another 5 to give the unit some staying power, but these ladies will give me a good start.

These are resin models from Wargames Exclusive. I've become a big fan of their offerings, with a good portion of my collection being made up of their models. Really beautiful castings with bags of character and loads of fine detail. So much so that one feels tempted to dive in and try to pick it all out with the brush. While compelling, I find doing all that extra brushwork often 'muddies' the figure by having too much going on. So I kept it simple and stuck to a fairly constrained colour palette. 

With the figures being resin they are a bit too light to my tastes (I'm still addicted to the heft of metal), so I added a washer to their bases and blended in the surrounding groundwork, with assorted debris and exposed ironwork. (Fun fact: repurposed supports from resin 3D printing make great steel reinforcing bits.) 

Thanks for dropping by!


Saturday, March 7, 2020

Diana Stanley 'The Reformed Cultist' for Mansions of Madness

Hi All,

As I've been away for the past week I thought I'd get my eye in with a small entry for Sarah's Balloon. Here's Diana Stanley 'The Reformed Cultist' from 'Mansions of Madness'. 

'Reformed Cultist'. Such a great tagline. Really, who wouldn't want that on their CV for 'past work experience'? 

Diana's special ability allows her to tangle with particularly nasty monsters with minimal sanity loss. All this being said, her strength stat is fairly low, so she needs a heavy-hitting spell or a spiffy magic item to really make her tick along. She's best run by an experienced player who knows how to finesse her abilities, otherwise she'll be more of a burden than a benefit to the party.

Not learning from past experience, I just picked her up and started painting without really looking at the character card. The results weren't as bad as before, as I at least got her auburn hair right, and besides, I reason she'll still be pretty distinctive on the tabletop with her long hooded robe and howitzer shell-sized candle. 

Next Up: Sander's Sand Dunes! 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Great Siege of Malta: Azab Militia and Supporting Archers

Continuing along with my Great Siege of Malta project, here are some Azab infantry supported by a few North African archers.

The Azabs, or 'the bachelors', were a volunteer militia made up of young men from across the Ottoman provinces. They would have been armed with a motley assortment of weapons, basically whatever they could source for the campaign. Sources conflict if there were Azabs in Malta during the Great Siege, but either way I thought they'd stand-in nicely as dismounted Sipahis who did make up a significant portion of the Ottoman contingent.

The interestingly shaped shields they carry are of Hungarian origin. I've taken a little artistic license with the decorative designs as I understand it was not uncommon for them to feature mythological beasts and wing motifs.

I used the decals left over from one of my Adeptus Titanicus kits as they seem to fit the bill nicely. 

Regrettably, I only have a few Azabs to show here as I could not for the life of me discover the rest of the castings from my 'lead reserve' (apparently, my archival skills don't extend to the mess of my hobby room). I ended up ordering another batch from TAG to make up the loss, but fearing that the figures would not arrive before the Challenge concludes, I thought I'd just run with these lads, augmented with a few more North African archers to help fill in the ranks. 

These Azabs are from The Assault Group.
Similar to my other units, I made up the flag standard's finial with a blob of greenstuff, some plastic tubing and a bit of cut card for the crescent.

This unit features another custom sabot tray Byron knocked out for me. This is the smaller of the melee troop sized tray - the next step up will accomodate another 6-8 figures and the largest will be that much larger again.

Archers from Footsore Miniatures.
I'm having a lot of fun with mixing and matching colours for these irregular Ottoman troops. The Citadel Contrast paints have come in particularly handy for providing some variety in the robes and turbans.

Thanks for dropping in to take a look, folks, much appreciated!


Monday, February 17, 2020

Marie Lambeau 'The Entertainer' from Mansions of Madness

I think I'll take in the sun and the surf at 'Douglas' Shallows' next, so here's my fare for Sarah's Balloon: Marie Lambeau 'The Entertainer' from 'Mansions of Madness'.

Marie is a creole jazz singer, originally from The Big Easy, but now based in Arkham. In the game she benefits from a very solid stat line paired with an awesome special ability, one which allows her to cast a spell at the start of her turn without having to spend an action. This is huge in a game where players are always nibbling their fingernails deciding on how to spend their two actions per turn. Matched with the right spell(s) Marie can be an invaluable addition to the party.

Again, I've tried to follow the art on the character card. For a bit of additional colour I gave her a pair of Dorothy-Red pumps. Oddly, the basing was a bit of a swine this time around, with me having to go through three of the blighters to finally get it right. More a lack of patience on my part than anything else. 

Next up: Douglas' Shallows!


Saturday, February 8, 2020

A New Project: The Cross and the Crescent, Malta, 1565 - Turgut Reis 'The Drawn Sword of Islam' - for Awdry's Atoll

I've been plinking away on this submission since the beginning of the Challenge and so I'm quite happy to finally see it off my desk and 'going live'. 

I've had an interest in the Ottoman empire since my university days when we studied its collapse after the end of the First World War. My curiosity was rekindled a few summers ago after reading Roger Crowley's excellent '1543' on the Siege of Constantinople, his 'Empires of the Sea' and Tim Willcocks' 'The Religion' which recounts the siege of Malta in 1565. This fascination was further stoked after a recent vacation to Malta where we toured the fortifications of Valletta and took in its wonderful (and brand spanking new) national war museum. It was after this visit I felt committed to doing something hobby-wise for this period.

Sarah looking across to Fort St. Angelo from near Fort St. Elmo.

A cross-section model displaying elements of the Maltese fortifications.
A wonderful selection of Ottoman arms and armour from the Great Siege.

So this will serve as the first instalment of a new project where I hope to dabble in the period between the 15th and 17th centuries where the Ottoman Empire posed its greatest challenge to the West. This will roughly span from the Siege of Constantinople in 1453 to the second Siege of Vienna in 1683.

230 years may seem to be a fairly broad brief, but I think the uniforms and equipment of the belligerents did not vary too much during this time, with only gunpowder arms becoming more prevalent in the later period. 

As to colour and interesting subject matter? I think I'll be absolutely spoiled for choice, what with silk-clad Janissaries, Christian knights in full plate, fierce Barbary pirates, winged hussars...the list goes on and on. It should be a feast of colour and options.

Over the past few years, I've been collecting miniatures and terrain for this project and  finally thought it high time to get something accomplished.


For his location on Challenge Island, Michael asks us to create a vignette whose base is the same dimensions as the humble Compact Disc. 

Accordingly, this post features the Ottoman commander, Turgut Reis, reviewing his troops before the walls of St. Elmo. 

Turgut Reis, 'The Drawn Sword of Islam' (known as Dragut Reis in the West) was one of the chief Ottoman commanders during the siege of Malta. He's a fascinating character with a storied career.

At the age of 12 Turgut apprenticed as a cannoneer, advancing to the rank of master of siege artillery. At around 30 he took to the seas and over the next 50 years became one of the most successful corsairs and fleet commanders in history.

After impressing the Sultan with his dash and vigor, he succeeded Barbarossa in 1546 as Ottoman supreme commander in the Mediterranean. He harried Christian coastlines, captured islands and cities, took tens of thousands of captives and made himself rich on the spoils of war. He became Bey of Algeria in 1548 and later took Tripoli from the Knights of St John in 1551. By the time of the Great Siege of Malta Turgut was 80 years old but still very vital.

Fittingly Turgut met his fate facing his old adversaries, the Knights of St John. During the siege of St Elmo he was hit by a piece of flying debris from a nearby cannon shot. Tenacious facing death as he was in life, he held on for six days, just long enough to receive the news that the fortress had fallen.

The vignette I've come up with has the mounted Turgut and his bannerman moving through a group of Janissaires, with a unit of Algerian corsairs in the background.

So, what's with the two Janissaires carrying the cauldron? Great question! I was a bit perplexed as well. After a bit of reading what I found is that in order to foster greater elan, where every janissary thought of his brothers-in-arms as family, the corps’ military vocabulary and symbolism drew heavily on that of the kitchen. 

For example, the janissary headgear, called a börk, was decorated with an ornamental kaşık-lık (spoon holder), to show that all janissaries were messmates. Domestic terms were also applied to the janissaries’ ranks and organization. The corps as a whole was called the Ocak (hearth) and each orta (regiment) was commanded by a çorba-başi (head-of-soup) who in turn was assisted by a sekban-başi (head of hunting-hounds). Non-commissioned officers bore such titles as sakka-başi (head water-carrier), karakullukçu (scullion) and aşçi-başi (master cook). Finally The sultan’s title among the janissaries was bizi besleyen baba or ‘the father who feeds us.’

The pride of each orta was its great copper cauldron called a kazan.

On the march, kazans pots were carried in the place of honour at the head of the regiment. In camp, they were placed in front of each çorba-başi’s tent to serve as a rallying point. The worst crime any janissary could commit was to allow his regiment’s cauldron to be captured by the enemy. If a kazan was lost in battle, all the regiment’s officers were dishonourably discharged and the orta forbidden to parade in public with its replacement.

Napoleon had his eagles, whereas the Sultan had his soup pots! 


Another interesting thing I discovered was that it was not uncommon for Ottoman units to have very ornate finials atop their standards and headgear. These were often crafted to depict their specific administrative role or branch of service. 

So I thought it might be visually interesting to try to incorporate a few of these into some of my units. I tarted up a finial for both Turgut's standard, (a relatively straighforward crescent and orb) and a rather more ostentatious galley for his fierce corsairs.

A blob of miliput, plastic rod and a card

3D printer to the rescue

Accompanying Turgut, is a mixed group of Barbary corsair spearmen and archers.

My thanks to Byron for making up these sabot bases according to my whacky design.

These models are from Footsore miniatures and were an absolute joy to work on. Though they are targeted for around the 7th century I think they can easily be used for periods right up to the Renaissance.

I really wanted to reinforce the mixed composition of much of the Ottoman force, so I really went to town with the varied colours and patterns.

My great thanks to Michael for the providing the inspiration for getting this done and to all of you readers for patiently indulging me with this long post. I'm very stoked about this project and hope to have some more figures to show you in the coming weeks.

Thanks again!