Thursday, December 18, 2014

Making Scalp Markers for Song of Drums and Tomahawks

Scalp markers for my Song of Drums and Tomahawks games
 One of the rules in Song of Drums and Tomahawks that give a nice flavor for the period is "Scalping." When a figure has this Trait in the game, it will sometimes go out of control, so to speak. Whenever one of these figures puts an enemy out of action ("kills"), it must make an immediate Quality check. If it fails, then all subsequent movement must be to rush to the position of the downed enemy and take an action to scalp it. This may be foolhardy indeed. Even if the player may think it is foolish to have his Indian leave the cover of a patch of woods and run out into the open to scalp the enemy they just shot, the figure must do it if it failed its check.

Up to this point, I've been using red craft store pom-poms to mark the position of the downed figure (which is itself removed) and to place upon the base of the figure who failed their Scalping check. Late in a game, this may get a bit confusing remembering which marker applies to which figure. My solution? Scalp markers. Or more accurately, pairs of scalp markers. One of the pair is placed at the spot of the downed figure. The other is placed on the actual base of the miniature who must move to that spot and scalp that figure.

I am a big fan at keeping unnecessary and unattractive clutter off of the miniature gaming tabletop. So, though I could put a simple numbered marker on the table, I wanted "scenic" markers that would blend in with the tabletop. All of my miniatures are on 1" (25mm) square wooden bases. So, I looked through my supply of metal washers and found a box labeled "SAE" -- which measured about 3/8th inch diameter (1 cm). These are small enough to fit on my figures' bases, yet large enough to be visible and easily handled on the tabletop. My idea was to create flocked, scenic pieces in matching pairs, such as different colored bushes, rocks, etc. I decided that each player should have a half dozen pairs of these markers. My "Ohio Frontier Aflame" game features five matched pairs of players fighting linked, but essentially one-on-one games. So, that cut down on the variety I needed, as they could be duplicated from battle to battle.
Step 1: Taking the tiny washers and affixing a piece of cardboard to cover the hole. Step 2, flipping them over and adding a tiny ball of blue tack (some times called poster putty).
I started with ordinary cardboard and cut out a long strip the width that would cover the washer's hole. I then cut each individual square out equal to the number of washers I would be creating. The cardboard squares were then epoxied onto the washers. If you have a piece of styrofoam, this is a good place to let these dry, so that any epoxy that drips off of the washer or through the hole will not be too firmly attached to the cardboard or wherever you are drying them. After the epoxy had set, I turned the washers upside down and took a tiny ball of blue tack and placed it onto the washer. In the picture above, you can see the top two steps illustrated.
Step 3: Take a long screw and press it into the blue tack. This makes a nice, easy way handle for the tiny washer. Press the bottoms of these screws into a piece of styrofoam as a holder.
Next, I took a long screw and pressed it into the blue tack. The bottoms of the screws were then pressed into a styrofoam holder I'd created. I did my scalp markers in two batches because that was how many long screws I had sitting around. Once you have all of your screws with washers blue tacked to them sitting in your styrofoam holder, you are ready to move on to the next step.
Step 4: Dip each washer into a 50/50 mix of white glue and brown paint. Let the glue lap up to the sides but not over it onto the bottom of the washer.
 I mix up a batch of about 50/50 white glue and earth red paint -- the color I use for my bases on my figures. Actually, I premix it by taking a bottle of Elmers white glue that is about half empty and pouring in the paint. That way, all I have to do is shake it up and I can unscrew the cap and apply it. In this case, I squirted it into the depression in a plastic palette tray. I grabbed a screw and washer from the tray, inverted it, and pressed it into the glue/paint mixture. Don't let the bottom get covered up. Just dip it in deep enough so that the top and sides are covered in paint.
Step 5: Press the wet washer into a tub of sand -- I simply buy craft sand from the local hobby store as it is a nice, even texture. Set the screw upright back in the styrofoam tray to dry.
Immediately take the washer and press it lightly into a tub of sand. The sand will adhere to the glue/water mix. What's more, the paint will color the yellowish sand a nice shade of dirt brown. It only takes a second or two for the sand to soak up the glue and attach itself to the washer. Invert it and place it back in the styrofoam tray. This step goes real quickly, and you can do dozens in a couple minutes.
A row of washers attached to their screws and set out to let the sand/glue mixture dry overnight.
I let the sand and glue dry overnight. That way it forms a nice hard surface. At this point, you have to decide what type of scenic terrain you're going to put on the flocked washer base. Simple and easy ideas include Woodland Scenics "clump" flocking in various, easy to distinguish colors. I had a light green, dark green, and a reddish brown piece. Had I not been cheap, I would have bought a yellowish piece, as well. These will make good tiny bushes. You can get fancy and take green clumps and paint dots of bright color on them to make flowering bushes, too, like I did. You can also use various colors of rocks, such as aquarium gravel, railroad tallus, and so on. And finally, for piles of tiny stones, you can use Woodland Scenics ballast in different shades (tan, gray, etc.). Other ideas that I did not use could be discarded equipment like tomahawks, packs, hats, and so on. I did not use those ideas because I did not have any spares of these lying around, and I wanted to my first batch of scalp markers quickly without taking the time to make them out of Sculpy or whatever. Remember, keep the washers blue tacked to the screws until they are completely finished. This makes the tiny washer easy to handle.
Yes, I know it is a repeat picture! But here's another shot of the completed, flocked scalp markers. Let the game begin!
I recommend flocking the bases with whatever you use for grass -- I use fine Woodland Scenics blended turf. I flocked my bases by simply painting 100% white glue onto the earth mixture and then sprinkling the flocking onto it. I usually spray them with Dullcoate the seal it in before I go on to the next step. This is simply gluing on your bush, rock, pebbles -- whatever you've decided to decorate that pair of bases with. Try to make the pairs match up, choosing similar size and shapes of rocks or clumps of foliage.

After they have dried, I take a 50/50 white glue and water mix (premixed in a bottle, like above) and fill up the depression in the palette again. I grab each screw from the styrofoam holder, invert it and dip it into the watery glue mixture. I tap off the excess and then set it back in the holder to dry. This "seals in" the flocking effectively. After the glue has dried, give them a final spray of Dullcoate. Once dry, you have to peel off each washer from its screw. Tiny bits of the blue tack may stick to the bottom, or it may come off easily. No biggie either way as this is on the bottom of the scenic washer. The blue tack is reusable, of course. And now, your first batch of scalp markers are done!

1 comment:

  1. That's a cool idea, I like that it can just sit on top of their base.

    Might be cool to do something similar for an expended musket too. We have been using cotton wool, but we found in our most recent game that no-one was re-loading much, and moving the cotton wool puffs everythime you moved the model was a bit tedious!