Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Another Blast from the Past: Viking Turf Hall

28mm Viking Hall from Acheson Creations (with dragon heads on beams and shutters and doors added by me)

I've decided to "rescue" posts from my old Lead Legionaries blog -- especially ones that show great buildings or other terrain. Here's one on a Viking Turf Hall that I purchased from Acheson Creations way back in 2013:

So, this beauty is my payment for running my Viking Raid game at Origins. Well, essentially. I was given $60 in credit to be used either at restaurants, dealers, etc., to go with my weekend pass for running my game three times at Origins. This very large terrain piece by Acheson Creations is one of their pricier ones, and I was hemming and hawing about whether I wanted to pay $80 or not for it. When Acheson's convention rep, Bryan Borgman, stopped by my game I told him about my indecision. He offered to knock a bit off the price for me since I was using so many of his buildings in my game and urging all my players to visit his booth. I accepted Byran's offer and I now had two Viking buildings to use in my Dark Age skirmishes. 

The building represents a sod-covered Viking Hall -- a building technique that the Vikings employed both in Scandinavia and the British Isles. Rather than try to represent the color with different layers of dry brushing, I hit on the idea of using Woodland Scenics flocking for the sod. I began with my usual black spray paint and watered down black acrylic base coats. Then I did a wet brush (essentially a heavy dry brush) over the black using my earth red color I use as my ground. I then painted on straight white glue and sprinkled Woodland Scenics "Burnt Grass" on thickly. While it was still wet, I also sprinkled tiny patches of brown "turf" and "Blended Grass" to give it some depth. I am really happy with how it turned out, though I think I had too much glue run down the roof and collect on the edges giving the turf an almost liquid look. I'm honestly not sure what I could have done about that with the slope of the roof.

View of the interior of the 28mm Acheson Creations Viking Hall. The only thing I added here was trimming up and gluing down some craft sticks as logs in the firepit.

As it says on the caption above, I modified this Acheson building as well. I used the same Dragon "Toob" from Hobby Lobby and cut off the heads of the soft plastic dragons. I drilled a hole with a pin vice in the beams, glued in a straight pin with tacky glue. I drilled a hole in the soft plastic dragon head, too, and pressed it onto the trimmed down straight pin. I also used corrugated balsa wood to scratch build shutters for the windows. One is propped open and the other is closed. The same material was used to create a door.

This building will be a great centerpiece for a "Hall Burning" or similar type scenario. Like I said, it is a bit pricey compared to the deal that most Acheson buildings are, but it is a very large piece at 10" wide, 6" deep and 6" tall. At some point soon, I'll also be painting up my Acheson "boat-shaped grave mound" terrain piece I picked up at the same time. Other than that, I'm done for a little while with my Acheson terrain. I have more to do in my boxes -- ruined wall sections, a multi-section bridge (which can be used as a pier, as well),  and various other terrain pieces. But I'm going to take a break from it and fill out some holes in my 28mm Dark Ages troops. Up on my painting desk now are 12 Dark Age mounted warriors. I also need to do some unarmored Vikings for my campaign (all mine are armored ones), some monks, and maybe some more Dal Riatan Scots-Irish. My next big scratch building will be coming up soon, too. I'm going to do a Celtic monastery inspired by the UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael.

Build Something Contest - Steampunk Leonardo Helicopter

Leonardo da Vinci's sketch of his idea for a helicopter using an aerial screw

Perhaps unwisely, I decided to enter the Lead Adventure Forum's "Build Something Contest" the other day. I may have bitten off more than I can chew on this, especially since another project deadline recently got accelerated by more than a month.

What looks to be like an MDF model of Da Vinci's helicopter

Nevertheless, I decided to press on, and quickly got an idea when I read the theme was "Flight." Leonardo da Vinci is a personal hero of mine. I tell my students every year that I think he is the most talented and smartest man to walk the Earth, so far. What's more, I own an Italian army for my friend's Victorian Science Fiction/Steampunk games. My friend Tom has written and published his own rules set, For Queen & Planet: The Imperial Wars of Earth and Mars 1845-1930. Check them out -- they're a lot of fun!

One of our games of For Queen and Planet, with fanciful war machines on the tabletop

Tom's rules allow for flying and other war machines, and I had been wanting to scratch-build something for my army to use in our games. The contest is a perfect opportunity. And what better choice for an Italian army than a Da Vinci inspired design?

My Italian army for our Victorian Sci-Fi/Steampunk games

So, my thought is to modify Da Vinci's Helicopter, or aerial screw. With the invention of steam power in our game's time period, his screw no longer needs to rely on man-power to turn the screw's fan blades. I plan on cooking up some sort of lightweight steam power and gear assembly to replace the man powered crank in his design. Obviously, this is steampunk, so it doesn't have to be scientifically accurate or a blueprint for an actual vehicle that could take flight. However, I want to make a nod at the science part of Victorian Sci-Fi, and make it not outrageously unfeasible.

An image I found of a model someone had built, demonstrating Da Vinci's idea of employing human power
I am still working out what kind of armament it would employ. My first thought was it would be a bomber, able to attack units it overflies by simply dropping bombs down onto them. Anther thought was to make it a helicopter gunship, of sorts, with a gatling gun mounted in some sort of swivel mechanism either beneath the helicopter or out front. So far, no sketches have been made. However, I  have ideas bubbling like the steam engine building up power. Hopefully, something productive comes out of this -- and I actually complete the model, unlike many of Leonardo's designs, which never left paper.

In bocca al lupo!

Here is a link to the thread on the Lead Adventure Forum where I document my build, stage by stage.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Blast from the Past: My all-time favorite scratch-build!

Scratch-built Saxon church, made using Hirst Arts bricks, cardboard and various other materials scrounged from the local craft store

I went looking for my post on this scratch-built, Medieval Saxon style church today and it took me forever to find it. I created this -- my all-time, favorite scratch-build piece of terrain way back in March of 2013. That means it just missed being on this blog, and instead resides on my old Lead Legionaries site. The way I organized the site back then makes it harder to find individual entries. It was more of a running log of projects I was working on. So, I thought I'd repost it over here so it is easier to find.

Without further ado, my words from 2013 on this build!

First off, I've decided that I'm going to pick up my 28mm Dark Age skirmish gaming again. I finally came up with a cool idea for a campaign I want to run for my Sunday night gaming group. So, to do that, I need to fill out my collection. I have plenty of Vikings and Picts, but could beef up my number of Britons and Dal Riatan Irish. And I owned zero Anglo-Saxons when I made that decision. I took care of that glaring need first, purchasing 25 Anglo-Saxon foot from Steve -- a guy who regularly sells Foundry 28mm figures at flea markets for just $1 a piece! My friends Steve V and Keith were planning a major purchase, so Steve actually drove down to Columbus on a Sunday night and brought his figures. I bought about $40 worth. In addition to the Saxons, I picked up some Irish, peasants and even some French & Indian War troops.
I immediately started on the Saxons, and they went very quickly. Within a month or so, I had all 25 completed. No pictures of them in this post, even though I have some because...well, I'll get to that later! Anyway, my campaign I am going to run for the group requires me to have a variety of Dark Age buildings. The focus of the campaign is raids by various players on each other's territory. And a main target of raids in the Dark Ages were those banks of the time, churches! So, I decided to scratch-build an Anglo-Saxon church. I did some research online and found a relatively simple design that I thought I could reproduce using leftover Hirst Arts bricks. A long time ago, my friend Zeke cast me up a bunch for a Pictish broch. He said to hang onto the bricks I didn't use, though. After deciding on a design and size, I sat down one night and began to stack the bricks up on my desk to see if I had enough for the church as I envisioned it. I did...barely. It was so close that I had to switch from a rectangular chancel to a rounded one to have enough!

The Hirst Arts bricks all laid out on the wooden plaque base

I based the whole thing on a cheap wooden plaque from Michaels craft store. Those Hirst Arts bricks are heavy, and need something thick and stable. There are 3 joined together sections to this building -- the long rectangular nave, a rounded chancery, and the small squarish portico entrance.  

The cardboard roofs are fitted, but the tiles aren't glued on yet

The next photo shows the model with the three roofs in place. They are made to lift off for gaming, of course. These were completely scratch-built, using a styrene base, foam core eaves, and cardboard roof. Next up will be to put cardboard shingles on the roof. You can see the decoration I've added for the eaves. The coarse gravel and Hirst Arts bricks combine to give a mixed building material look. The angel will be painted stone, of course, and comes from the local craft store. I picked a bag of them up about a decade ago and am finally using a couple of them! 
The roof tiles were cut out in strips of cardboard and then glued on. VERY tedious, but looks nice!
And another view showing the portico entrance, with more simple decoration over the door.
Another view showing what I used for the decorations (before paintiing)

It had been awhile since I used the Hirst Arts blocks. I found I needed to put 2 coats of primer and two of watered down black paint to completely black coat it. There were still some plaster gray spots peeking through. I was never one to use the min wax "dip" method, but now I'm wondering if it'd be quicker and do a more thorough job. Next, I constructed the roofs. I used the method suggested by my friend, Joe (from "An Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields" website). However, I stupidly used very thick cardboard for the first roof I tried -- the small portico entrance. You can see the difference in the photos. After that, I went out and got some ordinary black cardstock and it worked much better. Joe was right, cutting and gluing the strips of tiles into place was tedious. It took me two hours to do the large roof alone. As a facing, I glued on a piece of textured bass wood to hide the edge of the corrugated cardboard roof. I could have done a better job measuring and trimming the pieces up so they match. Live and learn!

I've also added in a few detail elements, as you can see. First, I took some craft store crosses and glued them to the peak of the eaves of the large roof. They were dry-brushed to resemble stone. I also put a washer over the door of the portico, and then cut off the head and shoulders of a 1/72 scale plastic figure as relief carving of a saint or Mary. 

I took some advice of other modelers and picked out individual tiles in contrasting colors...really made the roof "pop"

You can also see the windows I made, which were quite the pain, really! They are a sandwich of 4 layers. The outer layers are simply cardboard trimmed to fit the opening. The inner layers are clear plastic and a black mesh material I picked up at the craft store. It was difficult to fit them exactly to the opening in the Hirst Arts molds. I think they turned out okay, though. I also used some leftover bricks and made a small bell tower. The bell itself is a wooden tea bell from the craft store with the handle snipped off. Another charm cross sits atop the bricks.  

Top-down view of the interior of the church

I decided I wanted to jazz up the interior of the church, too. You can see the tombstones I laid in the floor, which are simply painted rectangles of styrene glued atop a styrene sheet brick pattern painted to look like stone. The tapestries are images I downloaded from the internet, photoshopped to the right size, and had printed out on linen type resume paper. The sconces and candles were scratch-built using beads, hook and eye clasps, and wicks for candles as the actual candles themselves.

The scratch-built altar of my church

The curtain separating the nave from the chancel is made from ribbon material I picked out at the fabric store. The statues are 1/72 scale plastic figures, while the altar table is balsa wood and hook and eye legs. The candle sticks are fancy beads. As you can imagine, this was a very time-consuming model to create. I love how it turned out, though, and it will be the centerpiece of the games I run at conventions this spring and summer.

Now...why no pictures of my Saxons? And why am I GLAD I didn't update Lead Legionaries for 2 months? Well, the Lead Painter League has rolled around again. One of the caveats of your first three entries is they are not allowed to have been published online before. So, the fact that I never put up pictures of 2/3's of the Raccoon army and none of the Saxons helped me out! With just what I had finished, I could make up entries for 7 of the 10 rounds.  I loved competing in the leauge, but the deadline pressure was very stressful last year. Now, I get to compete pretty much without the deadline pressue since more than half my entries are done, they just need photographed.

As I am writing this, the first round will be ending soon. My Anglo-Saxon command group won its round. So, for the first time ever in the leauge, I have a winning record. I will post the image from each round on here as soon as the round ends. So, stay tuned for at least weekly updates...!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

28mm Tables & Rifle Cases

28mm Resin table I picked up awhile back from a vendor I can't remember...!

I had some odds and ends in resin that I'd picked up at various conventions that I felt needed to be painted up. The first of these was a set of three 28mm tables. I honestly don't know who I purchased them from. Doubtless, it was at a convention when I was browsing a vendor's resin terrain. I always like to support the dealers as much as possible, so I must have picked these up intending to paint them one day. Well, Christmas break from school afforded me that day -- or several days, as it turned out.

The plain table with nothing molded on top of it -- MUCH simpler to paint up!

I followed my usual method for resin terrain -- beginning by spray painting the tables black, following that up with a 50/50 mix of black acrylic paint and water. I wet brushed them Howard Hues Camo Brown, following that up with a dry brush of Colonial Khaki. I then went back and painted all of the items on the tables black, again, to provide a sharp relief from the table surface.

I really like how this one turned out, with my scribblings actually looking the part of writing on the scroll and book

The most time-consuming part of getting these ready for the table -- no pun intended -- was painting the various items on each. One portrays a meal with silverware, plates, various dishes, food items, and so on. The other portrays a scribe, doctor, or perhaps even a wizard's desk. These were fun to paint up, though I had to guess a couple times what each little resin lump on the table portrayed! In the end, I decided to base the tables up to help with wear and tear, using a small piece of styrene which I flocked with Woodland Scenics Earth Turf.

Gun crates posed with some of my 28mm Pulp figures (U.S. sailors)

The last two items were crates with firearms. I have also forgotten which vendor these came from, as well. I'm sure I was thinking they'd make good objective tokens for Pulp Alley, or even just warehouse or camp clutter for other games. They were also a snap to paint up. I based them all a couple of the last of my magnetic bases I used for DBA Ancients. I've been using the Renaissance Ink bases I had collected in my DBA years for various terrain or scenic items. The supply of them has dwindled till they are almost all gone, now.
Next up, some more terrain for my Modern Africa games!
Next up, I will be painting some plastic Quonset huts that I purchased at Advance the Colors 2015 -- yep, not last year's, but the previous one. They'll make good terrain for my modern Africa games. So, look for that update relatively soon.