All posts by Brian Burger

Started this site way, way back in November 1998, when the web was young. It's still here, and so am I.

17th Century Artillery Finally Finished

This pair of guns were ordered from The Assault Group as part of the insanely slow to arrive order of June-September 2017. I finished the artillery crew at least a year ago and the guns have sat on one corner of my painting bench the whole time, cleaned up and dry-fit together but otherwise untouched.

The guns are nicely sculpted and cleanly cast, needing minimal cleanup. I spray primed and did most of the painting before assembling either gun, and on the basis of no research whatsoever decided to do the big culverin with a dark red frame and the smaller lighter falconette in green. Each gun has the body and tail as a single piece cast, the two wheels, and the barrel, and the wheels fit on much better than I’m used to with white metal parts, hardly any nudging of the axle pieces around to get everything square and solid.

17th C guns
Both Assault Group guns, some of the crew, the accessories still being painted in the foreground, and a Warlord Games mounted officer just because. Click for larger.

Nothing fancy about the painting, just a couple shades of Reaper paints, various washes (mostly GW), and a bit of edge highlighting that totally doesn’t show in either of these photos. Ah well.

The eventual plan (once they reopen…) is to get a pair of custom artillery bases lasercut in 2mm MDF by the excellent folks at Warbases that will have round holes for six crew figures to slot into and a flat area for whichever gun is in use, so that the crew aren’t weirdly raised over their gun because they’re based and it isn’t.

Slightly higher angle view of the guns. Click for larger.

I’m still not sure I’ll ever order anything from The Assault Group in the future, but if I do I’ll do it expecting a four to six month wait for my stuff, and rather like these guns, I’ll make sure it’s for figures or bits that I don’t need in any particular hurry or have an actual timetable built around! Given that I have no plans to do large scale 28mm battles in the English Civil War, 30 Years War, or any 17th C-theme gunpowder fantasy equivalent, a mixed pair of guns should be all I’ll need for now!

Loot from Forge of Ice

Forge of Ice is one of those one-person companies that makes all sorts of cool stuff, and after knowing about them for several years I finally got around to making a small order from them a few weeks ago. Most of the fascinating little one person companies are British, but Forge of Ice is in fact based in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Alex, who is the entirety of Forge of Ice, still doesn’t have an actual website but he’s got a Forge of Ice Facebook page, is very responsive by FB Messenger, and has an illustrated catalog thread over on the awesome Lead Adventure Forum as well, which is frankly easier to navigate than Facebook’s chaotic unsearchable nonsense.

Forge of Ice mostly does Lost World style stuff, small dinosaurs, oddball caveman-style accessories and stuff. I’m not doing much Lost World style pulp at the moment, but I have in the past and I’m certain I will in the future. Besides, I could always cross-pollinate my current weird 17th Century stuff with Lost World, couldn’t I? Hmmm…

Anyway, what did I get from the frozen depths of central Alaska? A pair of Snake Priestesses, a batch of five peacocks, a sabertooth tiger rug, and the centrepiece of this little collection, a resin Doom Serpent Idol.

Forge of Ice stuff
My little Forge of Ice order – peacocks, priestesses, a rug (it’ll really tie a room together), a Doom Serpent Idol, and a cool sticker! Click for larger.

The serpent priestesses are elegantly slim 28mm figures, both slender women with large snakes wrapped around their arms and shoulders. I have no immediate plans for them, but they’re awesomely pulpy and clearly need some sort of group of underpriestesses, guards, and temple lackeys to order about in their sneaky attempts to do whatever it is snake priestesses from a Lost World plot to do.

The peacocks are some of the first figures Forge of Ice released, several years ago, and I’m thinking that as well as being just general fancy set dressing, with a couple of house rules they could be mobile alarm units in a Pulp Alley scenario where players are trying to sneak up on a fancy house and don’t dare disturb the peafowl least the damn things scream the place down and alert guards or something! (if you’ve never heard a peafowl scream, they have a glorious bloodcurdling horror movie shriek. It’s awful.) The smaller female peahens and the male peacock with his tail down are both single piece castings; the peacock in full display mode is two pieces. There will need to be a bit of filing and puttying to get the body of the peacock and his tail to match up nicely, but nothing outrageous.

The saber tooth rug was just too much fun to pass up, I suspect I’ll use it as weird decoration in someone’s study or something!

Doom Serpent ido
The gloriously Egyptian-esque Doom Serpent idol, just the thing to be guarded by a couple of serpent priestesses and their flunkies! Click for larger.

The Doom Serpent idol is a fairly serious chunk of fine grey resin, about 3″ tall and just over 2″ wide at the shoulders. I’m really looking forward to painting this one up, I’m thinking a sort of blond/tan sandstone look like we see in Egyptian statues, with some coloured painted bits here and there, will look great.

Hopefully one of these days Alex gets around to getting Forge of Ice an actual website, but in the meantime go have a look at his Lead Adventure thread (you don’t need a LAF account to see it) and ping him by email, by the message service at LAF, or via Facebook Messenger to get your cool weird Lost World loot from the distant north!

Loot From Bad Squiddo

Ordered a few things from the excellent and varied ranges of Bad Squiddo Games back in March; things took longer to get from the UK to here than I’m used to, almost like some major world event is disrupting trans-Atlantic flights or something. However, everything was dispatched from the UK in good time and I am certainly not going to blame Anne of Bad Squiddo or the various postal services involved for a lack of air mail capacity…

I got a fairly mixed bag of stuff. A few ladies that will probably show up mostly as players or civilians in my English Civil War/Weird ECW games, a fine herd of pigs and some farm scenery, a bunch of cats, and some small scenery to add detail here and there, including a whole lot of mushrooms and toadstools for suitably creepy weird fantasy/horror forest bits.

Bad Squiddo haul
Most of the Bad Squiddo haul all laid out. Clockwise from lower left: mushrooms/toadstools, candles, several female characters, cats, fish seller w/ cats, skoggskattar, and finally in front centre a batch of food. Click for larger.
Skoggskattar
Skoggskattar – giant Scandinavian cats. Compare to the 28mm Warlord guy jogging past them on the right right there. Click for larger.

Everything is really cleanly cast and beautifully sculpted. The scenics are mostly by the very talented Ristul and in an interesting slightly flexible grey resin; the white metal sculpts are by a variety of sculptors and all really well done.

Not pictured above is the pigs, my favourite single part of this purchase. I indulged in the Pigtopia bundle deal which got me ten pigs and six bits of pigsty/farm scenery. I’ve already painted the pigs up, basing them in small groups on 40mm bases.

pigs!
Bad Squiddo pigs! Ten pigs, six pieces of pig-related scenery. Click for larger.

I painted the pigs up to vaguely resemble one of the oldest heritage breeds of pig in the UK, a black-and-white breed that I now can’t find or remember the name of. Anyway, they painted up nicely and I look forward to watching them chase players around the table or be part of someone’s provisions on the hoof in a scenario.

painted pigs
Pigs all painted up, all on 40mm bases. Just a bit of greenery to add and they’re all done. Click for larger.

That’ll do, pig, that’ll do.

Dogs & Cats Living Together

(Or, The Workbench This Week, 12 April 2020, also known as the 43rd of Marprilay, Blursday the Somethingth of Pandemic)

Strange times, faithful readers. Strange and stressful, and one of my stress responses is to flit from project to project, starting things and then flitting off before they get very far.

This long Easter weekend, though, I’ve been nudging myself to actually move a few things noticeably closer to actual completion. The first small sign of this is the three critters below, two cats (from Eureka, I think) and a Reaper War Dog finally moved along to the flocking-and-base-detailing stages.

28mm dog and two cats
Two housecats and a war dog. Click for larger.

The cats have been on the edges of my painting table for almost exactly five years now, as my email archives tell me I made the Eureka USA order for them (and other stuff) back in March 2015. There’s another two of them somewhere in the “nominally in progress” mountain somewhere, but this white cat and the orange tabby will have to do for now.

No idea how they’ll be used in games yet… maybe I’ll come up with a Pulp Alley games that involves chasing cats around a quaint English village looking for a clue one of them has attached to their collar. No gunfire, you’ll scare the cats into hiding!

the workbench this week, April 2020
The rest of the workbench. L to R: ECW cav, Renedra building, Frostgrave and ECW plastics, the critters, werewolves, and such! Click for larger.

So what else is on the rest of the workbench, hopefully lurching closer to completion? A whole mix of stuff (surprise…)! I’m quite please with the progress I’ve made on the nice little Renedra Wattle & Daub Outbuilding, some long-neglected ECW cuirassier are seeing basing progress, I’ve been building some Frostgrave wizards and soliders as mentioned in my last post, and the whole mess of werewolves (over on the far right of the photo above) are meandering onward.

Stay home, stay safe, attempt to stay sane, and I hope you and yours are well.

Dogs With Guns

OK, technically dog-men or gnolls with guns. Firelocks, if we want to be really technical.

I started with Frostgrave Gnolls from North Star Figures, having picked up a single sprue frame of gnolls (five of them) from Brigade Games, the North American distributor.

The firelocks are leftovers from the Warlord Games Firelock Storming Party; each figure in that set comes with two complete sets of arms + firelock so you wind up with lots of extra guns.

The gnolls are wider across the shoulders than the Warlord humans, and have longer arms, so I cut at the wrists and re-glued.

gnolls with guns
Gnolls with guns. See text for details. Click for larger.

I’ve now assembled all five gnolls. The leftmost gnoll has a Warlord cavalry sword in one hand, and a cavalry carbine in the other; next is a gnoll with a firelock and an infantry sword at his hip; the middle gnoll is build straight from North Star parts, waving his massive ancestral sword overhead (that might get trimmed down a bit, it really is over the top massive…); fourth along is another firelock gnoll, and finally on the far right a gnoll who’s going to get yelled at by his sergeant for carrying his firelock in such a sloppy way while advancing with a large dagger in his other hand.

I might yet buy an entire box of these guys and do up more units, but for now they’re a fun gunpowder fantasy addition to a game. In Pikeman’s Lament terms they’d either be a Forlorn Hope or Clansmen, depending on your opinion of their actual quality, or possibly Commanded Shot given the generally high level of equipment they’re carrying. In the “English Civil War + magic” game universe I’m slowly developing I suspect gnoll troops occupy the same sort of niche as Irish troops seem to have, being treated as semi-disposable shock troops for the most part.

I’ve got a bunch of work with greenstuff on these guys before they’re going to be ready for painting, but given the current lockdown/physical distancing requirements of our global pandemic situation I don’t suppose there’s any hurry to get them onto the table.

Stay home, stay safe, stay healthy, stay sane, and try to get some hobby time in as your stress levels allow!

Interesting Times

Well. One minute I was too busy getting ready for a local SCA event mid-March and then Trumpeter Salute 2020 in mid-April to blog about what I was doing… and then the real world intervenes rather abruptly and rudely.

Painting and terrain building hasn’t stopped although it has slowed down. We’re safe and well enough, the cat is enjoying having people around to sit on much more of the day than she’s used to thanks to work from home, and I promise I’ll get actual content up here shortly.

I’ve got some more ships for 1/1200 WW2 coastal naval, some fun stuff for my 28mm fantasy-ECW project, and I’m probably going to be building up a Frostgrave fantasy skirmish warband, because why not?

Stay well, stay safe, do that physical distancing thing, and try not to let work from home drive you insane.

Tiny Ships: A Game of Coastal Patrol

As mentioned last weekend after our game of Narrow Seas, we also wanted to try out Coastal Patrol, available in the Summer 2011 Special from TooFatLardies.

I managed not to take a single photo during either of the two games Corey and I ran today, but nothing about the visible setup we’ve got has changed in a week except that all my 1:1200 scale boats are properly based, on 20mm wide by 40mm long by 1.5mm high clear acrylic bases ordered from Litko.

tiny ships on bases
Tiny ships all based on 20mm wide by 40mm long 1.5mm tall acrylic bases from Litko. Gloss varnish makes great glue for this sort of thing and won’t fog the acrylic the way superglue can. Click for larger.

The first game we ran was very small, a pair of Royal Navy Fairmile D MGBs (Motor Gun Boats) escorting a coastal freighter, under attack by a pair of S-38 mid-war Schnellboote. The S-boats roared in, fired all four of their ready torpedoes at the freighter while taking scattered gunfire from the MGBs, blew up the freighter, and roared off. As they were exiting the board one of the pursuing MGBs ran head-on into a stray mine (Coastal Patrol has a random events table that can be pretty lethally random!) and was blown out of the water.

For the second game we gave the Germans a convoy to escort, a freighter and a tanker somewhere along the coast of France early in the war. They had an armed trawler and two Raumsboote (R-Boats) escorting and were under attack by a quartet of tiny, lightly armed Vosper 73′ MTBs. This game ended in an absolute draw, as nobody lost any ships, although part of this was because we were messing with the Coastal Patrol torpedo rules and concluded that we’d taken them from massively powerful (any vessel struck by a torpedo is considered sunk automatically) down to nowhere near powerful enough because although the trawler and the freighter got hit neither took any serious damage. The Vospers all roared off into the night again, although one of them was taking on water quite badly, pumps just barely keeping up.

For both games we were (just like last weekend’s Coastal Patrol games) ignoring the rules for spotting, target ID, blinds/dummy markers, and all that stuff. I’ll be making some blinds and markers before our next games (of either system) so we can incorporate those rules, which are sure to change the on-table dynamic again.

So, compared to Narrow Seas, what are the rough similarities and differences? CP uses a TFL-style actions-per-activation system, with vessels getting between zero and three actions (diced for) every time their card comes up in the activation deck. This leads to some tense decision making, which I like. Do you maneuver your ship, run damage control, or fire, and at who?

One thing we definitely liked about CP vs NS is that CP’s turning circles are considerably smaller than the NS turning arcs. This makes the vessels feel more agile, and increases the effective size of the table.

CP’s firing is much simpler than the NS system, and involves much less dice rolling. We did seem to miss a lot more with CP than with NS, though, which isn’t really unrealistic with small vessels moving quickly over the water!

There are definitely a few rough spots and gaps in the Coastal Patrol rules. Some of the game mechanics don’t seem to be fully explained (damage from collision/ramming, for example) and although Making Smoke is an available order and Smoke Generators are listed as shipboard equipment on some of the damage tables, there are not in fact any rules for how smoke is intended to work… That said, there is a file of Coastal Patrol house rules out there that fill most of the gaps easily enough, but which I can’t currently find online to provide a link to!

We will be coming back to Coastal Patrol, and might stick with it as our main coastal naval rules, but we’ll have at least one more bash at Narrow Seas as there are definitely some things it does better than Coastal Patrol.

An Actual Game of Tiny Ships!

This afternoon we actually got the tiny ships onto the table and had a game using the Narrow Seas rules.

First, of course, I had to use blue-tac and scrap card to base up my tiny ships.

all based up
The Brits and Jerries all based up, for now. Click for larger.

We ran two British coastal merchant ships escorted by a quartet of RN Fairmile D MGB gunboats, being menaced by a quartet of S-boats somewhere along the coast of England. We ignored all the visibility, spotting, and illumination rules for this game, it was purely run-and-gun.

early game
Early in the game, two merchants hugging the coast, British Fairmile D boats maneuvering to intercept the approaching S-boats at the top of the photo. Click for larger.

The Germans kicked up to high speed to maneuver toward the sluggish merchantmen, while the MGBs tried to intercept.

Late in the game. The tape strips are German torpedoes in the water, heading toward the merchants off the top of the photo. Click for larger.

The game ended with three of the four S-boats getting away at high speed, while one S-boat was being scuttled by it’s crew close to shore after taking massive amounts of damage. The Germans fired seven torpedoes, only one of which hit, but that was enough to send one of the merchants to the bottom almost instantly, while gunfire also sank one of the MGBs.

I’m honestly not sure how much of the Narrow Seas rules we were doing correctly, but the basic system seemed to work. Consensus was that damage was awfully dice-intensive to resolve, especially if a ship got hit hard and was up to the Heavy/Wrecked end of the damage table. We also realized we were doing the cascading damage wrong partway through the game, however, so a careful re-read of the firing and damage rules is clearly in order.

As a scenario balance thing, Fairmile D MGBs are scary, scary beasts, each of them having significantly more firepower than an individual S-boat. More S-boats or fewer “Dog” boats, perhaps swapping an armed trawler in for one or two of the Dogs, would probably make the game “fairer”. On the other hand, the Kreigsmarine did manage a minor victory, and trading one S-boat for a coastal freighter and an MGB is more than fair.

We had a good game overall and will definitely be back to Narrow Seas sometime soon; we also want to try out “Coastal Patrol” from the Summer 2011 TFL Special as TFL rules are much liked in these parts. My proper bases are enroute from Litko, and I’ve now got a list of counters I need to produce to make the game run more smoothly.

Tell the Bartender Your Troubles

Way back in December 2018 on Twitter, Bears Head Miniatures showed off pictures of their new Beholder-alike floating eye beastie, Narthoks the Excellent. I made an offhand comment of, “With that expression, somehow I see him as the wholly unexpected barkeep behind a very strange bar somewhere, towel draped over one tentacle, goblets and beer mugs in the other tentacles…”

A few weeks later, Bears Head posted this:

…and naturally I had to join their Kickstarter, even though I had no particular use then or now for a Beholder, in bartender guise or otherwise! (is a bartending Beholder actually a Beerholder? A Barholder?)

My understanding is that the bartender version was a Kickstarter-exclusive, but the regular and sci-fi versions of Narthoks are available over on the Bears Head website, along with all sorts of other interesting figures!

So what did I get for my offhand comment? Narthoks is a big chap, roughly 2 and a half inches across at the tentacles and about 2 inches tall from bottom of tentacles to top of head/topmost eyeball. Taller than that once he’s on his flying base, of course. He’s got a towel and glass in his frontmost tentacles, a cocktail shaker in his right-hand tentacles, and a bottle and glass in the left. All the bar-ware is scaled to Narthoks, which means the glasses and shaker are the size of barrels from a human viewpoint!

barholder, bare resin
Bare resin Narthoks straight out of the box from Bear’s Head back in May 2019. Click for larger.

The figure is resin and nicely cast, with only a bit of cleanup along seams and some casting flash. He’s in two parts, tentacles and base/neck (?) and then head, and while the seam between them has more gaps than I’d normally like to see, the textured nature of his skin makes disguising this seam easy once you break out the greenstuff.

Anyway, after Narthoks the Barholder showed up in May 2019 he sat in his box until just a few weeks ago (end of January 2020), when I felt the need to radically change up my painting after painting a couple of dozen lovely but fussy and tiny 1:1200 WW2 naval boats!

For painting, I was inspired by Dana Howl’s awesome video on using glaze medium, which I’ve linked to at least once already on this blog, and by the splendid and underused (by me, at least, in usual day-to-day painting) Royal Purples triad from Reaper’s paint line.

barholder, wet paint
Blending basecoat in progress. Almost all the paint you can see here is still wet, as the glaze medium slows drying time. Makes for fun and dynamic painting on a big figure like this! Click for larger.

Narthoks’ underside is various shades of bright blue, his topside is mostly Imperial Purple, shaded down with Nightshade Purple and highlighted with Amethyst Purple. The eyeballs were painted Pure White then glazed with a variety of yellows, reds, and oranges.

barholder basecoated
Basecoating done, eyeballs and other detail parts included. Click for larger.

Final highlights on Narthoks’ body were a mix of Amethyst Purple, Pure White, and glaze medium, 1:1:1; this is most visible on the eyelids and on the bits just above the “horns” along each side of the body. The eyeballs have all had a coat of gloss medium, although as I haven’t given the whole miniature the usual coat or three of protective matte varnish, this gloss will have to be redone in due course. Ah well.

narthoks finished, front
Narthoks all finished except for basing. Go on, tell the bartender your troubles! Click for larger.
narthoks finished, left side
Left side of Narthoks. I really like how the shading of the horns and above them has come out. Click for larger.
narthoks finished, right side
Narthoks’ right side. The eyeballs have turned out nicely too. Click for larger.

Narthoks comes with a standard clear plastic flying base; I ran a length of paper clip wire up into him for a painting handle and to help pin the two halves of his body together. I’ll trim that short and slot it into the post of the flying base, but I might replace the clear plastic base with something more bar-like, either flagstones or a wood floor. I’m actually tempted to get a small display dome for Narthoks and put him on one corner of my home bar cabinet as a mascot of sorts, as I currently have absolutely no actual gaming-related use for this awesome figure!

Tiny Ships Painted!

I finally have painted ships (well, boats, mostly) to go with the coastal terrain I’ve been showing off!

All my 1:1200 naval stuff so far is from Last Square, the Figurehead range. Last Square are very easy to deal with and shipping from the States up to Canada was quick, although their website is one of the most glacially slow I’ve seen in recent years!

The figures are incredibly detailed for such tiny models. I’m not kidding when I say I own 28mm figures with less detail on them than these little boats!

For painting I hot-glued everything to 6″ craft sticks/tongue depressors, which worked well. I plan to use clear plastic bases (which aren’t here yet, the Litko order of custom bases is enroute) so couldn’t base the boats before painting. I did the Royal Navy & merchant ships first, and cramped myself too much – about four ships per craft stick is a good spacing, closer and your ships get in the way of the brush.

For Royal Navy colour schemes/camoflauge patterns I picked up an ePub copy of Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II – Vol I from Pen & Sword, and can highly recommend that book if you need inspiration for your RN coastal warfare boats. We tend to think of warships as grey (well, I do, anyway) but the WW2 RN used a lot of white and blue disruption or dazzle pattern schemes on their vessels, some of them complicated enough to be challenging to reproduce in 1:1200 scale!

royal navy 1
Foreground, four anti-submarine or minesweeping trawlers, then a small coastal tanker, and two flavours of Fairmile D MTB/MGB in the background. Click for larger.
royal navy 2
RN armed trawlers and Fairmile D (“Dog”) boats. Click for larger.
royal navy 3
Tiny Vosper MTBs on the left, the tanker, and Fairmile D MTB/MGBs on the right. Click for larger.

I’ve got sixteen Royal Navy vessels right now, ranging from tiny 70′ Vosper Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) to armed trawlers to both Torpedo and Gun (MTB/MGB) versions of the famous Fairmile D (“Dog boat”) vessels.

For the German Kreigsmarine there doesn’t seem to be a handy single-volume book of paint schemes like there is for the Brits, but after some questions on the Naval Gaming FB group and some Google Image rummaging I decided on a simple off-white for the famous Schnellboote and a grey-and-dark-grey disruption pattern on the more utilitarian Raumsboote.

kreigsmarine 1
Schnellboote (S-boats) in the foreground, Raumsboote (R-boats) in the background. Click for larger.
kreigsmarine 2
R-boats on the left, S-boats on the right. Click for larger.

With dozen Kreigsmarine, sixteen Royal Navy, and a pair of small coastal merchant ships I’m set for a good variety of scenarios already. More S-boats, more merchants, and some of the missing classes of Royal Navy Coastal Command vessels, especially the very common Fairmile B, will come in the future, but this is a good mix for a mid- to late-war setup, from 1942 or so to the end of the war in Europe.

Our first game should be this Sunday, using Narrow Seas by David Manley. Need to print off ships sheets and a few other things before then!