Thursday, 2 February 2012

Just kicking down the cobblestones

And a Happy International Roadies Day to one and all.  "Soundcheck" Geddit?

Oh OK I'll get me coat and on with the wargaming stuff now.

I'm pleased to say I've had a couple of madly productive days.  Today I started work on the base boards for the Victorian City, starting with picking up three sheets of 2'x4' 3mm MDF from Wickes.  If I was doing this as a completely standalone terrain board I'd probably go for 6mm or even 12mm for strength, but the idea is to allow the city board to be placed on top of the traditional green felt sheet table to give a mixed terrain table, so the base needed to be as thin as possible.

I set to work with the "perfect" cobblestone wallpaper..
...gluing it down with 3M Craft Mount spray adhesive.  You have to watch out for that stuff, because the spray produces a fine mist which spreads anywhere within a couple of feet of where you're actually spraying, leaving a slightly tacky residue.  It's also a little heady, so unless you want the fumes to send you a bit woozy, work outside or in a well ventilated room.

The boards of course are wider than the paper, so each required a thin strip cutting to finish it off, but after a couple of hours work...
...I had the full 6'x4' play area covered. Actually I had a little more, as I also covered a 2' square piece left over from the first attempt at these boards (using a not-quite-perfect cobblestone-ish wallpaper), which will let us have an irregular shaped city, or a cutout for a park, for example.  The next step will be to go around the edges of each board with a brush and some PVA and seal down the edges.

This close-up gives you a good look at the dotted "cobblestone" texture, along with the "Prussian Armoured Pullman" from Scheltrum.  I can't remember if I've posted a pic of the completed Pullman before, but it's another model that I bought back in the early Noughties that's been sitting unused in a drawer since then.  I can't remember what I paid for it, but Scheltrum are currently asking for nearly £20 for this.  It's an OK model, fairly crudely constructed but different enough to be interesting, but honestly it's not worth the asking price - anyone could very easily scratchbuild something very similar without too much effort.

"The Elephant is a bonny bird, it flits from bough to bough." goes the old poem and so imitating that aspect of the elephant, on to project 2.  Following some discussion on the GASLIGHT Yahoo group, about avoiding unsightly game status counters cluttering up the wargames table, I came up with the idea for "stealth counters", flocked to match your gaming surface, possibly with some aesthetically pleasing terrain clutter on the upper surface.  The idea is that it doesn't look too jarring on the tabletop, but if you need to see the status indicated, you just flip the counter over.  Now GASLIGHT is fairly light on counter-indicated statuses, in fact the only one you're likely to need is to show whether a vehicle is operational or has failed its "Sustain" roll, meaning it's either broken down, run out of steam or suffered some other temporary calamity.  Someone suggested using watch parts on the counter to show bits of the vehicle's transmission fallen off.

Have credit card, have ebay, have low impulse control...

The bag of 250 brightly coloured plastic counters came to £3.99, while the 50g bag of random watch parts set me back £10.  As soon as I'd finished the cobblestone boards I dug these out, and picking out the brightest coloured counters (pink) I washed them, slapped some paint and flock on them and stuck down a selection of random parts.
Now I really should have restrained myself and done these properly, as you can see some of the pink showing through where the flock has rubbed off.  And you can see how the coat of spray matt varnish I put on has darkened the flock compared to the terrain piece below (it is the same flock, honest).  But as a proof of concept I think these show the idea works.  I've got a few more of these on which I'd created oil spills using PVA mixed with black paint.  Those hadn't dried in time so I'll show you how they came out tomorrow.

The next batch I do will be washed, primed with a plastic-friendly primer (like Krylon Camouflage), flocked with PVA glue, spray. That should totally prevent the colours from showing through.  Without any particular game in mind, I'm going to do blank-topped counters with red, yellow and green undersides - in Savage Worlds I'd use yellow for Shaken and reds for Wounds, similarly in 2hr Wargames "Rally Round the King" red markers could indicate unit hits.  I'm also going to try doing a set of markers topped with the cobblestone paper texture for the Victorian city game.

Let's see... next onto something that I started during DO-WOP, two road junction sections based on vinyl tiles.  From my experience of driving on UK country lanes, a lot of road junctions don't meet at right angles but at an angle, with the left and right lane sometimes noticeably forking.  So following the same technique as I used for the road sections last November...

  ... which if I didn't mention it was inverted vinyl tile, coat sticky side with PVA and sand, painted brown, drybrushed sandstone, flock the verges... These don't take too long in terms of actual work, but you have to wait for the sand and PVA to dry, then wait another night as the brown paint dries before you can drybrush and flock.

Finally, at least for today, I painted a commander figure for one of the converted Leman Russ tanks. I'm a little nonplussed at the result.

Constructing him was fun.  I used a figure from the Wargames Factory Plastic Zulu War British box, cutting him in half, trimming away the rifle from the right hand and cutting off and repositioning the left hand.  Fiddly, but I've found the secret to building multi-part plastic figures... use polystyrene cement with a precision applicator... DON'T USE SUPERGLUE!!!!  Knowing is half the battle!

He looked fantastic in bare plastic, but after spraying with the usual coat of Army Painter colour primer it was as if all the detail had been scoured off him.  I don't know if there was something wrong with the spray can I used or if I've unwittingly given him too thick a coat of primer or if the detail on the figure is so thin it's too easily obscured.  I'm considering fashioning some steampunk goggles for him out of plastic tubing to disguise his lack of eye sockets.

I'm much happier with the actual Leman Russ tanks themselves, as teased in the above photo.  They're now basecoated, using another new toy.  Having dabbled with an old aerosol-powered airbrush I dug out of the junk room last year, with very little success, I picked up a cheap-as-chips compressor (known as the "baby elephant" because that's exactly what it's shaped like) and a cheap £15 top loading airbrush.

I will say it now - the baby elephant is NOT a good compressor for airbrushing, it has no fine controls, will overheat with sustained use and is NOT as silent as advertised.  Because it has no flow regulation, when you first pull the trigger you get an extra-powerful burst from the built up pressure, followed by a lower, sustained flow of air.  But at the end of the day, this is my first dalliance with using an airbrush, I'm not going to be using it much or trying anything too complicated, so as a startup package for under £50 it'll do for now.  I'm still at the absolute baby-steps stage with it, but once I'd worked out the right mix of paint to medium, I was quite happy with the way the basecoat went on the tanks.  With some white paint left over in the bowl, I had a go at doing some very subtle highlighting on one of the first cobblestone board attempts, which seemed to work really well.  This is going to be another handy tool for terrain items if not vehicles and figures.

There really aren't enough hours in the day.  I'm hoping to get the base boards sealed down tomorrow and possibly even painted.  But then I'd also really like to have a bash at finishing off the scratchbuilt slums, finish the Leman Russ tanks, finish the second unit of Scotties, (plus the guards and the regulars behind them in the paint queue) AND finish the paint job on the Brass Coffin.

And then, after reading a discussion thread about converting toys to 28mm ships on the Lead Adventure forums, I suddenly find myself the winner of an eBay auction for a used Playmobil pirate ship...

Did I mention the poor impulse control?


  1. Was interested to hear your views on the cheap airbrush... I was given an aerosol powered one by an airfix modeller (after he upgraded to a proper one), and after Saul's recent purchase of spray cans I considered getting it going again.

    But the propellant isn't much cheaper. Been considering other ways of powering it.

    As for your compressor's failings, I think there's no substitute for a large reservoir.

    Good news on the Pirate Ship, we got one of those in the loft (and a treasure island). We did some comic strips based on photos taken of them a number of years ago.

    I don't know who had more fun, me or my son!

    1. Well once Sons 2.0 and 3.0 grow too old for Playmobil... :-)

      A proper modern airbrush compressor can be had for £80-£100 on eBay. Modern models not only have reservoirs to even out the air pressure but only run when needed, which means using one is a lot quieter overall.