Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fountain and Bridge

Here are some terrain pieces I finally finished painting last weekend. The first is a resin fountain by Airfix, first mentioned here.

Sven and Reaper fountain added for comparison.
Painting is done, though I'd like to add some water effects to the basin and fount. Painting was a simple gray basecoat and a few stones painted brown for contrast, with a couple layers of drybrushing and a blackwash to bring out details. Some of my drybrushing was a little coarse, but I'm very pleased with this overall.

Next is a nice bridge kit by Italeri. I think I first read about this kit on Sean's blog, though I can't find the post.

Even though it's marketed as 1/72, it's a pretty big bridge, probably designed for scale vehicles to drive over. It could definitely be used for larger-scale gaming.
The One Inch Guild square off against some pesky goblins for control of a key strategic landmark.
Sven hides from the obligatory bridge troll.
Painting was basically the same as with the fountain, though the drybrushing is even rougher here. The resin fountain had a nice stone texture that was completely absent from the Italeri plastic, so my drybrushing was really a sort of sloppy highlighting. The kit went together pretty well, though I had some issues getting the curved bed to fit in the sides, and the seems on the support bits at the base are pretty obvious. Still, this is an attractive, solid piece of terrain. I've already let my son play with it (while supervised!), and it handles toy cars going over it without a problem. Speaking of, here he is, helping daddy with the basecoat.

Little helper.
P.S. Thanks to those of you who posted comments this month. Sorry they are only going up just now. I only caught them in the "Awaiting Moderation" cue today. I love hearing from my readers, and I'll be more diligent about posting comments in the future.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Alliance Trolls comparison

Slowly getting back into the habit of blogging, starting with some pics of the new Alliance trolls. EY already has a nice review, and new 1/72 fantasy blogger Philotep has a great how-to on painting one of them. My contribution will be this comparison shot with some similar miniatures.

Left to right: a Reaper Bones "Cave Troll," Sven the 1/72 comparison mini, one of the Alliance trolls, a Bones "Mountain Troll," and a Games Workshop "Mines of Moria" troll. These Alliance trolls are big; not as big as some "normal"-scale gaming minis, but big enough to compare favorably. Even if you don't game in 1/72 scale, they're big enough to work, and at 8 figures for ~$10, they're quite a deal. Stylistically they are quite similar to the Mountain Troll, which could serve as an alpha or captain of these Tolkein/Jackson-inspired bigguns.

Here's a quick height comparison with Sven:

And here are the four poses in the set, of which there are two each. From the front:

We gonna stomp your citadel!!
 And from the back:

Oops, wrong citadel.
Flash is a bit of a problem, as is sometimes the case with Red Box/Alliance. The poses are maybe a bit flat (to simplify the molding), but not as much as they could be. And the detail is actually really good; again, check out Philotep's excellent "tabletop" paintjob to see just how nice they can look. That Bones Mountain Troll is clearly a better figure, but it also retails for over $5 (it's metal counterpart is $22!). The dollar-to-quality ratio of the Alliance figures should be very tempting. Good, not great, and on a budget, which is sort of the motto around here!

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year review

Hail, loyal readers! Since 2016 was a bit slack on the new CFM content, and since New Year's is a good time to consider the past and look forward to the future, I thought you all might appreciate knowing what's going on with me hobby-wise.

I've not had as much hobby time recently as I'd like, which I regret. I have an excuse though! I started a new job in the fall, which I love, but which calls for a lot more time than my previous job. Between it and my normal parenting duties, I'd probably still have been able to do more hobby stuff than I was able. The big wrinkle is that before I was even looking for a new job, I also committed to a big freelance project that's still taking a lot of additional time. I probably wouldn't have taken it on if I knew about the new job, but now I'm obligated. Again, I'm happy to do it, but something had to give, and if you can believe it, making and painting tiny figures had to take a back seat.

The good news is that once this freelance project is finally complete, I believe I'll get some balance back in my life that I can dedicate to more hobby time. Hopefully I can get in done in the next few months. In the meantime, I've done a little painting, including these guys. I've also been doing some collecting: I got many of the new Caesar and Alliance fantasy sets in trade that I want to do review/comparison posts for. The same goes for the Battlelore 2nd Edition figures I got when the games were marked down in a recent Cool Stuff Inc. sale.

I've not given up on the hobby and hope to do more posting in the future. So keep an eye on this space! Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

More News! (Alliance trolls, Caesar orcs, mystery Strelets)

Here are a few quick news items to complement my last news post. First, Alliance released previews of their first troll set.

This earlier preview shows that these will be large enough for scales larger than 1/72. They look pretty good, plus 8 large minis for less than the $15 Alliance sets tend to retail for is a really good deal! Now we just need to wait for images of the "balrogs" they promised.

Second! Caesar released these preview shots of their next orc set.

Via Michigan Toy Soldiers.
The heavy blacklining makes the detail look a little exaggerated, but I think these are compatible with Caesar's now sort-of classic set (which now seems OOP). Pretty nifty! The old set was heavy on the primitive-looking orcs; these aren't exactly civilized, but seem to be a better mix of armored and unarmored. Note the chieftan/shaman dude in front.

Last bit of news: As noted in this forum thread, Strelets has a new "campaign" (i.e. historical era) listed on their site. This one is mysteriously called, er, "Mystery." There's nothing there currently, but such a heading invites speculation. The aforementioned thread suggests Strelets may be jumping into fantasy or some other non-historical genre, which seems like a natural conclusion. Of course we'll have to see, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

New Alliance minis!

We've been awaiting these sets for a while, but Redbox just recently put up previews of many of their new sets. Check out the new "Modern Amazons" and "Cimmerians."

The "Modern" part seems to simply mean the opposite of "Ancient" or "Hellenistic," as these have a more generic look that Alliance's previous Amazons. I had half a notion that "Modern" might mean something like "appealing to more modern, edified ideas about women in fantasy;" I think it's safe to say that's not the direction Red Box took the line. These are still pretty heavy on the cheesy, chainmail bikini side of things.

But let's look at the figures:

It's always hard to tell with the low-contrast red that Alliance uses for their preview shots, but the figures are certainly consistent with the battle-stripper look of the box art. They don't seem too egregious, though, and may be adaptable for more sanely dressed female fighters. And I can see that this previewed, super-sensible figure is in the middle of the bottom row of the first set, so maybe they won't be so bad. But I'm not really thinking too much about that now, because holy smoke, unicorns! That's right, the cool Amazon mounts that were previewed ages ago have materialized, and they're more bizarre and wonderful than I expected. Stags! Felines! A gorram dinosaur, for goodness sakes! Here's hoping Redbox puts out an "Amazon mounts" or "Exotic mounts" set, similar to their wargs set. It could see a lot of use for all kinds of modeling beyond fantasy mounts.

Let's move on to the "Cimmerians," Howard-inspired barbarians with a definite Chaos look to them:

The box are features a generous gamut of barbarian archetypes, from bare-chested Conans to horsey steppelords to the bundled-up Viking type in the middle. The figures are similarly variegated.

Two foot sets, unlike just one for the Amazons, presumably because they've already released an Amazon foot set. Again, a mix of shirts and skins here: I actually like this, since more variety means more use from a single set, but they'd certainly make a ragtag unit! Also, lots of horns, spikes, and oversized weapons, perfect for fantasy Chaos warriors. Note the shaman-guy in the bottom left of Set 2.


Normal mounts this time, though unsaddled. Again, pointy bits and crazy arms galore.

So far I like these. The Cimmerians could see a lot of uses in fantasy gaming. The Amazons disappointingly seem once again to be a little heavy on the cheesecake, but the crazy mounts make up for it. I haven't seen them available on Hannants yet, but I look forward to it!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Guards and Bandits and Bondic

No I'm not dead, real life vs. hobby time, etc. Let's move on:

I finally got a chance to take some pics of my next project, these bandits and guards.

The bandits are a mix of Hat's reissued Airfix "Robin Hood" figures and Zvezda's medieval peasant levy. The guards are mostly Caesar medieval soldiers, with a couple Accurate knights (acquired in a trade with Mike) thrown in. Most are out of the box, but I indulged in a few mods.

Fantasy guards are often depicted with polearms and crossbows for some reason, so I tried to select the Caesar figures that were so armed. This only left a few available poses. The answer: headswaps, plus some knifework to remove scabbards and the like for variety.

The bandits didn't need as many mods, but some of them that would otherwise have been wielding scythes and similar peasant weapons got armswaps (a scythe-wielding bandit seemed very strange!). Here you can see my new fascination in use. Normally when doing mods like this, I'd use wood glue to fill any gaps. But lately I've been experimenting with a newish product called Bondic, and I'm pretty happy with it.
Bondic is a non-adhesive bonding agent that's sort of magical. It's a solution with various plastic elements as the solutes. These plastics tend to form a solid, except the solution prevents them from doing so almost indefinitely. Zap the liquid with a UV light (the orange device in the pic above) after applying it with the pen-like tip, though, and the solvent evaporates. [edit: I didn't have this exactly right. See my comment below] The result is a solid mass of plastic in about four seconds where there once was a liquid. Magic!

I've found all sorts of household applications for the stuff, but the relevant use is for filling gaps in modded figures.

I also made up this bard-type figure, using an Imex pioneer figure for the torso (Sean did something similar, but I can't find the post right now).

You can perhaps see that the gaps around the arms of the gray Zvezda figures have some clear plastic around them. The base of the tan Hat fig also has some to fill the visible part of the hole in the washer I used as a base. That's the cured Bondic in use. The big advantage Bondic has over glue for this sort of thing is ease of control: you can add as little as you need, it tends to flow into crevices, and you can always build up applications if you need more. It's also a lot more durable than glue, as it's solid plastic. Just remember that it can't be used to glue things together like adhesive, but for filling visible gaps it's hard to beat.

I also took some shots after priming, just so you can see how it looks painted. No gaps!

I'm still in the middle of a big freelance job, but hopefully I'll have more time to work on figures soon. Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Using "Magic Water"

Hey all, before we begin, I thought I'd officially announce something a few of you have already noticed: I've spun off Heartbreaker to its own blog. Now I've got a place all on its own to share my quite unqualified thoughts on RPG design and homebrewing. I've already got a firecracker of a screed posted by way of introduction, followed soon by some hopefully more measured thoughts. I've got a link on the sidebar, so you can always see when there are new posts just by visiting this page. Or feel free to follow the new blog!

Today's topic: water. As though two hobbies weren't enough, my dad and I have started to build a model railroad. Ostensibly it's for my son, but let's not fool ourselves: this is a hobby at least as much for the adults as for the kid. We actually were model railroaders when I was growing up, and in fact my love of figure painting comes from painting HO scale Preiser people for our layouts. Anyway, this time we're trying a few things we've never tried before, including modeling water. Prudently I decided to make a little diorama to give making water a go, and it occurred to me that miniaturists and wargame terrain makers who read this blog might get something out of my experiment.

The key product is Magic Water, a two-part resin specifically designed to model water. I bought my package at a local hobby shop, and you can also order direct from the manufacturer. It's $35 for the regular size (a smaller size is available for miniaturists), and the guy who makes it is the only distributor, so you aren't going to find a lot of discounts. But it won't shrink or yellow, dries clear, and doesn't eat styrofoam, which makes it superior to similar two-part resin products.

So here's how it went:

If you're wondering about the white ridge in the middle, that's my bad attempt at modeling rapids; more on that later. You can see that the rest does indeed dry clear and looks very wet and watery.

I made a 1 foot square base out of two layers of extruded styrofoam. I used a box cutter and a dull breadknife to cut the foam and shape the terrain before gluing the two layers together. I used joint compound to seal everything; this was a misadventure, as the compound had gone bad, something that I didn't realize could happen. So you know, if joint compound smells like rotten eggs, don't use it, and throw it out right away! In addition to being gross and perhaps dangerously unhygienic, this wasn't even entirely necessary, but at the time I didn't realize Magic Water wouldn't eat foam. It did serve the purpose of sealing the gap between layers, something that a bead of clear caulk would also accomplish. This is necessary because Magic Water is very devious about finding any gap or cranny to flow into while it cures.

This photo show how profound the illusion of depth can be with this product, as the layer of Magic Water is only a few millimeters thick. I painted the shore and part of the riverbed brown and used black for the rest, blending together the two colors along the outer edge. This does a good job of simulating shallow water near the banks and deeper water in the middle of the river.

I mixed the two parts together in a disposable cup as per instructions. Mixing is pretty tedious; the instructions say to mix three times, five minutes at a time. I dammed the edges of the river with green painters tape (which turned out to be wholly inadequate; next time I'm using perforated metal plates and clear caulk. Be sure to do your pour over some kind of drop cloth in case of leaks!). I then poured along the the middle. Magic Water is self-leveling, so you don't need to do anything to spread it around; in fact you should ensure that your pour surface is completely level so it doesn't pool. You may see some bubbles; I believe the instructions say these will pop on their own, but you can also pop them by blowing on them gently with a straw while the resin is still liquid.

The instructions say the resin will cure completely in 24 hours at 70˚ F. My setup was in a basement near a door during a spate of somewhat chilly weather, so it took more than twice that time. Do wait at least 24 hours before seeing if it cured, and use a toothpick or other fine instrument to test it. Fully cured Magic Water is totally hard and not at all sticky, and you don't want to handle it before it cures lest you leave fingerprints.

Magic Water resembles clear, still water when it cures. I experimented with stippling some clear acrylic gel to create some ripples. The effect isn't too bad for a first try but could be more natural. Apparently you can create some larger wave effects with these resin products by blowing with a straw around 8 hours into the cure time, as shown in this helpful video. I also tried modeling larger rapid waves with the acrylic gel, but unlike the ripples it never dried clear. I probably should have used smaller layers instead of one big glob of the stuff.

Messing with the acrylic gel left some unsightly brushmarks on the Magic Water. Fortunately I was able to erase them with a layer of Future Shine, as this admittedly obscure photo hopefully shows. You can see those brushmarks on the right; on the left they have been removed. The Future Shine does leave a sort of border, so you may have to cover a lot of water surface for a realistic effect.

Mini figure posts coming soon, as well as more RPG stuff at the new blog. Do stay tuned to both!