Monday, 24 April 2017

Nerfship Away!

Last weekend, I was at a steampunk event talking to a friend who makes models for a living. He explained how, in his free time, he made robots out of junk. The trick, he explained, was to find the pieces that were the right shape, no matter their original purpose. Thinking about this, I happened to look at one of the blogs I follow, called Mr Papafakis, where the writer had built a spaceship out of a water pistol, HERE. This idea sounded too good not to steal.

For the mighty sum of £5, I bought a Nerf gun called a Reflex IX-1 at the local supermarket. It looked like this:

I  removed the handle and trigger with a hacksaw and pulled back the cocking mechanism to elongate the gun. Then I glued it in place to form an interestingly-textured rectangular box. I turned this upside down and started gluing things to it.

Most of the rest of the model came from a very small-scale Revell model of a German tank that I bought for £2.99. It had a lot of interesting bumps that would look good on a spaceship. With a few extra bits (including the top of a milk carton) and some plasticard I was able to flesh out most of the shape of a spacecraft, like this:

At this point, it looked like the strange result of a Nerf gun mating with a bobsleigh. The "nose" at the front (well, the left on this picture) is the tank turret, on its side. The landing skids are the track guards, held up with bits of sprue. The antenna is the tank gun.

The moment of truth came and I sprayed it black. It's amazing how much a black undercoat unifies a model. It's like translating a set of words into the same language to make a sentence, except all the words are bits of plastic and the language is the universal language of the exciting rocket ship. I hope that makes it clear.

The paint scheme was a utilitarian grey (Vallejo Luftwaffe Uniform) highlighted up with a very pale blue-grey. A few smudges of brown and light grey were added for variety, and Strongtone was painted into some of the areas where dirt would accumulate. It's rather darker than I originally planned, but I like it anyway.

The detailing on the Nerf gun part of the ship lended itself to a red stripe. I added more red to the front end to show that it was indeed the front, and painted on yellow warning stripes to draw the eye in that direction.

And that's about it. I'm really pleased with this thing, especially since it came from such unlikely material. It's got a nice chunky feeling without obviously being a box. I missed a couple of bits of orange plastic, so I'll have to go back and repaint them. In the meantime, it needs a name. Any suggestions?

Friday, 21 April 2017

Rust in the Badlands

I've been busy this week, by which I mean I've been sticking a lot of models together. Part of this is an attempt to use up the huge number of robot legs I was sent by Ramshackle Games, either in generosity or error.

Many years ago, the authorities decided to reclaim the land between the safe zones, where only mutants, wild beasts and heavily-armed caravanners ever go. Because the work was hard and the terrain hazardous, they sent out large groups of specialist robots to do the heaviest terraforming. None of them returned.

Travellers in the wilderness occasionally see the huge, corroded forms of the robots standing motionless on the horizon. But descriptions of how they look and what they carry vary from witness to witness, and the machines have a strange habit of going missing whenever the scrap merchants venture out for them. Rumour has it that someone, or something, is repairing and rearming them.

This robot was something of a test model. For the first time, I used what I think is called a zenith lighting technique, which is where you spray the model black from below and white from above. This represents the angle of the sun making some parts brighter than others.

I also used quite a "rough" style of painting, with a lot of corrosion and patina, and even some weathering pigment for the worst of the rust. I feel like I've not really finished it off, but I think it does look quite good as it is, and I'm reluctant to do much more.

I've started on the next robot, which is going to be a mechanical dinosaur.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Wild Boyz

In the 41st millenium, an ork commando unit was accused of a crime that it almost certainly did commit. These fungus-based organisms promptly escaped from a maximum security hole in the ground to the Necromundan underworld. Today, still wanted by the Imperium, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, no-one else can help, and if you can find them, you probably now have an even bigger problem than you started with.

Work continues on the ork commando squad. As well as the enormous ork who looks like Lee Marvin (Lee Morkvin?) there is now a ferocious and wily commando leader (Orke Waaagate?). Here he is, gazing vacantly across the battlefield while enjoying a fag.

Front view

Back to the front view

His body and cloak come from a Mantic model, with a space marine power fist in place of the right arm and a Spellcrow head. The left hand was cut from an arm supporting the barrel of a gun and turned upside down. I drilled in a bit of wire for the cigarette.

This chap is a heavy weapons operator. The only thing I changed was the head. He's got the primitive weapons and ferocious look of a WW2 commando, as emphasised by the colour scheme. I think he needs a few more knives and bombs strapped to him. I shall name him Bob.

The last of the commandos, as yet, is the unit's tech expert and repairman. He is based on an old metal mek, with a new head and a plastic right arm. The model was dirt cheap, as incomplete miniatures often are on ebay, and is fantastically detailed. I cut the model's banner pole down a bit to reflect the fact that he's being "subtle".

I've got 10 commando heads in total, so it makes sense to make some more. At the moment, I'm planning to include:

Radio operator

Maniac with knives
Maniac with two guns
Maniac with explosives
Bloke with grappling hook

I think that covers it, although perhaps I ought to aim for a dozen...

Monday, 17 April 2017

More About Me (only the good bits)

I started this blog in late April 2016, partly as something to do, and partly to encourage me to make an effort to get better at painting. Since then, I'm astonished to discover that it has had over 3,000 views. Someone clearly must have enjoyed it, or about 3,000 people had a quick look, thought it was bloody awful and never returned.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might (might!) enjoy some of the other stuff I do.

Mainly, I write books. I have written five novels about the adventures of Space Captain Smith, a brave and slightly hapless starship captain, and his ongoing mission to defeat the brutal tyranny of the giant space ants, halt the Divine Migration of the savage lemming men of Yullia, and talk to girls. The sixth installment, The Pincers of Death, will be out in September this year.

I also wrote a novel for Games Workshop's Black Library, about the infamously gung-ho Colonel Straken and his hard-bitten crew of Catachans. While not a comedy, it does contain huge amounts of orks and explosions, at least one insane preacher, and an actual fight on the back of an alien space dinosaur. Even White Dwarf mentioned that it had quite a lot of black humour.

More of that sort of thing here:

I am also half of the world's greatest podcast (results may vary). Together with my friend Owen, we form a superteam of unbridled power and witter brilliantly about books, films and games, right here: Imagine if Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde had a strange digital baby. That's what it's like, only better.

I do other things as well, except not quite as excitingly. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Grisly Ghouls From Every Tomb

The great Tom Lehrer once described folk music as "the fashionable form of idiocy among the middle classes". A while back, zombies beat Bollywood for that title and over the last few years we've seen a huge number of zombie themed games. Everyone likes zombies, it seems - except, ironically, zombies, because they're too busy lurching around and eating people to care.


I went for one of the smaller and more obscure titles: Warlord Games' Project Z (pronounced Zed because this is Britain dammit): partly because I didn't really warm to Zombicide, and partly because Mantic's Walking Dead game looked like it didn't have much flexibility (nice models though). Also, Project Z is a wargame rather than a boardgame, which I think gives it more options for replayability.

The models in Project Zed are made by Wargames Factory, a company whose products vary an awful lot. These models are exceedingly good, by which I mean both "well-sculpted" and "disgusting".

 The lady on the left (or rather, about 60% of her upper body) wins the Most Grisly Zombie prize.

The woman on the left here is my favourite of the lot. I'm very fond of the guy on the right, though: he has been run completely flat across the waist and has tyre prints over his midriff. Lovely.

I decided to paint the zombies in a limited range of drab colours, so that they would contrast with the living humans in the set. For consistency, I gave them all the same skin colour. I went for a look like the zombies in the original Dawn of the Dead, with grey skin and lurid red blood (if you're interested, I wrote a review of Dawn here: The skin is Vallejo Luftwaffe uniform (blue/grey) shaded up with a bone colour. The blood is thinned down magenta from Coat d'Armes, with a bit of Strongtone added into the deeper wounds for shadow and general rot. I think the magenta works really well over the grey flesh.

And here's a group shot. Cue "experimental" synthesiser music:

Next will be the human heroes. There are two teams in the basic set: general survivors and - as per Dawn - marauding bikers, too!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Er... more people?

In terms of actual painting, it's been one of those times where you start half a dozen things and finish none of them. However, I have been able to do a few bits and pieces.

This guy was converted about 15 years ago from a small, boring space marine who was having a bit of a stroll. He's now an old man. The bizarre apparatus around his head makes me think that he's a psychic (probably on Dr Who circa 1978). I made a tentative attempt at object source lighting.

Whether you like the style, some of the best-sculpted models on the market must be in the Infinity range. This robot guy is in an excellent pose, pulling his pistol as he races forward, and the sculpting on his coat is fantastic. I replaced his right arm, because it was across the body and spoiled the motion of the figure. He cost me £2 at a wargames fair. The camera has flattened the colours somewhat.

And finally, I've found a use for the robot legs I was sent by Ramshackle - at least, one pair out of the 12 or so they sent. I used some Necron bits that James gave me, and a head left over from a techpriest that was out of scale with most other models. I see him wandering across the desert, perhaps leading a group of homemade minions.

Other than that, I am waiting with bated breath for the arrival of Project Zed. If the postman doesn't bring it tomorrow he can forget about dogs - I'll savage him myself, groaning "Brains!" as I do.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Fire and Brimstone

I had an excellent weekend playing varios games against my friend James. We continued our campaign of Shadows of Brimstone, the Wild-West-Monsters-in-a-Goldmine simulator (I was going to refer to it as "Cowboys in a Dungeon", but that doesn't sound right somehow). It's rather like Advanced Heroquest with six-shooters, and has the right combination of fun and depth to be engrossing but quick.

We have completed the six "basic" missions now, and at long last the two mysterious strangers that we control have names. They are Sherrif Meatballs and Doc Casserole, and two meaner hombres have never crossed the minions of Cthulhu. Rumour has it that Casserole and Meatballs were responsible for collecting the bounties on Kid Crouton and "Waiter" Bill Please.

Doc Casserole and Suzy Stew, hungry for justice.

One of the joys of Brimstone is that each of the rules makes sense on its own, but when put together they can produce slightly ludicrous results. Hence the tendency of everyone you encounter in the mine to explode after they have attacked you and/or given you a present, or the strange incident where a randomly generated pile of bones produced a randomly generated mysterious child who produced a lantern, gave us a randomly generated free gift and then exploded. And, of course, the noble sherrif's four-day trip to the saloon to watch dancing girls, in order to acquire more experience points. Somehow I can't imagine a sherrif getting the right sort of experience from a four-day binge of whiskey, floozies and feather boas, but it sounds worth a try.

We also played Dystopian Wars (are there utopian wars? I have my doubts), which involved big ships blasting the big ship out of one another. It's remarkably quick and ferocious, and the miniatures were much better than I expected them to be. It's really the game that Man O'War should have been. I think I will be giving it a go.

But before that, I have ordered Warlord's game Project Z, a skirmish wargame in which you fight zombies. I think it's got great potential for, well, zombie-fighting. Besides, I like the idea of modelling the survivors to look like characters from old horror films. It would be cool to make the characters from Dawn of the Dead, especially Peter, who is to zombie slaying what Hamlet is to knowing people called Yorick.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Closing Time

This week, I've been making some more civilians for the town, and trying out a couple of new painting techniques in the process.

The lady on the right is a slightly converted Warhammer witch elf from many years back. I tried to paint her to look a bit like Pris from Blade Runner rather than a standard "booby lady", as a friend of mine calls such models, but I don't think either the miniature or me was up to it. For the arms and body, I tried to suggest thin cloth, through which the pink of the skin shows. It sort of works, but it's not very striking.

The man on the right is a 40k mystic from an Inquisitorial retinue. He's exactly as he came. The sunglasses and bionics contrast quite nicely with the dark skin, but either I didn't highlight the face enough or the camera has washed it out.

The third person was converted from a running Russian soldier from Warlord's winter Russians sprue. I made a bar stool out of odds and ends and used an arm that was holding a Molotov cocktail. I chose the most weathered-looking head for him from the Frostgrave soldier sprue. Amusingly, he looks quite like Earnest Hemmingway, who spent quite a lot of time doing pretty much just this.

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for last orders."