Category Archives: Terrain

A really tough job getting my basing material

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This New Year it was time to replenish my stock of sand for my figure basing. I use a very specific type of sand that comes from a particular beach in New Zealand. So I drove the 600 kilometres to Cathedral Cove on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, where I grabbed a couple of handfuls of sand to take home.

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Well, to tell the truth it was actually our family holiday. But, hey, let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story!

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Why Cathedral Cove sand? Well, it has a unique blend of grainy sand, crushed pink and white shells, and contains minuscule remnants of scarlet pohutukawa blossoms. This combination makes a perfect ground texture and colour that doesn’t need any painting or dry-brushing.

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Just apply it with PVA glue, then once dry, add some patches of static grass, tufts or miniature plants. Simple!

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The hardest part is making sure I always have sufficient stock of this very special sand – it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!

Happy New Year everybody!

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Cardboard Māori buildings and pā

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The Virtual Armchair General from Oklahoma City has just announced a range of easy self-assembly cardboard designs of Māori building designs in 25mm.

Sold as a set, by printing as many of the component pages as desired, a complete pā (fortification) of virtually any size and shape can be assembled.

The set comes with sections to make the outer palisade, then the primary inner palisade, complete with trench markers to lay inside to indicate warriors under cover and capable of defending the wall at point blank range. Additional trench markers allow complete trench complexes to be laid out, ensuring the entire pā can be defended.

PDF files are, of course, delivered postage-free via email as soon as your order is processed.

It’s over to you whether you prefer the 3D-printed houses and pā by Printable Scenery, or these new cardboard ones by VAG. The former aren’t pre-painted, of course, but are fully … er …3D. The latter are full-colour, but the detail is two-dimensional.  Your choice!

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A 28mm Japanese tower that looks Japanese!

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There’s something distinctive about Japanese towers that even the uninitiated can identify them straight away. However, this characteristic look can be quite elusive, as many of the model Japanese castles I’ve seen for sale to wargamers just don’t capture that distinctive shape properly.

However, that is certainly not an issue with the latest model building I’ve bought to go with my 28mm samurai figures. This wooden yagura ichi tower kit from Tre Games Inc definitely looks Japanese!

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What I love about this model is how it has captured the archetypal sloping base-walls, visible rafters and the complicated roof structure with the interesting gables. The shuttered windows, the holes in the walls for shooting weapons, and the crazy stone-work of the base all add to the look and feel.

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My model is made up from two kitsets: the Japanese yagura ichi tower ($US40), and its accompanying fortified stone base ($US20). The kits are made of laser-cut 1/16″ ash hardwood and 1/8″ birch plywood. Altogether, the completed model measures just over 7.5″ tall, and the base’s footprint is just a tad under 6.5″ square.

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I decided to do a bit of extra detailing to what was already a very good model. The roofs come off each floor, but whilst the floors already had a patterns of wooden panels, the walls were bare. So I simply used a black marker pen to draw in the beams, following the pattern of the exterior beams of the model, and shaded them in with colouring pencils.

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The base was a little tricky, as there are a lot of angles. I used rubber bands and pegs to hold the parts in place whilst they dried, then used a sander to round off the sharp corners. There was also a slight gap between the upper and lower walls, which I filled with glue.

Painting the base was easy: a spray coat of black, followed by a dry-brushing of grey, and finished with a very light dry-brushing of white. The base also comes with a separate set of stairs that you can place beside one of the two doors on the tower.

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The walls were very easy to assemble, despite the complex shape. I pre-painted the beams in dark brown, and the wooden sidings on the walls with a lighter brown, before glueing them together.

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The most extensive change I made was to the roof. The model comes with a roof that resembles a wooden planks. But I thought a tile roof would be more characteristic of a Japanese tower. I used some corrugated card from a craft shop, which I scribed horizontally with a metal ruler to produce the look of tiles.

I then simply glued the card onto the supplied roofs, spray-painted them black and dry-brushed them grey. Finally, I assembled the roof as per the instructions. Fitting the parts together was a little finicky, and overall there are some bits I probably didn’t get to fit quite right. But from a distance it all looks pretty good, and I’m happy with the overall effect.

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So there you have it – a perfect Japanese tower that’ll make a fine centrepiece for my gaming table …

Pros: Most importantly, it really looks the part! Not too many of the visible tabs that mar so many wooden kits. Removable roofs. Everything fits well. A  great price!

Cons: A little smaller than the 28mm Japanese buildings I have from other manufacturers. No interior detail other than the floors (though that is easily fixed).

Overall, very highly recommended!

Tre Games Inc is owned by writer, illustrator and entrepreneur Tim Erickson from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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‘Blood & Plunder’ pirate game on exquisite terrain

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Last night I played my first game of Blood & Plunder by American company, Firelock Games. Blood & Plunder is a 28 mm historical miniatures wargame set in the 17th century during the golden age of piracy.

When Alix Barclay showed me his exquisite Blood & Plunder figures a few weeks ago, I was instantly hooked, even though I already own a Foundry pirate force.

I quickly bought a small French force, which I am currently painting (to be the subject of a future posting), and I have also ordered a Dutch force from Firelock Games’ latest ‘No Peace Beyond the Line’ Kickstarter project.

Last night was a first go at the rules, so Alix and I kept things pretty basic.  We just played a small skirmish on the shore at one end of the table, with everything else just providing a suitably luscious scenic backdrop.

Anyone familiar with me knows that I am not really a rules person, what with my really bad head for numbers, so that I never remember what dice I am supposed to be rolling. throwing. But the basics of this game seem relatively straight forward.

We were hosted by Matt Barker of Printable Scenery, who put together an amazing Caribbean scene featuring a lot of his company’s products. The buildings, bridges, a galleon, wharves, a crane, even a mangrove swamp, were all designed by Printable Scenery and run off on Matt’s 3D printer.

The only non-Printable Scenery items on the table were my own Disney ‘Black Pearl’ toy converted into a Dutch ship, and a couple of my toy longboats.

Whilst this was just a small test game, the terrain we played on was of the highest quality, and would have done any wargames show proud! Here are just a few photos to give a general impression of this beautiful first game of Blood & Plunder.

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These last three photos were taken by Alix Barclay.

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Japanese house – a blotz on the landscape?

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I guess I have to finally admit that I’m not really a wargamer, but a terrain enthusiast! The most enjoyment I get out of my hobby isn’t playing wargames, nor painting figures. It is making scenery. Not big messy projects like terrain boards, but small features to decorate the table, especially buildings.  I’m no scratch-builder, either. I prefer taking an existing kit and embellishing it.

And so it is with the project that has been entertaining me for the last few nights – building another model house to add to my burgeoning shogunate Japanese village. This MDF kit is from a British manufacturer I hadn’t tried before – Blotz (as in Buildings, Landscapes and Other ThingZ).

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Making this Japanese house kit felt quite familiar, as it uses many similar concepts to 4Ground’s kits, whose buildings form the major part of my Japanese terrain. For example, the walls from both companies are formed of a frame with inserted panels and separate inner walls.

However, unlike 4Ground, the Blotz kit isn’t pre-coloured, so it requires some painting.  I found this easier to do before breaking the pieces out of their sheets. The only parts that required some care were the interior walls, where you have to paint straight lines between the white and natural wood parts.

A particularly nice feature of this kit is that there is only one place where you can see any of the interlocking joins or tabs that so often mar otherwise attractive MDF models. And even this one visible join is on the inside, and so can’t be easily seen, especially when disguised with a little bit of paint.

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The sliding doors work (though they are a bit tight). I glued some tracing paper onto the back of the frames. This looks really good from the outside, and adequate enough for the few times you’ll ever see the inside of the house.

Another feature that often gives away such kits is the use of teddy-bear fur for thatch. However, I find that if you slosh the finished thatch roof with heavy washes of watered down dark-coloured paints, then dry-brush it with lighter colours such as yellow and white, the fur ends up looking more like thatch … well, at least not so much like it came from a skinned teddy bear!

So there we have it, yet another Japanese house for my samurai games – if I ever get round to actually playing one!

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Sneak peak of my latest Japanese terrain

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Just a very quick peak at what I have been spending my hobby time on this weekend – the building on the left. More info to come soon when I have completed this little project. Sayonara for now!

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Home improvements to 4Ground’s Japanese shogunate houses

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A couple of novels I’ve been reading over the Christmas break have inspired me to do some home improvements to my 4Ground shogunate houses. You can see the result in the above photo, as some 28mm Perry Miniatures samurai warriors battle it out in the garden (click on the photo for a closer view).

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The novels responsible for this burst of enthusaism are David Kirk’s pair of bold and vivid historical epics of feudal Japan, based on the real-life exploits of the legendary samurai Musashi Miyamoto.

In Child of Vengeance, Miyamoto is a high-born but lonely teenager living in his ancestral village. He takes the samurai’s path awash with blood, bravery, and vengeance, culminating in the epochal battle of Sekigahara.

Sword of Honour depicts the feud between Miyamoto and the esteemed Yoshioka Sword School in Japan’s former capital of Kyoto.

Now, I can’t say how accurate or not these novels are, as I am not too knowledgeable about samurai. However, what I can say is that they definitely provide the feel of the place and period. The characters aren’t just western heroes transposed to an oriental setting, but instead act and talk as thought they really are Japanese – helped no doubt by the fact that the author himself lives in Japan.

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After reading the novels, I decided to pull out my existing samurai scenery. I’ve got several 4Ground buildings, which I’ve been very pleased with (see my 2014 review of these kits). But seeing them out of storage for the first time in a while, I’ve realised that the teddy-bear fur thatched roofs look like … er … teddy-bear fur. You can see this in the above picture that I took a few years ago (with a couple of Kingsford miniature figures in the foreground).

I recall in shows where I’ve used these buildings that several little children seemed to take inordinate interest in the roofs of my houses, more than anything else on the table. Now that I think about it, I even heard one of them whispering to her parents that it looked like my roofs were made out of a teddy – can’t fool kids!

So, some home improvements were in order.

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This morning I took a big brush and sloshed a watery burnt umber artists’ acrylic paint all over the thatch. Once this was completely dry, I dry-brushed the roof with a range of ochres, yellows and even white. The results now look a lot more realistic (and certainly a lot less teddy-like!).

Whilst I was at it, I thought the original wooden verandah roofs and ridge decorations were a bit too stark. So they all received a watered-down burnt umber wash as well.

Hopefully the occupants of my little houses are happy with the renovations. Sayonara!

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