Category Archives: Terrain

Sights and sounds of the Netherlands in miniature

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Today’s posting has nothing to do with the hobby of wargaming. But if you like terrain modelling, or model railways, or the Netherlands, or video sound-mixing, there’ll be something here for you! Especially if you consider that the above and below photos aren’t of a real Dutch double-decker train, but a model in 1:25 scale.

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Although I was born and live in New Zealand, my heritage is Dutch – both my parents emigrated here in the 1950s. So I love visiting the Netherlands to explore my ‘roots’.

Most people when they think of the Netherlands imagine windmills, or tulips, or dikes. For me, one of my first impressions of the Netherlands when I visited for the first time back in the 1970s, was the yellow Dutch trains! I was so taken by the dog-nosed Dutch commuter trains that I drew one in my travel diary!

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And that impression has remained right to this day, through my many return trips to the land of yellow trains. During this time the Dutch national railway company has continued to use yellow and blue as their livery colours, albeit in different configurations as the trains have modernised over the years.

Keeping the same colours for so many decades is surely unusual in the corporate world, where PR people will change colours and logos on a whim, with no thought towards preserving tradition.

Another memory from that first trip to the Netherlands was visiting the miniature city of Madurodam, an amazing model town situated in The Hague. Madurodam recreates many of the characteristic locations of the Netherlands in 1:25 scale. Having always been fascinated by models, I was captivated, and spent many happy hours there!

I hadn’t given much more thought to Madurodam for many years, until the other day I stumbled across a YouTube video depicting a railway view of this miniature city. Not only does the camerawork beautifully capture the tiny scenery that so entranced me back in 70s, the film-maker has married the visuals to appropriate audio that adds to the experience. And there are yellow trains – lots of yellow trains!

Watch the Madurodam video:

This is not the first Dutch model railway video I’ve seen recently that uses realistic audio. One of my favourite examples is taken at Miniworld Rotterdam.

It explores this huge 1:87 layout, starting with a small Dutch town and the countryside (complete with windmills!), and ending up in the bustling heart of a miniature Rotterdam, with trams, motorways, and even ship-building at the Europoort harbour. And, of course, yellow trains …

Watch the Miniworld Rotterdam video:

Certainly inspiring model-work for wargamers!

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Filed under Uncategorized, Terrain, Family history, Travel

Fantastic new 3D-printed pirate ships!

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Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum! At last I’m able to mention a project I’ve been working on for the last month, which has been shrouded in secrecy.

I was helping out my mates at Printable Scenery to prepare for their new ‘Lost Islands’ Kickstarter, which launched this morning. They asked me to build a couple of their prototype ship models for use in the photography on their site. I was only too happy to oblige, but I was sworn to secrecy to ensure maximum impact when the Kickstarter came out.

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I almost let the cat out of the bag when I posted some photos of the model sloop at sea in my swimming pool (yes, they actually float!) … but that was before I realised there was a secrecy clause, so I had to quickly delete the pics when I found out.

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Anyway, all can now be revealed! The models are part of Printable Scenery’s new ‘Lost Islands’ Kickstarter. This is a collection of highly detailed 3D printable port buildings, ships, and tribes for home 3D printers, shown in the short video below:

As the Kickstarter publicity says:

Swashbuckling adventure awaits. Sail with your motley crew from the wretched streets of Port Winterdale to the jungle tribes of the Lost Islands. Defeat monsters, pirates and explore the world with nothing more than a barrel of rum, a fine ship and the stars to guide the way.

Each pledge is delivered as an STL file pack to print on a home 3D printer. If you haven’t got a printer, then Printable Scenery also maintain a list of licenced printers around the world who can do the job for you.

My brief was to build, paint and rig the two ships in the new collection – a sloop and a frigate.

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The first model I made was the sloop. The hull was dead easy to paint – just a black undercoat, then dry brushing with a couple of shades of brown, and painting in details such as the carving, bolts and ironwork.

A final dry-brush with the lightest of coats of white really brings out the detail, and weathers it at the same time. But use only a very light touch – if you use too much white, the ship will look like its sailing the polar regions!

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The rigging is the biggest challenge of making a sailing ship model. But I found it very easy in the end. I used a couple of pictures of real sloops to give me an idea, then cut some pieces of dowel to size. I roughly scratch-built the cross-trees where the main and top mast join together.

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I gave the masts and yards  tapered ends with a pencil sharpener. They were then all stained with normal household wood stain. I chose a rather dark walnut shade that I happened to have on hand. However, if I were to do this again, I would get an oak stain instead, I think.

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Once the mast and bowsprit were done, then I started on the rigging. And this is where I found out the secret to ship modelling – use thin elastic instead of cotton or thread. With the latter, it is difficult to keep everything tight. But elastic keeps every shroud and stay of your rigging completely tawt.

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I had an added challenge – my project brief from Printable Scenery was to make the ships so they could be folded up to be transported from New Zealand to the USA to go on display at the GaryCon and AdeptiCon shows.

By using elastic, this problem was quite simply solved. I just placed the masts into their holes in the hull without gluing, so they were held in place with the elastic rigging. To fold everything down, all you have to do is lift the mast against the stretchiness of the elastic until it pops out of its hole, then lie everything flat on the deck. Reassembling, you just do the opposite. Simples!

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The actual model (though not the early prototype I built) will have accompanying layers to portray the interior, so your miniatures can fight ‘below decks’ a well. Cool!

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The frigate was a bit more challenging, as it has three masts. I also wanted to experiment with adding furled sails.

The hull was painted in the same way as the sloop, though I decided to add a a bit more colour, such as the blue and white upper-works, and the red insides to the bulwarks.

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I used some cardboard to scratch-build the fighting tops that hold the top-masts to the fore and main masts, and a simple set of cross-trees for the mizzen mast. Winding a bit of string around the masts at intervals adds some interesting contrast to the plain dowel.

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The hardest part was that I decided to move the position of the platforms where the shrouds and ratlines are attached to the hull. I preferred them to be smaller than on the printed model, and aligned behind each mast, rather than forward. A bit of cutting and gluing of the platforms, and, hey presto, quickly done!

The ratlines are formed by gluing bits of cotton across the shrouds (tying them on was far too fiddly for me!). The sails are some light linen folded into position and tied onto the yards with elastic.

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Of course, I just had to see if this ship would float too, and, sure enough, it did! Hmm, playing a wargame in a swimming pool – that brings to mind some ideas for the future …!

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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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