Monday, January 21, 2013

My British Buildings

I've had a few requests to reveal where the buildings came from that have been seen in the background of some of my VBCW and Doctor Who photos.  These are paper railway models produced by

I don't usually like paper buildings for the sturdiness issue, but there didn't seem to be much out there in the way of British buildings for 28mm figures.  Plus, I wanted to have enough buildings for some urban fighting, and I'd go broke trying to buy it all in resin.  I happened to stumble across the scalescenes site, and since they had a free trial warehouse facade available for download (pictured below), I thought I'd try it out.

Note:  The kit didn't come with a back wall, so I cheated with a section of cobblestone street and added some resin boxes

Now the largest size produced is in OO gauge (1/76), but since you buy these as downloadable PDFs from the website, you have the ability to scale up during printing.  Being in the US, the largest size paper I could fit into a standard copier/printer was 11"x17" (28cm x 43cm).  With this I was able to go up to 120%  (1/63) before I started getting alerts that the image was exceeding the paper size. (After printing, I saw there was a bit of white border around the edges, so I might have been able to push it further.  However, by that stage I didn't want to pay for reprints).  With larger European paper, you may be able to get closer to the 138% needed for 28mm figures.

Thant being said, the buildings don't look too bad even for being undersized:

At 120%, door sizes run about 30-32mm, which is just under the height of these Artizan figures.  The thicker bases magnify this a bit more, but when they are off the sidewalk, it is less pronounced.  Based on my initial warehouse assessment, I decided to take the plunge and order more kits.

Most kits come in a few texture finishes (you usually get one texture per purchased PDF), but they come with a variety of finishing details so that no two buildings have to look alike.  The details cover buildings from the start of the 20th Century up until the modern era. 
Various shop signs and interiors

Door variants, along with curtains and interior details
Most of the kits come with about15-30 pages, though some of these are for variant items and may not be used for your individual build.  Depending on the kit, they will either be full buildings or facades that are about 3.5cm deep (I'm using the later on the table edges).  Luckily, the company provides you with fairly decent directions for assembly.
My major worry about the sturdiness of the kits (I have small children in the apartment) turned out to be unfounded.  The paper sheets need to be glued on to various thicknesses of card stock for assembly.  For the light card stock (usually architectural details), I am using manila folders.  Medium and thick card stock proved harder to find, so I got some art board that runs about 1.5mm thick (these were doubled up when thick card was required).  By the time you've assembled your building, many of the main structural elements will be 3-8mm thick.
Low relief shop under construction. Floors and interior details can be altered. The vintage advertising on the side was added from images that come with the kit.

The back of the above model, giving you some indication of the layers of 1.5mm art board used during assembly.
 With the introduction out of the way, let's take a look at a couple of the kits.

First up is TO22, Small Terraced Houses:
 In these builds, I used additional building textures from add on kit T022a, and I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the shop fronts from kit T023 could also be fitted to these homes.  The chimney stacks were made out of small drinking straws, but I found these to break easily and switched to plastic tubing on my later buildings.

Next up is kit T005, Low Relief High Street:

Three of the five fronts in the kit
As you can see, these are half buildings
Close up of the shop details - the kit even came with the newspapers to put on the table
The kit even gives you a few blank signs where you can type in a custom shop name.  If you have Adobe Acrobat, you can further adjust the fonts and font colors of the signs.  For this shop, I've named it after my grandfather, who taught woodworking.
This kit gives you quite a bit a variety with which to work.  There are five different facades, two of which give you two different brick/stone textures to choose from. For the lower shops, there are two large and two smalls styles, available in a few different colors, complete with fixtures.  You also have about 30 shop signs from various eras to select from, along with advertising.  Since I started building this kit, scalescenes has released kit T005a, which is the back sides of these shops.  From the website, it appears this second kit can be combined with the first to form complete buildings.

 The kits were fun to build, but quite a bit of work.  I used a medium hobby blade (you will burn through a lot) and metal ruler for cutting, so hand fatigue became a problem after a while.  With manual cutting I also had trouble keeping the blade perpendicular, so ended up with unintentional angles on my pieces that required trimming for a decent fit (I cannot recommend dry fitting pieces prior to gluing highly enough).  Luckily, you glue a lot of the textures to the card after cutting, so that helped hide some of my errors.  If you have the budget and storage space, it may be worth investing in a mat board cutter jig for these kits.

Another thing that you'll have to watch out for is that, depending on the thickness of your card stock, your pieces may be thicker than what is is allowed for on the printed images.  A common example I ran into was with the interior floors; using the guides in the building, the sides of the floor sections were sometimes visible behind the windows below (luckily the board was white, and I had white window frames, so t wasn't completely obvious).  Again, dry fit before gluing.  Also, be sure to have a fair amount of clamps to hold things together while they dry and some touch up paint.

Overall, I have very happy with the kits, but they do have their pros and cons:

  • Not too expensive
  • High quality images/textures
  • Can get a good variety of buildings
  • Fairly sturdy
  • Couldn't quite print them large enough for 28mm figures (may not be a problem for others)
  • Take a long time to build and cutting is fatiguing for your hands (and hobby blades)
  • No easy way to make them so that figures can be placed in the buildings
I still have a stack more to build, so will add those to the blog when they are complete.

My Initial Ground Forces for VBCW

Now that the planes have been completed, I've returned to the ground forces I started working on before the holidays. 

First up are some British troops:
Rather than paint them specifically for the Edwardian or Georgian factions, I've used a generic scheme with webbing colors for the late 1930's. This will let me use them for either faction, and also allow them to be used for WWII gaming as well.  Figures are from Artizan Designs and are very nice.

To give them some support, they have a Lanchester Mk II 6x4 Armoured Car:

This was produced by Copplestone Castings in 1/55 scale.  The kits is resin and white metal, and comes with no assembly instructions.  Luckily it comes with very few pieces, but I did have to find a photo reference to figure out how to mount the front axle.  The kit was reasonably well cast for resin, though there were some air bubbles to fill in (luckily most were on the bottom).  The front wheels tend to flare out a bit under the weight of the kit, but I hesitate to keep bending them back in case they finally break off. The detail isn't all that great (the other side looks rather plain, and I wish they had the upper lights and radio aerial mount), and the proportions don't seem completely accurate when compared to photos of the real thing, but it will work for the wargaming table.   For the paint job, I referenced images on taken of a car at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Next up are the local constabulary:
These were originally purchased for Doctor Who gaming, but were pressed into service once I got the VBCW bug.  Again, these are produced by Artizan and are very nice sculpts.

Finally, the first of my fascists came off the work table this morning:
These were originally German Nacht Jagers from Artizan's Thrilling Tales pulp line, but they will now be German equiped assault troops for the British Union.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Doctor Who

Another set of older figures - this time from another favorite series of mine, Doctor Who.

First up, the original five Doctors:
These are from the FASA range (I believe originally released by Citadel in the UK, but converted from slotta to integrated bases for the US market). They have the big heads common for 80's miniatures, but overall I think they have good character and I like them.

Next up are my favorite villains, the Cybermen:
These are produced by Black Tree and are still on the market.  Though I like the Tomb and Invasion era Cybermen the best, I think the sculpts of the Earthshock era figures look better (at least from the catalog).  Sadly, there are only two poses for the standard Cybermen, and the molds seem to be showing a bit of wear, as they had a bit of flash built up under the guns that required some hacking and filing.  The one odd figure is the Cybercontroller - he is a bit shorter than the other figures, so he looks a bit stumpy compared to his followers.

Another set of Black Tree figures. These are a bit wonky:  they're asymmetrical and just look a bit lopsided. But when they are the only thing ocurrently on the market, I guess yo have to live with it. I like the chrome look of the earlier Daleks rather than the drab grey I grew up with, so they've been painted up in 60's  livery.  For the scientist Dalek, I used Doctor Who movie colors for a bit of variety.

My final villains are the Ice Warriors of Mars:
The original three figures I had were from the FASA line in the 80's.  Overall, very nice sculpts that are well proportioned for the time. These have been filled out with two figures from Black Tree, who hulk over the others with their chunky sculpts.

Finally, to help out the Doctors are the Brigadier, Sargent Benton, and some of their U.N.I.T. blokes:
Again, more big-headed 80's figures from FASA. For some reason Sgt. Benton is a bit bigger than the others, but what are you going to do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

VBCW Aircraft

Finally a new project to talk about.  I've developed an interest in starting Very British Civil War (VBCW) gaming, and some of the first items to roll off the worktable are aircraft:

These planes are 1/72 Airfix kits that run between $7-10 locally.  They are a bit under scaled for 28mm figures, but for airborne craft I think it looks better than 1/48 and also lets me get away with smaller bases.

First up is a Gloster Sea Gladiator for my British Union Fascists:

Sea Gladiator
From the box, this is an older issue kit, and it really showed.  There was a lot of flash, the panel lines didn't match up well between the two halves, and decals were minimal.  I had originally hoped to paint this in the 1937 RAF aluminum color scheme, but felt that it would really reveal the kit limitations.  As such, I went for a later (1940 if I remember correctly) Sea Gladiator camouflage scheme to hide some of those defects (though the kit didn't include arrestor hooks, so that is now a bit off).   I also scavenged some decal from other kits to make it look a bit more complete.  The roundels were originally from a WWI biplane kit (Russian, I believe) and I painted in the lighting bolts over the center.  This was a bit of a challenge, as the decals were old and started flaking during painting, but I think I have them fairly well sealed now.  The kit didn't come with any detailed rigging instructions, so I did my best from the box art using some black plastic line I picked up at an Osaka hobby shop many years ago.  Sadly I broke two drill bits during the process.

Next up is a Supermarine Spitfire Mk I:

Spitfire Mk I
From the red box, I believe this is a newer kit, and it was much better than the Gladiator.  The pieces were crisply molded, fairly well detailed, and the fit was good during assembly.  It also comes with a ton of decals, some of which are so small I'm not even sure people will even notice them.  I was worried that the plastic aerial would snap off easily (and I no longer had the small drill bit to make a hole for the line), so it was replaced with a bit of metal paperclip.  The paint scheme is from 1938, so fits in perfectly for the desired time frame.  I decided to use the standard British roundels so that I could get away with using it for either Edwardian or Georgian forces (or for WWII). 
Finally there is my Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc:

Hurricane Mk IIc
Another red box kit like the Spitfire, and it is also a quality product. Now this variant is a bit late for VBCW (I believe it entered service in 1941), but I couldn't find a Mk I version locally (I like to support brick and mortar shops when I can).  So I'm just going to convince myself that in this alternative history, Hurricane production development proceeded at a more rapid pace than reality.  I've assigned this craft to my Scottish forces.  The paint scheme was one used in the UK in 1941, but I've swapped out the roundels for ones used in East Asia, painting over the pale blue centers with white. I also used some Navy markings on the underside, painting the black stripes blue.

The bases were made from 1/16" brass rod and some 3" wooden disks from the local craft store that have been double stacked to 1/4" in height to help stabilize the rods.  I was a bit worried about the planes being top heavy and tipping over easily during gaming, so about a dozen pennies have been glued to the top of each base (the older ones work better, as they are heavier).  I can now get up to a 20-30 degree tilt and they'll still pop back to upright.  The bases were finished with Liquitex resin sand texture gel and some real rock, then painted in what I call "British rock quarry", a style that I came up with for my Doctor Who figures.  This is intended to allow it to blend into both rural and urban settings.

Overall I was very happy with how they came out.  Now I just need to get some ground forces painted up so they have someone to strafe.

Miami Vice

Another old project of mine.  I was (and still am) a big fan of the old 80's Miami Vice show, so I thought it would be fun to put some figures together for skirmishes.  No one really makes figures for all the characters and villains, but I was able to assemble a reasonable group out of Copplestone Castings'  Future Wars  and EM-4's Future Skirmish.  The EM-4 figures are slightly smaller, but it's the same sculptor, so they mix alright.  I would not try to include  any of Foundry's Street Violence range with the other two though, as the samples I've seen are much larger in size.  As far as painting goes, the clothing for the main characters are all based on items seen during the show (yes, I actually spent time analyzing episodes and wardrobe photos on the Miami Vice Community).
Vice Squad
Tubbs & Crockett
Tubbs and Crockett come from Copplestone Pack FW26 (Bad Guys in Suits). Tubbs has had the sideburns and moustache filed off, while Crockett's machine gun was cut down to make it look like a handgun.
Gina and Trudy
Gina and Trudy are from pack FW46 (Corporate Babes 2) and did not require any modification.
Castillo & Switek
Lt. Castillo is from FW24 (Men in Black, figure on the far right), and has had his hair modified with green stuff.  Switek is from FW26 (same packet as Tubbs & Crockett, figure on far right), with green stuff hair added.  Sadly, I couldn't find a suitable figure for his partner Zito, so I'll have to set any action after his death.

Drug Dealers
The drug dealers are a mix of figures from both companies, some with green stuff mullets added.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Very British Civil War Radio

For those of you who are interested, I've created a VBCW radio station on Spotify.  It includes period music, news broadcasts, speeches, and sound effects.


To start this blog, I'm going to revisit some of my earlier projects.  First up, is  my stalled WWI Deutsch-Ostafrika project in 28mm.  I  began this a few years back, but currently only have the German side painted. 

Schutztruppe Officers and Porters

 Here are some Schutztruppe officers.  The officers are a mix of Brigade Games and Copplestone Castings figures. The Copplestone German figures are slightly larger than Brigade's, but it's not too significant and the sculpting styles are very similar, so I think they can be mixed without problem.  Note that this is only for the German lines - the size difference between English figures is much more pronounced (Copplestone has a bit of size creep).  Overall, they are very nice figures and well worth the money.

Sadly, I can't say the same for the porters in the background.  These came out of Old Glory's Darkest Africa line.  The sculpting is a bit rough, and the casting quality was abysmal.  Lots of  flash and misaligned molds - the baggage took quite a bit of filing and filling to get them to look presentable.  These figures come with a separate head system, which allows you to increase the variability of the figures, but the neck fits were poor and usually required a a lot if green stuff to fill them in.  If you don't have much of a budget and can tolerate a lot of work,  they are usable.  
Schutztruppe Askari
 Next up are some German Askari.  Again a mix of Brigade and Copplestone figures, both well sculpted and cast.  For a painting guide, I suggest using the excellent German Colonial Uniforms site. In my case, I've opted for a ragged late war look, with many of the figures using captured or locally produced clothing. 
Kaiserliche Marines
 The navel forces presented here represent survivors of the scuttled cruiser SMS Königsberg. Another ragtag unit, wearing bits of both summer and winter uniforms.  Painting information can be found at the uniform site listed above.  These figures are predominately Brigade figures, with only the officers coming from Copplestone. 

 Last, we have some Azande warriors.  While looking for Ruga Ruga figures at a local hobby store, I came a across Foundry figures with hand weapons in a clearance bin for $2. They weren't quite what I wanted (and old enough not to include the shields), but at that price they were a steal.  Plus since they lived in some of the neighboring territories to Ostafrika, such as the Belgian Congo, I didn't think it was too much of a stretch to think my forces could have recruited them along their journeys.  These had Old Glory shields added and were further filled out with Copplestone Azande carrying muskets.   The Copplestone figures were a bit taller, but it's the same sculptor for both lines and I think they still look OK together.