Monday, 26 September 2022

Construction Vehicles on the Shelf


Next to the desk where I do all my writing and painting is a large bookcase. This is where I keep most of my favourite books, my gaming books, and my own works, so that they are all within easy reach while I work. However, I keep one shelf open for one of my current painting projects. This both beautifies the room and also encourages me to continue with the given project. Right now, the shelf contains my Dropship Down stuff. 

Most recently added to the shelf is a second construction vehicle from the Games Workshop Galvanic Servohauler set. It's a really great set and can mostly be painted in a generic way if you don't want to use it for the 'grimdark universe'.

I painted this smaller one to more or less match the first one, with a dirty, weather-beaten look. I try not to spend too long on such things as they are basically just terrain and most of the detail is wasted when viewed at 'playing distance'. Also, I don't want the terrain to outshine, or distract from, the miniatures during play.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

The Red Guardian



Last year was not a particularly good year for me. Professionally, things went well, but I had some major struggles with anxiety. I won’t go into that here or now, but thankfully, I am doing much better at present, and generally feeling a lot more positive about life!

During those rougher times, one of the things that helped get me through was a return to the Marvel Comics I had loved as a teenager. I got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited and read something like a thousand comics during the year. (That’s getting my money’s worth!). I also started painting Marvel Crisis Protocol figures.

I think MCP is a pretty cool game, with some very neat and interesting mechanics that really simulate the feel of super battles. If that is your thing, it is definitely worth a look. It is, however, a very tactical, competitive game with lots of intricacies and rules interactions, which isn't what I’m usually looking for when I play miniatures games. So really, I have just been collecting and painting the figures, more as modelling/painting projects than as gaming pieces. I love getting to paint with brighter colours than I usually use on my fantasy/sci-fi figures! Plus, the figures are larger, which is nice on my slowly fading eyesight!

I haven’t posted any of that work to my blog because I was trying to stay offline more, and to keep one bit of the hobby to myself. These days though, as I am feeling better, I have started to have the desire to show off some of my work. So, here is the latest MCP figure I have painted: The Red Guardian.

In truth, I’m not overly familiar with the character. I have come across his team, the Winter Guard, a few times, but they never made much impression on me. That said, I really love the four figures they have released for the team. What I really like about Red Guardian is how generic he is. I mean, aside from his colours, he’s just about a ‘typical superhero’ at least in my mind. I painted him mostly by the book, except for his shield, which I made all red and white because I thought it more striking and fitting.

For the red body suit, I tried something new, in that I layered the red up by adding yellow to it. It’s subtle, but I think it worked well without making him go orange. Thankfully, I was able to use an ink to pick out the little hammer and sickle on his belt buckle, because that is some tiny detail!

I will likely go back and show off some of the other figures I have painted over the last year and a half.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

'Goose Guys'

The other day my son came into my office and asked me a question about the 'Goose Guys' on my shelf, and I realized it has been awhile since I showed off my progress on my Dol Amroth army. I have slowly been adding figures to it over the last 6 months. I'm still a long way from where I want to be, but I have made progress. 

As can be seen, the army currently consists of:

  • 1 Swan Knight, Mounted
  • 6 Swan Knights, Foot
  • 6 Swordsmen
  • 4 Spearmen
  • 4 Archers

So, 21 figures in total. Not bad. My first goal is to bring the swordsmen, spearmen, and archers up to 8 men each. That way they can take the place of a standard 'Gondor' force as seen in some many Middle-Earth SBG scenarios. I then want to increase all three of those units to 12 men each and bring the mounted force up to 6 to serve as my army for Lion Rampant. Eventually, I want to have enough to use for Oathmark.


I am talking with a some friends about doing some 'extended format' Battle Companies games that would allow me to get some of the guys some early experience.


Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Does Anyone Roll a d6

 And think, I got a '9'!


Some sparkly dice I picked up in Copenhagen in order to make GURPS rolls. Actually, I've just kept them on my desk and rolled randomly every once and while. I call it work.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Searching for Giants around Copenhagen

Little Tilde and my hired bike.

My family recently returned from (another) trip to Denmark & Sweden. It hadn’t been a plan to return this soon… it just kind of happened. We flew into Copenhagen, and my wife immediately took the kids on the train into Sweden to see her sister, while I spent a couple of days on my own in the capital of Denmark. I found a cheapish hotel with pint-sized rooms, but containing everything I needed.

I spent my first day visiting Copenhagen’s numerous ‘geek shops’. I’ve mentioned the gaming stores before – and this time I got to thoroughly explore them and even have a few chats with the employees. It happened to be Free RPG day, so I picked up a few those, along with a big stack of used GURPS books, and a few paints. I also went to the Fantask bookshop, which is devoted to fantasy/sci-fi. Of course, I also went to the LEGO store, because you just kind of have to…

The Hand!
By the second day, I was a bit tired of the city crowds and felt the need to stretch my legs. So, I rented a bike from the hotel, and set off in search of ‘The Forgotten Giants of Copenhagen’ – a series of six wooden sculptures of giants by the artist Thomas Dambo, hidden in natural beauty spots outside of the city. My attempts to buy a decent map of the area the previous day had been thwarted, so I was relying on a few scribbled maps I made from the internet and (mostly) my phone.

I left the hotel at 7AM, long before most Danes are awake, but got off to a slow start. The bike I hired, which is really for toodling around the city, was heavy and slow. To break, I had to push the pedals backwards, which isn’t something I’ve done on a bike since I was a child. After awhile though, I got the hang of it. My journey began on the long, and mostly dull roads out of town. The only point of interest here is that every road had wide, raised, cycle lanes running next to them, so I was never in traffic, which made it much more pleasant than many cycles in Britain. I took a slightly longer route than was necessary, because I wanted to hug the coastline, which soon afforded me fantastic views both of the Baltic Sea and the city as it receded behind me.

I passed a few other cyclists, and a jogger or two, but mostly I was alone, as I left the roads and continued over well-maintained cycle tracks. I had to frequently check my phone to ensure I was going the right direction… in truth, I have a very poor sense of direction and get lost easily. After about an hour, I had left all traces of the city behind, and rolled through lovely parkland near the shore, seeing lots of little islands and fancy boats.

About 90 minutes after I left the hotel, I caught my first sight of a giant… well, actually what I saw was a strange knobbly bit of wood surrounding the railing of a bridge. As I got off the bike and walked up, I could see this was a hand. Leaning over the side, I looked right down on the face of the first giant (Oscar under the Bridge). Nearby, a little path led down to the giant, and I spent some time with him while having a cereal bar.

Back on my bike, a short time later, I headed inland, on a path that ran through rolling, well-maintained land. For one moment, I thought I might have to abandoned my quest, as the path was blocked by a series of ribbons. It turned out this was just a warning, as some kind of equestrian event was getting underway. After a few horsemen and women thundered by, a woman raised the ribbon and let me pass on. Soon I rolled through a nice suburb, on quite cycle paths, before shooting out into another park.

This park contained a long cycle path that ran all the way around a lake. I got slightly lost here, but soon realized I had to go off the main path, into a small woods in order to find my second giant – Little Tilde.

What is perhaps most amazing about these giants is that despite their size, neither could be easily seen until you were right on top of them. Perhaps those stories of bigfoot and trolls are more believable than I thought!

I really wanted to carry on – there was a third giant very close by – but my phone was now on 11% battery, and I had no way of recharging on the go (a major oversight that will be rectified in the future). Without the phone, I didn’t like my chances of finding my way home, and, in truth, I had been cycling for nearly three hours on that heavy bike and decided it was best not to push it. Nothing wrong with leaving something fun to do next time!

The way back to the hotel wasn’t near as nice as the journey out, as I took the most direct way along the road – but again, there was a nice cycle path all the way, and the roads weren’t generally busy anyway. I did see a giant hare on the trip back, though he eluded my attempt to photograph him.

I arrived back at the hotel about 4.5 hours after I set out, having covered a bit over 27 miles. I must admit, I was rather tired. In a stroke of luck, the route back had revealed that my hotel was right near a movie theatre, which I hadn’t know. So, that afternoon, too tired to do much else, I went to see Thor: Love and Thunder (subtitled in Danish). I thoroughly enjoy it! It’s a strange mix of silly and serious, but it works.

The next morning, I hopped a train and headed up to Sweden to meet-up with my family!



Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Herdstone

 

This terrain piece was a gift from a friend that sat in my painting queue for over a year. In truth, I was a little intimidated by it. It's got loads of detail. Actually, though, it painted up really easy, and I think it looks awesome. It's a 'Herdstone' from Games Workshop's Age of Sigmar line, which has produced some fantastic terrain. I'm sure I'll find some uses for it in my own games. I'm already thinking it would make a pretty good objective in my Rangers of Shadow Deep: Ghost Stone campaign! 

I included the latest recruit to my Dol Amroth army for scale purposes. 



Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Building with Bits


Finished up my third building for my Dropship Down project. I got a little fancier with this one, in that I glued some 'bits' onto it, just to add a little visual interest and make it look more sci-fi. The bits are all vehicle parts from either Games Workshop or North Star's Gaslands plastics. I honestly think a little goes a long way with this. I'm still a long way away from a full table, but slow and steady will get me there eventually!


Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Squad Support and Construction Equipment

 

Work slowly continues on my Dropship Down project. First up, I added a couple of troopers with 'squad support weapons' as theses were lacking in my platoon. I'm trying to assemble 4 man fireteams, each with a support weapon. These guys are straight Stargrave builds. Most of it comes from the Mercenaries set, though there might be some Troopers pieces in there as well.

I also finished painting a construction tractor of some sort. This is part of the Games Workshop Galvanic Servohaulers set. I wish it didn't have the big mechanicum skulls on it, but otherwise, it's a lovely piece, and a perfect bit of scatter terrain. I admit, I didn't want to spend a large amount of time painting it, so it's is primarily two colours. That said, I did take the opportunity to test out some 'Weathering Pencils' that I bought in Copenhagen. These are pretty neat as you just draw directly onto the model, and then apply a bit of water. (These come from AK Interactive). I really didn't spend long on it, but I think it did a great job of giving the vehicle an old, rusty, weather-beaten look. With a bit more time and practice, I can see these being great tools.

What's next? Well, I definitely need to build a lot more terrain. I'd also like to assemble a rocket-launcher team, to give the platoon a bit of heavy firepower in case of enemy vehicles. Then, I think it will be time for another vehicle. We'll see.





Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Faraos Cigarer – Copenhagen

Recently, I had the good fortune to spend a day in Copenhagen with my family. It was the first trip to this intriguing city for any of us. In the morning, we took the kids to the Aquarium, and they were entranced by the hammerhead sharks (among other things). After lunch, my wife wanted to take the canal tour, so we spent a relaxing hour floating along, going under bridges, and seeing lots of interesting sites. After that, it was my turn. I wanted to visit the local gaming store. While we managed to turn a 15-minute walk into a half-hour walk, not including the drink break, we eventually found it… our should I say ‘them’.

Upon walking into Faraos Cigarer, I knew I was walking into a special store. It was big, and positively crammed with games. My first stop was the role-playing wall. And I do mean ‘wall’. A giant shelf, fifteen-or-more feet high, and nearly the width of the shop, it had everything. The only downside is that I could only reach about 40% of the books on the wall! (In fairness, even their tallest customers are going to need a ladder for some items).

On the other side of the shop they had a section of discount games and used/collectable games, including more than a few rarities (priced appropriately). I took advantage of some of the cheaper options, picking up a couple of the out-of-print Fantasy Flight, Warhammer 40,000 RPG Books. I also found a 3rd Ed GURPS book that I have wanted for a while, in near-mint condition!

With my wife entertaining the kids, I knew I was on limited time, so I ran around the shop a bit like a headless chicken. I only skimmed the board games, knowing I didn't have space to carry any of them back, but soon I realized something was missing – miniature games! When I made my purchases, I asked the guy at the counter if they carried any mini games and he said – they were in their other shop, just around the corner!

Checking in with my wife, she insisted that I take a look at this new store, even though the kids were getting hungry and tired. I’m so glad she did. Although the second store wasn’t quite as big, it was just as crammed with goodies. One wing of the store was devoted to collectable card games, the other to miniature games. As expected, this was dominated by Games Workshop, but had a good selection of other stuff as well. They even had a chunk of my own games! I’m hoping that means they are popular and not that they bought in a bunch they couldn’t sell!

The store also had a downstairs gaming area reached by a spiral staircase in the middle of the shop. I picked up a few items from this shop as well, which I’ll talk about in later posts, and had a quick chat with the guy at the counter. It was Magic night, and he was a Magic guy, so he didn’t know much about mini-games played in the store, other than they happened sometime.

Amazingly, they also have a comic store in close proximity, but I didn’t have time to check out it.

Honestly, if you put those two shops I did see together, it might just be the best gaming store I have ever seen. I feel like I have a little unfinished business exploring them, and I know what I’ll be concentrating on next time I’m in Copenhagen (I do also want to check out the National Museum).

** Curiously, if you took a guess at the translation of the store name, you would probably be close. It apparently means 'Pharaoh's Cigars'. There must be a story behind that name.

Monday, 23 May 2022

Newest Recruits

 

I painted up a couple of new recruits for my colonial marines this weekend. These both come from the Stargrave Mercenaries box (with possible arms from the Troopers box). I am taking a 'Star Wars Approach' to this force, by which I mean that most of the soldiers are human with a smattering of aliens mixed in. Not only does this give the force some nice variety, but it means I can occasionally use those purple and magenta paints that don't get a lot of use!


Friday, 20 May 2022

Army of Dol Amroth


 (Click on photo for a bigger shot)

The other project I have been working on is my Army of Dol Amroth. This photo shows off most of my progress so far.  I've got 5 swordsmen with their swan/star shields. I've got three archers, and I have just finished the first of my spearmen, with a new version of the swan symbol on his shield. All of those figures are Fireforge plastics. In the middle is a mounted Games Workshop knight and another on foot. I've actually got 5 more foot knights, I just haven't dug them out of the box yet. My main goal here is to get the swordsmen, spearmen, and archers up to 6 man units. (Then 8, then 12!).  I'd like to add some more mounted knights, but I really like the metal ones, and they are rather expensive these days, being out-of-print. I will probably add one every so often.


Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Colonial Marines


(Click on the photo to embiggen)

I haven't been blogging as much lately, no major reason for this. It's just been nice weather, and I have been doing other things. But I'm still doing a bit of painting on several different projects. Today, I just wanted to show off my slowly advancing 'Dropship Down' project. These are my colonial marine forces, and my junk-made terrain. Basically, from this point, I just want to add a bit more of everything. More terrain, more troops, more vehicles. There is something refreshingly simple about the project. I enjoy the way I haven't tied it to any ruleset or even specifically to any line of miniatures - though I admit I really am enjoying the Stargrave plastics, especially the Mercenaries box! 

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Roll vs. Evil

For awhile now I've been trading emails with Chris Birch, the head of Modiphius (who publish the Rangers of Shadow Deep rulebook) about the idea of translating 'gaming good' into 'real world good'. Well, Chris took that idea and he ran with it! Modiphius have just launched a new charity called Roll vs. Evil devoted to the concept.

They are kicking things off by calling upon all gamers to dedicate their games this weekend to the cause and to donate money to help fight human trafficking along the Ukrainian border

Growing up, I always wanted to be a hero, a paladin, who fought to help people. These days, I've realized I'm more like 'support staff' in the fight against evil, but that's an important role too! 

I'm excited by the chance to help out. I would love for people to dedicate any games of Frostgrave, Stargrave, Rangers of Shadow Deep, Oathmark, The Silver Bayonet, and Operation: Last Train that they play this weekend to the cause.

Monday, 7 March 2022

Mustering Dol Amroth

For awhile now, I have considered making a new Gondorian army. I’ve got one, made with the official Games Workshop figures, but it has several drawbacks. First, they are mostly Minas Tirth forces, and while they are great figures, they don’t completely match my vision. Also, with their silver and black colour scheme, I just don’t find them much fun to paint. Finally, the range is limited, both in terms of types of troops, but also poses. I wanted something where I had more freedom to create figures…

Recently, Fireforge released a new box of multi-part Almughavars (Spanish infantry of the late Reconquista period). These guys were almost a perfect match for my vision of Gondorian infantry, so I ordered a box. When I assembled the first one, I liked everything about it except the shield choices. Instead, I gave it a shield from the Oathmark Dwarf Infantry box. This weekend, I got busy painting.


I tried to paint the first one as a Minas Tirith soldier but became frustrated with my inability to paint a white tree. So, I gave up, and had a think. My favourite part of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields has always been the Knights of Dol Amroth, and I do really like Games Workshop’s miniatures of those. Why not paint these guys up as the ‘seven hundreds of men-at-arms’ that Prince Imrahil brought along with his knights to the siege of Minas Tirith?

This allowed me to paint with their striking blue and white colour scheme, but left me in some doubts about the shield. I was sure I couldn’t paint a ‘swan-ship’, and I had my doubts about even managing a swan. I did a little internet research and stumbled across this drawing of Lohengrin, the Swan Knight.

[I’ve got a good knowledge of Arthurian legend, but I must admit, I didn’t recognize the name. This sent me off on a long tangent, and added a couple things to my reading list, but I digress.]

I loved the design on the shield and thought I might be able to paint a version. In the end, I gave it my own twist, painting it as an 8-pointed star with the top point being the head of a swan. It took a lot of work, but eventually I got it looking pretty good (if I do say so myself). After that, the rest of the paint job was easy. I was so enthused by it, I immediately assembled and painted another one!

 

I then added an archer as well. This is made from the Fireforge Folk Rabble box with a head from the Almughavars box and a quiver from my bits box.

I was extremely pleased to see that these guys size-up almost perfectly with the Games Workshop Knights of Dol Amroth which I’ve already got.

So, now I’m planning a multi-system force! My first goal is to paint the 8 swordsmen, 8 spearmen, and 8 archers that are required for almost every Gondorian scenario in the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game. Then, I want to increase each of those units to 12 so that they are ready to go when the new version of Lion Rampant is released later this year. From there, I can hopefully expand the force for games of Oathmark.

What pleases me most about this is knowing that I can easily build other troops or specialist units to add to the army using these guys as the basis. Of course, my enthusiasm for a specific project rarely lasts for a whole army… but we’ll see!

Monday, 21 February 2022

The Imagi-Nation Army is Growing!

I admit, I got a little side-tracked on the Imagi-Nation army that I began with such promise at the start of 2021. Well, it wasn't my best year.

I have made some progress though. Recently I finished up my second, 16-man infantry unit. In celebration of this event, I decided to get the whole 'army' out for a little photo shoot. Okay, the army is just two infantry units and one artillery piece, but that represents a serious amount of painting time!

I've got a lot of choices for what to do next... cavalry? a skirmish unit? a command group? I haven't decided yet, and I'm not going to push it. At some point, I'll get a craving, and when I do, I'll go for it.

For now, I'm just going to revel in my little group of toy soldiers... and maybe get them fighting some zombies or something!



Friday, 4 February 2022

Facing the Dragon

I recently painted up the Oathmark dragon. In truth, it's not my best paint work, and the reason it looks so good has everything to do with the sculpt. As a bit of fun, I took this photo of me (in miniature form, painted by Kev Dallimore) facing the dragon.

The photo, combined with my post yesterday, got me thinking. Kindness, patience, and forgiveness for our fellow travellers in life is so crucial. We really don't know what dragons people are facing. People often look fine 'on the outside', and this is especially true in our modern Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, culture. But every life comes with its own unique challenges, fears, and pain. 

Being a force for good in this world often isn't about huge gestures, or devoting your life to a cause, often its just about offering a little bit of help, support, and understanding to those around us.

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Wisdom from R. L. S.

'It may be argued again that dissatisfaction with our life's endeavour springs in some degree from dulness. We require higher tasks, because we do not recognise the height of those we have. Trying to be kind and honest seems an affair too simple and too inconsequential for gentleman of our heroic mould; we had rather set ourselves to something bold, arduous, and conclusive; we had rather found a schism or suppress a heresy, cut off a hand or mortify an appetite. But the task before us, which is to co-endure with our existence, is rather one of microscopic fineness, and the heroism required is that of patience. There is no cutting of the Gordian knots of life; each must be smilingly unravelled.'

- Robert Louis Stevenson, A Christmas Sermon

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Many years ago, early in my days at Osprey, Phil Smith handed me a bag of model railroad trees and suggested I do something with them. I took them and mounted them onto old CDs, which I then flocked. As it turned out, CDs were not a great choice as the trees didn’t like to remain glued to them, but otherwise the project was a huge success. Those trees featured in almost every battle we fought over the years. They looked great on the table and could be shifted to make very different layouts.

I left those trees when I left Osprey. The ownership was debatable, and I figured the guys there would get more use out of them than me. But recently, I have bene missing those trees, so I decided to create a new set.

I bought a £20 bag of model railroad trees from my local shop. I mounted the first few on some GW vehicle bases I had lying around, and then I ordered some big MDF ovals from Warbases for the rest of them. Both of these worked much better than CDs. I also filed down the bottoms of the trees to get a better adhesive surface. I added a few little patches of flower or tufts from army painter, but wanted to leave them relatively flat, so figures could be placed on the bases.

Anyway, less than £30 and a day of work and I’ve got a pretty substantial woods I can throw on the table. I also have a good number of individually-based trees of other designs I can use to add variety to the table.

I still think this is probably the best and easiest way to make a wilderness table look great!

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Feed Me!

 

I can't honestly say that this figure was the most fun to paint. It's mostly a lot of green and orange. But I love the results! It's such a centrepiece model!

It's a Reaper Bones model. It comes from their latest kickstarter, but I managed to pick it up separately at the last Salute. I added a couple of extra pumpkins on the base, because the more the merrier. 

This guy will likely serve a lot of uses in the future...

Monday, 17 January 2022

Josephamccullough.com


I have a new professional website! Well, at least semi-professional, which is about as professional as I tend to get.

For a while now, this blog has had the awkward task of being both my personal hobby blog and my  place to announce new professional developments. While this worked well enough when I only had Frostgrave to keep track of, it's become increasing hard as my work has expanded. Really, I needed a place where I could keep track of all of my writings and give updates on all my games without feeling like I was overwhelming my hobby space.

So, please go have a look at the new website and let me know what you think. 

While I will announce, or at least talk about, some of the major parts of my job here - I would like to return this blog to being primarily a hobby journal.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Greatest. Christmas Present. Ever.

 

I guess I was 6 or 7? The cost must have been painful to my parents. But, it was probably one of the best toy-investments they ever made. I built that castle so many times. And I played with it. So many battles, so many tournaments, so many adventures.

Amazingly, some 35+ years later, the instructions and most of the pieces still exist. I have turned it, along with the rest of my sizable childhood LEGO collection, over to my parents so that it can be used whenever the grandkids come around.  Another generation gets to discover the fun!

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

If you go into the Woods at Night...


Near the end of last year, I scratch-built an evil shrine, but I figured the shrine needed some sort of guardian. I had recently bought this Reaper beastman and thought he fit the job description perfectly. The figure is a 'bones black', sculpted by Jason Weibe, and I've got to admit, it was a joy to paint. The detail is large and sharp, and the figure has a real presence. I bought him as a loose figure, but I'm very tempted to pick up the full set. 

I had so much fun making the shrine and painting the beastman, that I just had to write a scenario for them. I offered the scenario to Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy and it is set to appear in the next issue - so keep an eye out!

Recently, one of the lights I was using to photograph miniatures died... thus I'm having to use the camera flash on a lot of shots. This tends to make miniature scenes appear to be happening a night. It works well for this scene, but I'm looking for a replacement.