Fort Grayskull Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

I am going to attempt to give some post-apocalyptic va-va-voom to toy castle components that look like those above.  Left to right is a tower, a wall, another tower and a gate section.   In total I have four gate sections, twelve wall sections and sixteen towers.

All of the pieces are made from expanded, beaded polystyrene and so are very light, but unsuitable for spray painting, which will melt that material.

As noted earlier, the parts were hand painted with a mix of black emulsion (latex) paint and some filler back in the mid 1990s.

The first step in 2011 was to decide what colour to hand paint the castle.  I didn’t want a pedestrian and realistic brownish grey as I wanted to remove the the look of the finished product from that of a real castle as much as practically possible.

Blues, greens, purples and the like would give a finish that looks a bit too fantasy for my tastes, a bit too concept album cover, a bit too “Heavy Metal”.

I considered a yellowish/brown but the board that I play on is black with a drybrush of Raw Sienna so I feared that the castle would blend in too much if it was the same or similar colour.  I also wanted to crudely “weather” the bottom of the castle walls with the game board colour once the fort was complete.  That wouldn’t work if it was the same colour to start with.

So after some indecision and in a weird bit of parallel evolution with the foam rocks that I chopped up and sprayed on the same day, I decided to go for a red oxide colour.  This rust like colour fit with some of the notions and references that I had in mind with a large amount of rusty scrap and wreckage materials involved in the forts imaginary construction.  I hope that it works out, but at this point it is too early to know for sure.

Therefore I overbrushed the whole thirty two sections with a Red Oxide acrylic.  I then mixed the red oxide with a little emulsion off white and drybrushed some of the upper areas a little, just to give a small bit of contrast.

I had trouble taking photos that show the colour properly.  Indoor, night time and artificial lighting made the whole thing look a lot more orange than it does in reality Im afraid.  Therefore the work in progress shots are all going to look a bit off.  Hopefully I will be able to get some halfway decent shots in once it is complete.

At this stage I took the cloth off the table and set up one quarter of the fort on the gaming surface, just out of curiosity to see how it looked against it.

The colour doesn’t look brilliant with the table I think, but I think that it is within acceptable parameters (plus it’s a crappy washed out photo).

Not that I had any choice at that stage: I was unwilling to to repaint the whole thing yet again.  The emphasis here had to be to finish a project that had been in various half finished states for years, by hook or by crook.

The look of the final model will hopefully be quite different anyway, between a wash or two here and there and the addition of some other elements to break up the redness.  Fingers crossed.

Also at this stage I set up all thirty two castle pieces as a perimeter wall with bastion.  I did this mainly because I think it looks cool and I wanted to see what it looked like now that it was brownish red.  If nothing else it should give readers an idea of the area that the fort occupies.  Due to the number of towers it reminds me a little of a shot from the Assassins Creed video game.

The table that the model sits on is 4 x 8’.  Also bear in mind that the little grey thing in the foreground is an EM4 plastic trooper.  Fully assembled the fort occupies approx 3 x 3’, which is quite big in gaming terms (as an aside I tend to think in terms of imperial measurement when looking at gaming tables and metric for everything else.  That’s Warhammers fault).

That was quite enough terrain work for one Saturday afternoon (as I made the foam rocks that day too) so I went to bed.

To be continued.


Running out of Patients Pt 4

The final batch of patient zeds, this time painted in that familiar greenish scrubs colour.

There were quite a few of these guys in this batch and I was getting sick of painting zombies (it does happen to me from time to time).  But I persevered.  I also left this gown colour to last as I thought that it would be the most evocative and therefore satisfying to finish.  That in turn would help to spur me on through the last few figures.

It has been a while since I painted a batch of figures as large as the patient zeds.  I am not in a hurry to do it again.  While the end product is very pleasing to me as I like how they came out quite a bit, some of it was a slog.  So much so in places that it almost burned me out a bit.  So its smaller batches from here on.

The green came out quite well in my opinion: it looks pretty much exactly as I think it should.  The green guys and the blue guys worked the best I think, but the others look fine too.

Here is a shot of the whole lot of them, with Patient Zero from early 2010 plonked in too.  His gown doesnt look as nice as the gowns on these guys (in some ways his colours were a test run for these figures).  They look good as a group I think.

The end of a trying but ultimately satisfying sub project.  Comments and criticisms all invited 🙂

Da Krusher – Forty Shades of Green

Six Thousand Teef Ork


I finished this figure while tipsy in front of the TV last night.  I am currently experimenting with different ways to paint ork flesh, hence the forty shades of green thing.  How that for a tenuous link to St Patricks day?

The figure is Gorillagon from Ramshackle Games.  I bought it to serve as a “Da Krusher”, a special character from Gorkamorka who has had so much bionik work done to him that nobody knows who he really is anymore, least of all Da Krusher.  This of course leads to a number of screwy rules relating to the models effectiveness in-game.  Hopefully much hilarity will ensue.

I modified the model slightly during assembly.  I added a slightly smaller gun barrel into the soup-can calibre weapon in his right arm.  I also added a top mounted magazine from another ork weapon, as it looked a little too much like some oddball energy weapon without it.  I didnt do very much work to the gun though.  In-game it isnt that special (Krusher is a close combat type mainly) and I didnt want the gun to be misleading.


As befits the characters solo status I didnt tie its colour scheme to any faction of orks that I am currently painting.  I did however try to paint the largely metallic looking model from a white undercoat.  Generally I would approach a model like this by spraying it black and drybrushing it with metallic paints.  This time I sprayed it white and alternated drybrushing of metallics with ink washes.  I did this in the hope that I would end up with defined looking metallic areas but that the figure would not look too dark overall.

Also worth noting is that I didnt bother even to highlight some of the cabling and other detail, all in the interests of getting the figure finished so that I can get working on some more stuff.  I will let you be the judge of whether I got the balance right or not.

As regular readers may know I am currently experimenting with quick ways to paint ork flesh.  I tried another approach with this figure.  I like some of how the green areas worked out, but as usual other elements of it irritate me.  This is compounded somewhat by the fact that the organic areas of the figure are not brilliantly sculpted, so that the huge arms look a little like green tree bark or something now.  On the plus side, I do think that it will look much better on models with better sculpted physiques (like the plastic ork figures).  So I will go in that direction with my next batch or orks.

Finally here is a picture of da Krusher standing alongside a gretchin, a human and an ork, just so that you can see that he really is a pretty big monstrosity.  He also looks sort of sad I think, like he really just wants be friends, like in a sappy Disney movie.

Right, I am off to shatter a national stereotype by spending the day drinking cheap Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon instead of stout.  “An bhfuil tú ar meisce fós?” and all that “top o’ the mornin” jazz.

EDIT 21/03/11:  I forgot to note in the the post that Da Krusher is supposed to have a pair of Steel Horns.  In game terms these make him more effective when charging into combat.  I considered adding a pair to the model during assembly, but I thought that they would spoil the brutal, rounded shape of the figure, so I scrapped that idea.  Presumably the incarnation of Da Krusher above charges teeth first into his opponents, with much the same effect as a pair of horns.  Just in case that sort of thing bothers you.

Running out of Patients Pt 3

A post regarding the authors penultimate batch of patient zombies, where a twentieth century attitude to the wearing of pink garments by men is revealed.

Although I am sure that many real life male patients are forced to wear pink/peach arse-exposing gowns whilst in hospital, I wasnt going to subject any of my male hospital zombies to that.  They have been through enough already.

So as the Mantic zombie and ghoul sprues dont feature any double X chromosome corpses, I mainly used Studio ladies in this lot.  I also added a disproportionate number of gender-neutral-from-the-waist-down (?) Mantic legs with bloody spinal cords, just to increase the amount of figures in this pink batch.

After painting these figures I played the Left 4 Dead “No Mercy” hospital based campaign on Xbox 360.  Then I played the House of the Dead: Overkill “Ballistic Trauma” hospital level on Wii before I went on to the final batch of patients.  Im all about the research.

Gorkamorka Project

CLICK HERE to see all of my Gorkamorka related progress since I wrote this post… boyz, vehicles, forts, buildings, terrain etc

Gorkamorka is a skirmish game system that GW brought out in 1997.  It has very similar mechanics to Necromunda but with the notable addition of vehicle rules that involve a little bit of risk management and a lot of shouting “Yahtzee!”

The game is strongly influenced by Mad Max II: The Road Warrior, except that instead of featuring Mel Gibson, actors from A Country Practice and pervert biker rapists it features orks.

Gorkamorka occurred during an awkward adolescence for orkoid development in 40K.  As a concept they had lost their way at some point before Gorkamorka was released, becoming gaudy buffoons rather than a proper barbaric menace.

Although Gorkamorka definitely didnt wipe that image out (I mean the game is called Gorkamorka for crying out loud), it certainly laid the groundwork for the single-minded, homicidal galactic plague that they became in 40k the 2000s (and which they seem to be moving away from again these days).  A lot of that was simply due to the top class miniatures sculpted by Brian Nelson for the GoMo range which took them from comical to monstrous.

As a GW fanboy I bought GoMo (as it seems to be called online these days) when it came out.  It sounded like fun and I had enjoyed Necromunda, which was largely an identical system.

Unfortunately at the time I didnt have many opponents willing to get into GoMo so it didnt get much table time, just an afternoon or two.  I bought some of the GoMo miniatures back then but they stayed in storage, until I sold on all of the orks to pay for a weekend boozing and clubbing in 2000.  It was the right decision at the time.  At least I kept the Mutie figures.

Zip forward a decade and MT, SOS and I have a weekend of GoMo planned for June.  I dont play 40K any more, MT plays a teeny, weeny bit and SOS is getting back on the 40K scene having played in a weekend long tournament in January, which included painting even more Orks for his already vast, epoch spanning greenskin collection.

We all have a lot of 40k (and other games) under our belts and we are all pretty familiar with the basics of the GoMo system.  SOS already has enough miniatures assembled and painted to field numerous mobs.  I have existing suitable terrain and the enthusiasm to make some more (like the ongoing Fort Grayskull and the recent Foam Rocks).  I am also looking forward to painting some of the nice ork figures that have come out in the last twelve years or so.

Somewhat uncharacteristically, MT is a bit of a wild card this time.  Often he is more reliable when it comes to getting a project finished for a deadline than SOS.  This time SOS has more than enough models ready to go before he starts and MT is in a something of a painting slump (a familiar thing to most figure painters I think).

Even if MT doesnt get his mob painted (it looks like even odds to me right now) he will still be able to use SOS spare figs so it looks like the project will materialise fully.  Hopefully MT will get to play with figures that he has done himself though.  He has had a Space Marine Land Speeder with wheels added to it knocking around for nearly a decade.  That really should get its time in the sun and if not now then when?

The GoMo rules system is familiar and will be quicker to play than Necromunda (its less fiddly for a few reasons).  We have also agreed on a handful of very straightforward streamlining house rules.  They should hopefully help us to get enough games in to watch our mobs gain skills and the like and for us to experience the over the top and hopefully entertaining intra-game Gorkamorka elements (visiting dodgy car mechanics and over enthusiastic doctors with a penchant for amputation).

All of this means that many of the hurdles often encountered when we try to get some gaming off the ground have already been passed.  Hopefully that means that we can concentrate on having fun rather than on rules intricacies or other tedious slog and just have a few giggles.

That in turn means that barring something serious that some GoMo will definitely be played this summer.  So I will be putting my progress on it up here for the foreseeable future, starting with the as yet unnamed ork and his gretchin buddies above.  Here is a picture of one of the grots standing in the mine entrance part of the Fort Grayskull project next to a Copplestone figure (Dr Leghorn), for scale.

In the interests of getting the project finished in a reasonable timeframe the ork and gretchin were painted quickly, with some areas getting simply a base coat and a wash.  Not too bad as a prototype models I think, but I have decided to try a different approach overall.  More on that at a later date.

Comments and criticisms welcomed as ever 🙂

Running out of Patients Pt 2

Back in mid December I put up a post showing my first batch of Studio zombies and Mantic ghouls and zombies painted to look like modern hospital patients.  They went down well and encouraged me to finish the remaining twenty or so over the following period.  I finished the lot at some point in February.

The first of the remaining three batches is zombies in white.  As the zombie flesh that I have been painting is pretty monochrome, I felt that the gowns were blending into the flesh a little.  To remedy this I added a thin wash of old GW Purple Glaze over the flesh tones on this batch.

Its pretty subtle, at least as far my painting goes anyway.  I like strong contrasts that are visible at the distance from the viewer to the game table, rather than beautifully executed blending that is invisible at a distance.  Still, the batch didnt turn out looking like Barney or anything, so it worked out fine.

I find painting white to be a chore and these guys were no exception.  I think that it came together in the end though.  There is a GW component used in the group shot above, which makes it the only non-Studio or Mantic component used in the entire “patient” project.

Fort Grayskull Part 1

I bought a toy castle in 1995 or so because I thought that it would be suitable for use in 28mm gaming.  I liked both its modular nature and its low price so much that I then went back and bought three more castles, just so that I could make one huge castle at some indeterminate point in the future.

Then like many other projects the castle then got moved to the back burner for some forgotten reason.  Since then it was dug out of storage twice.  In 1998 the entire thing had a coat of textured paint and some minor structural work done to it.  It then sat in a box until 2001 when I decided that I wanted to turn it into a pulp sci-fi space castle.  Progress on that was limited to an evening or two sticking somewhat unconvincing leftover kit parts to castle sections while a friend sculpted a face over one of the windows.  And that was as far as I got with that.

Fast forward through a decade of reality TV and iPods right up to fully socially networked 2011.

I wanted a post-apocalyptic type fort for a Mad Max/Gorkamorka style gaming weekend that I am planning in the summer.  Rather than try to build one from scratch (which would take ages and which I really just don’t have the patience for these days) I decided to post-apocalyptify my castle.

Some of the main influences were Mad Max II: The Road Warrior, the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials and a bit of Masters of the Universe thrown in too.  Additionally these images from the GW Gorkamorka rules were in the back of my mind most of the time.

Disclaimer: There is no getting away from the fact that the model is a medieval castle and that it will look like a castle in the end, one way or another.  The amount of work required to remove all trace of the models castle-y nature would be huge and probably better spent building something from scratch, which I don’t have the time or patience for these days.  If that compromise of is something that will bother your aesthetic sensibilities, then I politely suggest that you don’t read any further 😛

On the other hand if compromising with available materials in order to get something amusing and functional ready for use with your toy soldiers in a reasonable timeframe appeals, then maybe you might enjoy seeing how this project goes.

This post is already too long, so I will include a shot of the entire thing as it stood at the start of the project.

To be continued soon.  Some zombies next if I can get suitable weather conditions for photos.

Foam Rocks

Possibly a bit of an odd post to start with after a while away, but the likelyhood is that anyone reading knows what to expect here anyway 🙂

What follows is a description of the rather haphazard creative process that went into making some quick scenic pieces for my pulp sci-fi and post apocalyptic miniature games.  I approached writing this as a description of why I made the decisions that I did regarding it.  That’s how I ended up with the finished article as it is.  I did it like this because I enjoy reading about those processes from other hobbyists, but if it isn’t your cup of tea then feel free to ignore the text and take a quick glance at the hastily taken pictures if you like 🙂  (the post is a bit long…)


When I got one of my rare bouts of motivation regarding model scenery making recently I decided to strike while the iron was hot and churn some stuff out, fast before the mood left me.  My post apocalyptic/pulp sci-fi terrain (AKA Planet Heck) looks quite consistent these days but it was still short some large pieces of “impassable” terrain.  I happened upon an article on the very enjoyable “the Unnamed Gorkamorka Site” which got my creative juices flowing and I started thinking about possibilities.

Over on tUGS they made their rocky outcrops from seating foam.  I worked with that material in college a few times in the mid-nineties and I have a reasonable idea as to what can and cannot be done with it.  So using the ideas at tUGS as a starting point I had plans to take my rocks in a slightly different direction.

First stop was to find out if there was an upholstery shop in the small town near where I live.  Moving to live in a rural environment from an urban one was one of the best decisions that I ever had semi-made for me, but one of the down sides is that locating materials for this sort of project can be difficult.

Not this time however.  I found a very pleasant guy working in his upholstery shop/garage on a back street on last Saturday morning.

I wanted to get a dark coloured, preferably grey foam so that I could skip some of the re-colouring steps used over at tUGS, but that didn’t work out.  The only foam that the guy had in a decent thickness was the familiar vaguely creamy-yellow stuff that likely fills the very thing that you are sitting on right now (as pictured above).  Its polyurethane foam I think.  I was charged €2 for the second hand couch cushion that he gave me, which was well within budget.

I have experience in dying that sort of foam and I really didn’t want to get into that: its far too messy and time consuming for my unfocused and easily distracted brain.

With many scenery items (and a lot of miniatures) I start with a black spray coat and work up.  That wasn’t going to work here.  As I was unsure as to how well the finished foam hills would take paint I needed to spray the foam something approximating the finished colour that I wanted them to turn out, rather than the colour of shadow on the pieces.

Therefore the next step when I went home was to cut two chunks of foam from the cushion, impale them on wooden barbeque skewers and spray paint them to test: one primer grey and the other red oxide primer.

I chose those two colours mainly because I had those two spray cans handy.  A grey set of rocks would have been fine, but maybe a little dull.  The red could easily be very gaudy but would also quite in keeping with a Martian desert or even with some of the very red soil that Max rolls his V8 Interceptor in The Road Warrior (to use a post-apocalyptic example).  More sci-fi looking in other words, which is just fine with me.  At this point I did pine a little for an airbrush, but as don’t have one and don’t plan to get one, I put those thoughts to one side.

I wanted to ascertain whether or not the spray paint would give enough coverage on the foam.  I didn’t want a patchy finish but I didn’t want to have to go through the very messy and time consuming step of sealing the foam with a PVA/water mix to aid painting later.  While sealing the foam would make it rigid enough to drybrush, I was trying to minimise the effort involved, unlike for example the industrious tUGS folk who chose to do the job properly.

While the skewered pieces dried I started cutting out the foam shapes.  Again, I differed from the tUGS approach here too.  Rather than pick at the foam, pulling pieces off to provide a texture, I wanted to cut the shape out in such a way that the cutting process itself would leave an adequate texture.  This would save time if it worked but this stage I really didn’t know what (if anything) was going to be adequate.  I also still didn’t know how I was going to paint the finished pieces or anything, so I was just playing around with the foam to see what I could get away with.

So I cut the stuff up leaving vertical lines on the sides from the cutting process ending up with something that looked reminiscent of the mashed potato in Close Encounters.  I was hoping that after spraying the foam it would make those ridges stiff enough to accept paint from drybrushing.  That wasn’t to be however, as demonstrated by testing on the skewered test pieces: drybrushing them had very little effect due to their spongy nature.

Also demonstrated by the skewered test pieces was that the red spray gave better coverage over the yellow foam colour than the grey did (although you wouldn’t know that from the photo above which was taken with the flash too close).  The yellow showing through the grey looked awful whereas any inconsistencies in coverage from the red oxide spray added visual texture rather than looking like the whole thing needed a second coat.  This determined for the first time the colour that the “rocks” were going to turn out: a big vulgar red colour.

Once the four shapes were cut out I trimmed some scrap to make pieces that I glued on the flat areas on the top.  Im no geologist but I know that the rocks and canyons prevalent in Westerns and in Road Runner have visible strata on their sides.  That is how I justified why all of the hills plateau at the same height anyway, you can decide for yourself whether you think that it works.

Once the glue had dried a bit (about an hour) I took the pieces outside and sprayed them red.  I then immediately sprayed the flat areas on top and the edges where the pieces meet the table black.  Finally I sprayed grey primer in quick streaks down the sides, about four or five streaks per piece and that was it: finished.  After letting the pieces dry in the shed overnight I brought them in and plonked them on the table to see if they would be ok for gaming with.

I quite like how they turned out to be honest, all the more so because they only took an afternoon to make from start to finish.

They definitely come from the “cheap set design” end of the modelmaking spectrum, rather than say the architectural model end, but that’s ok with me.  They look like something from a cheap Doctor Who or Star Trek episode to my eyes, which has a kitsch appeal.  I also reckon that they look like the sort of terrain that John Carter would have come across, if Barsoom had been visualised by Hanna Barbera.

I quite like the pieces, their boldness and overtly pulpy sci-fi look appeals to me yet I am sure that some people will turn their noses up at them, seeing as the “rocks” do look a little like the desecrated corpse of Elmo.  What do you lot think?

Invigorated by my fast progress with this little project I immediately went back in to the man cave and started working on a model post apocalyptic fort.  The first part of progress on that goes up tomorrow.

Regular Posting Resumes. Take THAT 2011!

So far 2011 has been pretty crappy at Sho3box towers.

But that’s all over with now.

Its unseasonably sunny this week, I have mostly caught up with my college stuff for the time being and I have recently got quite a lot of toy soldier related stuff done.  With all of those positive vibes circulating I am going to start posting here regularly again, starting with a proper content post, about one minute after this admin post goes up.

I will also be putting up some extra stuff in addition to the usual two posts a week for the first couple of weeks, just to make up for some lost time and to reassure regular readers that things are back on track.

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