Sunday, March 22, 2020

Snakeskin and the Duchess

In the annals of the free goblin heroes of the Tartarus Rim none rise higher than Pliss Snakeskin.

His gang, the Veridian Boyz, are among the most renowned sneakers in the known galaxy, having quietly smuggled all manner of contraband and even people through their network of agents and unlisted shuttleports, extending to even some of the most secret facilities on the most heavily guarded planets. He himself can generally be recognized by his two most prized trophies: his eyepatch, won in a long ago fight with an orc who tried to enlist his involuntary assistance, and his lucky scarf, which the story says he found while escaping a prison on the old moon of Terra itself. As with all such rumors it is impossible to confirm it, but whatever the truth the original meaning of the design is long forgotten. For Snakeskin it apparently has a newer and more personal meaning: Freedom!

Perhaps his single most notorious exploit on the Rim involved rescuing Proconsul Christos Commodus from a carefully orchestrated kidnapping by none other than the notorious Duchess of Pain Court and her gang, the Boudoir Noir.

This event that was the single most key driver behind the current Treaty of Proserpine, which grants full rights to all goblinoid and orkoid inhabitants of the sector. (At least so long as the Terran Imperial Council remains unaware of this purely local situation.)

. . . . . . . 

This particular duo is of interest since the second provided me with the name and background for the first, thus linking the two of them together. The second, a limited edition Citadel Chaos Warrior, often cheekily referred to as the "Kinky Chaosette," was my first personality of 2020. I was struggling with how to paint her when a friend posted a picture of a bit of fan art to his facebook page: The Duke's Limousine out of Escape from New York. The things was, for reasons of finance, not actually shot in New York. Instead, my hometown provided the setting. Which of course endears it to me and virtually everyone else in my part of flyover country. With that car firmly in mind The Duchess was born.

(Incidentally, Pain Court was apparently once a nickname for the town, back in the very early days of French colonization. Before some other French colony asserted the trademark on the the nick. And you know what? Given what we're infamous for these days . . . I want it back!)

The preceding green fellow was actualy the penultimate miniature of 2019, and one about which I quite forgot. I think I might even have finished him in "Orktober," though don't quite me on that. He is, in point of fact, a Demonblade "Blood Claw Frother" originally released by Grenadier as a part of their K-Force range. I'd already painted the gobbo with the missile launcher out of the same pack, but what to do with the large headscarf? Of cousre! A 'Murican Flag! Why a goblin on the far reaches of space should have a U.S. flag unceremoniously draped about his noggin I didn't know, but . . . where there's a will the imagination writes a way. And really, what's more American than being rebellious and freedom loving, like our little green guy. He's an American knockoff on an Anglo classic, after all. (Which is itself a knockoff on an American knockoff on an Anglo knockoff on a bunch of Euro classics all wrapped up in a copy of the Sunday Times and served with a side of mixed pickle.) Ordinarily this much copying is supposed to lead to a grey sheet of paper, but maybe that theory isn't entirely correct. To paraphrase another son of St. Louis, ideas stolen from creations sufficiently diverse in time and culture can lead to a remarkably convincing simulacrum of greatness. (Maybe the only true genius that's out there.)

Anyway, both of these are pretty straightfoward builds. My paint slapped on someone else's sculpt. The only bit of deviousness was using a shield from the Bizaza Guard. The Duchess was supposed to have one of those generic plastic shields we all know and love. Strange as this may sound, I have so very very little fantasy in my leadpile that I have none. But I figure on converting the Bizaza gang over to outer space, so they didn't really need the shield especially. (I hope.) Eh, for better or worse . . . it's hers now!

Anyway, thank you for following along. Hope you enjoyed this little detour through the realms of imagination.

The Composer

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Farming the Final Frontier Part II: Pigs in Space!

. . . and goats, oxen, exotic foul, and a donkey.

It is sometimes said that diversity is the spice and the spice is the life. Even at the event horizon of cataclysm it pays to have more than one salable commodity. The original settlers of the Tartarus Rim long ago realized this truism and took efforts to diversify the local economy. In addition to the bovine noifen a number of other Terran and exotic species have been cultivated over the years.

Among the more prominent is the trusty pig. Compact, hardy, and delicious, pigs remain popular throughout human space, and particularly so in those areas heavily influenced by old Earth Asian cultures.

Another Terran transplant is the venerable goat. Independent animals requiring little tending make nearly optimal transplants in areas short on both advanced technology and skilled labor, thus goats can be found nearly everywhere along the Rim.

Somewhat less Terran is the local Tartaran "Bé Xanh" or "Blue Baby" hybrid of the Terran ox.

Exotic fauna have not escaped domestication. The Blanding Terror Bird, sometimes called Hell's Chicken, has become a profitable meat export. One world's monster becomes another's delicacy. Here we see both the Terror Birds and Noifen raised in the same enclosure. Thanks to their different ecological origins the two eat neither one another nor their opposite's feed.

Of course, all that livestock needs transportation, and local tramps are generally happy to provide it. Thus the ancient Terran two D program "Pigs in Space" comes to pass, albeit less happily for the pigs.

Hey, I never said the pigs were flying the spaceship! Like lambs to the slaughter we go.

As in every era, resource extraction has lead the way to the far edges of the settled universe. The "Final Frontier" would be less of a frontier without mining, ranching, and indeed farming.

. . . . .

Meanwhile behind the curtain:

Last summer at BOYL I finally came face to face with Foundry's products, and among other things they have quite a large line of assorted beasties, so I was able to add more diversity to my miniature ecosystem. For space livestock I picked up a good half dozen packs of miniatures; some  mundane, others fantastically monstrous. Below you can see about four packs worth getting the treatment: the "livestock" set and three "terror birds." These last come one to a pack, but there are three different poses. (Maybe more.) So the premium gets you some large and distinctive animals. In addition to these I also picked up the "wild pigs" who featured so prominently above.

There were quite a lot of other Foundry miniatures netted in the haul. Since I was already paying to ship myself I figured I'd make a proper adventure of it. But more on those later. For now, thanks for coming along on this little exploration of the Tartarus Rim. Hope to see you next time.

The Composer

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Farming the Final Frontier Part I: Blind Beggar Buffalo

Nothing says the edge of civilization quite like the fresh smell of non-human animals in close concentrations. And we all love seeing Mal avoiding the fertilizer aboard his spaceship turned cattle car. So the Tartarus Rim needed cattle. There are a number of makers that sell traditional human cattle, and I aim to add that to the mix as well, but heroic scaled space bison in the form of a herd of Blind Beggar's Noif seemed just the thing.

After all, I already had the Noif Hoider. ;-)

 (In the end, I think some of the People of the Sand make better herdsfolk, so they're who I'm actually using for the job, but Bobby, above, had that title when he was first released.) Anyway, back to the beasties . . .

The models themselves are mostly resin castings, but with metal heads. They're big and somewhat odd looking, and that works well with the heroic scale and sci-fi setting of my usual gaming. They suffer from the usual casting construction problems: be ready to use the greenstuff. But . . . that's literally every multi-part metal or resin casting I've ever worked with. Honestly, even the injection molded stuff benefits from careful work around the seams.

But it's not really too difficult to clean up a seam. And once they're painted up the seem pretty much disappears.

So there you have it: Noifs! Or Noifen? Is Noif its own plural? Ah, who knows. 

Just the same, glad to have you along for the ride. Please pardon the smell. You get used to it after a while. And watch where you step.

The Composer

Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Half Jimmy

Transport is always a challenge on the many near roadless mining planets and agricultural moons of the Tartarus Rim. Improvised vehicles, salvaged from the wreckage of mishap and malice, are incredibly common. The Half Jimmy might once have been a class of commercial vehicles, but its origins have become gray with time and distance. Its utility, however, is beyond question. Driving wheels make operation simple and intuitive to anyone familiar with ordinary wheeled cars, but substantial tracks taking the heavier loads give it an ability to navigate all but the most utterly impassable of trails. It isn't fast, but it will get you there.

Better still, it will help you take friends. Or equipment. Or supplies. It's a fairly versatile little vehicle. Particularly useful are some aftermarket additions: a large winch and a solid communications suite.

So where did this attractive model come from, I hear you ask? The answer requires a little telling, but it's not too complex in the end. Most of it came from the fine Curtis Fell of Ramshackle Games. Better yet, it came free! No, he isn't really in the business of giving away toys. (And if you like the fact that there are new characterful models out there I highly recommend paying him.) But castings don't always come out just so. Sometimes . . . molds break. Or resin acts up. Or probably a dozen other things I as a mere painter and putty pusher don't fully comprehend. And if you're in his vicinity he's more than happy to give you his rejects. (Rumor has it he might even include some with an order if you ask. Kind of the prize in the crackerjack box.)

Me? I never met a truck so battered I didn't think it'd look absolutely spiff! Spiff I say! . . . On some dusty forgotten gaming table. (With suitable paint and some added jewelry, that is.) When I was in the UK last summer Curtis gave me just such a bunch of misfit toys. (Expect more to arrive in the story later.) I had a cab, a bed, and a couple of tracks. So I needed wheels and . . . stuff. So on to the jewelry!

Mr. Cerous Rhino was a bead I got from a friend. As such, he had holes where his mouth and a$$#0! should have been. (This kind of seems appropriate, but . . . they were a little large and round.) A bit of greenstuff carefully shoved where the sun wasn't shining just then solved the . . . um . . . problem. The next thing required was wheels. These came donated from a badly worn Monogram B-24. Fenders were compliments of the end of a half used tube of epoxy. The plow was a bomb bay door off the bomber. Mixed in were jewlery parts, a cover from an electrical connector, a cell-phone antenna, and some general bits box mysteries from long forgotten trucks and motorcycles. You know. The usual suspects.

Slap some paint on it and it doesn't look half bad if I do say so myself!

This isn't absolutely the deepest dive into bashing up a truck, but hopefully you get at least a taste of how I dream this stuff into existence. In any case, thanks for joining me on the ride!

The Composer

Friday, February 7, 2020

2019 in Review

Not only is it that time of year . . . it is past that time of year. Even if you count the East Asian Lunar New Year. Which is a part of my excuse for why I'm running so dang late: I was in Vietnam for Tet with my wife and her family. Long story. Lovely trip. Lots of food and pictures. No models.

But now that we're firmly in the year of the rat . . . 

. . . Let us review the year of pig.

The year got off to a pretty solid start, actually. The first project of 2019 was this big pig: The Rainbow Connection. Absolutely one of my proudest models of recent memory. And one on the to-do list for an awfully long time. Scratch one off for the record books!

No. 2 was a paper shuttle. Interesting experiment. More durable than it looks. Not bad, really.

No. 3 was this fine avian looking fellow below. Rather villainous, if I do say so. The mayor of villainy!

No. 4 was this oddball steam walker I added to the Delightful Dreadlies.

No. 5 was a Jess Goodwin genstealer hybrid.

No. 6 was a big fuel truck only an ogre can love.

7 and 8 were two gobbos: one from Karkeel and the second from Demonblade.

No. 9 was a landspeeder with a sinister smile: a landshark, if you will.

No. 10 was a stinking grox angry at those who would hope to burgherize him.

No. 11 was a classic old-school Rhino.

No. 12 was a Whirlwind. Lucky 7! (Why is this twelve? Should be box cars, but . . . ah well.)

13 was a magical mystery dwarf. Yes, dwarves too can work magic. Honest!

14 stands sentinel with the Moab Militia.

15 was a medic for the unit.

16 is the brass for said.

17 and 18 is a pair of armored Bob Olley dwarves. It's all about the mechanical beards!

19 was a classic Olley space pirate.

All of this, equalling my entire 2018 output by numbers and vastly exceeding it by mass, was finished by June. And then in July I was whisked off to the UK for three solid months and I've been fighting to get back on my feet ever since. So . . . crickets.

At some point, nearly forgotten, I managed to paint a little Demonblade gobbo. I was struggling to decide how to paint his dew-rag, so . . . Freedom for the win! (Why an short orkoid is wearing a flag from some forgotten empire we may never know.)

No. 20: Pliss Snakeskin.

Last of the year, no. 21 was a Ramshackle chaos warrior for the Oldhammer Forum Miniature Exchange painted in the fading hours of late December.

This is what happens when you're proud of getting something done. Hubris has a price. I said "I suppose it's statistically unlikely there will be quite so many distractions competing for my attention." Boy was I wrong about that! Keep your mouth shut, David.

Still, it wasn't a bad year at all, really, even if short. Unlike 2018 I actually DID accomplish some of the goals I had set out previously: to wit, the gang now has a starship big enough to make story sense, but compact enough to fit on a table. And a quite delightful one, I think. And I got other ships done. (Well, other ship, really.) So there's now a modest collection of ships to grace a starport. Enough to make a place look almost busy. :)

So all that's left is to set out some goals for 2020. Dangerous, I know:

1. The gang STILL needs a hideout.
2. It would be nice if all my spaceports didn't look quite so similar, so more spaceport accessories.
3. More buildings would be nice. A temple and a bar in particular. Maybe a fancy house. (I'm having some ideas there.)
4. Maybe a few more civilian vehicles to clog up city streets.

So let's maybe make 2020 a terrain year. Sure, I have a mountain of miniatures to paint. But no particular goals. We'll just let whimsy take its course there. But terrain, that'll be a good goal.

Anyway, thank you for following along. Sorry for the long silence. Hope with me I can actually spend more time at home than continents away for a while. (I love travel, but there's a limit.) Onward year of the rat!

The Composer