Adventures with Amera Plastic Mouldings and Stone Textured Paint

One of the great pleasures I get from the hobby is the chance to view everything through the hobbyists eyes.  So when I am out shopping (ostensibly for real word stuff) I’ve always got half an eye on what I could use for the latest project on the tabletop.  I’ve written before about my ongoing love of re-purposing toys for gaming and toy shops are a great place to start.  However I never overlook what might be lurking in the local discount store, Poundland or craft supplies shop.

Although I have an airbrush I also make extensive use of spray cans to undercoat and basecoat miniatures and models.  There is a lot to be said for the convenience, particularly of the Army Painter coloured sprays of quickly and effectively getting minis to the table.  That said one of the areas that people often overlook are the basic colours used for undercoating (black, white and grey).  Yes you could shell out a tenner (or more) on some Games Workshop or Army Painter sprays for this, but the basic car primers you can get from places like Halfords or even the pound shop are in most cases just as good or even better (just be careful to avoid the gloss versions).  I’d highly recommend the matt black Halfords own brand cans, they give a really nice flat finish on most surfaces and are good value for the  amount you get).

Anyway, I digress.  On a recent lunchtime wander round my local Boyes store (one of the few places in the UK outside of specialist gaming shops that stock a good supply of Vallejo paints), I happened across these…

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Rust-oleum Stone Textured Finished Paint

Stone effect aerosol sprays in a variety of colours.  I had a few years ago used one of the these in a dark grey to provide a tarmac like surface to a game board I was building, but like many projects a few years back didn’t see it through to the end.  However having recently bought a Bastion Stronghold (Z2014) from Amera Plastic Mouldings for use as a ‘wasteland’ fortification for post-apocalypse gaming (and potentially a bit of Kill Team / 40k on the side) I had an idea…..

Amera have been on my radar for a while.  They produce a range of vac formed plastic terrain and scenery aimed at both the wargames and scale modelling (dioramas) markets. Their products are good value and in many cases substantial in terms of size.  One of the downsides of using vac-formed plastic however is that the surface details of larger pieces tend to be very flat and lack texture.  If only there was a quick and easy way to apply a textured finish, maybe to emulate concrete or pebble dash to my recently acquired ‘post-apocalypse’ stronghold?

So having  put two and two together I started work.  After the recommended wash in warm soapy water I gave the whole piece a black undercoat.  After leaving this to dry I applied the first coat of stone effect.  I had chosen ‘bleached stone’ as my preferred colour of sprays as I though it would match an arid PA wasteland type setting.

First thing to note on the stone effects aerosol is that it is under quite high pressure and comes out very forcefully.  It became quite apparent early on that this meant I was going to have to be very patient, do a number of thin coats and wait for each to dry properly.  Repeated application of layers on a surface that was not yet dry just ended up moving the stone effect paint already laid down around.

What also became clear was that the black undercoat was not working.  The light ‘desert yellow’ / ‘skeleton bone’ like colour of the spray was being overpowered by the dark base.  To rectify this, once the first thin layer was applied and was dry (after about 15 minutes) I gave the whole model a full all over spray of Citadel Averland Sunset (a darkish yellow).  Building subsequent layers over this was much more effective.

Once I’d completed about 4 or 5 coats using the stone effect I had a good covering and a good scale approximation of either pebble dashed concrete or sandstone.

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A couple of coats in and the effect was starting to look better

Where to take it from here?  I knew I definitely wanted to weather this down, especially as it was intended to be a wastelands style outpost, but simply dry brushing a highlight over the stone effect would perhaps make it too light.  I could of course have left it there, the effect was good enough for ‘basic tabletop standard’, but I was keen to take it further.

I also wanted to ensure that the stone effect paint was protected, so rolled the weathering and protection into one by painting on Army Painter Quickshade Strong Tone.  I’m a big fan of Quickshade; not the dipping method, rather painting in the same way as a shade or wash.  Normally with miniatures following an initial drying period the shade ‘pulls back’ into the recesses of the model and you can ‘dab’ up any excess with a brush.  With this scenery piece there weren’t really any recesses into which to recede so I had to work hard not to show brush strokes in the finished effect.  I achieved this using swirling motions with a cheap large brush.

At this stage, to be honest, I wasn’t very happy, it looked like I had dulled down the stone effect too much and the natural gloss of the Quickshade kind of made things worse (albeit I knew I was going to have to dull this down with a top coat).  A quick dry brush back up of Army Painter Skeleton Bone seemed to retrieve the situation, but I was now left with a much darker piece than I was originally intending.

I was on the verge of going back to the drawing board, when I thought about maybe rather than weathering this up as an arid desert stronghold, I could shift my post-apocalyptic mindset more towards a ‘nature reclaiming the landscape’ scenario.  To that end I liberally applied some green washes and made use of an old bottle of Modelmates mould effect I had.

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Midway into the weathering process

With the addition of some flock, tufts and overgrowth I was much happier with the final result.  The metal supports and door were painted silver and then (probably overly) weathered up using again a Modelmates rust effect.  Finally the whole thing was sealed with a couple of thin coats of Testors Dullcote.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.  I’d highly recommend Amera Plastic Mouldings as a cost effective and striking alternative to other options for tabletop scenery.  Using the textured spray paint added that extra level of detail, but required some patience.  As they say, you learn from your mistakes.

This finished piece will hopefully be finding it’s way into a game of 7TV Apocalypse soon.

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Meeples & Miniatures – Episode 256 – View from a Twisted Pinnacle

I was recently given the opportunity to go on the long running Meeples and Miniatures Podcast as a guest presenter.

I talk to regular presenters Mike and Neil about my background in the hobby, current projects and purchases and also spend sometime discussing my experiences of working in the industry.

The episode is now available to download for free from their website (or via your favourite podcasting app). They also have a Patreon account setup up if you feel like donating a few pennies to the upkeep and ongoing production of the show.

Meeples & Miniatures

Download Episode 256

Neil Shuck & Mike Hobbs are joined by a guest presenter in the shape of Patreon backer James Aldridge for this episode of the podcast.

  • 00:00 – Introduction – We chat with James and discover how he got into the hobby and what his favourite games/miniatures are.
  • 21:20 – Confessional – Time to own up to all those hobby purchases we have made recently.
  • 57:55 – Our Hobby – We talk about our recent gaming, including Keyforge, 1066 Tears for Many Mothers and Kill Team. James tells us about his recent trip to Warhammer World whilst Hobbsy reveals all about his adventures at Grogmeet.
  • 1:34:35 – Tales of a Twisted Pinnacle – James tells us his somewhat cautionary tale of his brief foray into the hobby as a retail seller. On a more positive note, he then shares with us his passion for repurposing toys as wargaming…

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Toys for Tabletop – Corps Elite Battle Cruiser

I’ve blogged extensively about my project to realise my favorite action figure toys from back in the day, Action Force.  I have a young daughter, but despite not pushing her in any real direction toys, she has gravitated towards traditional girls toys.  Therefore I am not really up-to-speed with boys stuff, and in particular action figures.  So other than knowing that Star Wars is obviously still a thing I’ve no ideal if there is a modern and up-to-date range of military action figures similar to those I used to play with.  However a few weeks back while stocking up on instant noodles during my lunch break in the local discount shop I happened into the toy aisles.  And there I spotted it!

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It also has sound!

So this is the Corps Elite Battle Cruiser.  Corps Elite appear to a modern day (but budget version) of Action Force / G.I.Joe, and boy does this one look like it would be perfect for 28mm scale.  As per usual 7TV is never far from my mind when considering these things.

Having succumbed and picked one up, upon initial inspection the vast majority of the components looked like they could easily stay and represent the ‘down-scaled’ versions of themselves.

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Straight out of the box

Having opened the box and inspected the ship, the scale looks pretty spot on for 28mm scale minis.  The flat bottom / ‘water line’ means this will look great on the tabletop.

 

There are a few things that will have to be removed and replaced to really hide the larger scale aspects of the thing, namely:

  • The turret and ‘machine gun’ on top of the bridge will be removed and replaced with something more realistic (aerials, radar etc. maybe)
  • The clear plastic ‘fin’ and aerials will need some work
  • The large hatch/doorway molded on the side of the bridge will need hiding

 

Painting wise, it looks like a relatively easy job and will be down to a combination of spray cans and airbrush.  The existing decals were easy to peel off and the entire ‘model’ was given an undercoat of black (using a couple of layers in order to effectively mask the painted on pattern on the hull).

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It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve had a bit of a look at the wider Corps Elite range.  While most of the accessories and vehicles are way out of scale for the tabletop, I’ve got to say with a bit of work the ‘Beast Bomber’ could make for an excellent centre piece!

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Post Apocalypse Gaming Inspiration

When I first started at secondary school in the late 1980s we had rather strange setup in my home town.  At eleven years old we went to what was effectively a middle school, this was co-ed and following a couple of years the majority of pupils transferred to either the local girls or boys school, which catered for 13 to 18 year olds.  The other unique thing about my particular middle school was that it was split across two sites about a mile apart.  Break times were often spent on the transfer bus moving between buildings.

The main site (long since demolished), was kind of open plan with primarily outdoor corridors.  Believe me when I say this was actually the better of the two.  What however has any of this got to do with drawing inspiration for post apocalyptic tabletop gaming?  Well apart from the prison camp styling of the architecture, one thing that really sticks in my mind was the school library.  At the time I couldn’t really look beyond the classic Target novelisations of Doctor Who serials (I was slightly obsessed), but I do remember in particular another series of books with very striking covers.  I never read these at the time as something about the content was too close to a very frightening possible reality that hung over us all in the Cold War – nuclear armageddon.  These novels were the ‘Survivalist’ series by Jerry Ahern.

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Recently as I have been working on my 28mm scale post apocalypse projects (with 7TV Apocalypse very much my cross-hairs) I’d started thinking about backgrounds and settings for my games and models.  Aside from the obvious Mad Max style road warrior scenarios, my memory of the old school library and the ‘Survivalist’ came to the fore.  Needless to say a quick trip to Amazon and eBay and I’ve got the first few volumes.

First things first.  These books are very much of their time.  The hero is in that Reagan era 80’s mold. They are not literary masterpieces, they are pulp, but by heck (as they say round here) I’m enjoying them.  Needless to say the basic premise is following the titular ‘survivalist’ John O’Rouke in his adventures in a nuclear war ravaged United States.  John has to fight off marauding gangs, invading Soviets and the like, while searching for his wife and children.  Our hero is not only a survival specialist, but also a trained medical doctor, former CIA operative and weapons expert.  There is an almost lurid amount of detail in these books about guns and weapons with the caliber of ammo, background and description of rifles and machine guns all being describe in minute detail each time they are used (and they are used a lot).  There is also a lot of cigarette smoking in these books (check out the covers)!

There’s certainly plenty in here to act as inspiration for gaming on the tabletop.  I particularly like that the Soviet Union is attempting an occupation of the US (somehow this is possible after a nuclear exchange), but this gives a bit more scope for scenarios, rather than just the usual marauding gangs versus gangs setup.

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Unsurprisingly I’ve been looking into miniatures for John O’Rourke, and remembered the Wargames Factory Male Survivors multi-part plastic kit.  This came out originally a few years ago and was more recently re-packaged and re-released by Warlord Games as part of their Project Z range.

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Is that John McClane or John O’Rourke on the cover?

It seems uncannily like the creators of this set had read some of these books as out of the box I was quite easily able to pull together a figure which is almost a spitting image of the Survivalist from the book covers.  The next stage will be to paint him up and get some stats created for 7TV.

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Inspired by this I’ve also been looking into other background material and thanks to an excellent article in the November 2018 issue of Wargames Illustrated on ‘near apocalypse’ gaming have come across the old GDW Games Twilight 2000 source books.  But more on that another time…..

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For more information on the Survivalist series, I’d heartily recommend this article on ‘We are the Mutants’.

Warhammer World Road Trip

I’ve recently started playing Kill Team, the Warhammer 40k small scale skirmish game by Games Workshop.  While I’ve never really been that into the whole ‘grimdark’ thing something about Kill Team really appealed and I’ve had some very enjoyable games recently.  I think it’s the mix of being able to collect and build multiple small squads, the undeniable quality of the Citadel Miniatures and the objective based missions that make it (even though the rules follow the quite clunky and old fashioned to hit/to wound/save approach of most GW games).

With Warhammer World only about 30 miles away down the motorway, I’ve been a couple of times in the past (mainly to look round the exhibition), but never to play games.  This changed earlier this week when I ventured down to Nottingham with a few friends for some gaming.

Surprisingly (to me anyway) is that there is no charge to play, so you can go along and take advantage of the amazing gaming tables quite freely (providing you are of course playing GW games with GW miniatures).  We booked a single 8 foot square city table, with the intention of playing multiple games of Kill Team in parallel (originally there were going to a few more of us in attendance).  In reality this was far too big, but we were able to scout out some really great potential tables for Kill Team on a future visit.

The games themselves were very enjoyable and there is something special about the venue.  Yes the fake castle walls are a bit tacky, but they kind of really build an atmosphere, especially with a room full of people all sharing the same passion for gaming.  There is of course plenty of opportunity to shop and visit the exhibition, and Bugman’s Bar provides a great range of food, snacks and drinks (at reasonable prices).  There are even some painting and modelling stations, so if you really can’t wait to get your new purchases assembled you can get straight to it.

Personally I crashed and burned in all three games I played (losing my leader in the first round of each).  Somehow this poor performance was achieved using Death Guard, who are supposedly one of the most resilient factions on the game!

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My Nurgle Death Guard Kill Team 

If you are a wargamer  and even if Warhammer is not your thing, I’d highly recommend a visit.  Entrance to the gaming hall, shops and bar is all free, with the only charge being for the (optional) exhibition tour.  I’m even tempted to expand my forces so I can play a full game of 40k there sometime soon!

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Obligatory photo of the 1:1 scale Rhino at Warhammer World

7TV Apocalypse Kickstarter Campaign

Much of my recent hobby activity has been around the modelling and painting of 28mm scale post apocalypse figures and vehicles.  This was inspired by my involvement in the beta testing of 7TV Apocalypse which is now coming towards it’s conclusion on Kickstarter.

Currently over three times funded, but with plenty of good stuff still to be unlocked I’d heartily recommend backing this (if not so we can please unlock the Alien Invaders (‘Visitors’).

The campaign is running until 9pm (GMT) on Tuesday 6th November.

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Some of the new miniatures…..

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Action Force Motor Pool – work in progress

I’ve been doing this Action Force in 28mm thing for a few years now.  I keep getting distracted, but always get pulled back in.  I blogged recently about the ultimate goal of getting a Roboskull to the table, but this reminded me I have a number of part finished other vehicles to add to the motor pool.  So with a concerted effort I have gone back and revisited these.

Most of the vehicles I have previously started have been for the ‘Enemy’.  I’ve kind of handled this in a couple of different ways – both accurate replicas of the toys/comics and an ‘inspired by’  approach.

The latter has basically involved me finding models and toys (in the right scale) that kind of fit the setting.  For Action Force themselves this could be standard military type kit such as land rovers or tanks (concentrating on the eighties period), but for the Red Shadows I’ve thought a bit wider.  So this has led to some interesting choices and conversions.  Presented below are a couple of the more wild ideas I have completed, including a flying saucer and a ‘Dust 1947’ plane.

I’ve also recently gone down the ‘walker’/’mech’ route as well, utilising a Konflikt 47 resin/metal model kit from Warlord Games.  A head swap for the pilot and voila – the Red Spider!

red spider

Going further back to the German World War II inspiration for the Enemy, many years ago I picked up a Tamiya 1:48 scale Sdkfz.69. I’ve recently gone back and finished this, with the idea that this could represent the ubiquitous Shadowtrak.

And this brings me back to the other of the two top level options – accurate replicas of the toys in 28mm scale.  The obvious route to go down here is 3D printing – more about this later.  However there is at least one off the shelf option that is (relatively) widely available.

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This is a novelty gift pack / toy by Running Press – the sort of thing you normally see for sale in stands next to checkouts in bookshops alongside Harry Potter wands or small TARDIS or Dalek models.  This particular item represents a Cobra HISS tank, better known to Action Force aficionados as the Enemy (and later Cobra) Hyena.  The scale is pretty much spot on for 28mm scale.

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3D printed Hyena from Shapeways in the foreground, unpainted gift toy version at the back.  28mm scale Red Shadow for scale.

This is also sometimes available from third party sellers on Amazon, and that is where a few years ago I picked up half a dozen of these bad boys.  Out of the box it is coloured black and comes with a set of Cobra stickers to apply as well as an information booklet.  It also has sound!  Press a button on the turret and you get a slightly cartoony laser gun sound – totally unnecessary, but totally amazing.

I’ve painted these in a slightly different way than usually.  As the base model is black, I wanted the main body to be red, but also wanted to leave a lot of the detail untouched (including the clear canopy in case I ever wanted to add a driver); I’ve gone down the Gundam marker route…..

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Gundam markers are named for and used almost exclusively in the Gunpla (Gundam kit building) community.  They come in various types ranging from large nibbed pens that apply enamel paint on application of pressure to fine tipped markers which are used for panel lining.  I’ve found these to be an interesting addition to my hobby toolkit.

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For the Hyena I used a thick nibbed paint pen to apply a base coat of red (leaving some of the recesses black where appropriate).  Once dry (which takes a while longer for enamels) I drybrushed a light red acrylic over this to apply both a highlight and to dull down the shininess of the enamel base coat.  The markings were applied with a thinner nibbed marker.

hyena

So, the elephant in the room then?  Yes 3D printing.  I still covet a printer of my own, but in the meantime and for those like me bereft of the hardware there are still plenty of options.  There are a surprising number of 3D models of GI Joe vehicles out there (just search on Shapeways or Thingiverse).  I have in the past both ordered a printed model from the former, but more recently have been able to get some files printed out by a friend.

Currently on my workbench are these two beauties – a Red Shadows Laser Exterminator (aka a GI Joe HAL) and an SAS Panther jeep (aka a Cobra Stinger).  I’m going to do a detailed prep, build and painting guide on these in a future blog.

Where things are a little lacking in availability of 3D models on line is in those Action Force vehicles that weren’t based on existing GI Joe toys back in the day.  What that does mean is that there is in particular a big Shadowtrak and Roboskull shaped hole in the Baron’s armoury.

Talking of the Roboskull…..