Waterproof Garden Games Terrain?

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Tipped off by some blogposts about the delights of the “Home Aquarium” section of pet stores and garden centres, I recently popped into a Pets at Home branch and spotted a 3 for 2 offer (buy 3 get cheapest free).

I didn’t tell the checkout lady the truth when she asked about my non-existent fish and tank, that these weren’t destined for underwater fish usage but for the gaming table or out in the garden / yarden for gaming.

This offer and their reasonable asking price (6 pieces of terrain for around £30) made affordable what I think are sometimes overpriced pieces of potential games terrain. I understand  that it is not cheap to produce these if it has to be a certain type of safe resin and safe paint to protect the fish from chemical harm.

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The underwater Ewok village tree houses become a mysterious Asian jungle village and temple with the addition of some 20mm or OO/HO Airfix Gurkhas.
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Even bigger jungle tree house using 15mm Japanese Samurai figure (unknown maker,  from a job lot).

Some features like the old fishing boat seems Chinese or Japanese.

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35mm Heroscape Samurai figure in the Old Fishing Boat.

 

What I like about many of these generic buildings or features  are their versatile uses. They could equally grace a garden game and stay out in the rain  or appear on a games table.

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Rope bridge with Heroscape Samurai 35mm figures and hex tiles.

With some imagination, the rope bridge could be a vital but damaged rail bridge with a narrow piece of rail track across it. It could be in Southeast Asian Jungle or the Amazon, Darkest Africa or the Wild West. It could be built in many time zones. It works across different scales or sizes of figures.

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Front and back of the tree houses and front view of the four faced jungle temple.

Similarly the tree houses could be on Fantasy or alien planets, or in Darkest Africa or Asia in a Colonial campaign.

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Exploring the abandoned temple village:  “I don’t like it, Sergeant. It’s quiet. Too quiet …” Peter Laing 15mm Colonial British infantry.

All good Indiana Jones stuff.

A little bit of cutting and glueing work to put some balsa wood floors into the buildings should make them even more versatile. The cluttered temple floor might need some clearing or building up to be able put more figures inside.

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Airfix OO/HO Roman Archer (painted by me in the early 1980s) and the back wall of the Temple.

Once again 15mm Peter Laing figures seems to suit these buildings quite well, as well as Airfix OO/HO.

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More precious and now fragile Airfix OO/HO Romans which I painted with paper shields to replace those lost, as these were sometimes scarce figures in the 1980s.
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A surprise awaits these Airfix Germans pausing at this ruined Temple outcrop, somewhere in the Med, North Africa or Italy. Good rocky desert camouflage for these Airfix vehicles and the lovely original 1960s German and British 8th Army figures (version 1)

I was quite intrigued setting up future game scenarios how helpfully  camouflaged or painted the temple is for example when used with WW2 figures.  I haven’t done matt grunge khaki camo painting for over twenty years but I found a few things in  my surviving box of battered  Airfix vehicles.

These were painted up in the early 1980s for Donald Featherstone WW2 rules  (War Games 1962) and go quite well with these North Africa / Med / Middle East / Italy temple ruins. About time these had an airing on the games table with whatever I have left. WW2 Vehicle and camouflage scheme purists look away now!

 

 

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Camouflaged Sherman Tank (one of the useful sturdy Polythene premade type) and Airfix German and British Eighth Army infantry figures (1960s first  version). 
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Image colour faded to match the desert scenery and camouflage tones.  Battered German Airfix Tiger tank and Hanomag half track amongst the Temple ruins.

With my small  WW2 15mm Peter Laing force I can stage a few skirmishes. I have  A few spare German WW1 steel helmet infantry to  be painted up in Afrika Korps / desert camouflage to take on my WW2 British infantry.

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Peter Laing 15mm German WW1 steel helmet infantry in Desert camouflage.

These six aquarium buildings cost (after 3 for 2 discount) only around  £30 in total but they offer lots of interesting possibilities for scenarios in many time periods and scales.

Great fun for last weekend’s garden game.

 

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Yes that rope bridge is upside down – our quick weekend game in the garde using the aquarium buildings and Heroscape hex tiles and figures.

They certainly proved quick and fun terrain pieces in my recent weekend family game https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/heroscape-duelling-in-the-garden/

The Drowned World

Ever since gazing into those childhood fish tanks, I have long had  a bit of a fascination with the kitsch nature of aquarium ornaments. There is something suitably Gothic, melancholy, Romantic  (and Bronteish), out of reach or  abandoned about these drowned ruins and wrecks. In many cases it’s the plain surreal weirdness and lack of taste in some of the designs, they truly  are the garden gnomes of the aquarium world in their “love them or hate them” colourful and kitsch nature.

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My long lasting aquarium castle on the contested rockery battleground in a garden game last year 2016.

I have had one aquarium piece for years, a ruined castle frontage which was free or unwanted from a bundle of aquarium stuff that someone brought into work. It has  moved from house to house or garden to garden with me over many years.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN 24 June 2017.

 

 

 

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Lilliput Lane Buildings for 15mm figures

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A  bit of a collector like most of my family, my Mum had a lovely selection of plaster Lilliput Lane houses amongst other things.

https://www.lilliputlane.co.uk/pages/made-in-britain

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“St. Kevin’s Church” (Wicklow) in the Lilliput Lane Irish Collection 1989-96 series alongside my 15mm Peter Laing priest F913 and sheep A921/22. The Lilliput Lane name shield is obscured by the added model railway brown bush. Peco scenic backdrop.

This weekend would have been my late Mum’s birthday (she died last Autumn in her early 80s). Some of these tiny painted plaster houses (no doubt birthday presents) and her other collections have now been sold to make a donation to a medical charity on her / our family’s behalf but family members were all able to choose a keepsake or two.

I chose these two Lilliput Lane buildings for my gaming table.

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Cobbler’s Cottage (Northants, Lilliput Lane series 1986-94) with Peter Laing 15mm English Civil War Musketeer in hat advancing F503  – that roof looks like it has taken a cannonball! 

They were two of my favourites amongst her remaining collection. They are

  • St. Kevin’s, a typical early Irish stone church in Wicklow
  • Tumbledown “Cobbler’s Cottage” (in Northants) with damaged roof.

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Most Lilliput Lane houses are based on very well kept and very well groomed buildings. Both  these choices looked the most wonky or battered and timeless, so  most versatile as centrepieces of any gaming scenario.

The white window frames might need a little dulling down but they are well matched for size by my Peter Laing 15mm figures.

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The detail I love(d) of an old wheel for example can be seen in the tumbledown outhouse. This end is a bit chipped and the plaster showing through. 15mm Peter Laing British WW2 infantry ammo carrier F2006. 

It was the detail of gravestones and flowers or the old wheel inside a shed that I found especially fascinating. I often used to wonder who lived in these houses. I half expected the door to open and a Peter Laing 15mm sized figure to come marching out or come whistling round the corner. I partly blame the 1992 BBC TV version of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers for that.

Although I admired them on their cabinet shelf,  I wasn’t allowed by Mum to use them in my gaming with my 15mm Peter Laing figures. Being made of painted plaster, they are quite easily damaged and quite fragile unlike most resin games buildings. These two buildings both need a little bit of paint repair.

They are a nice way to remember my Mum, every time these are out on the gaming table or on my desk.

Postscript

Lilliput Lane ceased manufacture in November 2016 with few buildings left in their online shops. Another small British company sadly bites the dust.

“The factory has been trading at a loss for some time now and we have reached the point where this is no longer sustainable. It has been a long journey since Lilliput Lane started in 1982, we have enjoyed the support of many thousands of our loyal collectors at hundreds of events all over the United Kingdom and overseas, many friendships have been made and good times had by all. It is now at a time of changing consumer tastes that the demand for our products has declined to the point where it is impossible to go on.” (Website statement) 

Other stockists may have stock, along with collectors’ fairs and the usual online auction sources.

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Collage photo of a Lilliput Lane building sketched, cast, painted and finished (copied from Lilliput Lane website in case it disappears). 

The website catalogue / website shows how these fine plaster buildings were carved or moulded in wax,  handcast in silicon mounds and then hand painted.

https://www.lilliputlane.co.uk/pages/made-in-britain

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 11 June 2017.

Inspired by Bob Cordery’s DayGlo Castle

Last week was enriched for me by watching Bob Cordery on his Wargaming Miscellany blog transform a flourescent My Little Pony-esque aquarium castle …

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/a-day-glo-castle-what-was-i-thinking.html

into a promisingly odd Ruritanian war games castle in finest shades of grey. Inspired.

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/the-former-day-glo-castle-begins-to.html

This made me think it was time to start work on another recent seaside gift shop impulse purchase that I saw and thought, “That might just be …”

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54mm Tradition of London metal Confederate infantry and Herald Confederate Bugler in the original unaltered  “Summer House”.

It took me a while to work out exactly what the house was for. Looking at it outside the shop, hidden beneath its very reasonable price label of £6.99, I spotted a fairly obvious hole.

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40mm Prince August homecast cowboy figures (designed by HE Holger Eriksson)

A hole which could be turned from looking through a “round window” into a “square window” (memories  of 1970s BBC Playschool flood back!)

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An  unusual  hideyhole for a sneaky Yankee sniper … a stylish Herald 1950s 54mm Union infantryman.

I looked at this and thought that underneath the charmingly rustic addition of moss and pine cones, there was a simple solid little building, albeit one a little grand in its gables and roof work.

Maybe it could be a Wild West Train station? A mail or trading post?

It could be an excellently rough toy-like building for the wargames table or garden war game, representing a range of periods. With a little work …

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Simple plain back wall. Beautifully painted 54mm Confederate Butternut infantry from the Tradition of London’s old shop in Shepherd’s Market, London.

It works with a range of figure scales from Lego minifigures and 40mm Prince August Cowboys through to 54mm.

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Already stripped of some of its stranger decoration, its lazy potential begins to show. Suitable American themed Lego minifigures.

A touch of Andrew Wyeth or Grant Wood’s American Gothic …

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/14/hobby-learning-1-andrew-wyeth/

Further Renovations

Short work with a craft knife removed the oversized blue hat, bird house, pine cone roof decorations, hanging string thread and twisty branch things. Much of it was originally hot glue gunned in the factory, so not too difficult to remove. I wanted to keep the rough and ready nature of the building and its materials

Some of this removed scrap was reused such as the staples, reused to hook on the removable Station and Stores signs, which were made from thin balsa wood. These hooked over the existing “Our Summer Home” Sign. In this way different language signs could be used for different scenarios. The new looking Balsa signs were aged by staining with a tea bag, confident that the lettering would not run as I used artists fine liner waterproof ink pens.

The separate “miniature bird house” on the pole is now an ornament in my kitchen.

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Tracks laid, the railway halt is open and a photograph taken to mark the occasion …. Tradition of London 54mm figures except the Station master / guard with repaired flag.
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The official railway halt  opening photograph, June  18## (reproduced with permission from our tiny blog photographer).

The altered bird house entrance / round window can be seen here.

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Watch out! The Rainbow Gang are in town … Red, Blue and Yella (no coward, he!) Lovely Britain’s hollowcast figures.

A simple square window was added to the rounded bird hole and the small round perch removed. This was glued at front as a log next to the giant axe. Small wooden patches of damage from removing items were repaired either by brown felt tip or coloured / stained coffee stirrer ‘patches’ superglued in place. Good and rustic.

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Changing the signs around and adding a female and child figure from the Safari Toob Wild West Settlers set brings the look of a proud couple of homesteaders being photographed outside their store.

Balsa, coffee stirrers, felt tip pens, and a bought bird house – all this saved me time, paint and mess especially having no workshop and few woodwork skills. Like Bob Cordery’s greyed dayglo castle, I may add some flock but the base feels like a wooden veranda or porch.

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A happy bit of “Kit Bashing” on the kitchen table, which certainly saved me some woodwork. It should provide an interesting focus to a suitable backwoods scenario game.

If anyone asks what I do outside work, I can say I am now a proud home owner or property developer, renovating an interesting period property with no previous owners.

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Or should I have painted up my carefully hoarded boxed 1978 Airfix Bluetits kit from their Nature Series and let them move in?

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 9 June 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Of Semaphore and Signal Towers

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From Clementine box to fortified signal tower ….

I have posted two new posts on my sister blog Pound Store Plastic Warriors,  all about the fun of making this semaphore signal tower for coast, mountain or desert from available scrap, a suitable toy soldier type fortified building for 30 mm to 54mm figure games.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/scratchbuilt-desert-or-coastal-signal-tower/

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Some of my Peter Laing 15mm British colonial troops and heliograph. 

Some of the design ideas came from researching the fascinating history of flag and flash, semaphore and heliograph, which forms the subject of  my second post here:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/by-heliograph-and-semaphore/

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN, May 2017.

 

Hobbycraft Castle Tower

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Top section of the papier-mâché fort tower with Prince August Homecast 40mm cowboys 

Cross posting about papier-mâché castle section tower from my sister blog Pound Store Plastic Warriors https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/hobbycraft-castle-tower/

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 2 May  2017.

John Mitchell Card Buildings

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40 years on from their first design, I’m making one of the late John Mitchell’s  card buildings for 15mm figures as a small and ongoing tribute to John in my tabletop games.

mitchell cottages

 

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John Mitchell 15mm building sheets no 1 and 2 (JM1 and JM2?)

As mentioned in my previous tribute to the late John Mitchell,

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/simple-ecw-starter-rules-a-john-mitchell-tribute/

here are two of my surviving unmade John Mitchell buildings photographed so that fellow Peter Laing enthusiasts can build again and attack or defend their own John Mitchell tribute town.

What finer tribute can there be for a wargames designer’s products than for them to live on and give pleasure long after him?

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Scalpel –  check. Cutting board – check. Peter Laing Union rifleman to advise on scale – check. John Mitchell Building Sheet No. 2 Farmhouse – check. Ready to go!

My original John Mitchell card buildings from the 1980s have not survived.

Luckily two of my spare original sheets have survived. I scanned and printed these onto card to preserve the originals.

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Cutting out the farmhouse pieces.

40 years after they were designed in 1976 by John Mitchell, these buildings are back being made on my cutting board. They were first designed not long after Peter Laing launched his first 15mm figures in 1972.

I remember making this farmhouse before c. 1983 and had few difficulties.

The farmhouse chimney sits a little oddly, so needs an additional flap added along on its left side before you cut it out.

Additionally a larger fold-over flap at the top of the single house wall with door is needed to get a level roof; just align the new flap with the height of the other wall with a door.

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The finished basic Farmhouse model defended by my small advisor. I’ve marked up in red on the cut-out sheet overlaid on the original where flaps need to be altered or added in future.

John Mitchell made suggestions for adapting the basic card model as “base for experimentation e.g. Painting walls in poster colour, texturing walls and roofs in plastic filler and adding beams and window frames in balsa wood.

John mentioned his intention to work across “all periods of history” towards “Castles, and other large constructions” not just these slightly humbler 15mm dwellings.

Launching his buildings not long after Peter Laing launched his first 15mm figures in 1972, the only other building I came across mentioned (but sadly never bought) was the JM5 desert type dwelling mentioned in this Peter Laing advert in the early to mid 80s, a snip at 40p.

Not sure what the Barrack Room range was.

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Another Peter Laing  range I wish I had bought more of along with John Mitchell’s card JM5 desert buildings. Oh well,  there’s always the Airfix Desert outpost and Foreign legion fort.

So if JM1 was the Elizabethan house, JM2 the Farmhouse / Barn and JM5 the Desert building, does anyone know or can show what JM3, JM4 and JM6 onwards were?

I’d be interested to see more of them.

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Unpainted John Mitchell card farmhouse JM2 ready for action with garrison of Peter Laing Northern troops on my portable hex game board. (Photo / figures: Man of TIN.)

Enjoy building your John Mitchell tribute houses and may you have many happy hours with these as a pivotal battlefield feature to defend or attack in John Mitchell’s memory.

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, August 2016.