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Obviously when making silly adventure tabletop games, sooner or later you are going to have some swashbuckling pirates, because, well, what would be the point otherwise? To fill this role we have “Captain Betsy Miller and the Aroura Crew”. All of my characters have names from real historical people, and the real Captain Miller lived in Saltcoats in Scotland between 1792 and 1864. She was the first woman sea captain in the UK to be certified by the board of trade, and frankly her life could be a pulp story in itself: she gained a reputation as an excellent shipwoman who could handle her brig in the most adverse conditions and would sail in weather no other captain dared face. As a result she commanded a great deal of respect from her crews. She didn’t stop sailing until she was seventy years old, when she handed over to her sister.

I’ve mentioned before that I prefer female characters to be fully clothed and shaped like normal humans, so to make Miller I took another ‘female head’  and did some rather dramatic surgery on a “Merchant seaman” I had to hand.

 

After the leader, each league in Pulp Alley should have a sidekick, not quite a legend in their own right but a legend in the making. On a Aroura this is John Macpherson, who, helped by a ‘telescopic sight’ made from a bit of brass wrapped in some plastic is the crew sharpshooter, can hit a stick at 100 paces sort of thing…

I’m normally only allowed one sidekick, so the next level is the ‘allies’. I have three in this group, and have done terrible things to the fabric of the space time continuum to bring three people who lived at different times into the same team, but that’s nothing compared to the surgery required to make another “merchant seaman” into “Juana Ramírez”…

Finally, the dog who will be a trusty follower for the crew, as soon as I’ve painted him anyway. ‘Togo‘ was an Alaskan husky and sled dog, and was lead dog on the longest and most dangerous 1925 Serum run to Nome, Alaska transporting a Diphtheria antitoxin to prevent an epidemic in the town.

There’s another team before I’m finished, but it’s time for some railway model making for a bit…

 

 

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Production line

This project seemed such a good idea at the time: it’s a flat wagon, with pointy bits on each side. That was it: dead simple. What could go wrong?

I never learn.

Remember the model is loosely based on this wagon. Very loosely, admittedly, but it still needs to have enough of the features of the real thing to be vaguely recognisable as the same type of wagon. This means I need to make some vague representation of those double uprights and the big bolts holding them in place.

So I made a sketch, and used this to build a ‘prototype’. It looked awful. I scrapped this and tried again, this time looking much more at the photographs as I worked.

This one was much better, the only problem was that having finished I realised I’d have sixteen parts for each upright. Sixteen. And 12 uprights.

I did some sums…

I repeated the sums because I’m rubbish at maths…

I gave up and did the sums on a calculator*: 16 x 12 = 192 little bits of plastic, which need to be the same, or at least close enough that they appear the same.

Something tells me I may end up putting this off for a while.

*Yes, really that rubbish, or out of practice. On the other hand I can design a quite complex project in my head and see it in 3d from any angle: swings and roundabouts.

 

Out of my league?

More silliness this week: I’ve been working on our pulp Alley models. Pulp Alley is a set of rules for a dice based tabletop game loosely based on the ‘Pulp’ books and serials from the 1930’s and 40’s. As you can expect, they are often rather silly in nature. Airships are often involved. And ridiculously improbable robots. And wait until you see the steam powered monowheel I’m building…

But I digress. In order to play games we need several leagues of five or six swashbuckling adventurers. This is what I like about the game: rather than mass armies of anonymous cannon fodder, which I never felt comfortable about in my war gaming days, each league is made up of individuals. This sits better with my tree hugging pacifist hippy nature. Also, it is a lot cheaper.

The first league, “Captain Erwin Von Witzleben’s Hohenzollern Guard” has been largely painted for a while now, and the final job was making the cards for each character. These are necessary because each one has different strengths and weaknesses and there’s no way you can remember them all. I will return to this subject at a later date.

The “Hohenzollern Guard” never existed by the way. Hohenzollern was a tiny state in the south of Germany, in what is now Baden Württemberg. I imagined the Hohenzollern Guard as a sort of French Foreign Legion/Swiss Mercenary type of army organisation, which can turn up in any kind of exotic location I want, by saying they were ‘hired’ by local authorities to keep order/guard a military installation/steal artefacts from the ancient and mysterious temple, et,c

The Hedgehog logo, by the way, is because I decided the Hohenzollern Guard would be based in the Hohenzollern village of Igelswies. “Igel” is the German word for Hedgehog, so obviously, once I’d found this out, it was inevitable this would be part of the badge, because then every time I used the models I could utter the immortal phrase “The Igel has landed…”

I did warn you it would get very silly…

*It still has it own railways though. I posted some videos about those here.

Hit the deck

Huzzah and three rousing cheers, the deck is completed.

The boredom factor was dealt with by the discovery of the excellent “Revolutions Podcast” which I recommend to anyone with a long and repetitive job to do. As an added positive I learned a lot of new things about the revolutions of 1848 and 1871, which I’m sure will guarantee me plenty of personal space at any future parties.

During the celebrations* surrounding the final decking piece being fitted I remembered that this was supposed to be an operational model, and that I therefore needed to fit bogies that could rotate. This caused an extra problem: I use nylon press studs as pivots, and I needed a good three millimetres clearance above the hole. This wasn’t a problem on the van because you basically have the entire van interior to hide the stud, but on this wagon I’d forgotten to take that 3mm into account.

Adding 3mm below the frame made the wagon sit too high.

Eventually brain engaged and I realised that if I made the connector for the stud 1mm from the underside of the deck, I could make a recess in the deck itself to give the required clearance for the bogie to turn.

This being a high precision engineering job I used the digital method: I put my finger on the top of the deck and twisted a drill bit from the other side until I could just feel the movement through the plastic.

This is why I will never be an engineer.

I tested the theory by stealing the bogies off the big van. The turn all right but then I discovered the bogies will be trapped between the side bars. It looks like I’ll have to use large radius curves, or possibly smaller bogies.

*One large glass of Ginger Ale and a whole slice of cake: Never let it be said I can’t have fun.

And other light entertainments.

And now for the question that no-one has asked: what has been happening to the steam powered tank?

Firstly it’s gone rusty. This was achieved by the usual method of painting everything rusty brown, spraying matt varnish over the top, then hairspray, and finally the ‘final’ colour. Even using a familiar method you can learn something new however, and on this occasion I learned that if you try and thin semi solid acrylic paint with Ethanol too many times the pigment separates from the carrier in a rather ugly mess.

Having cleaned off the worst of this learning experience I tried to paint the model a rather nondescript blue/grey. The idea was to make it look like the tank could belong to the British Navy, but not make it too obvious in case some other dastardly cad needed a steam powered death trap in a hurry.

I’m not that convinced by the results thus far: it looks too dark and there’s no sparkle. I realise that a tank shouldn’t have bling and chrome trimming, but I think it needs something to lift it, possibly starting with a completely different colour.

Any thoughts welcome…

So, I need to build the deck on the wood wagon. Of course, I couldn’t go and choose a nice simple wagon with a flat deck, oh, no, I had to go for one with a complex arrangement involving a frame and lots of tiny, and rather battered aluminium cross pieces.

Will I ever learn?

On the original the cross pieces don’t seem to have any strength whatsoever, and are probably just there to stop bits of the load dropping onto the track. To reproduce them I’m cutting strips of 0.5mm thick plastic and bending and gluing them individually onto the wagon. They have to go under the outside frame, and then over the central spine.

It isn’t that exciting, but it’s probably as complex a task as my brain is capable of after work/dealing with the kids on a weekday.

I took the picture after the first batch to show the central spine and cross pieces. Does anyone have a foolproof method for making these? I ended up making the central spine in pieces, measuring each one to fit between the cross pieces and filing them down to fit, then lining them up by eye. Fortunately they’ll be invisible after the wagon is completed.

Hopefully they’ll also stop it going the shape of a banana.

Time to make the deck pieces. See you on the other side…

Mess of a mess

Humpf, look at this. The plan was for a simple fun project making some buildings for a tabletop game to bring a bit of variety to myself and my loyal reader having tied myself in knots cutting bits for the wood wagon.

Looks like I managed to forget the pretty obvious point that clay tends to shrink when it dries.

I ignored the problem for a while, until I had a day when the family were out and I could make a mess of the place without causing domestic contention, and made a rescue attempt, while trying to bring the other buildings up to speed as well.

Rather then get all ambitious I just filled in the cracks with fresh clay. I also remembered to make a ‘base’ around the building, which is a new experience: model railway types tend to expect buildings to stay put for the foreseeable future, whereas in tabletop games they will be moved about for every new game. The holes in the tower will be for the rungs on a ‘ladder’ in case some hero has a sudden need to climb on the roof.

I managed to sort out the mess and get the models out onto the windowsill to dry before before family members began turning up. Notice that the darker models which are still drying have cuts in the surface to allow the clay to shrink and control the cracking.

To my absolute lack of surprise this did not work. Will have to try a different type of clay next time…