Five Parsecs – More Scratchbuilding

Probably the last of this series, at least for a bit, but here’s some more stuff I made a little while ago.

A bit of height is always good to add to the table, especially for 1:1 skirmish games. These are a couple of random industrial units I put together from some metal offcuts, mesh sheet, bottle caps, card and cork.

A new mobile phone is always something to be happy about – mostly because the boxes are very sturdy and great to create scratchbuilt buildings from…

Brigade Games resin Sci-fi doors provided a useful upgrade to the card I was otherwise relying on.

On the table:

Brigade Models’ Research Base buildings, like the 2 on the left, are nice pieces, and I decided to add a couple of scratchbuilt sort-of-copies using cork sanding blocks, more door bits, and strips of thin card to match the style.

Five Parsecs – Scratchbuilding

I do enjoy a bit of scratchbuilding so long as it’s not too challenging, and getting into Five Parsecs was a good opportunity to make a few bits and pieces. I tend to use simple materials like cork (tiles and those liberated from wine bottles), card and mdf and I don’t really do much careful planning or designing – I generally just start with an idea and get cutting and gluing.

Some work in progress. These are generic fuel/energy tanks or towers, made from wine corks, pre-cut MDF bases and ladders, and bits of card. I wanted them to basically look like big industrial batteries.

Small Shuttles – useful for all sorts of scenarios, or just as clutter/cover. These are made from thin card and are loosely based on an old resin model my mate has.

Cargo Haulers – More general scenery, good for spaceports, etc. These started from a thin piece of styrofoam, the rest is thin card as per the shuttles.

Raised Platform – varying heights work well and look good for skirmish games. This is simply a block of polystyrene clad in styrofoam that’s been rolled with an ‘industrial’ texture roller from Green Stuff World, with a cork top. This re-uses materials and textures (floor tiles and walls) from my existing Bug Hunt game.

Home-made decals. These are just knocked out in MS Excel using clipart and text boxes, and printed on normal paper. I use them for vehicles, buildings and plant/equipment. I find that using some repeat liveries can help game settings look a bit more consistent and realistic.

Finished effect:

There are a couple of bought models in the foreground but the rest is scratchbuilt. The light pylons are wooden string ends from window blinds and the hexagonal pipe/tunnel is the container from a poly dice set. The boards are 1 foot squares of marine ply with ready-mixed plaster spread on with a knife, and painted in grey tones.

I don’t use proper weathering techniques, everything is just drybrushed with a grey or sandy tone. Cork and cheap card have a nice roughness to them which makes this a simple process.

More scratchbuilding in the next post!

Five Parsecs – A Dab of Colour

Following on from all the grey in the last post, the next step was to upgrade the cork tile pieces to provide a bit more visual interest. It occurred to me that I could do something different on the reverse side of each piece and, after discarding various colours and patterns, I decided on a muted pallet and some random blocks and lines (while still maintaining the 1″ grid that helps with alignment and movement, etc). Apparently it’s a sort of unintended Mondrian style knock-off.

The colours are pretty much those used in my terrain boards, so although they don’t bring a lot of extra brightness to the grey, they do tone in well with the majority of my stuff. I just used a fine marker pen and painted some of the sections.

First test pieces:

Some pics below of this scenery being used for a few Five Parsecs campaign battles. Using a mix of both the grey and coloured tile sides offers lots of variety. I don’t pretend that the settings make sense from an urban or industrial perspective, they’re really just 3D obstacle courses to fight over.

More scratchbuilding in the next post.

Five Parsecs – Initial Scenery

The first few games of Five Parsecs were played out across a 2 foot square, using the stuff I already had. Most of this came from my homebrew Space Bug Hunt game, but also a couple of gaming mats, plus some generic vehicles, cargo pieces, trees and rocks, etc.

Here’s my first test assembly, using the walls and floor tiles from the other game:

Lots of building blocks basically. Just don’t knock it all over in the first turn! The flat pieces are made from cork tiles, and the rest is mostly MDF.

Some other early games in progress:

Basically everything was pretty much grey, which is useful for generic military/industrial settings but can get a bit dull.

Next post, I’ll actually add a bit of colour!

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away (roughly Five Parsecs from Home)

This is the first of a series of catch-up posts, talking about a project that started back in lockdown. It led to being able to play a lot of games, and generated a decent level of hobby productivity compared to my usual slack level.

I’ve had a 15mm Sci-fi collection for a lot of years, which was initially used to play games of Laserburn back in the 80s (yes, some of the figures are that old).

Over the years there have been attempts to play some squad and platoon-level skirmishes but finding the right set of rules was always the challenge. Attempts to write my own tended to get close, but somehow not really hit the mark. This didn’t stop me buying figures (and even painting some), although I didn’t really have any scenery other than standard green grass, trees and rocks to fight over.

Fast forwards a few decades and I settled on Dragon Rampant as useable for a fun game, and flexible enough to field pretty much any type of troops, weapons and vehicles. Now of course there’s Xenos Rampant, which look excellent and will probably do the job perfectly going forward.

Before that though, I picked up a copy of Five Parsecs from Home from Nordic Weasel (the 2nd edition), which looked very interesting for playing small RPG-lite games and running a ship’s crew through an evolving campaign. When the 3rd edition came out via Modiphius, I decided to go all-in and actually start playing – but of course I needed some scenery.

There have been some excellent campaign write-ups on the web, with bloggers and tweeters entertaining us with lots of great interwoven narrative and blow-by-blow battle accounts. I’m not going to get into that here, but I’ll summarise by saying I’ve run 2 solo crews through 20+ campaign turns, as well as having a fantastic time in a 2-player collaborative campaign that’s gone on even longer. Frankly, it’s been some of the most enjoyable wargaming I’ve been involved in, always offering up challenges, fun and surprises. They’re a great set of rules (and the supplements add a lot too) and all credit to their author Ivan Sorensen.

Part of the enjoyment, of course, is creating the settings and laying out the battlefields. These can involve any type of terrain, buildings and features – whatever you’ve got basically, so long as you ensure there’s a fair bit of cover. Without that, firefights tend to be pretty quick and bloody, and you’ll be rolling up a new crew every five minutes!

Building upon the limited amount of stuff I already had, I really got into it and over a couple of years put together a variety of stuff that give me a choice a of settings. Most of it is interchangeable and look OK on the table together, but by having some discrete sets of buildings and other features, coupled with my terrain boards and a few mats, I’ve managed to get to the point where I can choose to create a different look when my crew moves to a new planet. Of course it’s not really necessary, but it does add something to the already immersive Five Parsecs experience.

So, in an attempt to get some pics posted and re-invigorate the blog, I’ll follow this post up with a few more showing some of the game settings I’ve used for Five Parsecs, and some of the modelling and painting projects that happened along the way.

More soon…

A Few Additions

I am slowly working through the basing of a few batches of figures painted over the winter. I’ll post them as I finish them, here are the first few.

Two crossbow-armed dwarves, classic Citadel figures from the 80s that recently received a re-paint. The guy holding the crossbow up was the original figure for my first ever D&D character, Athor. He’s almost old enough to qualify for a vaccine jab! Painting them as veterans seemed appropriate.

Next, a couple of very large rats from the Reaper Bones range. When used with 15mm figures they’ll be absolute monsters.

Another Reaper Bones figure below, this one is an Undead Dwarf.

Finally, the remaining unit for my previously-posted 15mm Sci-fi Friendlies force (based on the Dorsai novels). These are militia fighters, from CP Models.

More soon…

Walls for homebrew 15mm Sci-fi bug hunt game

This game, a spin-off from my dungeon adventure game, was designed to be mostly 2 dimensional – by which I mean floor tiles for rooms and corridors, but with some vertical features such as doors and internal machinery.

Naturally, expansionist ideas got the better of me and I started picturing walls enclosing the spaces, to help develop the atmosphere and claustrophobic feel.

Not fancying the huge task of modelling the detail on 12 feet of 1 inch high walls, I was saved by the loan of a Green Stuff World roller, designed to press suitable generic sci-fi detail into soft material. It worked a treat on styrofoam.

After a false start, when I realised I didn’t have the means or talent to accurately and consistently cut perfect styrofoam strips, I decided to upgrade the design to include MDF frames. These would allow me to insert 2 pieces of indifferently cut 10mm rollered styrofoam. The frames would provide structure and allow everything to be lined up neatly in the game. I made a decent number each of 1, 2, 3 and 4 inch long sections, each 1 in deep and a total of 33mm tall when based on cork tile (matching the room tiles).

The timber yard: mdf components from Warbases ready for assembly
Assembly done. Looks like a model of a TV warehouse
Rollered sytofoam pieces cut to (approximate) size to fit into frames

Lots of gluing then ensued.

Then lots of undercoating everything black, with 2 coats. This was definitely the most tedious stage and nearly defeated me!

Finally, the quick bit always seems to be the actual painting. I stuck with the pallet I’d used for the existing features, grey, green and a bit of ‘warning’ yellow here and there. Finally a sandy dry-brush and picking out the rollered panel edges with a fine tipped maker pen.

After some months of start-stop effort, they’re finally done. There’s enough for a typical game, with half a dozen or so rooms and corridor sections. When lockdown ends, it’ll get a proper run out.

Not So Friendly – 15mm Sci-fi

My painting over the November/December period wasn’t hugely productive, but I did manage to finish a Sci-fi force. Like most of my other projects, these guys have been languishing for a good few years, and it was good to finally get them done.

They are a force for Sci-fi Rampant (which is basically Dragon Rampant with carefully allocated unit types and upgrades, as referred to in previous posts).

The inspiration comes from Gordon R. Dickson’s Dorsai novels, specifically the mercenaries hired out from the Friendlies, a pair of planets populated by an intensely religious sect. They’re mediocre troops, but well disciplined. To make them more interesting I have sort of blended this background with the attack-minded doctrine and unit types of the Soviets in WWII.

The core is therefore made up of large squads of close assault troops (12 figures per squad compared to the usual 6 for better quality units), backed up by heavy weapons, mortar/artillery spotters, snipers and a bit of assault armour. There are 60 figures, all from GZG (the tank is from Brigade Models). The one addition I’m making is a further squad of 12, using CP Models figures in turbans. These are painted but not yet based.

I’m looking forward to trying this lot on the table. They’re going to take a lot of casualties going in but with their sheer numbers, and black uniforms, they should be a daunting sight for the enemy!

Some Sci-fi Basics

Always in the background, or perhaps on the back-burner, my very slowly developing 15mm Sci-fi collection gets a bit of attention from time to time. Until discovering the simple joys of using Dragon Rampant for platoon-sized skirmishes this ‘project’ was just drifting. It’s still drifting, but now with more purpose!

I’ve been meaning to make some hard-standing bases for a while and finally got around to it at the weekend. Took about an hour altogether. Easily repeatable, I intend to make some more soon. ‘Soon’ being a timeframe that’s subject to drift of course. They are made from 4mm cork sheet, painted and dry-brushed to a lightish grey. I cut out a quick card stencil and applied a simple pattern with roughly applied yellow paint.

These bases represent man-made or pre-fab surfaces laid down in normal/rural terrain as support for buildings, machinery, vehicle parking, etc. Short of making entire terrain tiles of it (which I still could I suppose) this seems to provide a decent look for military or research facilities in the types of games I play. I’m not aiming for urban settings or major structures, just low-key scenery for small missions and skirmishes.

Hard-standing pieces placed under buildings and other features. A couple of scratchbuilt card cargo pallets on the right too.
About as simple as you can get with a piece of painted cork sheet.