Category Archives: Old West

Saddle Up, Boys! (and Girls, if applicable)

One of my 2019 Resolutions was to finally play GW’s Legends of the Old West, an out-of-print Old West skirmish game using the Warhammer engine. Despite using a variation of the IGO/UGO mechanic, it remains pretty popular among Old West gamers, as it’s easy to pick up and play, particularly if you’re familiar with Warhammer.

I’ve been wanting to play some Old West skirmish for years now, and even started making a Mexican border town, Mescalero, several years ago. Like many projects of mine, this got sidelined in favor of whatever else struck my fancy; but not before I also bought, assembled and painted some Plastcraft Western Buildings. I now have the beginnings of two towns; a traditional Mexican adobe village and a clapboard boom-town. (I also meant to make some Badlands scenery (and I still will), but, you know…sidelined.)

Recently I managed to get my hands on the holy grail of 28mm Western gaming, the OOP 1/64 scale ERTL Cow Town playset. It contains a Hotel/Saloon, a Sherriff’s Office, a Blacksmith, and an outbuilding and outhouse, along with lots of other scenic knick-knacks (like bar tables and desks). Between the Cow Town set, the Plastcraft buildings, and a couple of MDF buildings I bought from Knuckleduster, I have no excuse not to move forward with this project.

For Old West miniatures, I have a mixture from Blue Moon, Old Glory, Foundry, Knuckleduster and Reaper. Before the whole thing got sidelined, I painted up the Blue Moon cowboys that I got from Scale Creep. I really like this line a lot. The Old Glory and Foundry stuff looks a little small compared to the others (especially the Reaper Chronoscope stuff), but I’m hoping it won’t bother me too much when I actually start playing.

First up, the Blue Moon miniatures. The Earp brothers: Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan, along with Doc Holliday.

The Clantons: Ike, Billy and Johnny Ringo.

Frank and Billy McClaury; Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett.

The Daltons: Emmett, Bob and Grat. (Yes, Grat.)

A few Reaper Chronoscope miniatures: Stone (who I think is an undead gunslinger, although I didn’t paint him that way); Deadeye Slim; and a U.S. Agent (not to be confused with the guy who replaced Captain America). Both Stone and Slim are Bones miniatures. I bought the Agent because he has a pepperbox pistol, and that’s kinda cool.

Some Reaper fantasy townsfolk can serve double duty as Old West civilian miniatures, as seen here. The bartender and strumpet both work well as Old West miniatures.

Same can be said for the blacksmith (what moron parked a wagon full of hay near the forge?!)…

And this RAFM Call of Cthulhu doctor.

None of these miniatures count towards my painting queue progress, sadly; most were painted years ago. But THIS is my big project for this year; in lieu of starting a new army, I’ll get my Old West scenery and miniatures all done instead.

In between other stuff, of course…

Product Review: Plastcraft Western Buildings

Production of my south-of-the-border town of Mescalero has slowed while I try to figure out some problems with the church roof. With all the amazing new Western buildings available from companies like 4Ground, Game On and Knuckleduster, to name a few, I thought I might as well start putting together a more traditional Western town. The trouble is those laser-cut MDF buildings can get pricey pretty quick.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I first saw these PlastCraft Western Buildings on Miniature Market and I figured I’d give them a try. The kits are all basically the same, although the front of each building is different, and some have awnings while some do not. Each building kit comes with a resin door and window (varies by kit). You can’t beat the price: at less than $5 each I bought all six varieties.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I posed some 28mm Blue Moon cowboys with these buildings to give you an idea of the scale. As you can see, the buildings are pretty small for 28mm and might be better suited to 15mm. The roofs are not designed to be removable, but I guess you don’t have to permanently attach them if you don’t want to. Regardless, the interiors are so small that there’s really no point in not attaching them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I have mixed feelings about these kits. I’ll give you my personal pros and cons, as well as discuss how I assembled them. I wish I had thought to take pictures of them before assembly, but I didn’t think I’d be writing a review of them. Sorry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPROS:

  • The price. For less than $5 apiece, they make perfectly good small shops and won’t break your scenery budget.
  • Once assembled and painted, they look nice enough.
  • Once primed, the material takes paint well. Inexpensive craft paint was made for  projects like this!
  • You get a lot of extra card left over for each building, which is great for use in other projects, or to dress up these buildings (see below).

CONS:

  • The kits are somewhat fiddly to assemble, especially the awnings. Expect to get glue on your fingers.
  • The resin doors and windows do not often fit snugly into the holes. There’s usually a gap, so you need to fill it with Green Stuff or something else.
  • There is absolutely no texture to these buildings. Either you need to paint it to look like wood boards, or you need to score the material first. I opted for the latter. It’s easy enough to score, and it looks much better when assembled.
  • The signs, like the building walls, are just blank card.  Which means either stenciling, painting freehand, or doing what I did; which is printing out the name of the business in Playbill font and glueing it to the sign. The downside to this is it looks bright. I guess I could have used some other paper, but for the amount of use these buildings are going to get, it wasn’t worth it.
  • All of the above makes assembling these buildings a more time-consuming task than you might think.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OVERALL:

The low price makes it easy to overlook the annoyances. These kits would compliment some nicer buildings by the abovementioned companies, or may provide adequate scenery for a small outdoor skirmish on their own. You may notice I used some extra card bits to make signs on a couple of buildings like the one above. It won’t win any awards, but it adds a little something extra. You get plenty of leftover card to use in any way you see fit. For example, I considered making a plank bridge from one building roof to another, but scrapped the idea.

After I painted them, I realized my Western buildings look pretty bright and clean! I’m thinking of adding some weathering pigments to them to dirty them up a bit. You could paint them with less color to give them a more hastily-constructed or ramshackle look, if you prefer.

SHOULD YOU BUY THEM?

Yeah, if you’re looking to add a little extra to a town or if you’re on a tight budget (or both). As long as you have the patience to assemble them, these kits are fine for what they are, and a steal at the price.

Making Mescalero: Part 2

Just a short update on my Old West, south-of-the-border town, Mescalero. Over the past month or so I completed work on a couple of two-story structures. The basic process is the same as in Part One, but here are the differences.

DSCN0472

As you can see above, I constructed the frame of the buildings the usual way. I knew I would need stairs to reach the second level, and making them out of foamboard seemed to be pretty time consuming. Instead, I used a hot wire cutter to sculpt them out of insulation foam. Then I just glued them to the side of the building. Because they’re adobe buildings, I wasn’t all that concerned about uneven edges or the less-than perfect rise and run of the staircase. And neither should you be.

DSCN0478

After applying the wood filler, the buildings looked like this. I constructed them so the roof could lift off of both stories, allowing access to both levels inside. You’ll note I also made a large one-story building and some ruined walls at the same time. Why not?

DSCN0499

These are the finished buildings in this wave. I made the doors out of balsa wood and flocked the cork bases with sand and PVA, plus I added some dead static grass to them. I liked the look so much that I went back and added the static grass to all the Wave 1 buildings too.

I’m still working on the Church and Stables. When everything is done, I’ll post a photo of the whole town, including the ruins.  More updates soon!

Making Mescalero: Part 1

I had the week off last week, so I decided to devote some time to terrain-making. I was inspired by the awesome series of Youtube videos by The Terrain Tutor, which I had been watching at my desk the week prior. Hey, I can productively waste time at work like nobody else. In particular, I was inspired by this video, which is a comprehensive guide to using foamboard. A lot of the tips I already knew, but there were a lot of things I didn’t know and I’m glad I watched it.

I recently decided I wanted to get into Old West skirmish gaming, and to that end I have purchased a bunch of cowboys from Blue Moon Manufacturing. Not sure what rules I’m going to use yet, but I’m leaning towards Blackwater Gulch, as it’s a free download and seems pretty easy to play. Another possibility is .45 Adventure, just because I love it so much. In their Thrilling Tales Quarterly magazine, volume 2, there was an article by a guy named “Grimm” on how to make quick adobe buildings. So, between Grimm and the Terrain Tutor, I figured I was well-prepared to start on a Mexican village, which I have decided to call Mescalero. (And yes, I know it’s an area in New Mexico and the name of an Apache tribe. So what?)

I figured I would share with you the process I used. Please note that between the two sources I mentioned above, there’s very little I did that was original or new. I’m not claiming to be an innovator when it comes to building terrain. But  thought the time/process and end results might be of interest to all four of you who read this blog.

DSCN0414

Here’s what I started with: in addition to black foamboard, I used a couple of steel rulers with cork backing, a few different types of razor knives, some Elmer’s glue and a heat gun.  I traced some basic building templates on 5″x7″ index cards and cut them out.

DSCN0415

I used the templates to trace patterns on the foamboard, then cut them out using the knives and rulers. The Terrain Tutor has some great tips on how to cut foamboard cleanly and evenly, especially in hard to reach places like doors and windows. I wasn’t too worried about getting precise cuts since I was making adobe walls.

DSCN0416

Once this was done, I used a heat gun to heat up the corners so I could easily remove the paper backing of the foamboard, creating areas where the walls have cracked. Prior to this, I did not own a heat gun. I picked this one up at Home Depot for 20 bucks.

DSCN0417

Once the paper is peeled back, it’s easy to sculpt a brick pattern onto the foam itself. I used this old butter knife.

DSCN0419

Quick tip: Heat guns are not hair dryers. They get hot quickly and will melt the foam if you keep them on too long. Too long is more than a couple of seconds. Then you get something like this, above. Notice the bottom left corner, it melted away from the paper. Oh, they can also burn you, too, if you’re not careful, so watch where you put the tip when you’re finished.

DSCN0418

Once everything is cut out and sculpted, I assembled the buildings using the Elmer’s glue. I secured them for a good bond using pins inserted into the joins, as well as this painter’s tape. Painter’s tape is great because the adhesive is pretty weak. It will hold the joins together, but it’s easy to peel off once you’re done.

Quick tip: although painter’s tape has a weak adhesive, that adhesive will get a lot stronger if you let it sit for a while, as anyone who has ever used it to paint a room will know. In other words, It’s fine to let it sit overnight, but you should remove it the next day. Letting it sit for a few days or a week will make it very difficult to remove in one piece and may damage your foamboard. (Of course, if you’re making adobe buildings like me, that might not be a big deal. See below.)

DSCN0420

I deviated from Grimm on the next step. He recommends cutting your base out and wrapping it in textured wallpaper to create a floor. Then he mounts the building to the base. I didn’t have any textured wallpaper, but I did have some extra Mayhem tiles from World Works Games that I hadn’t used. Considering it was going to be the floor of a building, I thought I would just use those. You can see I made several buildings before proceeding to this step.

DSCN0421

I traced the inside of the buildings onto the WWG tiles to get a template for the floors, then cut them out and glued them on with paper glue (somewhat stronger than Elmer’s) for a tight bond. You can see the results above. I also traced the inside of the building onto foamboard so I could make a ceiling.

Quick tip: Make sure you trace the inside of the building on the correct side. For example, if you’re making a ceiling, trace the inside top of the building, not the bottom. Don’t assume the floor is exactly the same dimensions as your ceiling. I know it should be, but it’s not, as unless you have a perfectly vertically-level join (which you won’t).

DSCN0422

When that’s done, it’s time to give the adobe building it’s distinctive look. Here, too I deviated from Grimm’s instructions slightly. I used this awl I had laying around (I have no idea where I got it) to poke some holes in the walls a few centimeters below the top, then inserted some balsa wood as ceiling supports. I used my hobby saw to cut the balsa wood to about a 1″ length. If you don’t have balsa wood and don’t want to spend the whole 60 cents it costs to pick up a rod of this size, then you can cut the heads off some wooden matchsticks and use those. In fact, that was Grimm’s method, but I found the matchsticks I had on hand were too thin.

DSCN0423

After that, attach your buildings to whatever you’re going to use as a base. I used cork tiles, as it’s easy to cut and shape. This next part gets messy, so be sure to wear latex or vinyl gloves. Using your fingers, spread a coating of wood filler or spackle over the building. Don’t worry about how messy it is, as adobe structures look rough. Make sure you avoid the areas you cut out and sculpted as you want those to show through later. I had both spackle and wood filler on hand, and I used both just to see the difference. Although the end results were much the same, I found that wood filler was easier to spread and work with, so I pretty much abandoned the spackle after the first building. But YMMV.

I decided not to use wood filler on the interior of the buildings, at least not these small ones. Instead I covered a few centimeters of the top interior, as this is the part that would be visible once the ceiling is in place. Remember when I said it wouldn’t be a big deal if you damaged the foamboard by waiting too long to remove the tape? It’s not, considering you’re covering the walls with wood filler and that will cover the tape, too. You can also leave the pins in, if you want.

DSCN0430

Let it dry overnight. Then you’re ready to paint it. I used craft paint, and started by painting the walls a light brown color.

DSCN0434

Once the brown dried, I drybrushed it with successively lighter shades of tan, ivory and eventually, very little white. I painted the “exposed” brick areas a dark brown color and added a wash of black to make the bricks stand out. Oh, and I also added a stovepipe to the roof with a bit of old metal tubing I had laying around forever, and inserted balsa wood doors. I scored the doors with a hobby knife to make individual planks, and painted them brown. You can see them in later pictures.

DSCN0432

Once the walls were painted, I used a mixture of sand, ballast and wood flue to flock the bases. Then I painted the base brown, and built up the highlights with a lighter brown and ivory paint.

Quick tip: Don’t throw away your foamboard scraps. The piece above was made with some irregular leftovers. Put together, they make a good ruined adobe wall. I’ll be making more of these later.

DSCN0433

I figured with the bases done, I could get creative by adding some things to them.  I decided on some cacti. I bought this box of Pegasus Hobbies cacti for this purpose.

DSCN0438

There’s enough bits in this box for over 60 little cacti (which is more than I’ll ever use). Painted up, they really look nice and add a bit of Old West flavor to the scenery. The box retails for $8.50, so not a bad deal.

DSCN0445

I decided to make a well as a cool little flavor piece, or maybe even a game objective. I bought a couple of sheets of modelling plastic in a Spanish tile pattern at a hobby shop for about $6, and cut a bit to cover the well. Then I painted it with terracotta craft paint.

DSCN0470

Here’s a picture of the finished well. The well itself is from the now defunct JR miniatures (which sucks…they made some great stuff!). The bucket was an accessory from an army toy.

DSCN0471

Here’s the first batch of buildings in Mescalero. It didn’t take me very long to do…a few days between the cutting, gluing, filler application and painting. A fair amount of time was spent waiting for things to dry. As you can see, I added the balsa wood doors and painted them brown. Overall I’m pleased with the results.

What’s next? Well, I’m working on a few other buildings…a stables and a small church, complete with a bell tower and graveyard. I’d like the church to be the focal point of Mescalero. I’d also like to make some two story structures and maybe a couple more small buildings. I’m also toying with the idea of an outdoor mercado, and of course, more ruins. I’ll keep you all updated with more Mescalero as it takes shape.