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The Castle (Pandemic Painting Part II)

My desire for a miniature castle with which to stage battles and play out stories of derring-do goes back to childhood, like so many things wargaming related. I remember playing with some Marx Co. viking and knight toy soldiers my best pal Jerry Bell had when we were young kids in Ohio. But finding more toy soldiers from that historical period seemed nearly impossible in the 1970s, while WWII and Vietnam-era army men were ubiquitous and could be bought by the bagful literally at the local grocery store. It made sense that we switched instead to accumulating large armies of those plastic green army men, and they entertained us for years.

My pal Jerry must have lost or never inherited the castle and other pieces that accompanied this set because all we had were the vikings and knights themselves and none of the scenery.

Jump ahead about four decades, and while attending my first Fall In convention I played a game in which I had to help defend a castle from besiegers. It was a great time, and I left the game knowing one thing: I had to acquire my own castle and replicate the fun at home with my friends.

The castle at Historicon was by the Miniature Building Authority, and it literally cost thousands of dollars, an amount I wouldn't be able to devote to my own castle. It was undeniably beautiful, but because it was made of resin, it was also quite heavy, making it not very portable as well as vulnerable to breakage.

I needed an alternative, and so I did a lot of research back in 2017 and landed on a modular castle set originally made by Hudson & Allen and now manufactured by Vatican Enterprises Wargame Scenics. I could pick up their six-piece modular "deluxe" castle kit for $295, which is exactly what I did. It's extruded foam, thus much lighter, and came unpainted (with a grey primer coat). I set it up on the kitchen table and was excited about getting it ready for a game. I was fairly intimidated by that prospect, though, because I really hadn't taken on a project even remotely this ambitious up to that point (Dec. 2017). In fact, I was still sending out all of my miniatures for commission painting to Mar Rosquites

The deluxe kit straight out of the box with a breached wall and destroyed tower section added in.

In the end, after chatting with Mar about how to approach the job, I decided to prime the entire set black, and then bought a couple of tester pots of a dark and a lighter grey house paint from Home Depot. No need to waste expensive hobby paints on a piece like this. After priming I used the dark grey for a very heavy dry brush, and then went over it all again with a much lighter dry brush using the light grey. 

Then, as probably happens to a lot of wargamers, shortly after starting to paint the castle, I got pulled into another project (specifically an adaptation of "Beyond the Black River," which required me to create a whole jungle full of scenery pieces). I think I got two or three wall sections of the castle completed before I set it aside in early 2018.

And again, as has happened to many of us wargamers, the pandemic has seen me dusting off all sorts of unfinished projects. I decided to throw myself into finally finishing the castle, which had now come close to doubling in size with the addition of more modular sections ordered over the past couple of years.

Everything is finally painted and ready for a game, whenever that may happen again. I still need to get the portcullis and drawbridge pieces assembled for the main gate, but otherwise this is done...that is until I decide to order a few more modular pieces for the castle, like another tower or two with conical roofs, and some hoarding kits for the walls and towers, and...well, you get the picture.

Click on any photo to enlarge. The Scrum Club's official combat photographer, Ellen, helped out by snapping many of these. 

The castle currently measures out at about 3.5 x 4 feet.
Cha-Cha inspects the breached wall around the corner from the front gate.

And here she's heading toward the salley port at the read of the castle.

Because all of my recently painted bandits were still sitting in the dining room, I just scattered them around the castle for scale for these photos.

A shot from the rear. The modular pieces slid around a bit on the slick surface after Cha-Cha's inspection.

If I'd noticed, I would have pushed those pieces together a bit better to close the seams before Ellen started snapping pics.

This piece is actually a tower from the old 1992 Milton Bradley game Battle Masters that I decided to paint up at the same time. The deeply recessed detail actually made these a breeze to paint to a pretty decent standard, so I think I'll actually pick up a couple more on eBay if I can get them cheap.

Still need to figure out how I'll store these. Probably a couple of large plastic tubs. I know Ellen--as good-natured as she is--is likely tired of seeing these on our dining room table.



  1. Well, you certainly have got yourself one *heck* of a castle!
    And Ellen takes some mean photos - I love the one as if looking up from ground level, up the outer wall!

    1. Thanks so much, Richard. I've passed on your kind words to my wife about her photos. I would say about 85% of the photos on this blog are shot by her. She doesn't play any of these games, but her photography has been a nice way for us to share in all of this.

  2. Your castle looks ace! Really nice work, it took me years to finish my castle/city walls, but I guess I had to start from a toy castle and add bits, but this one is excellent all over!
    Best Iain

  3. Thanks, Iain. Always a pleasure to get a comment from you. I'd love to see some photos of your castle sometime, if you care to share them. Warm regards as always!

  4. That looks fantastic Joe! And you mentioned on my blog that you bought 8 more pieces??!! You're going to need a bigger table 😂
    Where are you sourcing your pieces? I'm desperate for a gate and just can't find one.

    1. I ordered mine straight from the current owner of the line/molds, Vatican Enterprises. I'll include the link below. The site says he's on "sabbatical," but I was able to email him and get the pieces I needed after a few weeks.

      As for the bigger table, I've got one on the way, actually. I backed that recent Wyrmwood campaign for one of their wargame-sized tables. The piece I ordered subsequent to writing this post will allow me to create more of an interior castle/keep-type structure within the confines of these outer walls.

    2. Much appreciated Joe. I had actually remembered seeing that, about the "sabbatical", and why I was looking elsewhere so that's really great to hear that I can sort out that gate - and probably another keep and watchtower 😀
      Mate, a Wyrmwood table!?!? Looking forward to seeing that - meanwhile, I'll be over here using my Value City kitchen table for gaming lol

    3. Yeah, we did a bunch of renovation here at the house this past fall (kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and basement) and the wife said I should get the Wyrmwood as part of that overall reno. I have the Scrum Club who comes over once a month (at least pre-pandemic), and I'll often host another ad hoc game in there somewhere every month, too. Ellen is super supportive of it all because I've made such a lovely group of friends when I formed the Scrum Club back in 2017.

    4. You are a lucky man, Ellen sounds great 🙂


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