Skip to main content

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I needed an alternative, and so I did a lot of research back in 2017 and landed on a modular castle set originally made by Hudson & Allen and now manufactured by Vatican Enterprises Wargame Scenics.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!


Post a Comment

Well-thumbed posts

Chainmail: Battle of Emridy Meadows

In my imagination, Chainmail has always been that shadowy precursor to Dungeons & Dragons that I was both intrigued by yet leery of. I loved the idea of a game involving mass battles in a fantasy setting akin to those depicted in the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but I also had a sense that Chainmail, released in 1971 a mere year after I was born, was likely a clunky wargame that would be too frustrating to bother mastering. It also didn't help that my first inkling of its existence was around 1980 or so when I could never dream of amassing the miniature armies needed to play out these massive conflicts. No, back then I was pretty sure Chainmail was the province of grizzled old grognards who had started wargaming before I was even born.

Even after my gaming rebirth decades later in 2016, I was fine with letting the dim past remain so, and was more than content during my first couple of years back in the hobby exploring rules of a more recent vintage and manageable scale…

Lost Art of D&D No. 2: Games Workshop's Holmes Basic (1977)

After Games Workshop attained the license to print a co-branded edition of TSR's 1977 Dungeons & Dragons basic rules book, they set about putting their own stamp on it, designing a new cover and replacing a number of the illustrations they deemed too crudely drawn for their U.K. market. 
The cover art was by John Blanche at the very start of his career as a fantasy illustrator. Blanche went on to be a mainstay at Games Workshop, producing countless illustrations for them. His fannish enthusiasm for the material--as an artist as well as a lifelong gamer--has deservedly made him a favorite over the decades.
I first encountered Blanche's work in the David Day compendium, A Tolkien Bestiary (1978), to which he contributed five illustrations that sit comfortably alongside the book's chief illustrator, Ian Miller. I have a special fondness for this book, having coveted it as a child during my incipient Middle Earth fixation. My parent's procured an out-of-print copy of the…

All Together Now: 'Sellswords & Spellslingers' and the Pleasures of Cooperative Gaming

I've always enjoyed a good competitive match as much as the next guy, whether it was sports in high school or video games (HALO, etc.) in my thirties. But regardless of the game, I've always been partial to team play, and the best cooperative games put all of the focus on succeeding as a team. That's one of the reasons I was enthusiastic about getting Andrea Sfiligoi's latest release, Sellswords & Spellslingers (Ganesha Games), on the table for this month's Second Saturday Scrum Club gathering.

Last year I had organized a Halloween game (recap) to beta-test Sfiligoi's Run From the Dead, which is built atop the same cooperative mechanics as Sellswords. I was surprised when I discovered these rules were re-skinned for the fantasy genre and released last December ahead of Run From the Dead. Hopefully, the zombie apocalypse version of the rules is not too far behind because I definitely think Run From the Dead is the best tabletop miniatures rule set I've …

Striking Back Against COVID-19: Free Conan Scenarios for 'Sellswords & Spellslingers'

Long-time readers of the blog will remember the adaptation of "Beyond the Black River" I started working on in the spring of 2018 for the Sellswords & Spellslingers rules. I ran it for the first time at Historicon 2018, and have now run it at several conventions and game days since.

Sellswords & Spellslingers is designed for solo and co-op play, so to do my bit in helping the game community in its fight against boredom during these isolating pandemic days, I've decided to gather and organize all of the material I developed for my convention scenarios and make it freely available as a download via this blog. At the link further down is a 68-page PDF file with all of my player aids and notes.
Of all of the major solo/co-op miniatures rules that have been released in the past few years, Sellswords & Spellslingers is hands down the best if unfortunately not the most widely known or used. I highly encourage you to buy a copy of the rules, if you haven’t already, a…

Scrum Con 2020: A Leap Forward!

Scrum Con 2020 was held last weekend in Silver Spring, Maryland on Leap Day, which seems fitting in that the convention itself took quite a jump forward from 2019: More than double the number of games, more than double the number of attendees, double the number of convention t-shirt designs, and three times the space.

And we sold the show out again! 

We had about 215 registered attendees and filled almost 275 seats in the 35 games we offered over the course of the day. We had folks come from some distance to attend, including Philadelphia, West Virginia, New Jersey, and other exotic locales that I'm sure I'm forgetting. As always, we organize the convention as an equal split between miniatures games and role-playing games, and I was pleased to see even more attendees this year sign up for one of each type.

We're admittedly small as far as these things go, but I think the quality of the experience we offer is a cut above, and we put a lot of effort into everything from the pri…

My First Wargame: Reviving 'Revolt on Antares'

If you don't count playing Risk as a kid of nine with a bunch of adults on a camping trip, then Revolt on Antares was my first proper wargame. And it was infatuation at first sight. I had already been playing D&D for two or three years when I first clamped eyes on this game. I immediately recognized Jeff Dee's style on the cover art from his illustrations in the D&D books, and the idea of such a little box containing an entire game from D&D's publisher, TSR--"The Game Wizards," don't you know--was too enticing to pass up. 
It was spring of 1981, and my family was on vacation in the Boston area to visit some close family friends (the Dashes) who had left Dayton, Ohio a couple of years prior. They had one son a couple of years older than me (Adam) and another almost exactly my age (Benji). In retrospect they could both be kind of obnoxious at times, but when they weren't, we found ways to have fun together. Our parents were quite tight as friends…