Mars is dying...

Mars is dying...

Not through fault or neglect or wicked reason, not even because of the Gods; though some would say this is so. Mars is dying because it is old.

For time beyond count, our world has floated with the orb of the sun god, basking in the everwarmth that it provides, the Martian brothers sailing around giving constant company.

The Ancients warned the death of Mars might be so. Long, long ago; before the Storm. It is said the Storm lasted for an age or more: I for one, do not believe this to be true even though the clan elders warn me against foolish words.

There are still some Ancient writings in the deep deserts for those who wish to learn and are willing to brave sandstorms and the creatures that live there. Most of our knowledge from before the Storm comes from stories told around the clan fires, told again and again, embellished ever so lightly with each clan teller so who knows what is true and what is not.

With each storm season, the Ancient houses and temples disappear and reappear so fast that is easy to loose them completely, Gods know how large their cites were or what final secrets they contain. Three whole clans have been lost searching for the chief city with no sign or call from them these long years past.

But now we have new troubles and concerns. The Earthers have come to Mars: to steal and pillage what they can and to take it away to their blue world. Curse them to the Gods! They have no right, no honour and no need to be here. Like parasites they come here destroying whatever they touch and leaving mayhem in their wake.

They must be sent back across the sky ocean to their blue world.

They must be stopped.

It must happen now!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The toll bridge

As mentioned in the previous post, the canals of Mars are extensive and several of the major crossings are made via toll bridge.

This is the second piece of Martian terrain I've done with the first being the farmstead. It's certainly a large model and at the moment it's only a third...

As stated, the toll towers are tall, single structures with an attached small temple and are generally 'owned' by a single family.

The construction for this was the same for as the farmstead building but obviously on a grander scale, I was wanting to give the impression of an imposing structure and I think it worked. The ramp goes up to the reverse drawbridge and the passage goes through to a similar drawbridge on the other side which leads onto the bridge proper. The bridge and second tower still need to be made and when I'm better I'll make a start (after Christmas probably). 

I'm am working on designing a vertical ballista that the City Martians use for defence and we are also hopefully near to having the first City Martians ready for release.

I'll leave you with some pictures of the first toll bridge tower...

Thank you

Monday, 28 October 2013

The canals of Mars

As mentioned before, with water becoming scarce on Mars (the reason yet to be determined) the still functioning canals are becoming an increasingly important lifeline to City Martian culture.

The entire surface of Mars was once criss-crossed with canals of varying sizes and lengths but only about 40% still have water and are navigable. The reminder have either dried up, are in hostile territory or, where they have been cut through mountain passes, have been blocked by falling debris from the cuttings. With the Martian population drastically cut when the Great Storm hit there hasn't been the manpower to keep up a continuous repair.

The canals that are still used are kept in a usable state as much as can be and there have been City Martian clan discussions about trying to extend the network and find some of the lost cities. Opposed by some but favoured by others this might become a possibility with the human presence and their ever increasing manpower levels.

The canals tend to be of a standard size all over the planet with enough room to allow two Martian barges to pass with ease. They are stone lined and various smaller branches and docks can be found over the entire network. Martian barges are generally a two story affair with the lower floor for heavier goods and the lighter ones on the top deck. Passengers can also be taken for a small fee or a turn at the punting poles. Humans have even started to take 'pleasure rides' on the barges, much to the amusement and sometimes annoyance of the owners. The barges are propelled with long poles thrust into the middling depths of the canals and along the stone side walls. Fishing sometimes takes place but the levels of fish seem to be dropping with each passing year; again, the reason is unknown.

Toll bridges can be found where land trade routes cross the canals and the toll owners are generally a single family and can be quite heavily defended; not against the trade caravans, who's relation with the toll families is generally a good one, but against the Sky Martians who will quite often prey on the lone bridge stations. The bridge stations themselves consist generally of two large, tall buildings, one on either side of e canal with an attached small temple (a common feature in a lot of Martian buildings), a signal-gem station on top, a ballista or two and the bridge inbetween. There is a ramp leading upto a heavy wooden door with an internal drop-bridge in each tower which can be used to bar passage. Another heavy door on the other side of the tower leads on to the bridge itself which is a high arched stone affair that can generally only allow one barge under at a time. Quite often, a ballista will also be mounted on the bridge.

The water in the canals is a murky green/brown colour and is full of minerals which the City Martians use to drink, although it does need to be strained of some of the larger lumps... Strangely, not many plants can be found alongside the canals as they appear to prefer the purer water from aquifers in the mountains although once the water has been boiled it can be used to water crops.

There are several types of fish that inhabit the canals and these can supplement a barges stores if the journey is long but as mentioned, these seem to be getting less and less in number. The largest is about three-four foot long and is fairly docile but some of the smaller types can leave a nasty bite if unwary fingers are dipped in the waters for too long. There have been rumours of large reptiles or somesuch in the more remote canals but whether this is a tale told by the punters to while away passage or actual fact, who can say.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A word on Martian Askaris

Since the human colonists have brokered contact with the indigenous City Martian population there have been those few City Martians that have wanted to help the humans better themselves on Mars and a recent offshoot of this is the forming of several units of native askari.

These native troops see an advantage of being with the humans in the way that they are able to occasionally see off the ferocious Sky Martians; and with their technology, to possibly put the Sky Martians in their place once and for all. The City Martians have always been prayed upon by the Sky Martians for many centuries but now they feel that the time has come to assist the humans.

Not all City Martians feel the same way; indeed, there are some who would like nothing better than to see the humans return to their home in the heavens but the pro-human movement is becoming larger with the more frequent attacks by the Sky Martians helping to push the waverers over.

Not every Sky Dwelling Martian revolted against the Earther Great Powers during the uprising of 1889. Whether it be a simple blood feud between clans, or forward thinking individuals who looked on the Earthers as their future salvation many turned against their brethren and took up arms in favour of the Earthers. Although the humans have noted that it is best to keep the Sky and City Martians in separate units and in differing areas in case fighting breaks out between them. 

The British and the Japanese have been the first nations to fully utilise the natives into effective fighting units; Querns own Martian Rifles (British) and The Imperial Askari Corp (Japanese) being two units of note. Equipping the Martians is proving to be a slight problem due to the Martian physiology and so for the time being local costume is being worn and supplemented by human head gear and the occasional waistcoat or short jacket. Their fascination with Earth fashion, in particular hats, together with their intense need to retain their native appearance made them a curious sight to behold around New Victoria. They've adopted Earther weapons too, but again clung onto their fierce Martian fighting glaives and blades where they can. This does give the askari a haphazard appearance but they are proving their worth on campaign being utilised as scouting troops and flankers. The other point of note is that the Askari have started to have been given human names as the Martian language can be quite fierce on the throat, a turn of events that they seem to relish. 

Actual equipment is not in vast supply on Mars with normal supply runs from Earth sporadic at best and until the proper foundries and powder mills are set up and running properly the askari have to make do with whatever spare rifles are available; sometimes even primitive muskets have been brought into use.

As the struggles with the Sky Martians continue and the ranks of the askari swell it may turn out that these troops are put in 'front line' roles and even be given command of heavier equipment as and when it becomes available. But only time will tell...

Friday, 27 September 2013

Land caravans

Many trade route criss-cross Mars and these are plied by numerous caravans bringing trade and goods to those who need them and to those that don't. A caravan is always a welcome sight when spotted by a watch tower and it is becoming an ever increasing custom to send out riders to meet the caravan, as a sign of respect and to help protect them on the last part of their journey.

Each caravan is funded and provided by a merchant family with several of the larger families owning a good number of caravans, usually travelling along different routes so as not to saturate an area with the same supplies. This is also good economically as no one family has a monopoly in a particular area.

The caravans themselves consist of several, large sleds pulled by docile herd animals (a treatise on which later) and a good number of smaller sleds that comtain either precious cargos or members of the caravan themselves. Occasionally, an important family member will accompany the caravan on needed business exchanges. There are also several outriders that will scout ahead to see that the way is clear for the sleds and also to check for roving bands of Sky Martians. 

The sleds can be massive affairs of several levels but the typical sled is of the same style as canal barges, two levels with the lower used for heavy or bulky items.the sleds are quite low to the ground to help with the offloading and both sides can be lowered and act as ramps. Awnings are a common feature as it can get rather stifling in the red wastes and the coolness underneath can be a welcome respite. Some sleds are painted in the house colours of the merchant family who owns it and along with bright awnings the caravans can be a colourful sight.

Some families are starting to arm their sleds; or even have entire sleds, with ballistas in an attempt to dissuade the Sky Martian attacks. This only seems to happen for the smaller clans and lone skiffs out for a quick steal but every little helps in the trade heavy City Martian culture.

When a family member joins the caravan they are given much honour and their sled is generally the brightest. Depending on the owner, a caravan might take a bit longer than normal with a family member on board as they find it useful to spend time with the caravaneers to see what the lay of the land is in other towns and cities and to get a taste of the wider world. Quite often it will be a younger member joining the caravan to help with  being trained into the higher levels of the family but sometimes an older member will take the journey to see an old acquaintance. 

When evening comes and the days travel ends, the caravans form a circle with a large fire in the middle and the clan tellers tell tall tales of days past and of the times before the Great Storm. When two caravans meet, even during the day, they will stop and share the fire and stories and sometimes even goods if the trade seems worth it. The circle of caravans also act as protection against some of the beasts that occasionally wander the red wastes and would attack unwary travellers but a good fire and plenty of noise generally keeps them away. As the Sky Martians don't tend to attack at night only a light guard is set once the fire has died down and the City Martians can spread out their awnings at the sides of the caravans and have a full nights rest.

Once the caravan has reached its destination it is lead to a supply holding area where the incoming goods are checked off and a list of the caravans wants and needs is handed over for the residing merchant families assistants to scour the local market and obtain what is required. The goods brought are listed and distributed as and when amongst the local merchants and traders to either be sold to the local populace or another visiting caravan from another city. The stay can be several days as the caravan is resupplied and stocked up for its continuing journey. The longest caravan journeys can last for several months and cover numerous towns and cities but they are usually unfrequent and not the rule. A normal journey will take two/three weeks and include only one or two visits to different locales. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

City Martian farmstead

City Martian farmsteads.

As mention previously, the city Martians have adapted well to the conditions of the red planet using underground aquifers to supply the subterranean irrigation network.

The farms usually consist of one or two family buildings that extend underground and allow limited access to the irrigation system and also help protect the occupants during fierce storms. There are also the crop fields that are protected by screens against the harsh Martian winds. Fortunately, these winds always seem to blow in the same general direction so the screens can be permanent structures.

The main crop is a hardy leaf covered 'vegetable' which looks like bark but once prepared for food it softens and becomes quite palatable. This crop is also bi annual and can be dry-stored for several months. This is useful as if a particular heavy storm season comes then a single yield can be wiped out.

There are also pens and corals for the beasts of burden (more of which later). Simple stakes from the Ous'kaah tree, a thin, straight plant from some of the smaller canyons that have a water supply. This wood isn't the strongest but the beasts are generally docile and easily led.

For the model a vertical card core was made and the angles worked out for the sloping sides. The tube is plastic with a hemisphere on the top and all the corners were blended with fine surface filler. The whole dwelling was coated in textured masonry paint and left to dry. The enclosure to the side was simply made using wooden skewers that were drilled into position with random spacings, there were then painted with a light wood colour and drybrushed.

The building was given a heavy drybrush of white with some pastel shading in the corners and the base was coated with sand, inked and then drybrushed to match the rest f the terrain. The awnings were the last addition and used skewers again with industrial hand towel for the material. The was given several washes of brown ink and drybrushed with a generic tan. 

The coral used the same skewer method and small bits of cork were added to give some height and interest. The awning was constructed in exactly the same way as the house.

The field used raised beds cut from 2mm card blended with filler and little holes were drilled to locate the plants. The plants themselves I've had for a long time and I don't actually know whence they came or what they are but at least I have found a use for them. Again, the awning utilised the same construction as before along with the base itself and there is enough room between the rows to allow figures to move freely.

Thank you for reading :-)

Friday, 19 July 2013

Not forgotten

We will be hopefully previewing some new figures and vehicles in the next month or two but in the meantime there will be a series of posts explaining the culture of the Martians and the ways that they live including religion.

Watch this space :-)



Sunday, 14 April 2013

The skiff is ready!

All parts for the basic kit are now ready and will be on sale at Salute and afterwards from here and also OSHIRO modelterrain.

The kit comprises of bottom hull, upper hull, main mast, stern, two sails and a pack of our elite Sky Martians to make the trimsman from (although these are an option).

The kit is approximately 320mm long, 110mm wide and 185mm high including the main mast.

The basic kit costs £52 and £59 with the pack of Sky Martians plus postage and packaging (flight stand not included).

I'll start on the expansion kit after Salute which comprise of two yard arms, four sails (different to the basic kit), two harpoons, parasailing bar and coils of rope. The price on this is yet to be decided but it won't be much.

Thank you

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Skiff is almost here

Well, it took long enough but we're just about ready to release the skiff (after the weekend).

A few teaser shots here until the proper post goes up on Sunday :-)

Thank you

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Separate weapon packs

We are now able to offer separate weapon packs, £3 for three sprues of three weapons and the code is SMA-01

Thank you

Monday, 11 March 2013

The City Martians and their ways.

The City Martians were left after their brethren took for the mountain ranges away from the canal networks. Staying around the canals that were once the lifeblood of the planet they have built new towns and cities, rebuilt a part of the canal network and have established many trading ports from the aftermath of the great storm. There are still plenty storms on Mars and Martian architecture reflects this as the buildings are steeply sloped and relatively low to minimise the damage from such storms.

The City Martians have also developed unique ways of farming in the thin soil. Angled screen protectors cover the plant beds and an underground irrigation system allows moisture to extend beyond the normal boundaries that exposed water would allow. The plants that grow in these farms are robust but do lack a certain amount of nutrition. The extra nutrition needed is gathered from algae that grow in the canals and is surprisingly quite tasty and has become a popular delicacy with the human visitors. Several types of beasts burden are reared to help with heavy hauling and also they can be slaughtered to provide a dietary change. There are also various types of fungi found in the caves of the canyons but this is in the claimed territory of the Sky Martians so as a resource it is generally left alone unless the need is great.

Each city is run by a council in similar ways to the Sky Martians, made from the elder members of the families that live in the cities. Differing to the Sky Martians in the fact that the males take the physical roles of the day to day happenings in the cities and the females look after the ever growing families in communal groups. Trade is important to the City Martians and some of the merchant families have become quite powerful in the running of the towns and cities with some families having complete control. This works up to a point until greed takes over common sense which is becoming more apparent now the humans have arrived: the City Martians taking as much advantage as possible with the new opportunities. There are two types of merchant family in City Martian society; the travellers and the dwellers. The travellers use the trade routes along the canals between cities and the dwellers stay in a local area, distributing trade goods etc.

As mentioned before the vast majority of the City Martian settlements are next to the canals, enabling quick and reliable trade: although on some of the longer routes waystations have been built with limited defences to protect from the Sky Martian raids. Long caravans of travellers sometimes spend weeks or even months on the routes travelling from town to town, city to city gathering news and new items to sell along the way. The caravans are usually composed of several different merchant families and their guards. Each family has at least two wagons if not more, one for the family and the rest for the merchandise. The guards sleep under the wagons or in a small wagon provided by the richer merchants. The journeys are normally a leisurely affair, weather permitting, and enjoyment is had from travelling rather from the crowded cities.

With the advent of increased Sky Martian hostilities the City Martians are starting to fortify their cities and develop a permanent military presence in almost every settlement. Rudimentary firearms have been constructed similar to human jezzails but using compressed gas as a propellant which is found deep in some of the canyon caves issuing from geysers. A small tank of the gas is kept on the back of the Martian trooper and a simple lever system is utilised for the firing of the projectile, usually in the form of a lead bullet. Obviously, compressed gas is not the best firearm propellant but it suffices if used in large numbers. The other typical weapon of the City Martians is the pike, very similar to the human weapon that was in use a couple of centuries ago. Used en masse against the descending Sky Martians seems to working but for how long. The most important merchant families are looking ever more to the human presence for weaponry to use against the Sky Martians but it comes at a high price with the humans demanding ten times what it is actually worth...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Sky Martian enclave

As we've mentioned before, the Sky Martians tend to live in the canyons of Mars, using the winds that funnel down to get their skiffs quickly to the target.

The enclaves are generally high up on the canyon sides buried deep in the fissures of the cliff faces. Platforms allow the skiffs to load and offload Martians and their spoils, normal cargo, emissaries etc. The entrances to the enclaves are small to prevent them being over run. Some even have small mounted harpoon guns and rudimentary ballistas for defence around the platforms in case of a rival attack.

For our enclave I needed to get some height and also give an impression of a different type of rock that we have used before (cork bark) so I went with insulation or blue foam. It's light and easily carved and I had a lot lying around to use for this project.

The first picture shows the blue foam in its unpainted form. The layers were hot glued together and then I went about hacking into it with my Japanese saw (probably the best tool for this). I tried to keep the hacking at a constant couple of angles so it didn't look too chaotic.

It was then plastered in a mix of wall filler, small gravel and textured paint just pasted all over but taking care not to let it collect and disguise the texture from the saw. I then coated it in a matt brown spray making sure that there was no exposed foam and left it to dry.

The painting was quite simple, some heavy drybrushing in ever lightning shades of yellow ochre and some washes of various greens and browns to help break up the monotony. Some wind shaded areas had small amounts of sand applied and this was painted red and drybrushed the same way and then a few small plants were placed here and there to also help break it up (it is quite a large peice).

The platforms needed to have a ramshackle but sturdy appearance and so I started with the frame work, using natural clefts in the cliff face to position the skewers at various level and supporting angles. The planking was given a texture on the top and cut out by hand but keeping steady so there is an element of regularity but not that it looks factory made. The upper supports we're placed randomly but bearing in mind that they would be load bearing. Cotton thread was used to attach the upper supports and the level ones giving the appearance of stability.

The platforms were painted with a light brown (the colour for most of out Martian wood so far) then washed and drybrushed the normal way, picking out the thread in white.

The two entrances were given protective tarpaulins above them which was cloth soaked in pva to give some rigidity.

Overall a pleasing result and it will soon appear in our games as we have a small campaign in mind but more on that later.

Onto the pictures :-)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A small conversion. Part two

Took a while for me to paint this as I've had a bad eye for a while but he's done now and I must say I'm rather pleased with the result.

The figure was undercoated with the new Halfords camo brown, a rather useful undercoat and the skin was painted with Foundry African flesh but only the two lighter shades as the primer matches the darker colour.

The armour was undercoated white first in several thin layers to get an even colour and then a mix of gloss varnish and a little silver paint with a touch or teal was painted over the white to give a pearlescent effect.

The cloak and loin cloth were painted using the two lighter shades of Foundry Linen and then a top highlight of normal white to complete the material.

The weapon was undercoated gunmetal for the blade and a normal brown for the haft. The haft being built up to a light tan and the blade was sketchily painted with silver to give the impression of rudimentary forge work.

The base was coated in normal builders sand and inked with Windsor and Newton sepia ink. When this was dry a drybrush using Foundry ochre and the final touch of a winter tuft to complete the model.

The bottom two pictures show the comparison between the conversion and the original figure. Subtlety different I think :-)

Thanks for reading

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A small conversion

As we wait for some new character figures to be sculpted I thought I would have a go at converting the existing character that we have. Just a simple arm swap and the addition of a cloak was enough for me to distinguish between them.

The right arm was swapped with a normal arm with an open hand from the trooper pack and glued in place on the shoulder joint. This then had to be bulked out as the character was designed to be bigger and stronger than the normal warriors. It was bulked out with Super Sculpy which I'm really starting to enjoy sculpting with. I only had to bulk out the upper arm and the vambrace.

After this was cured in the oven I rolled some Sculpy out and cut out a rudimentary cloak and shaped it around the back of the figure. It's similar in style to a roman cloak but being on a Martian I think it looks the part.

This was also cured and then I made a spear for him to carry. It was made in the same way as the masters for the trooper weapons. A brass haft and a styrene blade.

He now has a coat of primer and I'll do a painting post in the very near future.

Thank you

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Of flora and fauna

Mars isn't dead, it's dying and there is still plenty of life on the red planet whether it be plants or animals.

As Mars slowly withers away, direct water sources are becoming scarce; underground water tables being the main source for the numerous plant types that grow here. The various flora of Mars have adapted quickly to the changing environment and are steadily becoming similar to some desert species on Earth. The most common being the Ba'baak tree.

These trees store huge amounts of water in their bloated trunks and have one massive root covered in small tendrils that can extend down more than 50 feet in a bid to reach water. The bark is hard but a determined seeker of water can penetrate it without too much difficulty. Because of the rapid changes in the amount of water available the bark of the Ba'baak can split enabling easy access to the somewhat juicy flesh of the interior.

This flesh has a slight bitter taste to it but has nutritional benefits that can outweigh the flavour. The pulp can also be fermented and is brewed by the Sky Martians into an intoxicating liqueur. The bark itself can be stripped into long husks and made into a crude rope which Sky and City Martians use for the more heavy duty tasks.

The model itself was made from Supersculpy over a former of blue foam. Indents were made to represent the bark and a wire tree frame work was added to the top. One thing to note about blue foam is that it shrank quite considerably when the Sculpy was cooked in the oven (to harden it) and unfortunately the shell of Sculpy cracked, but you don't really notice. I'll use a different former that's heat resistant next time.

It was painted with Foundry American Tan, given a wash of some sort of GW brown ink and then drybrushed with a pale grey. Some winter tufts were added round the bottom to give a bit more detail. Finished and wip photos are below.

Thank you

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Armour colours of the different clans

There are numerous clans of Sky Martians on Mars and each tends to have its own distinct armour colour therefore making it relatively a simple affair to distinguish between them in the event of multiple clan feuds.

The differing colours are achieved viv two main methods; either from ground minerals or from distilled insect shells. The armour itself is made from hardened leather but it is much stronger than the hardest leather on earth. Each piece of armour, be it torso or vambraces etc, can take up to a year to make thus making the armour a prized possession.

The colour is applied in one of the many layers of laquer that are painted on towards the end of the whole process. The insect shell method is the more time consuming and therefore the most sought after but this is unfortunately becoming a disappearing art; the secret being lost over time.

The mineral version is the more common but the colours are not as vibrant. Some clan leaders and their elite warriors are starting to mix colours in the armour to make themselves stand out more but most are staying with tradition with only one colour for the entire clan.

Various families within the clan tend to distinguish themselves by the colour of the loincloth or any other cloth that they might wear. Some families have simple patterns woven into the cloth, mainly straight bands of a complementary colour.

Below we have four examples of Sky Martian armour colour. The first is most common as it is the most simple to achieve but there are several different hues of the white so no two clans look the same.