Thursday 27 August 2015

Cardboard - Exploding Kittens card game

Described as 'a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats', it was inevitable that I'd be buying this game (they had me at kittens).

Exploding Kittens box art

After a massively successful Kickstarter campaign at the beginning of 2015, Exploding Kittens landed on my doormat at the beginning of this month.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Podcast Love - Limetown (Two-Up Productions)

Continuing in the creepy-story-podcast vein from my last post on Lore, my podcast app (I use Pocket Casts for Android, by the way) recommended that I listen to Limetown by Two-Up Productions. I usually get new podcast pointers from people rather than trying what the app suggests, but in this case the description caught my eye:

Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. In this seven-part podcast, American Public Radio host Lia Haddock asks the question once more, "What happened to the people of Limetown?"

So I’ll admit here that I didn’t immediately twig that this was fictional. I have many excuses for this, such as baby-brain and lack of coffee, but for normal people who've had realistic human levels of sleep it will quickly become obvious that this is a story, told in an investigative reporting style that I find really engaging. Limetown does a great job of making things feel as real as possible, though, with only a few bits of scripting that don't quite ring true to pull you out of the mystery.

The documentary-style narrative follows Lia as she investigates the eponymous deserted town and its (without spoilers, clearly suspicious) research facility, interviewing relatives of the missing inhabitants and consulting with witnesses and experts.

There’s something fundamentally unsettling and lonely about abandoned places that I find completely fascinating*, so this combined with the (I'm assuming) paranormal bent of the story meant that I was hooked in immediately; a great chance to suspend belief for a while and be entertained by an intriguing, well made podcast.

The first episode has left me anxious to resolve the cliff-hanger, so I have high hopes for the rest of the series and I'm really excited for the second episode to be released. Have a look at the Limetown website here to listen along with me!

The internet informs me that if I enjoyed this I'll like The Black Tapes, another documentary-style podcast with a paranormal theme that was funded on Kickstarter earlier this year. I'm off to add it to my subscription list while I wait for more episodes of Limetown - let me know if you have any other suggestions!

*Along the 'abandoned places' theme, and entirely unrelated to podcasts, I recently read through the photobook Dark Pripyat which documents the decaying abandoned city of Pripyat that serviced the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine. Really haunting and worth a look if you get the time - it's available for free here as a PDF. Also @abandoned_pics and @DesertedPlaces are worth a follow on Twitter for more 'urban exploration' pictures along the same lines, or search for #urbex.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Podcast Love - Lore (Aaron Mahnke)

No matter how old I get, there will always be something comforting about having a story read to you. Even if it's a bit of a scary one - for someone who doesn't believe in ghosts, I really do like ghost stories!  And as the Lore podcast website says, 'sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction'.

Lore Podcast logo

Written and read by author Aaron Mahnke, each episode of the Lore podcast is a little mini-documentary describing the history behind various scary stories, from decaying asylums, to creepy old hotels, to the often terrifying consequences of the folklore that used to influence our lives. The episodes are beautifully produced; Mahnke's tone creates the perfect atmosphere for the tales he narrates and this is always complemented by haunting music choices.

After Lore was recommended to me by my husband I listened to the entire (at time of writing) twelve episode back catalogue in a row, and I'm now starting to wish that I'd rationed them a bit more carefully! They come out every other week so I have a little while to wait for the next one, but I know it's much better to have quality than quantity and you can definitely see the work that goes into these.
At around 20 minutes per episode these are a really nice length to fit into your day.

Go and listen immediately, I demand it! You can find the podcast website at

Friday 21 August 2015

New blog, new opportunities for design disaster!

In deleting the old blog with its corresponding Google account, I also managed to consign to the void all the artwork I drew for the header and sidebars.  Sad times.  Actually, that's not the whole story.  A lot of the images stored on my iPad, where I used to put together my posts.  The iPad that I wiped to give to my husband approximately 24 hours before I decided I might like to restart the blog.  Further sad times.

I did, however, manage to salvage a copy of the header image, which I had shared on this Google account when telling people about the blog:

Old Random Nerdery header image
The old header.  Ick.

But I've decided I hate it.  It's huge and fussy, as well as being out of date now that I've lost the original blog name.

New start, new design.  I just need to get my brain in gear and figure out what that should look like. Clearly from my choice of title you can see that I'm not overly optimistic, but I'll have a go! Whatever it is, it may involve using this exciting new toy that I received this morning for my birthday:

Wacom Intuos drawing tablet
Hmm, the box looks a bit like my old blog header!

My old Wacom tablet was approximately a million years old, so I'm excited to try out the little Intuos.  If there's any exciting work-in-progress I'll post it up - wish me luck!

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Painting - Skullvane Manse Warhammer Scenery

Here's a post salvaged from the old blog - a little painting guide for the Citadel Skullvane Manse (a fancy piece of scenery for Warhammer) which looked like this when it was finished:

Skullvane Manse Warhammer scenery - finished model
It's a beautiful model which I'd wanted for aaages, before finally 'accidentally' ordering after too much wine. Here's the 'before' picture:

Skullvane Manse Warhammer scenery - unpainted model

Work in progress with some base colours on:

Skullvane Manse - work in progress
Work in progress - chaos!

And here's some random pictures of the finished model:

Skullvane Manse - observatory dome with verdigris

Skullvane Manse - observatory dome with verdigris

Skullvane Manse - cliff carvings and skulls
Scary cliff carvings.  Also skulls!
Something tells me the Warhammer guys really like that skull motif... Subtle!

I based a lot of the colours on a painting guide from an old issue of White Dwarf magazine, but as the paint range has been completely overhauled since the article was written I had to make a few adjustments. I also got a chance to try out some of the new Citadel 'technical' paints for dirt and verdigris.

Painting summary

Below is a quick summary of what I did, with Citadel paint colours for reference. I flit a bit between colour names as we have a mixture of old and new paints, but I'll put both the new and old range equivalent where possible):

  • The whole thing was based with Charadon Granite (closest to Stormvermin Fur in the new range, though I'm sure any dark grey acrylic would do!)
  • Rocks and bricks then got a heavy dry-brush of Codex Grey (now Dawnstone) then a dry-brush of Fortress Grey (now Administratum Grey)
  • Individual bricks were picked out with washes (Devlan Mud/Agrax Earthshade, Ogryn Flesh/Reikland Fleshshade and Gryphonne Sepia/Seraphim Sepia)
  • Rocks and bricks were given a light dry-brush with Tyrant Skull, one of the dry paints from the new range (my old friend Bleached Bone in the old range)
  • Wood was painted with Rhinox Hide (old range close to Scorched Brown), washed with Badab Black (now Nuln Oil) and dry-brushed with Graveyard Earth (now Steel Legion Drab)
  • 'Iron' looking metal parts were based with Chainmail (now Ironbreaker) and washed with Badab Black
  • The roof was painted with a mix of Regal Blue (now Kantor Blue) and some Chaos Black (now Abaddon Black). Some tiles were lightened with a dry-brush of Shadow Grey (now The Fang) and some were darkened with a wash of Asuremen Blue (now Drakenhof Nightshade. Then I gave the whole roof a really light dry-brush of Fortress Grey.
  • Metal on the doors was painted with Balthasar Gold (I don't think this existed in the old range, though it looks like Dwarf Bronze) and washed with Badab Black
  • Skulls piled in recesses were dry-brushed with Tyrant Skull
  • The observatory dome was painted with Tin Bitz (now Warplock Bronze), then dry-brushed with Shining Gold (now Gehenna's Gold) and then Burnished Gold (now Auric Armour Gold). The comet was painted with Shining Gold.
Citadel technical paints
Technical paints for some finishing touches
Citadel technical paints: Nihilakh Oxide

The new Nihilakh Oxide verdigris paint was really useful for making the brass/copper parts on the model look old and weathered.

Citadel technical paints - Nihilakh Oxide for copper weathering
I painted the wash onto the observatory dome, focussing on the recesses, and then used a damp piece of kitchen paper to mop off the excess before it dried. I worked a section at a time to make sure the paint couldn't dry before I'd had a chance to wipe it off.

I then proceeded to knock the rest of the pot all over the painting mat, but I don't think that's an essential step!

Citadel technical paints: Typhus Corrosion

Not sure how to describe this one - it's like a wash with gritty dirt in it to add some texture.

Skullvane Manse - Typhus Corrosion Citadel technical paint for weathering
Cliff skull and back door (with cute milk bottle!)

In the picture above I used it on the metal panels (top left and top right) before applying a dry brush of Ryza Rust (another new dry paint, bright orange for creating rust effects). I also painted it over the metal on the door and the bars in the picture below to make them look less shiny and new:

Skullvane Manse - side window with Typhus Corrosion
Side window with Typhus Corrosion

Painting the telescope lens

I painted the telescope lens Chaos Black, then mixed some Regal Blue with a bit of Hawk Turquoise (now Sotek Green) and painted this in a sort of crescent moon shape onto the lens. To make the lighter highlight I added some Space Wolves Grey (now Fenrisian Grey) to the blue mix and painted it at the bottom of the lens. The white-looking 'glint' is Space Wolves Grey on its own. A coat of gloss varnish then makes the finished result nice and shiny.

Skullvane Manse - painted telescope lens
Painted telescope lens

Weathering the rocks

The last thing added was the greeny-brown weathering on the rocks at the bottom. To do this I used a dry-brush of a 1:1 mix of Deathworld Forest (was Gretchin Green) and Graveyard Earth.

Skullvane Manse Warhammer scenery - painted

Skullvane Manse Warhammer scenery - painted

That should help the Warhammer table look a little more colourful!  We have an awful lot of plain grey scenery kicking around in our house, a situation that I really need to remedy...

Thursday 13 August 2015

Upcoming Nerdery - August 2015

Since it's rainy and rubbish outside, I thought I'd cheer myself up by making a list of some of the geek-based things I'm looking forward to over the coming months:

Portal board game (Q3 2015)
Portal is one of my favourite computer games, so I was super excited to find out that it was being turned into a board game!
Portal board game
Loving the 70s box! (from the Cryptozoic website)
Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game by Valve and Cryptozoic has been delayed for ages since the original first look in 2014. It's now due in Q3 2015, and seeing as it's Q3 already I'm starting to wonder where my cake is. (Oh yes, it does come with little plastic cake! And companion cubes... Squee!)

Handmade Fair (Hampton Court Palace, 18th-20th September 2015)
Hopefully there'll be lots of inspiration here for new things to make, with craft demonstrations on stage and plenty of stalls to shop at. We have some workshops booked throughout the day where you get to make something to take away, so I shall post up the (potentially disastrous) results here!

MCM London Comic Con (London ExCeL, 23-25th October 2015)
I've never actually been to a Comic convention before, and it'll be baby's first convention. I'm not sure who will be there yet, but doubtless there will be many merchandise stalls to browse and lots of cool costumes to see. Can't wait!  More details here if you want to come along too.

Doctor Who Festival (London ExCeL, 13-15th November 2015)
I went to this convention in 2013 when it was held for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration. The panels and exhibits were all brilliant, so I'm looking forward to more of the same this time (although perhaps not quite on the same scale!)


Wednesday 12 August 2015

Random Nerdery Redux

Back in 2013 I started a little blog named 'Random Nerdery' to document the silly things I do in my spare time. I'm not sure if anyone really read it, but it was fun to write, take pictures and feel like I was creating something. Then, about six months later, I fell pregnant and my whole world changed. I was too busy/tired/sick to do much in the way of painting or gaming, let alone write about it afterwards!

It turned out that I created something much more exciting than a blog, and the beautiful, special little boy who arrived is the best thing that has ever happened to my little family.

Whilst up at 4am one day, feeding said little boy, I decided to delete the whole Google account containing the blog, thinking 'I'll never need this again!' and didn't really look back.

But now he's a little bigger we seem to be creeping back to a state approaching normality, with 'evenings' (the meaning of this word was lost to me for some months) to spare and I find myself wanting to write again. This may, in part, be due to the need to justify the purchase of a slightly overpriced Bluetooth keyboard case for my new tablet. Oh, and the tablet itself. But! Also to drive myself to get off of the sofa and do something worth writing about, rather than the current 'phew, the baby is asleep, let's sit and watch TV' default.

I'll need to start from scratch, as it turns out that when Google said 'account deleted', they really meant it. Some of the old posts may get salvaged from the (frankly terrifying!) archives of the interwebs and trusty old Evernote, although a lot of my previous posts are probably best consigned to oblivion...

By way of (re)introduction, here is my optimistic original first post from Random Nerdery, along with a couple of updates:

Over the past couple of years I've thought about starting a blog a couple of times.  Circumstances and a tendency to procrastinate meant that I never really got around to it, but this time I've actually gotten as far as a first post.  Progress!  It seems like everyone else has one, so why not give it a try, right?  Not that I think that I have anything particularly unique to contribute - I worry that starting a blog will come over as a bit show-off-ey or 'look at me!'

[I still worry about that a bit, but it's not like I *make* people read it!]

At the same time, I like the idea of an outlet to keep track of the random thoughts that go through my brain and the things I like to do.  I have a lot of interests across a broad range of the nerd/geek spectrum, so it's always nice to talk to like-minded people and share recommendations!

My general (vague) plan is to post some little articles around the topics I love - anything from cinema to crafts, board games to books. Ideally I would post some reviews but I'm not sure I'd know where to start - practice needed!

[Tried a couple in the end - I'm still not very good at them!  I don't think I ever settled on a consistent way of doing it, which didn't help!]

Gaming will probably feature quite heavily as there are a lot of boardgames in the house!  I also play some Warhammer (I have a half finished Tomb Kings army) and Malifaux, so I might put up some painting articles when I get my brushes back out for the winter.  Then there's PC and console gaming - I'm a recovering Warcraft addict (almost 3 years clean!) currently mildly obsessed with Animal Crossing and Pokemon on my 3DS.

[This is all still true, including the poor half finished (and now potentially useless) Tomb Kings army, which I'm still determined to finish!  I still have Malifaux to paint and some other plans in that area.  My husband is also keen for me to try a game called 'Infinity', although I sense this may be to justify the purchase of more small plastic figures of his own... Oh and the poor 3DS is languishing unplayed in its case at the moment!]

I'm a big fan of Dr Who (50th Anniversary week, yay!) and Star Trek as well as lots of the other usual geek-based TV, but I also love documentaries.  I originally trained as a physicist, so if there's something sciencey on I'll probably be watching!

[The 50th Anniversary week was great in the end - I went along to the event at the ExCeL centre and am planning on doing the same this year in November!]

I've also just started to learn Japanese and love to watch anime, read manga etc so that may creep in somewhere!
Oh, and I like to experiment with hair, make-up, nails etc...

[Pfft, like there's time for that any more!!]

All a bit eclectic, really.  Hopefully there'll be something in that lot to interest someone out there! If not, maybe this can serve as a little time capsule for myself, detailing the frivolous things I fill my life with...

So there it is - I talked nonsense then, and I shall probably talk nonsense going forward. Let's see how long I stick with it this time!

Random Nerdery - Board game shelves
We still have too many games!!