Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Search For Faramir

Previously on Ambush in Anorien - "We saw him vanquish the troll, my Lord, then he charged into some orcs and we lost sight of him....."


Orc scouts fire on advancing Gondor search parties
In our last game, orcs have ambushed Boromir and Faramir and their patrol in a swampy, wooded region in the far north of Gondor. Faramir was in the thick of the action, fighting orcs and a mighty troll, while Boromir tried his best to marshal his men to safety. Back at camp, they realised Faramir had not returned, so hastily organised a search party. The Gondorians spread out to search for the fallen captain, but almost immediately were harassed by orcs scouts, shooting from the swamps. Braying horns from the woodlands sounded as more orcs appeared.

We played this game using Dragon rampant rules, with the fugutive scenario borrowed from Lion Rampant. There are six pieces of difficult terrain which the Gondorians must search. The first search is successful on a 6, the second search on a 5+, and so on. Once the fugitive (Faramir) is found, he must be escorted off the table to safety. It's one of those scenarios which can be over very quickly if an early search is successful, or drag on for hours if they have to get across the length of the table to search every last bit of terrain.

"Shoot the filthy horse riders!"
As the orc commander, I had brought plenty of light troops, which are good in terrain and fairly fast on their feet. I wanted to push forward quickly to harass the searches. There was little chance of preventing a rescue in the two swamp areas near to the Gondorian camp, so the scouts raced up to the middle of the battle field and took up positions in the shallow pool and the toppled statue, hoping their heavier armed comrades would join them at some point later. Luckily for me, the first two searches had failed and the Gondorians had to advance into the midst of the orc forces.

The disadvantage of light troops, of course, is that they are not well armed and hardly likely to stand up to a charge from heavy knights. One unit of light foot orcs routed, though the knights paid a toll and were now under half strength. This was the perfect opportunity for the heavy foot orcs, led by the general, to finish them off. Or so I thought......three dead orcs later and a double 1 roll for their courage test, they legged it too. Half of my foot troops lost to a unit of pesky knights! Obviously the battle scribe was positioned in one of these units as no more accounts of the battle survive (camera battery dead).

"The ladz will be along soon, keep shooting"
The orc scouts in the centre of the table did a good job of hampering the searches, aided by a handful of failed activations by the Gondorians. Boromir stepped forward and scattered these pesky archers, but then spent several turns cleaning the blood from his sword. In the pool area, orc scouts doggedly loosed off volley after volley, Gondorian rangers feeling the effects and hampering their search efforts (more failed activations as they flailed around on the slippery banks of the pond). Eventually, the search was successful. Faramir was found floating in the reeds of the pool, luckily face up, and was dragged to safety by his loyal rangers. Horns sounded to signal the retreat to camp, but this only attracted the orcs to join the chase.

Sadly for the orcs, their force depleted, there was only a unit of warg riders and a heavy foot left to take up the chase. The warg riders raced round to cut off escape on one flank, but the foot orcs were too slow to make up ground on the other flank. Faramir stumbled and limped his way to safety, though Boromir had fallen as a result of his many brave charges into combat and being peppered with scout arrows! A victory for the Gondorians, of sorts. The fate of Bormir we will have to determine in another encounter.

A most enjoyable game, even if technically the orcs "lost". For me, gaming is not necessarily about the end result, the score, but about the whole experience - the lovely terrain, the lovingly painted figures, the tales you tell, maybe a little banter thrown in. If you can get all that, then all of the players have won. Incidentally, if you have been admiring the terrain, it's all part of Matt's gaming dungeon. The game mat is a faux fur throw, with a couple of cans of green spray paint used to supply some colour variation. Full details here.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

X.IV - Nurgle Giant

It's my look back to the year 2011 as part of my X celebration series. This was a very busy period for the blog, as I added to three of my main armies.

The dwarfs got the bulk of my time and attention as Avatars of War released plastic dwarf berserkers. It was quite an exciting time, I struggle to remember if there were any other plastic non-GW figures around at the time. It re-ignited my interest in my long dormant beard collection and I added two units to the army, berserkers and warriors.

Towards the end of the year I also made a start on resurrecting my very first fantasy army, as I made the first faltering steps in a new Undead army. I hammered out a large regiment of zombies and a couple of characters. Looking back, I was very productive at this time, regiment after regiment painted up. If only my current stamina levels matched those glory days.

My pick of the year is this friendly looking Nurgle giant. It's not a GW model, but possibly the first resin figure I ever added to my collection - an Ilyad Games grotesque which I was lucky enough to find on ebay. The company are long gone now, one of many that produced high quality figures but never managed to find their niche in the market.

I chose this figure for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I really like it - a good enough reason to be selected. Secondly, it marks the point when my painting changed to something resembling my current style. I started to use white primer and multiple layers of thin washes and glazes, a technique I have continued with to the present day. The result can be very subtle, as this close-up hopefully demonstrates. I find it far easier than the base/shade/layer/highlight system, and far more realistic.

So, another year assessed, another chaos appearance. I did also paint up a very nice unit of chaos ogres. At the time, the chaos army was my "elite" project, the one that I was in no hurry to finish, just wanted to achieve a high level on every element of the army. Apologies if you are not a chaos fan, there will be some other factions eventually, but chaos certainly ruled at the time. If you disagree, have a word with these friendly looking chaps, I'm sure they will be very understanding.....



Friday, 22 September 2017

Bilbo Baggins

It's Bilbo Baggins' birthday! September 22nd is the date the hobbit celebrates his birthday, and as mentioned in yesterday's post he is 80 years old - in publishing terms that is. It's also the autumn equinox today, I wonder if Tolkien chose the date for this reason?

I only have one Bilbo in my miniatures collection, which I hastily painted up today! I had to mark the day somehow. For colours, I copied those from the movie. It's a very small mini, so I skipped some of the teeniest details. It's quite lacklustre if I'm honest, reflecting the way I feel today having come down with a cold :(

To properly celebrate this day, I spent some time browsing fellow painters' work on the little chap, and present a selection below. Each has a link to the original source, if any of the owners/painters object to me using their image just let me know in the comments and I will remove it.










I have also been scouring the web for other renditions of Mr Baggins. It's interesting to see how he has been portrayed down the decades. For a thorough examination of early artistic renditions, I can recommend you browse the PowerOfBabel blog, there are a number of posts showing various printed illustrations.

Of course, there are also plenty of more modern renditions too. I have deliberately excluded art based on the movies, I'm sure you all know how Martin Freeman looks by now. Again, the list below contains a link to the original source, if there are any objections to their use please let me know.










And finally, an image that does not contain Mr Baggins as such but is instantly recognisable as a scene from the book. After the multi-coloured marvels of all the previous renditions, there's something rather beautiful in these simple lines, from the Folio Society version of the book.


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Happy Birthday Bilbo!

Bilbo Baggins is eighty years old!* Or rather, the book The Hobbit was first published on September 21, 1937. You could argue that this is day zero for all the fantasy stuff we read, we watch on TV and the cinema, we play games over. Without The Hobbit there would have been no Lord of the Rings, which is widely regarded as the grandfather of the fantasy genre, from Dungeons and Dragons to Warhammer Fantasy gaming.

Legend has it that Tolkien, an Oxford professor, was marking exam papers and was so bored that he doodled in the margin, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit", the first line of the book, thus beginning his epic tale.

*As any self-respecting Tolknerd (that should be a word) will tell you, Bilbo's birthday is actually tomorrow, September 22nd. As is Frodo's for that matter. 

I am a self-confessed Tolkien nerd. And to prove it, here's a photo of my nerdy bookshelf. There is a lot of Tolkien material there, either written by him, about him, or art based on his works. Look closely and you will see that I have five versions of The Hobbit, from a pop-up book designed for young readers, to an annotated version for the full-on geek.


The pop-up book was recently rescued from a trip up into the loft (attic), I presume it was bought for my two young boys years ago - I really cannot remember! It's very sweet and the illustrations are actually very well done. 


Another unusual format is this graphic novel - a step up from the pop-up but still plenty of pictures for the word shy readers. Again, there are some lovely art spreads in this version.




Moving on to the more typical versions, I have an illustrated version and a facsimile of the classic standard version, with a few illustrations by Tolkien himself, which I find to be very charming.


And finally there's the wordiest, nerdiest version - The Annotated Hobbit. This book describes in detail possible sources of inspiration that Tolkien used, from experiences in the trenches of World War 1 to landmarks of his home environments, and plenty of references to academic and mythical influences. If you are the kind of person that would be fascinated to learn that nearly all the dwarf names come from the old Norse poem "Voluspa", that Rivendell was probably inspired by a walking holiday in Switzerland, or the origin of the name Baggins, then this is the book for you. 


So let's raise a glass to the old boy, without whom none of us would be here now, blogging or gaming or watching the movies. Cheers!


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Lord of Bleak Fell

Shunned by man, haunted by fell wolves and restless spirits, Bleak Fell lies deep in the jagged mountain range known as Helsridge. At one time in the distant past, it was the burial place of kings, a place where the dead were honoured. Interred in palatial tombs, those people are now long gone, a lost and forgotten civilisation, whispered of only in ghost stories. And yet, a few still seek this place. Most perish, for the road is long and hard, the old paths are gone, and many terrors lie in wait. For any mortal foolish enough to seek out the rumoured treasures, there can only be pain, failure and death. 

Kulgin Bachensteiner long gave up his mortality. His foul necromantic rituals and unspeakable acts have extended his life far beyond the span of any mortal. He has studied old maps and lore for decades, to seek out the Lord of Bleak Fell, to enact the magic rituals to restore his corpse, to learn from him the deep, dark knowledge. And so he braved the dark forest path, hidden from the wolves and beasts by his magic. He ascended the long, icy road to the summit, the freezing winds and snow no hindrance to his cold, unbeating heart. He found the hidden entrance and descended into the dusty crypt, with no fear of the spirits haunting those old passageways. Finally, he unlocked the mystery of the tomb, chanted the forbidden verses, and saw the Lord of Bleak Fell rise once more, to do his bidding.......

Or something like that. This is an old metal figure from the 1990s, a wight. Back in those days, the Undead army book contained wights as a unit and a small number were released. At the time I thought they were really cool. Now I look back and think that the Undead were possibly the goofiest army ever released!

Still, when I was looking around for a figure to lead my new Undead force, I chose this old wight for nostalgic reasons. The Undead were my first fully painted army, the first army I took to a tournament. Though I never actually owned any of the wights at the time, I did pick up a few on ebay in later years, again mainly for nostalgic reasons. And finally one of them is painted. The only concession to the modern era is the plastic skeleton shield.

In truth, as an Undead lord, it's not a particularly special figure. The plastic army of the dead figures would have probably been better candidates. But I wanted to pay homage to the old times, so here we are, the Lord of Bleak Fell rises once more......

Skyrim fans will recognise the setting I have stolen from been inspired by - the Bleak Falls Barrow. I live on the edge of the Lake District in the north of England, and here our mountains are called fells. It didn't take much work to arrive at Bleak Fell as a location for my Undead Lord.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

X.III - Daemons

In this, the third of my celebratory posts, I am looking back at the year 2010. I painted lots of fantasy in that time, and played it almost exclusively, so there's a good selection of potential candidates. I added a few units to my orcs and goblins army - black orcs and green squigs stand out - and made more progress on the wood elf army. I also built but two pretty big conversions - a treeman and a shaggoth, which get honourable mentions. I reckon that already qualifies as a good vintage, but my biggest achievement for the year was putting together a small contingent of daemons.



I started by building and painting a unit of daemonettes. My aim at the time was to try something a little different, and a pink/purple palette was definitely that. These days I tend to paint in small batches of eight or twelve, but I obviously had more stamina in my youth - eighteen daemonettes.



After that I rewarded myself with a character model, a herald built from an old Warzone figure, with a whole host of (cute?) little attendants.



Then I finished off the project with a unit of pink horrors, the classic metal figures from that time and still my favourite renditions of the model.


Though the daemons started as an add-on for my chaos warriors, I did have grand plans to develop them into a full army. I have metal plaguebearers painted up and bloodletters half-painted, plus more daemonettes, screamers and various other figures. However, as with so many grand plans, nothing came of it.

One figure I did add a few years later was a Daemon Prince, converted from an old Azazel model. I left off the wings and replaced the head with that of an old school metal Fiend of Slaanesh, the tail I forget the source. I had this model half-painted for a good few years, but thought it would be nice to finally complete it as part of my celebrations.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

X.II - Chaos Marauders

The second of my celebrations of ten years of blogging. 2009 was a return to a more typical year for me. I returned to my wargaming heritage - painted and played mostly fantasy. I made a solid start on a chaos warband, painting marauders, spawn, hounds, warriors and a few characters. Then I had a crazy idea to develop an elf army that could be used as either High Elves or Wood Elves. From all those models I have chosen this unit of chaos marauders as my pick of the year.



This was the first time I had tried something new in painting terms. Previously, I had stuck to the prescribed method of base coat, shade, then highlights, but I felt that this was only really suitable for darker coloured models. With all the light flesh to paint, I tried a white primer, then used glazes to add the colours, in just one or two easy steps. It proved to be very quick and very effective and I started to use this method on more of my painting. So this unit marks that significant change in the way I paint. It saves time and looks better (in my eyes) to the old layering method.

This unit was also the first of a chaos army that was to feature heavily in coming years. Chaos had always appealed to me for so many reasons. There was huge variety, there were so many units to choose from. The background pantheon allowed for great creativity - these marauders as followers of Slaanesh would have looked different had they taken up arms for Khorne, or been blessed by Nurgle. The army could also be built up quite quickly as many units (though not marauders) were low count - chaos warriors, ogres, knights, trolls and the like. This unit was the start of a big, ongoing project.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Blood Rage : Bear Clan Vikings

I painted these figures as a little experiment - to see how the pvc miniatures would look after my usual speed painting techniques. These are the Blood Rage bear clan, consisting of a leader, eight warriors (in just two poses) and two mystics.

The first thing I did in preparation was clean the figures of mould lines. I used a knife blade rather than a file, the material is very soft and easy to cut, with such small details you have to be careful you do not remove too much sculpted material. Luckily, the mould lines were usually hidden away and not too visible. Next, I glued a penny into the base. This acts as a weight to keep the figure upright. If you use UK currency it's also magnetic, which can be useful if ever you want to rack them up on movement trays. After a soapy wash and drying, I spray primed them white, then washed with a brown to provide a rough guide to the details.

Most of the painting was very basic - thin coats, washes and drybrushing. I did zero highlighting. Even the bases are very basic paint washes slapped on. I think the end result is fine - nothing amazing, but decent enough for the basic techniques used. On the whole, I would say the pvc takes the paint in a similar way to all my other figures, mostly like painting resin - any bare patches that are missed by primer can be a little resistant to paint adhesion. There are tons of detail, but none is as sharp as any other material. For some reason I cannot explain, I do not particularly enjoy painting the pvc figures, there's something about the softness that I find saps my usual enthusiasm with the brushes. The end result is fine, but the road to get there is a chore. Still, it's a few less minis in an unpainted state, which has to be a good thing.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

X.I - Orks

I thought the easiest way to celebrate my ten years of blogging was to pick something from each of the years, starting back in 2008. This first year I actually started the blog in June, so there's less to choose from, but I still managed to find three contenders.



I painted a Norse team for Blood Bowl and a few regiments for my Warhammer Orcs and Goblins army, but my pick of the (half) year would be these ork shootas. They were the start of a new foray into this ruleset. I never quite got to grips with the 40K gameplay, I found it far more fiddly than the fantasy rules. In recent times I have enjoyed playing the orks using one-page-40K, but sadly these boyz have been in storage for the best part of the decade.

As a celebration, a ten year old snap is a little lacklustre, so I have dug out the boyz and persuaded them to pose for a few more photos. The whole force was painted in fits and starts over a couple of years, with many units left abandoned as grey plastic or still in the boxes. Shame really, as there are some really nice models here.



First up, the original mob of shootas, with a nob (boss) and the warlord in the background, persuading the boyz to get stuck in. The yellow was chosen as something I would not usually paint, and also as a less frequently seen ork clan the Bad Moons. According to the fluff, this meant more shootas than usual, hence this first unit.



The Bad Moons are the richest ork clan and thus have plenty of equipment. So I gave these ard boyz some serious amounts of armour. If memory serves, these are all converted from various plastic and metal bits, some fantasy parts in there too. They have a truck that is 90% painted, just waiting for the final touches.


Finally, my favourite unit of the force, both in gaming and painting terms. The warboss is a lovely model, seeing this figure was one of the main reasons I started collecting orks in the first place. And I just love the squigs, which I painted in a funky blue to contrast with the yellow. 

There's far more sat in storage waiting to be loved again - nobz, deffkoptas, burna boyz, grots, lots of standard boyz, a few meks, kans.........maybe in the next ten years they will get finished.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

X !

I was flicking through some of the older posts in the blog, looking for something from days gone by, when I suddenly realised that I have been writing this nonsense for ten years! A little bit more in fact, as I started blogging in June 2008. A little celebration is surely in order, so help yourself to a slice of cake.

I will be marking the occasion by trawling back and showcasing some of my hobby highlights from the last decade. I will get the first of these celebrations on the blog over the weekend.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Dwarf Gunners revisited

Remember these movement trays? I picked them up from warbases some time ago. The slots are 2p sized and the little holes fit a 5mm magnet. I finally got round to adding the magnets. Super glue didn't seem to work as the fit was quite loose, so I used a little green stuff on the bottom of the tray.

I originally bought them in this 2x2 configuration because I thought most of the time I would be playing with either 4 or 8 figures to suit Saga gaming, or 12 figures to suit Dragon Rampant. Now that I know they work, I have ordered some more, but at size 3x2.

When loaded up with figures they look rather nice. I should really stick with one basing style across all my armies, then I could use one set of trays for multiple forces. However, I do like to change the bases for each project  - the dwarfs have a rocky, mountainous look for example.

The hold of the magnets on the coins is really strong. I can hold these upside down and they hold fast, even the metal figure in the centre. Though not too strong so it's impossible to remove them from the tray! So I can pop them out for skirmish games, or leave them ranked up when required.


A couple of close ups, I was pretty pleased with the way these turned out. Must get back to the dwarfs some time.....

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Eomer and Rohirrim

Spurred on by my recent quick paint job on the Mordor snaga, I had a look through the part-painted projects, hoping to find something that would be easy to complete. You probably know how this goes - you start a project, get a few models/units painted with great enthusiasm, then it tails off and you start something else. Then something else again, and again, until you have several projects in various stages of (non) completion. Eventually, there comes a time to return to that almost finished job. Today it was time for Eomer to finally ride forth!

There were three models to complete here and they were about 90% done. I just had to finish a few details, mostly Eomer's red leather armour, and then tackle the dreaded banner. Having forced myself to practise on freehand recently, the design came quite easily, though matching it on each side of the flag was a challenge. I think it turned out okay in the end. Not bad for an hour's work on a dreary Sunday afternoon.

The Rohan force now contains two units of six knights, ideal for Dragon Rampant. In Saga games they would probably be used as elite units, so three units of four. Along with two/three units of infantry, there's just about enough for gaming with these figures now. Every time I paint some of my Lord of the Rings collection I like them more and more.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Mordor Snaga

Snaga is a term used by orcs for lesser of their own kind, or slaves. They are usually smaller, less able to wield a weapon in combat and often equipped with bows. I wanted some in my Mordor force, but not the standard bow armed orc models. There's not much chance of me getting the old metal models, so I went with some Moria goblins. In Tolkien's world, orcs and goblins are all the same species, there's no real distinction, not even a size thing. So while they are officially goblins, they pass as orc snaga in my eyes.

There's twelve in the unit, so they can be used in both Dragon Rampant and Saga games. Unfortunately there's not much variety in the poses - though arguably all bowmen look the same when loosing their arrows. I didn't want to spend much time on them - I picked up these on ebay already painted and just painted over them. It's cheating I know, but they were very cheap and it saved me some time. More reinforcements for my Mordor force on the way.
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