Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Dwarf OakenGuard

The personal bodyguard of the thane of Oakenhammer, the renowned OakenGuard. Hand picked from the most valiant warriors or most trusted family members, these dwarfs are equipped at the thane's expense with the finest armour and weaponry of the hold. In return, they take a blood oath to protect and serve the thane - only death in combat or an honorary discharge can end this vow. 

As I detailed in this post, these dwarfs are mostly plastics, some very simple kitbashing. In terms of painting, with them being mostly armour, I have relied on different metallic surfaces to provide a little variety. The axe head decorations and jewels also help to break up the armour.

These are the first six of a planned "unit" of twelve. A nice round dozen seems a good figure to me, enough to be a sizeable chunk on a battlefield, but not too many to be a chore to paint. This group contains the captain of the OakenGuard and a horn blower. The next batch of six will include the thane's personal standard bearer. I also have made a start on the thane, as previewed in this post. However, I am switching to a different project to give me a short break from the bearded ones, but will return to them later in the year.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Metal High Elves

It's twenty-five years since I bought my first copy of Warhammer Fantasy Battle! It was the fourth edition of the game rules, but the first time that a boxed set containing two starter armies had been released. I can remember playing my first game with my two brothers on my mum's sewing table using the plastic figures and cardboard heroes. Those two armies were High Elves and Night Goblins - possibly to attract latent Tolkien fans, who knows? It certainly worked on me, I bought into the High Elves in a very big way. I drooled over the figures and the articles in White Dwarf and bought the army book as soon as I could. Even though the starter figures were all single pose, it really captured my imagination. But it was a very daunting task to paint up all that grey plastic to the standard in the books and magazines, so I started with something easier (Undead), hoping to come back to the elves when I had more skill.


It was a few years (he said vaguely, obviously unable to remember the exact timeline) before I attempted to paint those plastic elves, but eventually I worked my way through them and even added a few metal figures as I went along. It was a slow process because I was a working man with a young family, hobby time was scarce. I plodded on, grabbing an hour or two here or there every few weekends. After a couple of years (I think), I had painted up the army. It was a huge achievement for me at the time. That army still sits in my glass cabinet, a real milestone in my hobby life. I must get some pictures of it for the blog some time.

Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and the sad news that the Old World had been destroyed. The internet erupted with a storm of rage and indigation, with players abandoning the game, selling off their old armies - there was even one infamous youtube episode of an army being burned. I had gradually drifted away from playing the game by then, but still collected and painted. Luckily not all the rage-quitters were quite so incensed and many expressed their anguish through ebay and forum sales. For a few months, it was a good time to be a buyer. I picked up a sizeable collection of metal elves over that summer and put it to one side. I think it was part nostalgia, part my love of a bargain. 

Most of the figures below are from that era. The archers and spearmen are the metal equivalents of that first starter set, while the white lions I think came a little later. The final picture of shadow warriors and character packs are from much later still, probably sixth edition or so. This represents a decent sized army from fourth edition, units were commonly only twelve or sixteen strong (multiples of four were common as ranks back then were just four wide). I have a large amount of mounted figures too, some of them bought back in the early 1990's, some picked up in the rage storm of 2015. 

It would be nice to do something with these figures, to mark my silver anniversary in the game. Laid out like this, they do have a vaguely jewelled look to them. With all my other ongoing projects it would be complete madness to start another one, but it does seem a tempting proposition. I would base and organise them with Saga in mind, but with fond memories of all those past games of Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Let's wait and see what the summer brings.





Thursday, 4 May 2017

More Vikings To Invade

It's my birthday next month - the ideal excuse to add to my collection of vikings. I have been watching the range of V&V Miniatures expand over the past couple of years, and they have got more and more impressive each time. Now seems a good time to make an order with them. I have read on the Saga facebook page that delivery can take up to a month as they are based in Ukraine - so I am allowing plenty of time for my birthday pressy to arrive. Here's the figures I have ordered, a full review after my birthday of course!


Monday, 1 May 2017

River Skirmish

South Bank Viking bondi advance under Danish arrow fire
Another game from our Age of the Wolf campaign. This was a strange though inevitable situation of having two players controlling four factions - my Vikings facing off against my Danes. Matt took the Danes and we played Battle at the Fords scenario. Points are scored for troops that have crossed the river at the end of the game - the river bisects the battlefield and there are just two crossing points.

At the southern crossing, the Vikings advanced rapidly under fire from Danish archers - no point hanging about to be picked off one by one. It's really annoying losing elite troops to lowly archers, so the poor bondi took the lead and the brunt of the missile fire.

North Bank Vikings line up to defend Danish probes

Over on the north bank the Vikings took a more defensive stance, lining the bank of the river and waiting for any Dane attack. This was my general strategy - to attack in the south, hold in the north. There are never quite enough Saga dice to move everything if you want to employ battleboard abilities, so I was quite happy to do this. A unit of bondi in front with a small reserve of hirdmen to plug any gaps, keeping a watchful eye on the advancing Danish Lord and his bodyguard.

South bank vikings cross the river

The decisive action was taking place on the south bank. The Viking bondi waded the crossing and exacted their revenge on the Danish archers, slaying a few and forcing the remainder back. Unfortunately this left them tired and easy prey for the Danish hearthguard. Their sacrifice was not in vain though, as the Viking Lord and his bodyguard waded across the river.

North bank Danish attack is repulsed

On the north bank, the Danish Lord finally took the plunge and surged forward with his bodyguard, crashing into the viking bondi. Ordinarily this would have been an easy combat for the Danes, but I had kept some Saga dice in reserve on combat abilities, allowing me to reroll misses. Thus, the lowly Viking bondi slaughtered the Dane elite and pushed back the Lord. He waded back to the far bank, his warriors helping him out.

South bank Vikings advance

Back at the south bank, the Vikings took up a position in a patch of boggy ground, just out of reach of the Dane archers. Dane warriors hurtled past them and attempted to cross the river, but were hacked down almost to a man by very annoyed Vikings - back into the river they went and back out again. By now the Danes had utterly lost control of the south bank. In a last gasp attack on the north bank the Danish Lord and his troops faced the viking defending line, but were no match. The Danish Lord fell in battle and limped away, jeered by his Norse tormentors. You can read about the Danish lament on Matt's blog.

Another good game of Saga. As usual, there never seems to be enough Saga dice to cover all eventualities, forcing some hard decisions to be made (or not - in the case of the Danish Lord!). Though each force is practically identical, the Saga abilities means that each plays in a very different way. This is the beauty of the game to my mind.

The campaign system is not quite up to the same standard. Setting aside the very confusing points/units system, the random fate rolls have played a large part in allowing the Vikings to steam ahead. In truth, it's not really suitable for just two players, even though we have four factions between us. It has generated some very enjoyable games, but it's not quite worked out the way we had hoped. Officially we are half way through, it remains to be seen if we will complete the whole thing. If there were a group of four or five players I think it would work much better - and to be fair this is exactly the set up the Age of the Wolf is designed for. Even if we abandon the campaign, there's plenty more Saga gaming to come.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

More Picts WIP

Eight more Picts recruited to the fledgling Saga force. These are Mierce Miniatures, metal figures from the Erainn (Irish) range - though currently only resin are available on the website. As they have great weapons, I am intending using these as hearthguard, so two points here to add to the single point of warriors already painted. My medium term aim is to have another two points of standard warriors and a point of levy to give me a regular six point force which I can use as Picts, Scots or Irish in games of Saga. In the longer term I want to add even more to the force to be able to use it in games of Fantasy Saga as a Wild Tribes faction. But that's jumping far ahead. I am pretty busy at the moment so it's going to be summer time before I can get these painted.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Viking archers

It's good to finally have these painted and crossed off the list. I started them in the first week of the year, then got distracted by many other projects before finally knuckling down to get the job done. I find historical figures particularly challenging to paint as generally they are not as inspiring as my fantasy collection, though these archers are better than most available.

These are Drabant Miniatures metal figures - two sets of viking archers and one set of Saxon archers. Mixing enemies together in a unit like this is the best I can manage with the limited number of figures available - maybe the Saxons have turned traitor or been captured and are now slaves. From a distance they don't look too obvious. In games of Lion Rampant missile units tend to be smaller skirmish units, so two units of six.


Thursday, 20 April 2017

A Little Diversion

Over the Easter weekend I was mostly working on my dwarfs and some commission painting - painters don't really get holidays. But with all the bunny stuff around, I suddenly remembered this little chap in my stash. It's a raging heroes model, part of a kickstarter I had backed last year and have still to properly unpack. I decided to quickly paint him up.

He is rather small. That's a 25mm base he's sat on. Excluding the antlers and wings, he's about waist high to a goblin. There's a good level of detail for such a small figure. At some point I will make a proper review of the raging heroes figures, but suffice to say that my first impression was pretty favourable.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter WIP

"That goblin nicked our Easter eggs!"
At Easter time our thoughts naturally turn to adorable little creatures spreading joy and happiness throughout the world. And here they are, not quite hopping around, more stomping and grumbling, but still so lovable.

It's early days on these figures. The metal colours are applied and I have just about completed the shading by glazing in various greys, browns and a deep red. There's a bit more metallic colour to go on the horn, but I will move on to the very few non-metallic areas next. When those are complete I will apply matt varnish, then come back to the final highlighting of the metals. I am looking forward to adding a few spots of colour for the gems, these little chaps are looking dour, even for dwarfs.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Durgin Forge Dwarf Review

I have been hunting around for a suitable model to become thane of my Oakenhammer force - and I think I have found him. This is a resin figure from Durgin Paint Forge, a small company making high quality resin figures at reasonable prices.

I first came across them on kickstarter - they are currently running a project to launch a whole range of dwarfs, which obviously caught my eye. I was wowed by the renders, but wanted to know what kind of resin they used, so I shot a message to the owner to ask him. A few days later, he had sent me a sample figure for my perusal!

This is a real beauty of a dwarf. The sculpt is first class, the pose is natural looking and the fine details defy the power of my camera. On the shoulder pads are some extremely fine inscribed details. On the axe head too. You will have to wait until I have painted it to really appreciate the mind-blowing quality of the detail.

The quality of the resin is top notch too. I could not find a single bubble anywhere. Very few resin models can make that claim. The mould lines were so fine they would probably be covered by primer, though I removed them with a craft knife anyway. I have not been this impressed by a model for a long time.

I have been collecting and painting for 25 years (blimey, how did that happen?!?) and can safely say this is one of the best models I have ever seen. Full disclosure - it was a free sample - but that aside I would still highly recommend it. A worthy thane for anyone's collection.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Picts

A unit of Picts for Saga gaming. The Picts are one of the factions in the Arthur and Aetius supplement, which I hope we will get to play one day. They could also be played as Scots or even Irish from the Dark Ages supplements. In Fantastic Saga, I reckon they would make a nice version of the Wild Tribes.

These figures are from Mierce Miniatures, spearmen from the Albainn range. I bought them a couple of years ago as part of a kickstarter, they have been sat in the box for the best part of a year. The new Saga book gave me just the impetus I needed to get them painted. They are available now in metal if you don't like resin.

They paint up really nicely, the sculpts are amazingly detailed and very crisp, so a lot of the hard work is done with some simple glazes. I went to town a bit on the tartan clothing, that was the real time sink in this unit. The woad and  tattoos might look complex but it's really just a blue glaze in most areas, with a few more solid squiggles and dots here and there to complete the illusion.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

OakenGuard

The OakenGuard are the personal retinue of the thane of Oakenhammer. Only the finest warriors who have proven themselves many times in battle are invited to join the Guard. They are provided with the finest armour and equipped with mighty great axes or hammers.

For these elite troops I have used mostly plastic hammerer/longbeards, arming them with great axes. One is simply a longbeard, most have heads from the ironbreaker set of models - I don't want them tripping over their beards in battle!

The figure in the centre of the front rank is a metal model from Russian Alternative with a head swap. Originally I intended this to be the thane of my Oakenhammer force, but I have found a different model for that role (more on that another time). Now he is the Captain of the Guard, perhaps a blood relative, certainly a most trusted figure in the thane's life.

There are six warriors here, built from half a box of the hammerers. There will be another six of course, with the key figure in that particular group being the thane's personal banner bearer. Two units of six OakenGuard will serve me nicely in games of Dragon Rampant. In Saga, these two units would be three points of hearthguard (elite) troops.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

A Little Whimsy

And now for something completely different.

I would consider myself a fan of fairly gritty miniatures. I tend to collect more realistic sculpts, prefer a meaner, grimmer look than some of the comical sculpts of yesteryear. One of the things that drew me into the Games Workshop universe was the darker, grimmer art of the 1990's.

A new discovery to me is a French artist, Jean-Baptiste Monge. When I discovered this artist, I immediately thought of another favourite of mine, Arthur Rackham. His depiction of the natural world is superb, many a "proper" wildlife artist would be green with envy at his expertise. Coupling this with creatures of myth and folklore is not a new idea, but I struggle to think of any that do it this well.

I have a minor obsession with short, bearded folk - usually of the dwarf variety, but these figures are equally appealing. They are not grim warriors wielding huge axes, but rather more amusing little chaps with pipes and hats. I find them utterly charming - not a word I would usually use for miniatures, but there you go, perhaps I am mellowing.

If you are equally captivated by all this, you may well be interested in a kickstarter by Blacksmith Miniatures. If you fancy a break from wargames painting and just like to paint a nicely sculpted resin figure, then it's well worth a look. I have my eye on this lovely little trio. Go on, do something a little foolish, add a little whimsy to your life.......



Saturday, 25 March 2017

If You Go Down to the Woods Today.....

Norman column
.....you will definitely be in for a surprise. But it will be no picnic. And not a teddy bear in sight.

This was another game in our Age of the Wolf campaign. Our random strategy rolling had left us with the strange third round situation of fighting ourselves - Matt's Saxons and Normans were due to battle each other, as were my Danes and Vikings. We jigged things around a bit, with the Normans being ambushed by Vikings instead. Rolling on the scenario, it was a new battle to play, Ambush on the Forest Road. The Normans deployed first on a path running the length of the board, woods and other terrain either side of it. The vikings then deployed in or behind this terrain. Usual victory points for slaying the enemy applied, with additional victory points for the Normans for each unit they could get off the board.

Turn 1 slaughter!
At first glance, I thought this was mission impossible for the vikings. There were far more exits from the board than I had units, so I could not hope to block them all. I did have one advantage in a large unit of 8 hearthguard, so I decided to use them very aggressively. Led by the warlord, they rushed to the vanguard and hurled themselves at the mercenary unit at the head of the Norman column. My thinking here was that they would wipe out this unit, spread fatigue to the unit behind them, and leave the Normans with one less Saga dice from the offset. In theory, a unit of 8 hearthguard will annihilate a unit of 8 warriors, but then the dice were rolled and only 7 warriors fell, at the cost of five hearthguard! In the Norman turn, these stragglers were then cut down, leaving the viking warlord a little lonely and exposed at the head of the Norman column. A backup unit of just 4 hearthguard rushed to reinforce the viking lord.

The Normans had some real luck in that first turn and it continued as they rolled more and more Saga dice. Feeling confident, the Norman lord and his knights charged in to a unit of bondi, expecting to sweep them aside. Once again, the lowly warriors defied expectations and beat back an attack from an elite unit. In almost a carbon copy of the viking failure, the Norman knights were all felled, the Lord staggered back in shock. Such carnage on the forest paths, and all in turn 1.

Hiding from missile troops, cunning vikings
At the rear of the column, not much was happening. A couple of Norman crossbow troops fell to viking arrows, and vikings took position in the woods, but in the main we used all our Saga dice to fight at the head of the column. With all the death and destruction here, the Norman foot troops scarpered into the woods, leaving the Norman Lord and his knights facing the Viking lord and his hearthguard. Spurring his men forward, the Norman Lord faltered, his knights fought bravely but were beaten back. Exposed and alone, the Norman Lord was dragged from his horse by the enraged vikings, exacting revenge for the loss of their comrades. A very brief and bloody conflict, heavy losses of elite troops on both sides, with a narrow victory to the vikings. It was all over by turn three!

As is so often the case with Saga, a real conundrum of a scenario. There was no way the vikings could block all the exits, and spreading themselves around the board meant each unit was alone and vulnerable to a concerted attack from the Normans. However, the Normans had to balance the urge to gallop from the field with the loss of Saga dice this would entail. An interesting scenario on both sides, one I would like to try again.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Viking board game

I spotted this on the Saga facebook page. It's a board game based on the viking invasions of England in the ninth century. If you have been watching the vikings series on TV it seems very close to that story. Rather than me waffle on about the game, go take a look for yourself.

As usual with kickstarter projects you have to do your own research. This company have already completed several kickstarters, so there should be minimal risk. I have backed several kickstarters and had very few problems. Most are a bit later than advertised, and one I was a little disappointed with the colour renditions, but on the whole I have been very happy with my buys. I have never dealt with this company but they seem to have a reputable track record. There's an early bird pledge saving $5 that lasts for a few more hours of today. It's not much to save but hey, every florin counts.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Atlantis Miniatures First Impressions

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had ordered a figure from Atlantis Miniatures, to check on the quality of the casting before committing to their dwarf kickstarter. It did take nearly two weeks to arrive, but finally I can give my first impressions of the figure. The picture (left) is the image of the product render, taken from the website store page. Each of the images I have taken I have reproduced quite large, hopefully you can see as much detail as possible.

The figure arrived in a polythene sealed bag within a blister pack and well protected in a cardboard box. I would be amazed if any damage could be sustained in transit.

Once opened the contents can be examined in more detail. The figure is attached to a sprue. There's a fair bit of flash to be cleaned off. There are also some mould lines to scrape away. This is a reasonably straight forward job, though the resin is quite soft, which always makes prep more difficult. Still, it doesn't take long with a sharp blade and/or needle file before the figure is cleaned and ready for the simple assembly of sticking on the arm. As it's resin, a superglue is required for this stage, again a simple enough task.

Assembled, the figure looks like this. Comparing with the digital render photo, it's clear that the printing and moulding has captured the detail very well. There's good detail in the face and hair, there's even a little bit of texture in the cloth areas. As the resin is soft it does mean that some edges would not be quite as sharp as, say, a metal cast - hard edges such as axes and hammers. On the plus side, there were no defects or air bubbles anywhere. In this photo the figure is stood on the supplied plastic base, which is quite large at around 30mm diameter.



Speaking of size, this figure is advertised as 28mm scale, but it seems much bigger to me. This comparison shot shows the figure alongside a selection of other figures which I had to hand. From left to right there's a Blood Rage pvc figure, the Atlantis Miniatures goblin, a metal GW dwarf, a resin Mierce Miniatures figure, and a resin Twisted steampunk figure. Note that the goblin is stood on a 2p piece for a direct comparison with the dwarf. Maybe he's a tall goblin, but that looks far bigger than 28mm to me. One thing missing from the Atlantis kickstarter page is a comparison shot with other dwarfs.

In summary then, the Atlantis figure is a soft resin, with good amounts of detail and texture captuted. The scale is advertised 28mm but I would hazard a guess as more like 30mm or even 32mm. It's reasonably easy to prep and assemble. I have made a start on painting, hopefully I will have that finished within a couple of days, well before the kickstarter is finished.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Atlantis Miniatures Kickstarter

The Atlantis Miniatures Dwarf Kickstarter is now live. I pledged within the first few minutes, being a massive dwarf fan. Not that dwarfs are massive of course, or me for that matter, it's my fandom that is of huge proporions.

I pledged for the V2 level, which gives a unit of dwarf warriors, a unit of dwarf crossbow, a unit of dwarf ram riders and a unit of dwarf hog riders, plus a leader riding a huge yak style beast. In truth, I have never been a fan of dwarf cavalry, but the yak mount just looks so awesome. I can also live with the ram riders. The hog riders - not a fan. However, the bundle was cheaper than buying the units separately, maybe I can get a hog fan to swap some figures.

So now I just have to sit back and wait for the campaign to finish. There is the unlocked items to look forward to, which includes a female unit, a war bear, villagers and more. It would be nice if a few characters were released too.

The kickstarter runs until March 29th, with an estimated delivery date of April 2018, a year from now. Yes, that is a long wait for those unfamiliar with kickstarters. And for those who are familiar, yes it's likely to slip by two or three months, or even more if we are really unlucky. It does sound like the first kickstarter they ran completed nearly on time and they have learnt lessons from it, so hopefully delays will be kept to a minimum.

Get along and take a look - you can never have too many dwarfs!
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