Wednesday 28 December 2011

2011 - a good year for WHFB?

As is traditional at this part of the season (and to fill in the boring bits between xmas and new year), I thought I would look back over the past twelve months at how Warhammer Fantasy has progressed. It's quite a long post, so grab a cuppa and a stale mince pie and settle down for a long ramble up and down the meandering path of 2011.

It was around eighteen months ago, in the summer of 2010, that the new edition of the game was launched. The impact was felt immediately by postmen all around the world, struggling up garden paths with their two kilo parcels. The thud of the 600 page book landing on doormats was audible, and geeks all around the world marvelled at the production values of such an epic tome, or complained at the size and usefulness of such a stupidly massive book.

An expectant hush fell on the gaming community as we waited for the first army book of this brave new world. And waited. And waited some more. It was March, 2011 when Orcs and Goblins was finally released, with the seismic revelation that this would be a hardback army book. The price tag of £18 raised a few eyebrows, given that army books had been £12 and then some had moved up to £15. But we shrugged as we always do, it's only a few quid right, nothing to be concerned about? There were further price shocks, in that the decade-old orc boys were re-packaged and re-priced at the same time. Just a month earlier they had been £15 for a box of 19 models, now they were £15 for a slimmed down box of 10 models, practically doubling in price overnight. But most of the attention was grabbed by the big new gribbly in town, the arachnarok spider. A brilliant plastic model by GW, up there with some of their best sculpts, such as the Skaven Screaming Bell and the Corpse Cart. The other big release was plastic savage orcs, again £15 for a paltry box of 10 figures, though at least these were actually new sculpts.

Looking back at my blog entries for this part of the year, I was enjoying the new game. The complex movement rules had been simplified, saving time and arguments. Magic seemed more potent but not overly damaging, though I did have concerns about how artillery would impact on the game, given it's new found accuracy. I also noted at the time that one or two units might have to grow a little to be resilient in this new world of uber-destructive combat, but I was happy with the game and the new emphasis on scenarios, variety and good old-fashioned fun. The old ways of static combat results, cavalry charges and super skirmishers was swept away on a wave of renewed enthusiasm and optimism for the game.

But then, as so often is the case in the UK, the summer brought grey clouds and the promise of storms to spoil the party atmosphere. When Storm of Magic was released, I immediately declared that I was not interested in an Apocalypse style expansion for my favourite wargame. Casualties were high enough in 8th edition without the introduction of even more powerful magic and monsters. But my biggest protest was that armies could ally with each other with little or no restrictions. Daemons could fight alongside their age old nemesis High Elves, the Empire could rely on Vampire Counts for support, even Dwarfs has access to awesome new powerful spells. The fluff and back story of the past 15 or 20 years was completely ignored in  a blatant marketing exercise and I hated the whole concept even before it hit the shelves.

My midsummer hibernation was made all the easier by the models released to support the campaign. Though GW are undoubtedly at the forefront of plastic miniature model development, the new monsters were eye-wateringly ugly. The turkey of the crop was the chimera, though the manticore and black dragon were almost as unconvincing. There was a ray of hope in the release of plastic characters, but these turned out to be single pose with no customisable options, so they might as well have been metal. Just when I thought a new low had been reached, the laughable skull infested terrain was released. I felt that I had made the right decision in avoiding this marketing ploy, though some sections of the internet community obviously enjoyed the break from the norm and declared it fun. Finally, a ray of hope appeared in the dark skies as GW announced that they were about to launch something big, something awesome, the biggest and best change the hobby has ever seen.

Never in the field of the hobby has so much been promised in such a spectacularly bad product launch. We expected a revolutionary new material that was easy to prepare, would bounce off the floor with no breakages and would be lighter and cheaper than metal. What we got was resin models, but not high quality resin figures as produced by myriads of smaller companies over the past five years. The internet was awash with horror stories of models melting in shop windows, of bad casts with masses of bubbles and missing details. My own experience was poor, I bought an Eldar homonculus and spent longer preparing it than I would a metal figure. The excess of bubbles were there, along with copious amounts of flash, though luckily the loss of detail was minimal. Apart from it being lighter then metal, I could see no benefit in this change. Somehow, the year had gone from bad to worse in just a few weeks. Surely, things could only get better?

It was the release of Avatars of War dwarf berserkers that made my summer. Twenty finely detailed plastic miniatures in a box, with just about enough options to go round, a few spare bits and even a movement tray. It was almost revolutionary, everything you needed for your regiment in one package, at a reasonable price too. A couple of years ago, twenty plastic fantasy figures for twenty pounds would have put these in the high price bracket, but such is the rise in GW pricing that these can now be considered mid-range price. In terms of quality of moulding and sculpting, I would rate them as among the highest in the market, certainly when it comes to dwarfs.

The next major GW release was the second army book of the year, the Tomb Kings. This is one of the few armies not owned by any in my gaming group, so my interest in it was purely an aesthetic one, I just wanted to see some nice new models. The price of the book was £22, a £4 increase on the previous release of just a few months ago. Also in common with the previous release, core troops were re-tooled, reboxed and doubled in price. Sadly, the badly aged skeletons and steeds remained untouched, the emphasis turned to monstrous infantry and centrepiece models. I was quite impressed by the model of the necrosphinx and admired the new tomb guard models ( though not the £25 price tag). The rest of the range was disappointing, the snake surfers rivalling the tomb giant in the awful sculpt stakes. Character models were poor too, I felt that collectors of this army had a bad deal. My main interest lay in the next release.

I had collected a small army of ogres in 7th edition and played quite a few games with them. The models were appealing in some ways, though in gameplay they were basically a melee army that lacked the visual appeal of my chaos warriors or the mass horde appeal of my orcs and goblins. Still, I expected some interesting updates and was looking forward to the new book.

The first disappointment was yet another price rise, with £25 being asked for a 96 page hardback book. This is quite ridiculous when you compare it to most books on any other subject. One of my other interests is photography, books on this subject have to be high quality and are generally hard backed. The average price for them is around £15. Fans of GW pricing argue that £25 is comparable to other rulebooks in the hobby. For me, I think back to just a few years ago when books were £8, then £10, then £12. But you don't need a long memory to look back to March when the Orc and Goblin book was relelased for the princely sum of £18. A price hike of around 40% in six months meant I was not going to pre-order the book, I would wait a little while before taking the plunge.

The rash of leaked pictures of the new big gribblies seemed to please most ogre players. For me, they were a little bit too cartoon like. It's hard to put my finger on this sentiment, after all, an army of fat ogres interested in mostly eating pies is not meant to be taken seriously, certainly not by the game designers. The sad fact was that I only needed the book and one or two boxes of the new minis to make up my collection to a 2.5k army. But the prices and overall look of the new stuff left me feeling cheated. I was probably in a minority when  I nailed my colours to the mast, declaring I did not like the models, and sold my existing collection. To date, I have not played against them either, so have no idea if the army book is good, bad or indifferent. Hopefully I will get a few games against them in the new year as my main opponent has collected a small force.

That just about covers what I believe to be the main releases in WHFB for this year. Reading back through my comments, it makes for quite a depressing read. The year started well, declined in the summer months, then plummeted even further as the price rises, finecast and the march of the massive monsters all took a toll on my interest in what was once my favourite wargame. There have been some brighter spots in among the doom and gloom, with the plastic dwarf bersekers shining like a beacon of hope. On the GW releases, the Garden of Morr kit was probably a highlight for me, though to date I have not bought one. And the Nurgle Lord plastic figure is a decent enough model, which I reckon could be easily improved with a few plastic bits. That aside, it's been an extremely disappointing year given the large number of major releases. Next year, it's likely that GW will switch attention to their other main system, so it's possible that 2011 will have been the most productive year for WHFB in a while. For me, it's been a case of quantity over quality, though to be fair there are plenty of other commentators on the web who have been very pleased with the year and declared it a fine vintage.

It's a shame really that I have felt a bit let down by GW, as I approach 20 years of playing the game. Now that I have played more games of 8th edition, I find it good in some ways, poor in others. My biggest complaint is that "everything dies", which sucks the enjoyment and the tactics from the game. It also smells like yet another marketing ploy rather then a serious attempt at games design. However, I still intend to build a celebratory army, my so-called Project XX to rebuild my vampire army coincides with the next army book release. I have many of the components already bought, and it's quite telling that the GW components are now in the minority.

Ending on a positive note, the best thing that happened to WHFB this year was the emergence of so many alternative ways to build your army. Plastic technology is no longer in the hands of just one company, and the figures being produced by mantic and Avatars of War are encouraging developments. When it comes to single metal or resin figures for characters, the choice is growing by the week. There are some excellent companies around that deserve support. I have already started to use non-GW figures in my armies and this trend will continue. I want to support these companies in my own small way and will be highlighting some of them in the new year.

If you got this far, I admire your endurance. Happy New Year!

Monday 26 December 2011

New Vampire Counts Pictures

It's that time of year, when kids all around the world wait excitedly for the arrival of the guy in the red cloak. Only this year, he has no beard, but sharp pointy teeth and a big sword instead. Some naughty elves have circumvented the GW secrecy policy, and the pictures of the new Vampire Counts are spreading over the web. A victory for freedom of speech, here's my impressions of the upcoming releases.

The book cover is a either a deliberate attempt at a slightly retro look, or a bit bland, I can't decide which. It's not bad, it's not particularly exciting either. Never mind, it's the contents that matter, we shall have to wait a few weeks before we can decide on that.

There are at least three new character models, two finecast are Krell and Isabella von Carstein, with a generic wight king in plastic. These are certainly an improvement on the last set of characters, GW have never really hit the nail on the head with their vampire characters.

The two wight models appeal to me, with the plastic model possibly having a slight edge over the Krell figure. The female vampire is an improvement on the current figure, though I reckon there are better alternatives around. All in all, I like them, I may even buy one or two after I have read the book and decided on how to develop my army.

The release of a Krell suggests that maybe there will be a Heinrich Kemmler model too. I would be very interested to see that, Heinrich was one of the first models I ever owned.

 There are also new characters included in the big dual role kit, the plastic Mortis Engine/Coven Throne. I have to say that I was quite disappointed with the Ogre Kingdoms large models, and was dreading what they would do with regard to the Vampire Counts "centrepiece" models. The terrorgheist/zombie dragon was reasonable but ridiculously overlarge, so I won't have one of those in my army. These two new models are also seemingly large, probably too big for my personal taste.

However, there are some interesting looking bits in these kits. The billowing clouds could be the basis of a number of models, a spirit host springs to mind, as could the  floating skeleton steeds. The spirits flying around the engine look superb for this kind of conversion too. The throne itself could possibly become a piece of scenery, depending on how the components are constructed. The standing cloaked figure could easily be a necromancer/wraith/vampire character model, while the three female vampires show promise, though as they are seated it might be a challenge.

As a whole then, the models are not really to my taste, but the kits have plenty of bits that could reward further scrutiny and kitbashing. I will maybe pick up one of these, depending on how the components break down.

Quite possibly the pick of the new releases for me are the Black Knights. The existing kits are 15, maybe 20 years old. An update has been needed for a long time. The black knights do not disappoint, they look very characterful without being over the top. It might even be possible to use these as mounts for the characters from the engine kits. Again, further scrutiny of the bits is needed, but I reckon at least one box of these are on my shopping list.

The hex wraith options (not shown) of the kit are not appealing to me at all, the barding looks a bit awkward and the flames unconvincing. The bits from the riders might be useable, but otherwise these are not for me.

And finally, the one kit that worried me the most. The rumours have been some kind of flesh golem for months, of which I always hated the idea. The reality has turned out to be something entirely different. I have always liked the concept of winged vampires in a non-character form, so these show great potential. The kits are decent enough and I might well include them in my army, depending on what they do. It does make me wonder how they will be different to Vampire Bats, if indeed these still exist in the new book.

When I first saw the non-winged version of the kit I thought they were plastic ghoul three-ups. They are basically ogre sized ghouls. Nothing amazing there, but I reckon these could find their way into non-VC armies. Ogre Kingdoms gorgers? Trolls? Even skaven rat ogres are a possibility?

Having seen the new models, I think I can safely say that my Vampire army is back on my to do list. It won't include all the new releases, but I am sure that some of them will be useable. I am now praying that the army list itself matches up to the "better than expected" feeling I have right now. I am awaiting the army book leaks with renewed interest.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

The Odd Couple

I have not spent much time on hobby painting recently, having had a lot of commission work it makes it less enticing to paint my own figures. However, I have managed to squeeze in the figure on the left, a Rackham figure I have painted up as a necromancer. There's lots of nice little details that you can't see from the front view, including  a cat and a crow hanging from his belt, very useful when mixing up potions I would imagine. The glowing green contents of the pot is the result of the mixing and spellcasting, an elixir of unlife. I imagine him stalking the graveyards and crypts, stabbing the corpses he finds, the green fluid coursing through dessicated veins, enslaving the bodies to the necromancer's will. The figure on the right I have talked about in this post.

Another reason I have not painted any more Vampire troops is the rumoured release of the new army book. I have around 30 more zombies to paint, but my uncertainty about how the book will turn out is holding me back. If the book is good, as I hope, or even just average, then I will continue with the building and painting of the army. If the new book turns out to be poor, or does not appeal to me (as the Ogre kingdoms book was), then I will have to make some difficult decisions.

In the meantime, over the holiday period I am hoping to get some quality time with my figures. The lure of Chaos has gripped me again, inspired in no small way by the hours and hours of adventures I have had in the snowy landscapes of Skyrim! I have also been inspired by fellow hobbyists on the Warhammer Forum, in particular this thread about building chaos warbands. I have come up with a slight variation on the warband idea, a table (below) that will hopefully help me to get through some of the unpainted mounds! The dice rolled were 2 followed by 3, so marauders it is. A block of 24 marauders with hand weapon and shield will add a bit of meat to my chaos army, so that's my xmas project.

Monday 5 December 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel

Here's the little corner of the house where I do most of my painting. It's nothing fancy, nor permanent. It's simply one end of the dining table, covered with an old cloth. The grey plastic box contains most of my paints, brushes, etc. These are then stored away in a cupboard at the end of each day (so we can use the table to eat from!).

The patio window faces south east, which means it gets plenty of sunlight in the morning, less in the afternoon. In spring and autumn this is ideal, I can generally paint all day long in good, natural light. Summer can be a bit problematic, in that too much light (and heat) streams in, so I tend to use a portable desk away from the direct light, sometimes in the garden in the shade of a tree. But winter causes the biggest problem of all.

You probably cannot see it, but there's snow falling in the garden. And the light levels are very low at this time of year. Painting by natural light is often impossible during these darker months.

The solution is one I have struggled with for years. I have tried several lamps, with varying costs and various levels of success. The main problem is not so much the bulbs, but the lamps, with complicated angle poise or bendy metal arms to allow multiple positioning of the lamp. I have gone through three in as many years, and at £100 per lamp it's costing me dearly.

However, I think I might have found the solution. My latest attempt at illumination is showing great promise. It's a floor lamp that sits just above head height (when seated), so it's perfect at providing plenty of light just over the shoulder, at eye level. I don't have to hunch forward to peer into the pool of light provided by a desk lamp, I can sit back, which is comfortable and more healthy. It has "daylight" bulbs, which are supposed to roughly match the ambient light that would be produced at midday in summer, or at least that's the claim. It's not the same as natural light, it's more of a white light, which is a decent second best to the real thing (for me at any rate). So it gives a good amount of light that is similar to the real thing, a little bit brighter than I would like, but nothing is ever going to match that lovely soft light from an overcast day in the north of England!

Best of all, it's much, much cheaper than previous lamps. I got mine from Amazon in the UK. I had been looking at it for a few weeks, it was already a bargain at £40, but then amazingly it cropped up in the Black Friday promotion and I snapped it up for £30. Here's a link for the lamp in question, still a very good buy at the £40 price tag, if you are looking for a new lamp.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Please excuse the lack of painting.....

......but a dragon ate my paint brushes.

It's a pretty flimsy schoolboy excuse isn't it? Since the day it was launched, I have spent most (my wife would say "all") of my spare time playing Skyrim. My wood elf character is wandering around the jaw-dropping scenery of the game, helping those in distress, clearing dungeons of miscreants and vanquishing the odd dragon. But it's not all hack and slash. Last night I wandered the shores of an icey lake, the moon rose above snow-peaked mountains, and the northern lights glowed green and purple. I just stood there slowly rotating, drinking it in. Awesome. It's early days yet and I can foresee another hundred hours play at least, but I reckon this is the best game I have ever played on the xbox.

At the other end of the scale, my interest in Warhammer has hit rock bottom. After nearly twenty years of playing the game I am really disheartened by many things. I think my attitude is best encapsulated in this little tale. The Undead are possibly my favourite army in the game, certainly in my top three along with Chaos and Elves. So you would think that the recent rumours of a new Vampire Counts book would have me jumping up and down with excited anticipation. Sadly, it has the opposite effect. I am almost dreading the new book. The recent trend of wow-cool-massive-monsters and the disneyfication of the sculpts is a real turn off for me. Even if I like the new sculpts, the pricing issue is forcing me to seek alternatives, so I don't really see anything to look forward to. On top of this, I am coming to dislike 8th edition the more games I play. The mass casualties from every phase of the game can be viewed as fun and exciting after some of the more "static" games under 7th edition. Or it could be viewed by a cynic as a ploy to force gamers to buy more boxes and blisters just to keep up and compete.

So I am having a break from painting Warhammer and turning my attention to other aspects of the painting and gaming hobby. It's amazing how much there is out there, companies seem to spring up on a monthly basis, or maybe they have been around for a while but I have missed them while wearing my Warhammer blinkers. I must get a list up on the blog at some stage. When I get some spare time.

PS. Having said all this about my interest level in Warhammer being lower then ever, I did think that the dragon logo would make a lovely banner for my Vampire army!

Saturday 5 November 2011

Dreadfleet (part one)

When Dreadfleet was announced I was quite surprised that my wife seemed interested. She's not really a wargamer and having tried to introduce her several times to various games, I was on the brink of giving up. When it arrived I put together a few bits and had a couple of trial games with her. It's reasonably easy to pick up the rules, very important when you play only infrequently. With a couple of house rules to cut down on the randomness of the fate deck, it could become a family fun game, joining  the likes of Talisman, Cluedo and Risk as a Christmas staple.

My task is to get the components painted up. I want to get them done in a reasonable time frame, so I thought I would make a start on a cross section of ships. It's possible to get a decent finish in a shortish time scale, but the sail ships are definitely the harder subjects with all those details, even if they are etched on. My favourite so far is the skaven ship (even if I do hate them in Warhammer)!

Friday 28 October 2011


The first necromancer for my new Undead army. If you are wondering what the model is, it's a witch by Enigma miniatures. I have long been impressed by their sculpts and wanted to see how they looked in real life. They are metal models, finely detailed and easy to assemble. The 20mm base is a plastic mantic base, I prefer the non-sloping sides, it gives marginally more room which is useful when the models are slightly larger than 20mm wide as in this case.

Next on my list is more zombies and another necromancer. If I could get those done by the end of next month I will be on target.

My enthusiasm for painting the models remains, but I must admit that I am a little worried about what GW will do with the new army book, rumoured for a  new year release. I don't particularly like the direction they have taken with the last two books. The introduction of snake-surfing skeletons and large Flintstones-esque models is not appealing to me, so I am half dreading what they will come up with for the Vampire Counts. The new terrorgheist model missed the marked in my mind, a little too comical and unfeasibly large too, so I don't have high hopes. Still, low expectations are easy to meet, so maybe I will pleasantly surprised.

Friday 14 October 2011


I am almost done on the first unit of zombies. The bases need some extra work, I think the addition of some rotting grass and some moss might be in order. I am not happy with the gravestones, they will have to be re-worked in some way.

On the meat of the unit, the zombies, I am pretty satisfied with their appearance. There's a few rough edges, but these are only really visible up close and to those with a critical eye. The mix of different parts works well, as long as you don't mind this more dynamic look. The old shuffling, comical GW zombies from yesteryear are a different breed to this species.

And here they are in horde formation. It's pretty unlikely they will appear in a game like this, but it looks nice!

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Zombies almost finished

I am nearly finished on the zombies. They are painted and glued to the multibases, there's still the earth and grasses to complete. I took a quick snap to show how they look ranked together, but the photo was awful. However, a quick play in the photo editor and I almost rescued it - it's still not focussed properly, but I thought the end result was a bit of fun, certainly worth a mini update.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Zombie horde assembled

I have been assembling these zombies for some time. They are a mix of mantic zombies and ghouls, with a few GW bits thrown in. The scale difference is quite negligible, though it takes a bit of cutting and trimming to get them together. There are around 50 zombies here, though I have recently decided to make it up to 60 and paint them in two batches of 30.

The black bases are plasticard. I am mounting them in large groups with a few odd spares, to give the appearance of a disorganised horde. It's a technique used by historical gamers and it gives a much nicer appearance, as well as being more convenient to transport and game with.

The metal and resin bits are from ebay (of course), a selection of gravestones and monuments to decorate the bases, or to become scenery pieces. I am still not 100% sure how to tackle the bases, I want to move away from the sand and flock routine, which is becoming a bit old.

This overhead shot shows that there is a fair bit of real estate to play with. I don't want to go overboard and cram it with graves and skulls, I like the sense of spacing in between the figures. This picture also shows the more natural groupings, the zombies are bunched together rather than lined up neatly in ranks and files. I have already started to speed paint the first 30, so hopefully I will have my first regiment painted in the near future.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Project XX Unveiled

Not so much an unveiling as I have been banging on about my old army for a couple of weeks at least. My main project for the next year will be a Vampire Counts army, partly to recreate my first fully painted warhammer army, but mostly to play once again with one of my favourite armies.

This piece of art is from the original skeleton horde box set. I think there were 30 skeletons included. I actually have some of them somewhere and it would be nice to include them in the new army if possible.

I have been collecting models and ideas for the army over the past year or so. At first I was going to try to recreate the army as it had been in the mid 1990's, complete with metal zombies and lots of the old school metal characters. But after looking around the web at all that is available for Undead generals, I decide not to limit myself in such a way. I will be using a combination of plastics and metals from a variety of manufacturers. I am choosing them mostly for two reasons ; affordability and aesthetics. I have already made a start on the first unit of zombies and a lone necromancer.

Thursday 29 September 2011

And yet more old pics

Zombies are a staple unit in Vampire Counts armies, in my old army I had about 60 of them. The sculpts are starting to look a bit dated, the huge hand syndrome that we all seemed to overlook ten years ago is mentioned all the time now. I guess as gamers and collectors we have become more discerning (or demanding). Big limbs aside, these don't look too bad to me, the muted tones help to hide their deficiencies.

This unit contains an ogre zombie I made from one of the heroquest ogres, which are a bit smaller than the current plastic ogres and fit into the unit a little better. I think I still have one or two of these round somewhere, I might see if I can sneak one into my new army.

I can remember quite clearly that I did take one photo of all the zombies in one huge regiment. Sadly I have no copy of it. There is something very impressive about a mass horde of figures on the tabletop, so one of the first tasks in building the new army is just that - a zombie horde.

And that concludes our meander down memory lane. There were other units in the army, but the photos have melted away to a virtual graveyard somewhere out there. Maybe they will turn up again, in another ten years.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

More pics from the past

Here's a picture of one of my favourite regiments. It's from an Undead army I painted about ten years ago, I can't remember exactly when it was done. It's part of an army that I eventually sold to a gamer in America. The pictures I found on the Vampire Counts forum, I had long ago thought they were lost forever.

The idea for the regiment came from the GW regiments of renown. They released the Cursed Company, which included a few non-human skeletons: a dwarf, a skaven, a lizard, and orc I think. I added some old metal armoured skeletons and built a few other plastic dwarf skeletons. There's even a couple of non-GW figures in there somehwere. The regiment is long gone, but I did keep hold of a few minis as a souvenir of the army. I might even be able to include them in my new army, though it's doubtful as stylistically they are very different to the current build.

The army included three regiment of skeletons, including this unit with nifty wooden shields. I had used the army in tournaments and it had been "spotted" by some GW bods. Consequently, I was invited to the HQ in Nottingham and had the army photographed. However, some of the components, these shields included, were not GW made and so ultimately they did not print the photos. I seem to recall sitting in the studio reading the new Tomb Kings book before it was released, while the photographer got all the shots that were never to be published.

The third and final regiment of skeletons I had built from the old single pose plastic high elf spearmen and spare skeleton bits. I don't have a photo of the full regiment, just a single rank, but it gives a rough idea of how the unit must have looked. I think in total there were about 60 or 70 skeletons in the army, spread across the three regiments. Certainly more than those in my first army, which was a single regiment of 30 skeletons, reflecting the growing size of armies as newer editions of the game were released. None more so than the current version of the game, which really encourages large blocks of infantry. I will probably aim for two skeleton regiments in my new army, of about 25 - 35 models each. It's never easy giving exact sizes when planning a Vampire Counts army, magic tends to inflate regiments almost as quickly as enemy units decimate them!

Sunday 25 September 2011

A Long Time Ago.... a gaming world far, far away.

It's hard to believe that I have been gaming and collecting for nearly twenty years. So many things have changed in that time. Most of my collection from that time has disappeared, I probably sold it on to other gamers (this was the pre-ebay era). But I do have a few models that I have kept for sentimental reasons. Here's the cream of my early 1990's painting.

The army book at the time was simply the Undead and included what would later be split into the both Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings ranges. The figure on the left is a liche, the one in the centre is a necromancer on a converted dark elf pegasus, and finally on the right is Krell. I also had a vampire, but he has vanished into the night. All the units are long gone, but from memory there was plastic skeleton warriors and horsemen and chariot made from the Undead Army boxset, a large metal regiment of zombies (large being 28, 7 ranks of 4 wide), 3 carrion riders, 2 screaming skull catapults and I think that was it. You didn't need many models to build a 2000 point army in the 1990s.

The liche was my general. I can remember being really pleased with the painting on this model. Though it looks very garish through modern eyes, it was in fact quite muted and understated for the period! For a while it was my best painted model. The robes  were a massive breakthrough for me. Notice the rather bright red scarf. Every model has red accesories in the 1990's. 

Then I decided to take a chance at Golden Daemon and painted up Krell. Brightly coloured single figures with hand painted banners were all the rage and believe it or not, this figure made the final cut. Some of the highlights are drybrushed on, the only guide we had back in those days was White Dwarf, which continually recommended drybrushing and ink washing. Check out the goblin green knee pads. 

While I have a fondness for these old models, I do think that many of the changes that have taken place over the two decades have been for the better. I have never really understood the viewpoint that "old metals are automatically great sculpts and have bags more character than the modern day rubbish". Though I am not particularly a fan of the current Vampire character sculpts, I would not to go back to these.

Friday 23 September 2011

Project XX

According to my calendar, today is the first day of autumn. The season of death and decay, when colour and vibrance seeps away all around us, first in golden and red hues, then pale and sickly yellows, finally leaving bare skeletons where once there was life.

For me, autumn is not the end of something, not the transition from summer warmth to winter cold. It's the start of a new year. The days get shorter and there's less incentive to be outside. It's an ideal time to start something new in the hobby, start a big project to tide you over the long, cold winter months.

This year (or rather next year)  is extra special for me. In autumn 2012 I will have been playing Warhammer Fantasy Battle for 20 years. I'm not sure of the exact date, but it was in September or October 1992 that I bought the fourth edition box set. To celebrate I intend to recreate my first fully painted army. Welcome to Project XX.

A lot has changed in the game over twenty years. Back then it was the introduction of the fourth edition that got me started. Single pose plastics (elves and goblins) and cardboard cutout characters, which we battled with over a bare dining table. Fast forward to eighth edition, the elves are back, but in some of the best plastics I have seen. Even the characters are present, for me the high elf lord on griffon is the best introductory (snap-together) model ever produced. High elves were probably my first army, if you count number of models as being the primary consideration in owning an army. But they were not my first painted army. They were far too difficult for a beginner to tackle, so I went for a much easier option. What could be easier than painting a skeleton in bleached bone, applying a chestnut wash and basing in green flock (the official 1992 recipe from White Dwarf)? That was my reasoning as I put together a 2000 point Undead army for a tournament back in the mid 1990's.

Today then, the first day of autumn, seems a fitting Day One. I have, of course, been cheating, in that I have been assembling plastics in spare moments over the summer. And I already have a few models from a previous project to get me started. But before I get to those, I will be taking a trip down memory lane.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Dwarf Berserkers painted

The Avatars of War dwarf berserkers have been finished for some time, but I am not sure they are painted to their full potential. At first I thought that my lazy technique of base coat and wash was to blame, but looking at them as a regiment there's no real problem.

I think the main issue for me is that they are very different to all the dwarfs in my army. They have no armour (well duh, who would have thought it) and so are much lighter in appearance. I have also painted their beards in very warm colours, which is quite a contrast to the dour look of most of the other dwarfs in the army. I think at some stage I will add blue or green tattooes to draw attention away from all that pink flesh - it's almost elfish, which just won't do. But that's a project for another time, to be precise, when the new army book arrives.

My final thoughts on the Avatars of War kits? It's a superb addition to a dwarf army. The sculpts are top notch,  stylistically a little different to GW dwarfs in that the AOW figures are very broad across the shoulder and slightly narrower in the face. I actually prefer them to the GW sculpts. If  AOW were ever to release armoured dwarfs, I would have a lot of redundant GW models.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Here's a photo of the two recently completed regiments in a side by side comparison shot. Obviously you have to look past the fact that some are heavily armoured while the others are practically naked. Even if you don't like the style of the AOW models, the scale is compatible and the price is reasonable. It's like travelling back in time, when you could buy a boxed regiment from GW and it would contain enough models to make a proper regiment and include a movement tray too. Ah, happy days, makes me feel a little bit like reminiscing.......cue wavy picture and jingle jangle this space!

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Dwarf Rangers Painted

The dwarf rangers are just about finished. A few of the models will be given shields at some stage, but I am putting that on hold for a while as I re-consider the shields and banners across the whole army.

These were speed painted, most of the colours are a base coat and a wash or couple of glazes. It gives a reasonable finish that is quick to achieve. I have kept the colours fairly muted as I wanted them to look a little travel worn. I have included a few fifth edition arms to add a little variety to the poses. There's also a couple of conversions in the unit, weapons slung over shoulder, or a sneaky pull on a pint, that kind of thing.

I am happy to put the dwarfs aside for the time being. At the start of the summer I didn't really have a project in mind, when the release of the Avatars of War berserkers spurred me into some beardy action (I will be posting pictures of those models tomorrow). Now that I have added two units to my dwarf army and brought it up to about 2500 points painted, I feel like I am in a strong position for when the next dwarf army book is released. If some of the rumour mongers are to be believed, it won't be long before we get to some new beardy action.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Ogres for sale

I have some ogres up for sale on ebay. I bought them a couple of years back, thinking I could use them in my chaos army and maybe also develop them as a standalone army. I played them a couple of times, but never really got excited about them. When the new version of the book was released I decided they were not for me.

If you are interested, please click here to visit my ebay page.

Friday 2 September 2011

Dwarf Rangers painting progress

I am painting the dwarf rangers slowly, a snatched hour here and there. They are still some way off completion, but I thought I would show what I had done so far.

The first step is nearly always armour and metals. These are painted on as chainmail paint, followed by a wash of a mix of black and chestnut ink. Pure black ink is very stark, the chestnut makes it slightly greyer.

The next step is to paint the flesh. I have mixed up a pot of a blend of Tallarn Flesh plus white, for a pale tone. Once this is dry, it gets a wash with a mid brown, the rough equivalent of Ogryn Flesh. I apply this to the whole unit, by the time the last is done, the first is just about dry so I can apply a second coat where heavier shading is needed, basically around the eyes and mouth, in between fingers, etc.

The next stage is to paint in the clothing and leather. For these I have used a variety of fairly muted colours from the coat d'arms range, sticking to chestnut, grey blue, mid grey and dullish greens. The leather bits are just a selection of mid browns, while the boots are a darker brown.

That's all I have managed in the past week or so. The next stage will be a wash on the clothing and leather, to add a little shading and texture. Then it will be time for the beards, after which there will be very little left to do.

Sunday 28 August 2011

Dwarfs getting a new book in 2012?

With the Ogre Kingdoms book on advance order, it's time to think about the next book to be released. Isn't that always the way with wargamers?

There is plenty of speculation and rumour on the next book, but the most reliable guesses seem to be one of three contenders - Bretonnia, Dwarfs or Wood Elves. I have no idea if these are the only contenders, they are the ones most often cropping up in internet forums, but only a handful of GW employees know for sure. It would be nice if all three of these were released in 2012, more than a year into the new version and only two books released with a third around the corner is not the best support to my mind.

I have a small collection of wood elves, currently on hold until I get some idea of how they will develop in the next book. I have a much larger collection of dwarfs, pretty much one of every unit, more than half of them painted too. So it's the dwarfs that get most of my attention at the moment. I have recently painted up a unit of the new Avatars of War berserkers and am currently working on a unit of dwarf rangers. Once these are completed I will have around 2500 points of painted units, with enough bare metal/plastic to add at least another 1000 points. That's a lot of beards.

When the new book is released I do not intend to shelve any of these models. I don't play in tournaments so I don't have to optimise my choices. I usually play in narrative style campaigns/games, where the unfolding story and spectacle of battle is more important than the outcome. Thus I fully expect to continue fielding the same units and characters I have been building up over the past few years.

I have to confess that I have not been overly impressed with some elements of 8th edition. The move to mass casualties, devastating magic, laser guided artillery and the like are the main areas that concern me. The game seems to have changed from a considered tactical challenge to a more hectic, random dice fest. That's not to say I don't enjoy 8th edition, because I do (mostly), it's just different now.  I wonder how dwarfs will fit into this fast paced, blood soaked, magic infused universe without making major changes to the classic dwarf character.  In fact, I am slightly worried about what effect a new book might have on the dwarfs.

A further move toward a steampunk image will not be good for me. I am concerned about rumours of mechanical statues/constructs. These smack too much of chaos or magic devices to my mind. A steam tank might be feasible, but that has already been done by the Empire and is very close to what's happening with the new chaos dwarf range. A zeppelin/flying machine has also been mentioned, but again this would overlap with the gyrocopter and seems to duplicate rather than innovate. A new artillery piece might be an option, but it's difficult to think how it could be much different to the current collection.

Maybe none of these will come to pass and the dwarfs will stubbornly cling on to the old ways, but somehow I doubt it. Whichever way the dwarfs are taken in the next book, I really hope that GW consider their older customers and avoid the wow-awesome-cool-massive-model syndrome of recent releases. Ask any dwarf and they will tell you - bigger is not always better.

Thursday 25 August 2011

New plastic Nurgle figure

I spotted this photo on one of the forums. It's rumoured to be a plastic Nurgle Lord. I sincerely hope that it is plastic, because I will definitely buy one and hack it around to make it more lordly. At the moment, I would say it is merely aspiring champion or even unit champion. It needs a little bit more to make it a lord.

The new plastic characters that have been released recently are nice enough but come as they are in the picture, with no extra bits or options. Of course, plastic is easy enough to hack around so that's not a major problem if you have plenty of bits.

I am jumping the gun here a bit as I am trying to stick to painting dwarfs, the rangers are only just started and I still need to finish the berserkers. I also have a large pile of plastics to assemble for my next army, which I hope to start in September. So the Nurgle items will have to wait a while, probably November is the month of Nurgle for me. I have a few more models that I will be painting for my Chaos army, some of them much more interesting than this guy. It's going to be a busy autumn.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Dwarf rangers started

The berserkers are not yet finished but they are tabletop ready, so I have moved on to the next dwarf unit, 24 rangers. These will be much easier to paint as they are mostly armour and beard. They are a mix of plastics, mostly current version, with a few axes hefted on the shoulder from the previous plastics set. There's also a couple of metals in the unit, including one of my favourite dwarf minis of all the time, the champion with eye patch and wooden leg.

Today I primed the unit, most with metallic paint, some with a white primer then painted on the metal areas. The next step is a wash, when I apply this I will also use it on the weapons of the berserker unit. When I paint the beards of this unit, I will also touch up the beards of the berserker unit. This makes me feel like I am making good progress, even though I am going back to a previously painted unit. It's a little technique I use to keep up impetus on an army - get one unit to a reasonable level, then just work on it in little sessions here and there to bring it up to scratch. It makes painting a difficult unit seem less of a chore.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Table Top Fix

I have recently been looking more and more into non-GW hobby materials, be they games or miniatures. There is a lot of stuff out there, but some of it is hard to find. So a site like Table Top Fix is a nice shortcut, it updates practically every day on new miniatures, games, etc. Take a look, maybe even put their banner on your own blog as I have done, you might win a prize.

Click on the image to learn more.

Monday 15 August 2011

Berserkers causing problems

I really wanted this post to be a picture of the completed regiment of berserkers. However, they are causing me some headaches to paint them to a decent standard.

Several years ago I painted in a fairly conventional manner - a base coat, a wash, then highlights (or layers as some call them). More recently, I have been experimenting with cutting out the highlight stages, as these are the most time consuming to perform. I thought I had made good progress with some of my recent efforts and was hoping I could do the same on these dwarfs.

Here are the two "cheat" bases to show how they look at the moment. They are a decent tabletop standard, but I like to get above this level. Trying to achieve it without using highlights is proving a challenge. On these figures, I might have to throw in the towel and admit defeat. Some highlighting is perhaps inevitable. There is certainly more work required on the weapons, the skin and the hairy bits ie just about all the model. I guess you just can't rush a dwarf!

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