Friday 30 August 2013

Mordor Orc Banner

I have a real mental block when it comes to banners. My freehand skills leave a lot to be desired, so I nearly always put off finishing them. This orc has been standing around on my painting to do list for about six months. I finally plucked up the courage today, googled a few designs, adpated one and took the plunge. It turned out okay in the end, but I still feel pretty inadequate in this area.

The good thing is that I can now cross another item off my 2013 painted list - it's over on the left of the screen if you have never noticed it before. I find keeping a list like this quite a decent motivational technique. I add an item to the list when it's prepped and primed, then cross it off when it's fully finished and photographed. In theory, the shame of having several half-finished items on the list forces me to complete them. And it works too, I hate seeing something lingering on the list for too long. I have got steadily better in the past three years at finishing half-painted items.

Monday 26 August 2013

Fly My Pretties

Here's the next job for the Vampire Counts army - a unit of fell bats and a female vampire.

The bats are the Riesenfledarmaus set from masq-mini. As I mentioned in my last post, I reckon these are the best models for fell bats currently available. They are pretty accurate to life sculpts of real vampire bats, they even have the little fingers on the wings to help them cling to their prey. The poses are superb, one soaring through the sky, one coming in to land and one crawling along the ground, covering the last few yards to it's prey.

The quality of the casting was very good, there was a slight miscast on the wing of the left model, which I scraped away and then repaired with a little green stuff. There was no flash at all and almost zero mold lines, something pretty unusual on metal models. The fit of the components was very good too, there was a small gap to fill on the join between wing and body on the landing pose. All other joins were good, I have given them a coat of liquid green stuff just to be on the safe side.

The female vampire model is by Mad Puppet miniatures. Again, it's a lovely sculpt with accurate anatomical details. The quality of the casting was not quite as good as the bats - there was a good amount of flash on the sword and hand. Luckily, this is a fairly old school metal cast, in that it was quite soft and easy to scrape away with my craft knife. Mold lines were visible but very fine and easy to remove. I decided to add the flying bats at this stage, this might make painting a little more difficult but I cannot imagine how I would have painted such small bits separately. Again, it was not really necessary but I gave a few areas a wash of liquid green stuff to cover any joins and flaws.

Friday 23 August 2013

Watch the skies!

I have finally found some fell bats to include in the Vampire Counts army. The stock models are far too comical for my taste so I have been looking around for some time for alternatives. A lot of gamers convert ghouls or daemonettes - add a pair of plastic wings and the result is a decent enough model. For me, these conversions are more batman (or batwoman), but I very nearly went down this route. The problem is, I want to use the "batperson" concept for my vargheists, so having two similar looking sets of models for two different units was always going to be confusing. Happily, I have found the solution in the sales section of the Warhammer Forum and am busily assembling my new unit. I will get into the details in a future post, for now I am thinking aloud about colours for my new unit.

As most of you probably know by now, I am a big fan of natural, muted colour schemes, even in my fantasy armies. I have been looking around for inspiration and I think I have settled on something like this little chap. A brown furry body and grey wings with fleshy arms, ears and face, not quite as dull as this picture. Some scenic elements on the base will also add interest. Notice that the wings have blood vessels and veins running through them. Something like that would add interest to the scheme, but it could be hard to pull off in a convincing fashion. Still, there's little else to complicate the painting so I will probably give it a go.

While I was searching I came across a lot of cartoon and anime illustrations, which are not really my cup of tea but can be useful sometimes for palette inspiration. This is a case in point. It just so happens that I am also prepping a vampire character to temporarily lead my army. I have a trio of ladies lined up and had decided a while back to paint them in different schemes - a red, a black and a white. This deep red will do nicely I think.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Empire handgunners

Over the past couple of weeks I have been tinkering with a unit of Empire handgunners. They are made from a mix of current and previous edition plastics, with a few head swaps and a little converting here and there.

The colour scheme is from the province of Ostermark, which is purple and white or yellow. I went for more of a burgundy shade with an off-white contrast, not being a massive fan of purple or yellow. Most of the painting is purely a base coat and a wash, though some areas got extra shading and/or highlighting. The idea was to get them completed quickly, Empire armies can be big on numbers so a quick and effective technique is paramount.

The bases are 2mm mdf, 60mm x 40mm in dimension. In warhammer terms, the two bases pushed together (as above) is a 6x2 unit. In reality there are 10 figures in total, this little saving will cut down on time taken to complete regiments. Now, you might be saying that I have no flexibility here, since I cannot reform or use a different formation. This is partly true, though the figures are currently fixed on by a paper clip glued into the foot and poked into the mdf, which is enough to hold them securely at the present time. Future wear and tear and general gaming may change this and necessitate the use of a dab of superglue, but in theory I could remove them from these mdf bases and use single plastic bases too, if I really wanted to. These days, such tactical considerations I tend to waive in favour of gaming convenience.

In other gaming systems, I have several options. Hail Caesar is element based and the dimensions of bases is left to the players to decide. I have decided on 60mm width for small units and 120mm for medium units,so these would be pushed together as one medium-sized unit, or separate as two small units. Other gaming systems that I am looking into have similar recommended base sizes, but again the gamer is free to decide for themselves. I am increasingly drawn to such freedoms and will hopefully get to use them in this way at some time.

Having put this unit together as a tester for a possible Empire type force, I am unsure of the future. I like the colour scheme and the models are nice enough. I have more gunners I could paint, enough for another two units of this size. There's about 20 militia I painted a few years ago that I could rebase in this way, trebling the number of painted troops at a stroke. I also have some unpainted Perry plastics I could employ as halberdiers. Only time will tell if they can draw me away from my other projects.

Sunday 18 August 2013

The gods decree it

This is a true story.

A few weeks ago I went round to Matt's for a game of Napoleonics, the first time I have ever played the period. We were using some of his old 1/72 (20mm) figures, the sort you used to see in Airfix boxes when you were a nipper. They were some of the first toy soldiers he collected, in fact he recently found the old boxes stashed away somewhere and has now framed them and hung them in his gaming room - one of them he bought from Woolworths for the grand sum of 22p. There's a little bit of geek history attached to them.

The game was really enjoyable and I spent some time afterwards pondering why I don't have any 1/72 in my collection. After a most interesting few hours trawling the web, I discovered that things have certainly moved on since the days of Airfix 22p boxes. There are so many more manufacturers now, selling figures from pretty much any age you can think of. I started to dream of building armies at low cost to game in the periods I have never dared to consider before, ancients in particular. If you want to learn more about 1/72, then Plastic Soldier Review is your starting point. The sculpts vary in quality of course, though you can say that of all of the standard (i.e. 25mm/28mm) historical ranges - I have been tearing my hair out trying to find semi-decent viking figures, but that's another story.

After looking at so many screen shots of so many different eras, my head was in a whirl. Being an old fashioned kind of guy, I decided this was a problem best solved by that ancient art of the venerable ones. Yes, I shunned the web and bought a book. This book is a thing of beauty to behold, it's hardback and 280 pages with some fantastic illustrations and plenty of military history, from the early struggle with Carthage and the famous elephants of Hannibal to the decline and collapse of the empire over 1200 years later. I am hoping that reading through will help me to pick an era to game. It's currently on sale on the Osprey site, an absolute steal at just £11 plus postage. I have only had a preliminary flick through, I have it lined up as one of the things to do in the long, cold winter evenings - no point in rushing these things, Rome wasn't built in a day (sorry, could not resist that one).

Fast forward a few weeks to the current day. I am looking to buy a new laptop because the existing one is nearly dead, battery will not charge and it overheats all the time - it's buzzing away now as I type in this on blogger, hardly a hard task to complete I would have thought. So I start looking at deals online. Then I start to wonder if there are any games around that I might want to play, and Total War Rome II pops up. I played the original back in the day, when computers were big beige boxes the size of a small car stuffed under your table, and laptops were the preserve of rock stars, footballers and other filthy rich folk. When laptops finally came down in price and my old pc died I made the transition and happily settled in to a new life with my screen on my lap, though with reduced power and thus no gaming. It's been a good few years since I played a computer game, only Skyrim on my son's Xbox has distracted me from the joys that can be had with little lumps of metal and plastic.

Finally then, we get to the bit which is amazing. A random game of Napoleonics leads to me searching through screenshots of 1/72 Romans and Carthaginians, buying a book on the Roman army, and the upcoming Total War Rome II. That's a coincidence right? Then the release date appears on screen. It's September 3rd. And that date is significant because it's my wedding anniversary, I won't say silver because that makes me sound ancient. Then I discover that Creative Assembly, the producers of the total war series, are celebrating their 25th anniversary too!

Truly, the planets have aligned, the portents have been read, the gods have decreed it. My fate is clear to see. I must buy a new laptop, a copy of Total War Rome II and spend hundreds of hours playing it. It is my destiny. Although, apparently, others can buy it too, if so inclined.

Monday 12 August 2013

Battle Report: WHFB Daemons vs Vampire Counts

The armies line up
You wait years for a game with your son, then two come along at once. Two games, in two days, with two sons! The first I wrote about here, telling of my defeat by daemons whilst commanding greenskins. This time, I commanded the chaotic wierdos against the might of the vampire counts. Only this time it was personal - son Tom wrote his own list for the bloodsuckers, using my limited selection of painted troops but with his own slant, which caused me some problems, as we shall see.

Turn 2
The set up was pretty similar to last time, I had left the terrain as it was, but changed the arcane ruins for a ruined church and walls. This control of this building was the objective of the battle.

Rolling for first turn, I lost again, and the vampires surged toward my gibbering horde. Dire wolves raced ahead, but were quickly dispatched by screamers and a Nurgle beast. Zombies scrabbled out of the ground at an alarming rate. A necromancer lord on a corpse cart was a surprise choice that my level 1 herald and horrors found difficult to compete with. A flank charge by a small pack of zombies held up my nurglings for the whole game, they were unable to combat reform as they lost every round of combat and do not have a musician. Though I stalled one unit of ghouls with screamers, the rest of the army advanced at a rapid pace. This was another surprise for me, two units of 15 ghouls whereas I expected one bigger block. Most worrying was a varghulf and a banshee hurtling down my left flank, I feared for the safety of my Daemon Prince so moved him over to the right.

Turn 3
With my beasts of Nurgle tied up by zombies or ghouls, the varghulf was free to flank charge the daemonettes, while the banshee had a shooting/screaming match with pink horrors. The varghulf took just two turns to destroy the clawed ones, though the horrors managed to win the shouting match. Another unit of zombies surfaced just in front of the flamers, survived their shots, charged them, beat them, then saw them sucked back into the realm of chaos (if zombie eyes actually function). That's my first double 6 with the daemon instability test, I can imagine that being painful with a big unit of daemons.

Chaos surge my arse!
Things were not going well for the daemons. They struggled to contain the vampire magic. The most devastating spell was yet to come. A gaze of Nagash hit the daemon prince straight between the eyes. Three wounds caused! No problem, I was currently basking in the glory of the chaos gods, who had granted me a chaos surge. With a ward save of 4+, I picked up three dice and launched them confidently - the picture says it all. Just one wound left on the prince, the daemonettes destroyed, the flamers sucked back into the ether, the nurglings in a never ending battle with zombies, while the vampires had still not suffered any significant losses.

The game was lost, but I wanted to try one last chance for glory. The prince charged into the centre of the grave guard, hunting down the vampire general. It was a suicide mission, but it could just claw back some respect from his chaos partrons. Tom accepted the challenge for fun, in a serious game he pointed out that the grave guard champion would have stepped up. The vampire had quick reflexes and struck first, caused 3 or 4 wounds, none of which I could save (the chaos gods had by now withdrawn their blessings and my ward save was just 6+). Down went the prince in the dirt at the feet of the victorious bloodsuckers. A late double charge by a Nurgle beast and the herald on disc into the corpse cart ended in another fiasco and I conceded the game.

MVP - varghulf, snacking at the after battle buffet 
The vampires dominated quite easily. Ghouls and zombies proved very efficient at blocking my troops, while the varghulf rampaged through a unit of daemonettes followed by a unit of horrors. The grave guard didn't even have to lift a blade to help out. My magical defences were useless against a necromancer lord and my prince paid the ultimate price for this weakness. I always knew this daemon setup was sub-optimal, I am still trying to work out how the heck it won in the previous game. I could blame the dice, but in reality I was simply outgunned in both magic and combat phases. So, two major defeats in two games, though I can also claim that my armies won!

Saturday 10 August 2013

Battle Report: WHFB Daemons vs Orcs and Goblins

Turn 1
I can't remember the last time I played a game at my own house, I usually go round to a friend's for my Friday night action. When my son Ben offered me a game, I jumped at the chance. A 4x4 battle mat on a table tennis table in the garage was set up with a small selection of scenery, a few woods on the fringes, a swamp on my left and arcane ruins just off centre of my right. The ruins were declared the objective of the game, whichever side was in control at the end of the game would be the winner.

I added up my painted daemons and it came to around 1600 points, so I scribbled down a similar sized list of my painted greenskins. I went for fairly easy-going armies - each had a lord to lead them, and small magic support. The daemons had a Tzeentch herald on a disc plus two units of horrors, while the greenskins had an orc shaman and a night goblin shaman.

Turn 2
The game started with the daemons electing to take first turn. A swarm of nurglings had been enjoying an afternoon frolic in the swamp, their fun interrupted by a vanguarding unit of wolf riders. The nurglings charged in and easily despatched the wolf riders for the cost of just one wound - you can see the tiny orange dice marking this in the first picture above. Sweeping forward they threatened the spear chukkas, picture right. Supported by screamers, it already looked a little tricky for the greenskin left flank. A spear chukka shot wounded a beast of Nurgle, and poisoned arrows from the night goblin archers took down one screamer, but it was not enough to prevent the daemonic advance. The centre stalled as the trolls went stupid and ambled forward a little. The right flank showed some promise, as a pair of wolf riders survived daemon flames to make a surprise charge on a Tzeentch herald on disc, but they were easily fought off.

Turn 3
The main action was in the centre of the board. A single beast of Nurgle held up the trolls, while the daemonettes survived a defeat and then slowly gained the upper hand against the orcs. The screamers slashed the night goblin shaman, but amazingly he took just one wound from the 5 or 6 hits, only to gobble down a poisoned mushroom in the next turn! The screamers then crashed into the rear of the night goblin archers, defeated them easily and pursued into the back of the trolls. With two beasts of Nurgle to the front and screamers in the rear, the trolls too were easily overcome. The nurglings steadily swarmed over the spear chukkas, the greenskin left flank was in tatters, the right flank was ineffective as the squig herd moved up under fire from flamers and pink horrors, slowly whittling down the ranks.

The picture above shows the scene just before it all went horribly wrong for the greenskins. The trolls are just about to be surrounded and destroyed, while the orcs are about to be flanked by the Daemon Prince. His three kills and a good round from the daemonettes saw the orcs destroyed (despite my forgetting his thunderstomp rule), the daemonettes then pursuing into the black orcs. Things might not have been that bad if the orc warlord had survived. He was engulfed by blue fire of Tzeentch, I had overlooked the horrors lurking by the ruins, the single wound from the spell augmented by the warpflame toughness test was too much for the poor orc to endure. Adding insult to injury, the daemonettes then easily defeated the black orcs in combat and ran them down. We fought one last combat between the herald of Tzeentch with his super-charged wand of whimsy and the orc shaman with his glowing green fists of gork, but it was a bad day to be green and the orc shaman was killed. With just half a unit of goblin spearmen and a depleted herd of squigs remaining, I conceded defeat.

The dead daemons, all 6 of them
A fine victory for the daemons, their casualties (right) were virtually none, while the bulk of the greenskins had been destroyed. A surprising result for a fun afternoon with plenty of drama, a few laughs and a good smattering of random events. At one point, Nurgle himself intervened but did not harm a single one of the five Tzeentch units on the board, but did manage to take out some black orcs and a fanatic. The daemons also benefitted from an enhanced save in one turn, so the reign of chaos rolls helped rather than hindered the daemon cause. On the other hand, warpflame gave about half of the greenskin units a regeneration save, which made the warlord episode particularly funny as his toughness 5 meant he would have gained regeneration on any roll but a 6, so I promptly rolled the 6 to kill him off! A classic dice roll very fitting in a game of random carnage.

A final note. We were playing a slightly modified version of 8th edition rules, in case you are bemused by the small size of the regiments. I took out the supporting attack rule and I also allowed just the front rank to fire missiles. The result is slightly less carnage in shooting and combat, but otherwise the game plays pretty much the same as the full-on version, only without the need for regiments the size of house bricks. Much easier on the eye, in my view.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

The Empire Strikes Back?

Now that my Vampire Counts army is starting to shape up, I would like to paint up an opposing army. I know, I am a glutton for punishment, it's not like I don't have other projects on the go, but I tend to go where the muse directs and she's currently heading for Ostermark. I did make a very faltering attempt at an Empire force some time ago (here and here). I also tentatively decided on Ostermark as a theme. But that idea soon withered away, overshadowed by other things. But now I am keen to start it again.

Ostermark lies in the east of the Empire, with the old province of Sylvania on the border. Ostensibly this has been annexed by the Empire, but of course in reality it is still in the grip of the vampire counts. I don't normally bother with narrative background when I am collecting armies, I tend to go with aesthetics. But for some reason I have started to develop a little back story, complete with characters and small scenarios. I guess it's the Oldhammer effect! I do also want to grow the army by playing out skirmish games to determine how the army progresses, that kind of thing, so a more story-driven approach for me this time around.

Of course, I will also be trying to pick up troops as cheaply as possible, through ebay and maybe a forum or two. My first successful foray resulted in 30 handgunners for £7.50, or 25p per figure. These are a mix of the old and the new, which I have chopped up a bit for variety. This photo shows them ready for base coats, they were bought pre-primed but of course the previous owner had not removed all the mould lines. I had to scrape them off and then patch up with paint-on primer, but it should all be fine when the paint goes on proper. They are glued to paper clips as I will be basing them in elements. I have Hail Caesar in mind, so most of the army will be multi-based, but also useable in the odd game of Fantasy Battle. There's a long road ahead, but I look forward to the journey.

Friday 2 August 2013


This is one of the models that I just had to have in my army. For me, this is how the monsters of the army should look, there's a savagery and realism (if that's possible in a fantasy figure) that is lacking from some of the recent models. If I had a top 10 list of figures, this would be in it somewhere.

I added the zombies/corpses for a little foreground interest. In my mind's eye, the varghulf is such a powerful force of undeath that it attracts corpses to the surface, like worms after a rain shower.

The dripping blood from the mouth was a last minute thing. I tried to add it using UHU glue but it just didn't work out for me, I need to try that again some time. In the end I snipped a hair from one of my big terrain brushes, glued it into the mouth, painted it red then added a couple of drops of super glue to the end. Then I added more red paint and some satin varnish. It's not perfect but it's good enough for gaming.

Enough chatter, here's more pictures of this fine beast.

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