Saturday 31 December 2016

Review of the Year

2016 is almost over, time for the traditional look back at the painting and gaming highs and lows. In terms of quantity of figures painted, this year has been the lowest since I started the blog. The main reason for this has been a desire to paint up a dwarf warband to my highest level. It takes a lot of time. Coupled with this fact has been a dip in motivation, especially over the summer months, when I painted and gamed virtually nothing. But that's the lows seen off, on to the highs for the year.

The very first painted item of the year was a Blood Rage Fenris wolf. I really thought I would have completed more of the figures by the end of the year, but it was not to be. I actually played a handful of games of Blood Rage with my family and it went down very well. I also enjoyed a few games of one-page-40K with a fellow gamer, so much so that I was inspired to paint up a pair of kans and make some terrain (here and here).

Spring came around and I started on the slow, steady slog of painting dwarf slayers, a task that was to last through several months. To break up the task, I also slotted in a dwarf runesmith, a strong candidate for my favourite paint job of the year.

In the summer I took a break from sweating over beards, and switched to painting Anglo-Danes for Saga (which technically also have beards, just not as luxuriant as their dwarf counterparts)! It was a real pleasure to blast through a starter warband in a relatively short time, for the first time this year I really felt like I was getting results. I also had my first exciting encounter with shield transfers.

As autumn arrived I made a switch to my Chaos army and painted up the character model from the newly relaunched White Dwarf magazine. I was not that impressed by the magazine, but really happy with my work on the chaos champion, another strong contender for paint job of the year. Vorghan the Slayer became the leader of a chaos warband in a mini gaming campaign, based on a system in the General's Handbook. Reflecting a very poor gaming year, it took four weeks before the first game was completed, then another month before we got round to the second game. It really has been a very lean year for rolling dice, something I am determined to improve on next year. The autumn season ended with a couple of figures for my steampunk collection and a lone Blood Rage wolfman figure.

Winter had now arrived and it was back to the dwarfs, Gunnar Gunnarson and the Dragon Belchers, which happily was completed in a relatively short time. I was hoping to add the mighty Anvil of Doom to my dwarf force, but only got as far as the twin guard before festive activities ate up my time. So less than two dozen dwarfs painted throughout the year. Well I did say that it was a project to take my time over, and there's certainly no rushing a dwarf. Hopefully next year will be an improvement, I already have a couple of units assembled and heading up the 2017 painting list. And I am starting to think about some gaming opportunities. Let's hope for a better new year.

Friday 30 December 2016

Trolls Going Cheap!

I have had these Mierce Miniatures trolls for such a long time, I thought it was about time they came out of the box to see the light of day. They immediately turned to stone - sorry, bad joke. They were pretty easy to put together, resin models with no air bubbles and few mould lines to scrape away. The joins are good too, I will probably run a coat of liquid green stuff over them just to be sure, but you could probably get away with priming from this point. Lovely models they are too, highly recommended. There is a brief sale on the website, get on there now and enter the discount code NEW-YEAR-2017. Be quick - the sale only lasts until January 2nd. I have ordered a couple more trolls to add to this little force, which I see rampaging through viking settlements and beyond some time in the new year. Much more in the same vein to come in the new year.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Santa's Sack

What did Santa bring me this year? Not too many minis thankfully, I already have plenty of those. In fact, no minis at all. I got a couple of art books, a set of paints and something of a new diversion - a set of sketching pencils and pad.

I love looking through art books, you can learn so much about colours and setting a mood. The subject matter in this case just happens to be fantasy, but more general art books can also be very inspiring. The Tolkien art book is one for the real Tolkien nerds - full of sketches of maps and line drawings, most of them very basic in fact, showing that all art starts with basic lines on a bit of paper (let's not get into a digital discourse). The Paul Bonner book is the opposite end of the spectrum, full of gorgeous fully rendered paintings of intricate detail and superlative technique.

The Kings of War paint set is a little experiment. I wanted to try the paint brand and picked a starter set to use on my vikings (even though it says Undead on the cover). It contains a limited range of colours, which hopefully will give my figures a certain look. I am not explaining myself very well here - more on this in a future post.

Finally, the sketch pad and pencils. Strictly speaking I have had these for about a month, but I class them as a present to myself so lump them in here. I am trying to teach myself how to sketch/draw. After reading a few online tutorials I decided just to jump in and start scribbling. The Paul Bonner book contains lots of preliminary sketches, so I am getting started by simply copying them. This gives me a chance to get accustomed to the pencils and start on the lowest slopes of the learning curve. As you can see on this dwarf, I messed up the eye and need a decent eraser to fix it. But hey ho, Rome was not built in a day.

Sunday 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas

Friday 16 December 2016

Hurgin and Durgin

Hurgin and Durgin are that most rare of things - dwarf twins. Dwarfs are long-lived and have few children - any birth is a cause for celebration. When twins are born, the thane of the hold will hold a huge feast to mark the auspicious occasion. For two days and two nights the feast continues, the parents proudly sit at the high table and are served by the thane himself, such is the honour and renown involved. Many gifts will be presented to the family, from casks of ale to finely wrought armour and weapons, for when the younglings come of age.

Such was the case many years ago in the dwarf hold of Oakenheim, deep in the Grey Mountains. Their birth coincided with the Midfest - the festival of midwinter. At this time a huge and ancient oak is felled and dragged into the great hall, the trunk fuels the Midfest fire. The feast lasts as long as the trunk gives off heat, typically for twelve days and twelve nights. When Hurgin and Durgin were born, the fire was built from two huge oaks, the festival continued for almost a month. Among the gifts received by the twins were a pair of oakenhammers, fabled weapons after which the hold is named. The weapon shafts are crafted from the branches of the felled oak. Almost as tough as iron, but far lighter, they are highly prized and usually reserved for the most vererable Longbeards or honoured Hammerers. Great things were expected of the younglings.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

How to Strip Minis

How to strip miniatures? An old chestnut of a question that pops up on many a forum or facebook page. I have tried quite a few methods down the years. The most hazardous (and also least effective) was brake fluid and dettol. I had better success with Simple Green, though that method requires a day or more of soaking and is not that good for plastics. For me, the best all round performer is Biostrip 20. It works on metals every time and does a pretty decent job on plastics too. It's not toxic, so you can safely wash it down the plughole. It's kinder to skin than the others too, though if you are using it for a long session of stripping many minis I would suggest latex or disposable gloves. It's also easy to obtain. In the UK you can scour ebay or just google for online retailers, including amazon if you don't mind using their service. It's around £10 or £12 for a half litre tub, which will strip dozens or even hundreds of minis.

The first step is to cover the mini in the stuff. You can just dunk the mini into the tub of biostrip, shake off the excess, then pull it out and put it to one side. Or just dab on with an old brush or toothbrush. I have some large nylon bristle brushes that I picked up at one of those discount stores, which I use for jobs like this, for making and painting terrain, that kind of thing. I also have an empty plastic tub in which to put the minis for a short wait, an ice cream or margarine tub would be suitable. Then it's just a short wait, around half an hour is usually sufficient.

The next step is to rinse off the biostrip. Get an old toothbrush or nylon bristle brush, give the mini a quick scrub, then continue to scrub away while holding it under warm running water. That should remove most, if not all of the paint. Particularly stubborn paint may need a second application of the biostrip and maybe a longer wait coated in the stuff. As you can see in this sample, the mini is pretty clean at this stage, just a little left in the deeper creases. It's these final bits of paint that are the hardest to remove. I use a wire brush on harder metal minis, though I would be hesitant to use it on the older, softer pewter figures, or plastics. Another option is to carefully scrape away any paint flakes with a pin.

When you have finished, your mini is pretty clean. Another buff with the nylon brush to remove any flakes and it's ready for priming. I have had a good success rate with this method. It's quick and easy, it's non-toxic and it's reasonably priced.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Dwarf Gunners

Gunnar Gunnarson the Brave and his Dragon Belchers. That is the true title of the post, but seemed a bit too long. The gunners are, of course, plastic irondrake models. They were very easy to paint up being entirely metal surfaces. After the initial prime with a Halfords car spray metallic colour, I painted the bronze and brass areas, then washed or glazed, with a little light drybrushing here and there. I didn't really see any need to do much more. The leader is a metal figure, which I previously described in this post.

There are some nice filigree details on the irondrakes that are difficult to see unless you look closely. A simple glaze brings them out beautifully. Hopefully you can see it from the close-up shot. The banner is also a lovely thing. The models are perhaps lacking in a little character with all their faces and beards being covered in armour, but I am happy to have completed the third unit of the dwarf force. I was originally intending to crack on with another unit of dwarf warriors, but I am thinking I will take the easier option of a single figure or maybe a war machine next.

The twelfth gunner is a filler, a resin terrain piece from Scibor. The original ten gunners from a box of irondrakes, plus a metal character, left me one short from the number needed for a unit in Dragon Rampant gaming. Rather than use a metal musician I went for this rocky dwarf face. It will double up as a bit of scatter terrain, or an objective marker, in other games. 

Monday 28 November 2016

The Last Slayer

I finally found the last member of the slayer unit - and he was right under my nose the whole time!

When I started painting my new dwarf army I never really thought about adding slayers, as I always viewed them as nice background but mediocre models. When I picked up a complete dwarf army on a forum sale, it happened to contain a few slayer models and I had a really close look at them. Some of them I immediately sold but a handful I thought to myself, these are actually quite nice models. They don't really match the ferocity of the artwork, but they were not too bad and would make a change from painting armour. So I put together a small unit of just seven figures, with the eighth a proxy or filler model of a dragon's head (eight being needed for games of Saga). I slowly painted the unit but never got round to the dragon head, thinking I should use a real slayer. I toyed with the idea of trying to pick up a Gotrek model from ebay, or maybe one of the Avatars of War models, but in the end gave up trying to bag a bargain.

Then I bought the Silver Tower boxset, to use as additions to my Tzeentch collection. I assembled the hero figures, including the dwarf fyreslayer, while never really being convinced of the aesthetic - it's all the runes hammered into the skin that I don't like - and what's with all the key motifs? I half heartedly painted the figure and then lost interest for a good few months. But recently I have been trying to finish half-completed projects and so finally picked up the beardy chap again. A quick flurry of brushwork and he was done. In a way it was quite liberating painting a model I was not that attached to, I felt that if I messed up I could just bin it, no great loss to me. Consequently I tried a few crazy ideas as I went along - glazing the skin and hair blue for example, highlighting white then glazing over the top, that kind of thing. I am pretty happy with the result. The unit of slayers is now properly eight strong and I learned a few things about painting. I am still not convinced about the model, but I am just happy to draw a line under the unit and move on.

Wednesday 16 November 2016


With all the hype surrounding the supermoon, I was inspired to paint this figure. I wanted something that I could finish quickly and this Blood Rage figure was perfect. It was quick to clean, a bit of a fiddle to remove the integrated base, but nothing too onerous. About 15 minutes prep and it was glued to the base.

For painting I primed white, a thin coat of a pale flesh and then used two colours to glaze on some shading. A red brown for some simple flesh tones, and a blue grey for some deeper shading. By mixing the two I got a good range of different tones. The blue grey also served as a foundation for the hairy bits. Once the basic shading was complete I added a few highlights using a thinned white, then glazed again to bring back the fleshy colour. Finally I added some darker blue glaze to the hair, then some black glaze, picked out the face details and the veins, painted the cobbles and it was done.

It's good to blast through a little project on a whim, whizzing my paintbrushes in a quick and dirty style. The finish is not as polished as many of my figures, but then I spent far less time on it. I might even get to play with this figure over the festive season - last year we enjoyed a couple of games of Blood Rage. It's based on cobbles to add to my (very small) steampunk collection, maybe even that will get called into play at some time. For now though, back to those slow and steady dwarfs.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Vorghan Storms Into Battle

Storm clouds boiled and thunder rumbled overhead as Vorghan peered into the distance. After weeks of wandering the chaos wastes, the hounds had finally picked up a scent. Marauder scouts returned with news that the enemy was nearby. Vorghan bellowed his orders and the Ravagers roared their approval. Battle would be joined, blood would be spilled, glory would be reaped by the victorious.

The first skirmish would be fought using the Warhammer 8th edition rules, though I had the softback Warriors of Chaos army book, which was 6th or 7th edition. We played a scenario from the General's Handbook, which was a straight-forward battle but with the chance of lightning hitting units at the start of each turn, causing damage and preventing them from moving.

The rules came back to us fairly quickly, we didn't have to spend too much time checking the book. The biggest problem I have is mixing up all the versions I have played. But for the most part it went smoothly. It was, as usual, a real treat to play in Matt's dungeon of excellent terrain.

On my right flank Vorghan and his warriors, plus a support unit of marauders, nervously faced off against dragon ogres and chaos knights, a spawn, bestigors and marauders. A few pieces of rough terrain kept the enemy at bay for a couple of turns, and the shaman destroyed a spawn with a fireball. The marauder horse foolishly charged into the bestigor - it was at this point that I was reminded that two ranks fought. Needless to say the horsemen a) lost and b) won't be charging into the front of anything in future games.

On my left flank things looked equally precarious. A screening unit of hounds lasted one turn leaving a unit of chaos knights charged by a giant and a chaos spawn. I was convinced that this could only spell defeat, but amazingly the giant was felled and the spawn barely survived, hanging on for one more combat before he was destroyed. I had forgotten how good chaos knights can be. Sadly this fact was confirmed on my right flank as enemy knights tore through marauders, leaving Vorghan exposed to a potential flank charge.

The only chance for Vorghan was to lead his warriors in a charge down the centre, hopefully crush the enemy then pursue out of harm's way. Luckily, both charges crashed home. Vorghan had to charge across a giant skeleton and naturally his ball and chain got tangled in the bones, dragging him to the ground, his knee impaled on a boney rib. Still, he manfully limped forward and bellowed a challenge to the enemy general, Sven the Simple. Hampered by his injury, Vorghan was bested in this combat, though his warriors made short work of the enemy bestigors and chased them from the field.

The battle ended in typical Warhammer fashion, with practically every unit destroyed. Both sets of knights had crushed everything in their path, Vorghan had valiantly led his troops into battle, and much blood had been spilled to honour the gods. They (somehow) decreed it was a narrow victory to Sven, but were so disgusted with his feeble performance that he was gifted with stupidity. Both armies were rewarded with reinforcements - Sven would be joined by three skullcrushers while Vorghan attracted a chariot. After totting up the points we realised this was already a bit skewed, so Matt valiantly sacrificed a unit of spawn, to make it a little more balanced in future encounters. We felt that neither general had proven worthy of reward, but Vorghan's knights had been valorous combatants and would gain a small reward. And the raging storm? It had no effect whatsoever - only in the last turn did lightning strike, and then harmlessly into the ground.

Monday 7 November 2016

Dark Angels still for sale

For sale - one very nicely painted Dark Angels starter force. I put this up on ebay last week, it didn't sell, so here we go again at a reduced starting price. Please spread the word if you know of anyone who might be interested. Here's the ebay link.

Friday 4 November 2016

Vorghan's Ravagers

Listen to me and I will tell you the legend of Vorghan the Slayer, as it was told in days of old. A tale of bloodshed, noble deeds, treachery and the quest for glory.....

I am about to embark on a mini campaign down in the dungeon with the dice rolling maestro Matt. It's loosely based on the Path to Glory campaign from the Age of Sigmar General's Handbook - though we certainly will not be playing that ruleset and have made quite a few little tweaks to how it will play out. The first step in the campaign is to pick a warband. We both chose chaos forces and both elected to roll randomly for our starting force rather than choosing from the available options. We also both chose to start with the least powerful Lord option to maximise the number of units generated. I ended up with a Beast Shaman, 10 hounds, 12 warriors, 20 marauders, 5 knights and 5 horsemen. I will probably split the hounds unit into two as shown in the photo. It reminds me of the old battalion boxsets.

The basic idea behind the campaign is to accumulate glory points. These are earned in battle, 3 points gained for a major victory, 2 points for a minor victory and 1 point for a draw or loss. To keep it short and interesting we will play until one side reaches 7 or more points. At that stage we will fight a final battle, The Monolith, again lifted from the handbook.

We will use the tables and charts from the campaigns, tweaking them as necessary to fit our own purposes, as we will be playing Warhammer Fantasy Battle to begin with, maybe tossing in some Fantastic Saga or Dragon Rampant along the way. It's deliberately unplanned at this stage - we have a starting roster each, the first game scheduled and a rough idea of how it will end. By my calculations we will get between three and seven games before the final confrontation, so about a month or so of weekly gaming seems about right.

I have recently blogged on Vorghan the Slayer and the shaman and knights, these additional photos complete the picture. They are not new figures, they have all appeared on the blog in ages past, but it seemed a good idea to have a group photo while I was preparing them for their trip to the Chaos Wastes. Notice the marauder unit happily mixes together new and old versions of the figures.

Onward to glory........

Monday 24 October 2016

Lady Alice Liddel and friend

Lady Alice Liddel and her pet rabbit, Lewis. These are the first of yet another new project, the South Kensington Ladies Amateur Dramatic Society. Both figures are from Guild of Harmony and are quite possibly the finest detailed metal figures I have ever painted. The size of some sculpting detail is completely mind-boggling. The ankles on the boots and the steam rabbit have tiny cogs, with all the spokes perfectly cast. It makes you wonder why some insist on using resin. I made a slight change, using the key on the rabbit rather than in Alice's back, which seemed a bit weird to me.

These have been painted as a birthday gift to my wife (obviously I have been sworn to secrecy on her age). She is quite a fan of steampunk and Alice in particular, so they were an ideal present.

When it came to palette, I was keen to avoid the pastel blue dress and blonde hair that is prevalent, but wanted to make a nod in that direction. I went with red and white checks on the apron, then added the blue/turqouise dress, then worked outward from there. The hair colour is auburn or red, to complement the red of the tunic. The stock of the gun is a rosewood colour - I thought this was the most appropriate to use for the flamingo head carving. The model is mounted on a 2p piece with a layer of cobbled plasticard. And for those wondering about the photo background, it's a sample of wallpaper from the local DIY shop - a wonderland of backdrops. There are plenty more amateur dramatics to add to the group, it's just a question of finding the time and deciding which of the wonderful models to paint next.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Chaos Knights and Beast Shaman

These figures are not recently painted. The knights must be at least ten years old, the shaman probably a bit less. The knights are part of a small Tzeentch force that I used to play. Originally it included daemons - horrrors, screamers and flamers - because they were all part of one book, but then the chaos book split into three and my force was much diminished. I have had plans to resurrect (ie rebase and add to) the force for some time, and recent events make that more likely, perhaps in 2017. The Shaman is one of just two painted beastmen I own - I have always liked the models but have never had the time to paint up a full army. Now that I play mostly skirmish games that might change.

The reason they are here today is that I have quickly added some snow to the bases. They have been recruited by Vorghan the Slayer and will be taking part in a mini campaign, some time soon (I hope). The rest of Vorghan's retinue were already snow based, at some point I will get the whole lot photographed and explain a little more.

It's interesting to see these old figures. At times it feels like nothing has changed down the years, but looking at older work does show that my painting has altered. I would certainly paint these figures differently today - a different palette and using different techniques. They are nice enough, but do not have quite the impact or finesse I would aim for nowadays. I guess that is no bad thing.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Vorghan the Slayer

Vorghan the Slayer, ready to lead his troops into battle and seek glory in the name of Khorne. This is, of course, the free figure from the recently relaunched White Dwarf. I made a slight modification by removing the head trophy that protruded from his back, as I felt that it ruined the profile of the model. I wish I had gone a bit further and swapped the large blade for an axe, and possibly changed to a different (non-helmeted) head, but that's hindsight for you. He looks a bit cramped on his base, but my chaos army is a stickler for tradition and he wouldn't be allowed to join on one of those new-fangled round bases. At some point in the future, he will be joined by a unit of marauders/warriors, I am not sure which as yet, but for the time being he is a lone character model. An infamous character, in fact, from the annals of lore - only the true Warhammer nerd will recognise the name. He does have a sizeable retinue at his command, ready to take on a rival chaos champion, but more on that in a future post.

I was particularly pleased with the armour. Black is quite a difficult colour to bring to life - strictly speaking it's an absence of any colour, so perhaps not surprising. I have always been hesitant to highlight it with blue as so many tutorials recommend, that gives a very silky appearance to my eye, best left for clothing. So I tried stippling and highlighting with grey, then washing in browns and reds. It seems to have worked out well. 

I was even more pleased with the flesh. I used my own base colour, glazed it quite harshly with chestnut and browns, then glazed with the original base colour to tone down the harsh contrast. Again, it seems to have worked well and it's a technique I can come back to on other models. Luckily, I blogged quite a bit of my painting progress so here's a handy list if you want to give any of the methods a go yourself. 

Friday 30 September 2016

Champion of Khorne WIP 5

Quite a lot happening in this phase of painting. I started by glazing the metal areas in browns - light brown on the brass, darker brown on the silver areas.

While the glazes were drying I decided to tidy up the flesh areas. Using the original base colour (thinned) I painted on some basic highlights, just running the brush over the non-shadow areas in effect. Then I thinned the paint slightly more to make a glaze and applied this to the shadows and creases, to soften the contrast. I was working mostly on the chest and shoulders, the most visible areas. The arms just got a cursory flick of the brush because these will be drenched in blood so there's no point in making painstaking adjustments at this stage.

Then it was back to more glazing - armour, weapons, leather and loin cloth - pretty much everything apart from the skin and horns got a little glaze.

On to the penultimate stage. The figure is a little out of focus but it's still possible to see what I talk about. I added some colour to the metal areas - greens mostly to the brass and reds and greens to the silver areas. These will get a further glaze or two and some highlighting before they are done. I also stippled the red on to a few areas ahead of adding blood, and glazed more red on to the black armour. The leather straps got a basic highlight, again a final glaze will be required to fully separate them from each other. I quickly painted in the pouch on his belt and the base was sketchily painted - this will be covered in snow so I am not sweating over every little detail here. I gave the non-metal areas a coat of matte varnish.

That's it for my work in progress posts on this figure. The next and final stage will be more glazing to further define any areas, the leather straps for example. And highlighting of the metal areas. I will probably add a little gore effect to the hands and weaponry, maybe flick a little blood splatter on the loin cloth. And of course snow will be added to the base to tie in with my army. The next post will be the fully finished figure.

Thursday 29 September 2016

Champion of Khorne WIP 4

I have been studying pictures of black armour, both real life and digital renditions, to give me some ideas how to tackle this area. Translated to painting, I first stippled black all over the dark brown basecoat. I have left the brush in the photo, it's just an old one that is no longer good for fine painting, but is still useful for mixing, drybrushing and stippling. I then mixed some khaki into the black to give a dark grey, stippling this on the upper edges of the armour and anywhere I wanted more light. Next, I added some light grey into this mix and stippled towards the edges only. Finally, I applied thinned light grey (with a standard fine brush) to the very edges and around any dints or scratches. There was a tiny bit of light grey paint left on my palette so I quickly picked out the horns. There's still work to do on the black armour, but I need to paint the metals first to see how they contrast with each other.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Champion of Khorne WIP 3

A little more work on the chaos champion. This step is quite tedious, blocking in the main colours, but it does give a good idea of the overall palette.

The armour plates are dark brown (a mix of coat d'arms negro and black) - this is a little experiment for me in painting black armour. The armour trim is a brass colour, a mix of brass and gold. And of course it wouldn't be Khornate without a splash of red, the leather trim on the front of the figure is brick red - hopefully this will form a nice base for some red leather.

Friday 23 September 2016

Dwarf Warriors WIP

Last week while holidaying in the wonderful city of York, I made a start on building my own version of dwarf warriors. The official plastic versions I have never really liked that much, so I thought I would kitbash my own. These are a mix of three versions of plastics. You have to imagine the front rank holding up their shields. The eagle eyed will have noticed that the two central dwarfs are hollow - I still need a little green stuff under their beards to fill the gap. I am reasonably happy with them, though it's hard to get much variation in the posing.
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