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. 

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