Friday 29 December 2017

X.VII - Men, Elves, Dwarfs and so much more

It's time for another look back on the ten years I have been blogging. 2014 was an excellent year to be sure and I had lots of painted items to choose from. At the start of the year I painted up a block of 36 skeletons for my Vampire Counts army, quickly followed by a couple of characters. A few weeks later I painted up a dwarf character, one of my finest ever beards I think. My chaos army got some love too, with marauders, marauder horsemen and a chariot added. I even managed a unit of finely painted high elf archers. All this in the first half of the year - if only every year could be this productive!

Historic gaming was becoming more of a staple for me and I finally found a range I was very happy with - Drabant Miniatures Vikings. I also added a few more plastic dark age warriors and some metal archers to my growing collection.

But it was a further expansion of my Lord of the Rings collection that really pleased me in this year. Having collected a decent size Orc force, I made a start on a small Rohan warband. And then later in the year I painted up these dwarf rangers - and having visited Scotland that summer decided that they would look really good in kilts!

I cannot imagine any year being surpassed by this one, in terms of the quantity and quality I achieved. It was peak hobby performance in 2014, a fine vintage.

Sunday 24 December 2017

Three Wise Men

Three Wise Men, Middle Earth style - and another three for Beardecember! Scholars of Tolkien lore will no doubt know that five wizards are sent to Middle Earth to help in the fight against Sauron, though only three take part in the unfolding events. These three wizards are of course Gandalf, Saruman and Radagast, which are represented here, though if you have only ever seen the film without reading the books you may be struggling to identify these beards.

Starting with the easiest, Gandalf in the centre. I stuck with the usual grey outer garment, but underneath he has a smarter than usual set of blue robes. Perhaps this is a reference to the two absent members of his order, the Blue Wizards, who wander off to the east and take no further part in the tale. This was one of the first figures produced by Games Workshop for the Lord of the Rings game - for me it ranks as one of the best sculpts of the range.

The next wizard is Radagast, the Brown Wizard. In the books he is described as a lover of nature and wild things, more at ease with creatures than humans. This sculpt was produced well before his subsequent depiction in The Hobbit films. It sticks closer to the description in the book - all the wizards are described as tall with the appearance of elderly, bearded men. This figure I painted many years ago, during my "stand on a rock" phase, in a typical woodland or rustic palette.

Finally, Saruman the White Wizard, though here in disguise. If you have seen the film but not read the book, then it might surprise you to hear that Saruman does not die at Orthanc. In the book version, Saruman is defeated by Gandalf at Orthanc and his staff is broken, banished from the Order of Wizards. He slinks off with Wormtongue and we hear no more about him as the tale of the Ring unfolds. It is only long after the main events have been settled and the hobbits return to the Shire that we encounter him once more. He is now known as Sharkey and is the leader of a band of ruffians who have taken over the Shire, despoiling the land, replacing the lovely old buildings with grim factories. The four hobbits quickly organise a resistance and drive out the troublemakers. In a final scene, Saruman is killed by the long suffering Wormtongue, his body shrivels and his spirit blows away in the wind.

This Sharkey figure was released as part of boxset called the Scouring of the Shire. It is usually painted in fairly sombre colours, but I have painted it in a more flamboyant way. Perhaps Saruman still clings on to the idea that he is the Wizard of Many Colours. I just fancied painting up an orange robed character!

Thursday 21 December 2017

More Bleak Fell Guardians

The second set of Bleak Fell Guardians are almost finished. I say almost because I am not happy with the cloaks, especially the front centre example. And the shields are a bit rushed and could benefit from a little more attention. But for the time being, they are done. My aim when I started out with these figures was to come up with something that was different to my usual drab browns, and also not just the oft-seen ghostly effect. I have definitely achieved that on this unit, but I think it worked better on my first attempt.  A few little tweaks still to do here.

All twelve guardians with the Lord of Bleak Fell at their centre - I have to admit this is not the usual palette for an undead force. Once those pink tones are adjusted I reckon it will look just fine. That's a job for the new year.

For now, in Beardecember, another set of hairy chins! Yep, I was pressing to finish these purely for that reason. I bet few people would think of these models when thinking beard.

I do have a few more beards to come, much more stereotypical than this lot, but with another little twist. That should have you tugging on your chin hairs in contemplation.......

Saturday 16 December 2017

Middlehammer Nostalgia

Yep, a whopping 72 pages
You have no doubt heard of Warhammer (even though it's now dead). Possibly you are also familiar with Oldhammer - an appreciation of the older versions of the game, usually from the 1980's. But what if you were a fan of the not quite as old versions, from the 1990's onwards? Well, fear not, because now there's Middlehammer, for fans of the game from fourth edition onwards, roughly the 20 odd years from 1992 to the End Times. There is a facebook page for all your nostalgic needs.

Nostalgia has struck me recently. Well, it is 25 years since I started with this game! Up in the loft to bring down the xmas decorations, I came across a box full of old White Dwarf magazines. Leafing through them, I was transported back to those first days in the hobby, hesitantly clipping off hundreds of single-pose goblins and elves and fumbling through a first few games on the kitchen table. No internet back in those days to hold your hand! I was hooked and collected High Elves, some Undead and later a few dwarfs. For some reason I never really appreciated the orcs and goblins. I must have taken the hobby very seriously back in the day, as they always seemed a bit comical, a bit silly to me. But looking through the old magazines now, I can see why they were so popular.

Happy Smiley Greenskins
Do not adjust your monitor, things really were that lurid in the early (middle) days. And orcs did really look that happy. You can understand my original hesitation, as a fan of all things grim and realistic. But perhaps you can also forgive me my nostalgia, if you can see the simple charm of these figures. From the same issue (no 159 from March 1993), the next few pictures from a battle report give a flavour of the articles that had me hooked in those early hobby days.

Green horde on a green battlefield

Three or four kilos of a full metal army

The battle rages on, I loved these articles
Finally, a look at another page spread, chosen at random. A lovely bit of John Blanche art on the left, and a classic Mark Gibbons black and white illustration on the right. And. So. Many. Words. There might have been just 70 pages in an issue, but each page was crammed with reading material. To read an issue cover to cover would take hours. Ah, happy days. 

Words. Lots of them.
Legal Disclaimer: All these images are from White Dwarf magazine, copyright Games Workshop. I do not have permission to publish them, but do so as an enthusiastic fan of those golden, middle days.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Blood Rage Dwarf and Giant

A couple more beards for Beardecember, from the Blood Rage game. First we have a dwarf, not the same aesthetic as the usual barrel bodied, armoured warrior. This is a dwarf in the Norse mythological tradition. These creatures live in the hills and are magical - dwarfs make weapons and armour for the Norse gods. In this depiction they are almost fairy like, so I wanted a rustic, woodland palette. The hooded cape was a nod in the direction of the fabled redcap, though it might have been better to go for green to add contrast to the red nose. I spent a little bit of time on the face and beard, but the rest was mostly a simple wash, including the base. There are more images on my facebook page.

A much bigger beard now, in the shape of the mighty frost giant. This figure was one of the main reasons I had for buying the game, it's possibly the best in the box (though the troll might have something to say about that). The palette obviously had to reflect the cold nature of the beast, so pale blues and pinks came to mind. I kept the beard a soft grey to maintain a nice, icy look - adding a little snow scatter in to really hammer home the point. The rock was an opportunity to add a little more colour and texture - I used water effect to make it appear slick with ice, though not sure this shows too well in the photo. I really enjoyed painting this figure, it's such a lovely, natural pose and detailed enough to add interest without being overloaded with extras.

Finally, a shot of the few characters I have painted so far. Each of these has been painted on a whim, hence the shocking disparity of the bases, which I will probably correct at some point.

Friday 8 December 2017

Oathmark Goblins Review

I recently jumped on to the pre-order offer from North Star games and was happy to receive a parcel in the post just yesterday. For the uninitiated, Osprey Games are developing a mass fantasy game system and these goblins are the second plastic set to be released. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here we go with a good number of images.

Box of toy soldiers just waiting to be opened
Lovely cover art by Ralph Horsley (I think)
Rear of the box shows exactly what you get
Box stuffed with sprues

Sprue contents - six of these in a box
I set to work on a single sprue, enough bits to make five miniatures. The sculpts are good, hardly surprising as the sculptor is Michael Anderson. Casting wise, the details are what you would expect from Renedra. Mould lines are easy to remove with a sharp knife. Glue the arms on to the body, then the head, then a shield or quiver as applicable. It's quick and simple - these figures took me 10 minutes each to clean and assemble.

Example poses
My initial idea when I bought them was to boost my Lord of the Rings Mordor orcs force. I thought I would assemble a variety of poses and then compare them with what I already have. Again, pictures speak volumes, but I think it's safe to say they are an excellent match to this scale. They will provide some useful variety to the single pose plastics. 

Moria goblin, Oathmark goblin, Mordor orc

Morannon orc, Oathmark goblin, Mordor orc

Morannon orc, Oathmark goblin, Mordor orc
Now a shot to compare the figures with some of their typical foes - men of Gondor, or stout dwarfs. Again, another good match on scale.

Gondor, Oathmark, Dwarf
Finally, a comparison with another species of fantasy goblin, very widespread. This is, of course, a Games Workshop plastic night goblin. 

Oathmark, Warhammer night goblin
To sum up, Oathmark plastic goblins are an excellent product. Well sculpted and well cast, they are very good value at £25 for a box of 30 figures. Of course, every gamer will have a different purpose in mind for his new figures, but if you are hoping to add to your Lord of the Rings collection, then these are just the ticket. Now you really can build an army worthy of Mordor.

Monday 4 December 2017

Anvil of Doom

Skagg Hammarhand, Runepriest of Oakenheim, with Anvil Guards Hurgin and Durgin. Most of the time, Skagg spends his time in the hold, forging weapons and armour for the thane and his warriors. But recently, incursions by wandering Undead have required more in the way of magical defences. Wielding his mighty hammer, Skagg can dissipate magical forces, with droves of skeletal warriors unmade by each strike of the anvil. 

The first of the beards for Beardecember. And what a fantastic figure to start with. I am not going to pretend that I painted it up in the past couple of days. I have been tinkering with it for months - a little session here, a half hour there. But I wanted to kick off Beardecember in style and this gave me the incentive to knuckle down and finish the job. The two guards I painted about a year ago, then I started the runesmith over the summer months. The anvil I painted mostly over the weekend. There is a banner pole (just one, the original model had two but one has gone missing) that might be added at some point with a suitable flag.

If I had to name my top ten favourite Warhammer models, this would be one of them for sure. Part of the reason is no doubt nostalgic, in that it was first released just about the time I started collecting Warhammer figures, in the early 1990's. At that time I was an Elf and Undead collector, but I remember quite clearly being blown away by the dwarf artwork of Mark Gibbons. I never quite felt that the models met up with the art, but in the case of the Anvil it came very, very close. Years later when I finally gave it to the lure of the beard, I had always had this figure in my sights. It's good to finally tick it off my list.

Incidentally, if you are a fan of this era of Warhammer figures, you might be interested to learn that there is a facebook group - the aptly named Middlehammer - the stuff between Oldhammer and the new Age of Sigmar. I suppose it's a bit like a therapy group for those of us who still cannot quite let go of the Olde World.

A couple more photos of the figure. There are multiple angles on my facebook page, for the dedicated dwarf fans out there!

Friday 1 December 2017

It's Beardecember!

It's that time of year, when beards start to appear everywhere. No longer confined to your local hipster bar, they spring up - on store shelves, advent calendars, food packaging. Almost everything suddenly has a beard (or antlers).

And that's my rather flimsy excuse to launch Beardecember. You might have noticed that hobby activity on the blog has been a little bit sparse of late. In the past three months I have painted seven undead figures and a hobbit. That's not sparse, that's pathetic! So I hearby solemnly pledge that I will do better in this month of Beardecember and paint more than seven figures.

Anything with a beard is a potential target for my brushes. Dwarfs spring to mind, maybe some vikings, possibly even stalwart warriors of Rohan. If it sprouts hair on the chin area, it's fair game. While I ponder on which beard to tackle first, here's a rather nice selection for inspiration.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

My New Facebook Page

I have decided to start a facebook page for all my painting. It's called Nord's Painting Saga and you can visit it here if you like. It's early days as yet, there are just two photo albums loaded in and very little else - it's still at the little acorn stage.

Why are you starting a facebook page when you already have a blog (and a website)? I hear you ask. The blog was originally designed purely as a diary for my personal use. It was (and still is) a space to record my hobby activity, my gaming and my painting recipes. Rather than scribble these down on scraps of paper and Word documents, it was a handy place to have them all stored in one area that would, theoretically, never get lost/burnt/eaten by a dog. Note that many of these recipes I do not publish, especially those that are commission projects, as I never really detect much enthusiasm for such posts. Blogs are ideal for diary like activity, I can easily look back at past articles, all neatly catalogued, for example when compiling my recent ten year retrospective ramble.

Facebook is a more immediate platform. Post a picture and there is an immediate response, even if it's just a like thumb or two. It also has a very fine photo facility. I use it to hold all my holiday snaps, they are easy to load, it's easy to restrict the audience (if necessary) and the picture quality is good. Blog photos seem to compress and degrade a little in the uploading process.

In the past I would load my commission photos on to my website griffinpainting, but recently I have had problems doing this. Combined with the lack of feedback of a website, I think it's time has come. It's still there, but currently has not been updated for several months. Whether this has been noticed by any of the visitors, I have no idea!

New facebook page, yay!
The blog will continue to be the place for my hobby ramblings, gaming exploits and bad puns. If you simply need more, more, more, then Nord's Painting Saga is the place for you. There will be an overlap with the blog, the Undead project for example will appear on both as it's a personal project. If you want to get a look at my commission work, like these lovely little guys and their many mates, it's worth a visit. If you like what you see, please share with like minded friends.

Saturday 18 November 2017

X.VI - More Undead

Hobby time has been a bit thin on the ground - thinner than a skeleton's bicep - so it's time for another scrabble through the archive. We have reached 2013, which turned out to be an excellent vintage for a variety of reasons.

This was the year in which kickstarter really took off - I painted up some of the now forgotten Sedition Wars figures. There was plenty of fantasy painting, including a tentative start on an Empire force. 2013 was also the year in which I really made a significant dent in my collection of Lord of the Rings figures, with hordes of orcs poring out - Morannon orcs, Mordor orcs and uruk hai. And finally I painted up a decent viking force for Saga gaming. Phew, that was a very good year! I was tempted to choose the orcs, but I think in the end my most prized painting of that year was more units for my Vampire Counts, including this mighty varghulf and a unit of grave guard built from Lord of the Rings plastics.

Tuesday 31 October 2017

X.V - Ghouls

It seems a fitting day to be posting another look back at my ten years of blogging. We have reached the halfway point, the year 2012. So far, the majority of my favourite work has been related to my chaos army and, true to form, I did paint a large and rather splendid unit of marauders, which almost made it to the top slot. 2012 was also notable as the year I made my first steps in playing historical games, most notably collecting a Saxon force for games of Saga. But it was this unit of ghouls painted at the end of the year that I have chosen to showcase.

There's something really nice about having the figures posed on these multi bases, they seem more alive. They are fairly flexible too, using wound counters, though not much good for skirmish games. But at the time I had no idea that massed fantasy gaming was on the way out. The ghoul hag/necromancer was a later addition, but she was always meant to be the leader of this horde. I should really repaint the edge of the base to blend in more!

These figures also reflect a continued change in my painting technique. I had for years slaved away at the old method of base coat, shade, layer, layer, layer. But after reading articles on painting armoured vehicles I had started to glaze more and more. It had always been my aim to be able to paint figures purely on glazing from white, and these figures reflect that. White primer, glazes and some stippling were all it took. The character had some more traditional layering too, but again it was nearly all simple glazing and stippling. It's a technique I use almost exclusively to this day.

Saturday 28 October 2017

Bleak Fell Guardians

The Lord of Bleak Fell is gathering his forces. Freed from his icy tomb, he wanders the dank caverns deep in the mountain, waking his legions of faithful minions. These guardians have lain quiet for centuries, sleeping, waiting for the return of their master.....

It seems like a long while since I started these figures, back in July. I have been working on them sporadically since then. My aim at the time was to paint them in an unusual (for me) palette. It would have been easy to stick to my tried and tested muted formula, but I wanted to inject a little more colour without them becoming garish. I stuck to the cool end of the spectrum - blues, purples, a little green and red. At times I hesitated and pondered, but finally they are complete. Well, these first six are done - there's another set waiting to be finished.

These are plastic Lord of the Rings Army of the Dead figures, with a few skeleton bits added here and there. They are lovely figures to work on, lots of detail but very easy to paint with a few basic techniques such as drybrushing or glazing. The shields are from various sources - some from the GW skeleton sprue, maybe a chaos shield or two in there, plus some historical. The designs are mostly inspired by my love of Norse and viking lore.

In gaming terms these figures are the elite troops of the army - the Lord's Royal Guard from days long ago, now risen once again through dark magics. They are well equipped and heavily armoured, hopefully the heavy hitters of the force - much needed to supplement the pathetic zombies and only slightly better skeletons.

I am pretty happy to have stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something a bit different. The end result I like. They are a real contrast to my previous efforts on these figures. It's good to try something new - proof that you definitely can teach an old dog new tricks.
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