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.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Deep Cut Mat

Gaming mats have become very popular in recent years, from small versions for card games, to full size battlefields for the tabletop. There are plenty of designs and sizes to choose, from various companies, including Deep Cut Studio. They have recently launched a new service, to provide gamers with a bespoke design, and were kind enough to ask me to review their new product.

Print-O-Mat is an easy to use service on their website. Pick an image, upload it to the website, adjust if necessary, and done. This is exactly what I did. I grabbed a Skyrim image from the web, tweaked it a bit in Lightroom and uploaded as instructed. If you do not have image processing software, they do have suggestions on free software you can download and use. You could of course use any image you like - personal photos, a computer screen grab, digital art - the only limit is your imagination.

It took about a week for my mat to arrive, which is pretty quick for a European parcel (I am UK based). It's basically an oversized mouse mat. It rolls up for easy storage, and unfurls for a nice flat surface to use for your card games, board games or whatever. The reproduction is excellent, very detailed, as hopefully you can see here. I have plans to use this as a backdrop for my photography too, but more about that in a future post.

Here's how the mat looks in use, with a game of Lord of the Rings set up. This is a co-operative game for two players, and I reckon there's just about enough room to play here. It measures 60cm x 35cm (24 x 14 inches).

To my (admittedly limited) knowledge, Deep Cut Studio are the only providers to offer this bespoke service. It's a very nice product, the interface is easy to use and delivery is quick and efficient. Designed for use with card games, I reckon it could easily be adapted to provide a surface for small skirmish games with an appropriate image. I would be very happy to find one of these rolled up under the xmas tree!

My thanks to Deep Cut Studio for providing me with this sample.

Saturday 7 October 2017

The Search For Faramir

Previously on Ambush in Anorien - "We saw him vanquish the troll, my Lord, then he charged into some orcs and we lost sight of him....."

Orc scouts fire on advancing Gondor search parties
In our last game, orcs have ambushed Boromir and Faramir and their patrol in a swampy, wooded region in the far north of Gondor. Faramir was in the thick of the action, fighting orcs and a mighty troll, while Boromir tried his best to marshal his men to safety. Back at camp, they realised Faramir had not returned, so hastily organised a search party. The Gondorians spread out to search for the fallen captain, but almost immediately were harassed by orcs scouts, shooting from the swamps. Braying horns from the woodlands sounded as more orcs appeared.

We played this game using Dragon rampant rules, with the fugutive scenario borrowed from Lion Rampant. There are six pieces of difficult terrain which the Gondorians must search. The first search is successful on a 6, the second search on a 5+, and so on. Once the fugitive (Faramir) is found, he must be escorted off the table to safety. It's one of those scenarios which can be over very quickly if an early search is successful, or drag on for hours if they have to get across the length of the table to search every last bit of terrain.

"Shoot the filthy horse riders!"
As the orc commander, I had brought plenty of light troops, which are good in terrain and fairly fast on their feet. I wanted to push forward quickly to harass the searches. There was little chance of preventing a rescue in the two swamp areas near to the Gondorian camp, so the scouts raced up to the middle of the battle field and took up positions in the shallow pool and the toppled statue, hoping their heavier armed comrades would join them at some point later. Luckily for me, the first two searches had failed and the Gondorians had to advance into the midst of the orc forces.

The disadvantage of light troops, of course, is that they are not well armed and hardly likely to stand up to a charge from heavy knights. One unit of light foot orcs routed, though the knights paid a toll and were now under half strength. This was the perfect opportunity for the heavy foot orcs, led by the general, to finish them off. Or so I thought......three dead orcs later and a double 1 roll for their courage test, they legged it too. Half of my foot troops lost to a unit of pesky knights! Obviously the battle scribe was positioned in one of these units as no more accounts of the battle survive (camera battery dead).

"The ladz will be along soon, keep shooting"
The orc scouts in the centre of the table did a good job of hampering the searches, aided by a handful of failed activations by the Gondorians. Boromir stepped forward and scattered these pesky archers, but then spent several turns cleaning the blood from his sword. In the pool area, orc scouts doggedly loosed off volley after volley, Gondorian rangers feeling the effects and hampering their search efforts (more failed activations as they flailed around on the slippery banks of the pond). Eventually, the search was successful. Faramir was found floating in the reeds of the pool, luckily face up, and was dragged to safety by his loyal rangers. Horns sounded to signal the retreat to camp, but this only attracted the orcs to join the chase.

Sadly for the orcs, their force depleted, there was only a unit of warg riders and a heavy foot left to take up the chase. The warg riders raced round to cut off escape on one flank, but the foot orcs were too slow to make up ground on the other flank. Faramir stumbled and limped his way to safety, though Boromir had fallen as a result of his many brave charges into combat and being peppered with scout arrows! A victory for the Gondorians, of sorts. The fate of Bormir we will have to determine in another encounter.

A most enjoyable game, even if technically the orcs "lost". For me, gaming is not necessarily about the end result, the score, but about the whole experience - the lovely terrain, the lovingly painted figures, the tales you tell, maybe a little banter thrown in. If you can get all that, then all of the players have won. Incidentally, if you have been admiring the terrain, it's all part of Matt's gaming dungeon. The game mat is a faux fur throw, with a couple of cans of green spray paint used to supply some colour variation. Full details here.

Tuesday 3 October 2017

X.IV - Nurgle Giant

It's my look back to the year 2011 as part of my X celebration series. This was a very busy period for the blog, as I added to three of my main armies.

The dwarfs got the bulk of my time and attention as Avatars of War released plastic dwarf berserkers. It was quite an exciting time, I struggle to remember if there were any other plastic non-GW figures around at the time. It re-ignited my interest in my long dormant beard collection and I added two units to the army, berserkers and warriors.

Towards the end of the year I also made a start on resurrecting my very first fantasy army, as I made the first faltering steps in a new Undead army. I hammered out a large regiment of zombies and a couple of characters. Looking back, I was very productive at this time, regiment after regiment painted up. If only my current stamina levels matched those glory days.

My pick of the year is this friendly looking Nurgle giant. It's not a GW model, but possibly the first resin figure I ever added to my collection - an Ilyad Games grotesque which I was lucky enough to find on ebay. The company are long gone now, one of many that produced high quality figures but never managed to find their niche in the market.

I chose this figure for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I really like it - a good enough reason to be selected. Secondly, it marks the point when my painting changed to something resembling my current style. I started to use white primer and multiple layers of thin washes and glazes, a technique I have continued with to the present day. The result can be very subtle, as this close-up hopefully demonstrates. I find it far easier than the base/shade/layer/highlight system, and far more realistic.

So, another year assessed, another chaos appearance. I did also paint up a very nice unit of chaos ogres. At the time, the chaos army was my "elite" project, the one that I was in no hurry to finish, just wanted to achieve a high level on every element of the army. Apologies if you are not a chaos fan, there will be some other factions eventually, but chaos certainly ruled at the time. If you disagree, have a word with these friendly looking chaps, I'm sure they will be very understanding.....

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