Sunday 15 December 2019

Speed Painted Savage Orcs

Many years ago, I bought the Battle for Skull Pass, which contained plastic goblins and dwarfs. I started painting both sets of figures, and it rapidly snowballed. After several years I had two fully formed armies, though not fully painted. Fast forward to now, and times have changed. I am downsizing my collection and have found new homes for both armies. This week I have been finishing a unit of savage orcs I first started painting back in 2011. I thought I would add them to the blog before they are gone forever.

The process was quite a simple one. Spray a light brown primer, then wash with dark brown. Block in the green flesh, the bones with white or light grey. Glaze the skin with a green/blue for shadows. Paint basic tattoos and other details (banner, cloth, etc). Then oil wash the whole figure with a black/brown. Clean off the oil and then rewhiten the bones and axes. Dot in the eyes, glaze them and the mouths, and done.

I posted them on facebook and got a very good reaction, I think the simple palette and the striking face paint is key to the impact of the unit. Individually they are far from stellar, but they are speed painted and the end result is judged by the unit as a whole. I am still pondering about the oil wash, is it any quicker than using a standard wash? It certainly gives a nice grimy effect, which can be useful in some cases.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

The Lost Troll

A couple of years ago I started collecting minis from 1992, the year I started playing Warhammer. It was a full blown nostalgia trip, initially sparked by my finding a pile of old White Dwarfs in the attic. I started with orcs and goblins, but added a few trolls as time went by. Then I decided I really wanted the three original one-piece trolls. It's taken some time, but finally the day has arrived. The last troll has been found. He's the one that is not yet based or primed. The fourth troll, holding up the large rock at the rear, is a two piece model - the head is separate and I think it shows.

The strange thing about this tale was that it transpired I had owned the last troll many years ago. I had painted it and given it to my brother as a gift, then forgotten about it. When I posted on my facebook page that I was searching for this figure, my niece messaged to say he was in her dad's cabinet!

Here's a photo as they would have appeared in White Dwarf all those years ago, in the catalogue section at the back of the magazine. This was long, long before online images were available.

It's unlikely they will get painted any time soon, though the excitement of finally having the trio might spur me on. In the meantime, here's a couple of pictures I have been pondering as potential palettes. The traditional blue just does not work for me.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Dwarf Kings of Middle Earth

We three kings of Moria are
Seeking orcs we travel afar
Dales and mountain, further and near
Tired now, let's go for a beer

- well known dwarf hunting song 

Apart from being a terrible rendition of the original song, there are actually four dwarfs here. However, I tend to think of the ginger-haired dwarf raising his axe as a dwarf champion, with the three more regally posed being the true kings.

These are nice figures, all metal, true 25mm scale so some of the details are very, very small and a real challenge to paint. Unfortunately, they are no longer offered for sale, so if you want them you have to hunt them down on ebay. I have these painted figures up for sale on my etsy shop if you are interested. The ideal gift for the discerning wargamer in your life.

A kingly trio

Saturday 30 November 2019

Goblin archers

Goblins come in all shapes and sizes. Most are small creatures, but some survive the rigours of life to grow a little taller. Often the tallest are those that can keep themselves out of harm's way when a boss takes them into battle. These most cunning of goblins have realised that using a bow from afar is a much easier to way survive. Being bigger than most of their comrades, they find it easier to push the little runts into combat while they shoot (and snigger) from the rear.

A unit of archers join the warband. These are a mix of figures, the taller ones are GW from the 1980s. Strictly speaking they are orc archers, but I am taking a Tolkienesque view - orcs are just big goblins. The two shorter goblins came as part of a warband sold on a facebook group, I believe they were originally part of  the Hasslefree range. Despite the difference in aesthetic, I think all these were sculpted by Kev Adams, though I am no expert on this matter.

I bought the orcs on a whim, mostly because I liked the two long snouted figures, the squat faced a bit less so. Painting them was as I expected, the details and castings are quite crude and make painting more difficult. The two smaller figures were fine, though one has a fairly noticeable casting flaw in the quiver. Despite their shortcomings, they add a certain character to the warband.

The Erehwon warband is shaping up quite nicely now. There are two melee units, this missile unit and a couple of special units (the squigs), plus a shaman and his bodyguard. That's just about enough for a small skirmish. More are waiting to be painted, though I am starting to feel drawn to other subjects.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Goblins In Progress

Almost to the end of the month, and there has been very little progress made on the goblins project, or anything else for that matter. I am struggling to get motivated for painting at the moment, I am not quite sure what the blockage is. I had set myself a target of a unit per month, which I did achieve for the first two months but am struggling to complete this month. Obviously this is just a hobby and deadlines are not urgent or important, but they do help to keep things ticking along.

Just looking at the figures in the bare metal state makes me quite happy, these are nice sculpts with a certain appeal, definitely of a different era. The trolls were released around 1992 and were sculpted by Michael Perry. The orcs are even older, 1985 on the tabs, while the two goblins are old Hasslefree sculpts I think. My aim is to paint the archers first, then the trolls, though I will probably start them all off together and maybe switch between the two sets when the going gets tough. Sometimes hopping from one to another like this can keep the motivation going. We shall see.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Ian Miller's Grim Tarock

Most of you will know the name of Ian Miller, artist from the early days of Games Workshop. If you like his work, then you may be interested to know there is a kickstarter running to produce a deck of cards using his wonderful art.

Monday 4 November 2019

Tackling Chaos!

This is a photo of my new "studio". I spent all weekend clearing figures out of, and then moving the cabinet to a new location, so that I had this clear, bright corner. I am trying to set the room up re-using as much as possible, I feel guilty about all the stuff I have bought down the years and am trying to reduce my footprint as much as possible. The table I picked up from facebook marketplace for a good cheap price, that's better than buying new. It's absolutely perfect condition and cost me a quarter what it would to buy new, and I don't have to drive 50 miles to ikea to pick it up. It's made from bamboo, which is meant to be more sustainable I think.

The chair is an old one that my son was gifted, and now I am using it. It's a bit tattered in some areas and a bit wobbly, but it still works so there's no need to buy a new one. It's quite comfortable too and adjustable so I can get it right under the table and sit low, which is better for my back (sitting up straight while painting is better for my spine than hunching over).

The figures in the newly located cabinet have been re-organised. I have taken the opportunity to downsize my collection a little, you can see items for sale on ebay here if interested. This photo shows the bottom two shelves of the cabinet. It's not particularly clear, but it's basically the majority of my painted Chaos collection. On the bottom is mostly Chaos Undivided, with a few marked units. On the top, the right hand section is my Khorne Warriors, the left hand section is Tzeentch and Slaanesh daemons, while the middle ground is held by some Nurgle units. It really cries out to be rebased in one unified way, with magnetic movement trays, but that's one of those big jobs that just seems so daunting.

It was sheer coincidence that I had started re-organising all this and I was looking fondly at all my chaos collection, some of it stretching back a good twenty years, when the news dropped about the upcoming chaos releases from Games Workshop. So even if I do get through re-organising all this stuff, there will be more coming along in the not too distant future. The new sculpts have blown me away. They are not too different from the existing aesthetic, but certainly would add a little dynamism to older models. That's xmas sorted for me.

Armies never get finished, they sometimes rest for a while, but always they evolve. Embrace Chaos.

Thursday 31 October 2019


Of all the many creatures living in the hidden and dark places of Nordverden, these beasts are the strangest. Practically blind, they rely on sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell to detect their prey, then simply gobble them up in one bite. The goblins learned long ago that these creatures and their ravenous appetite are to be avoided at all cost. Incredibly, a few crazy goblins actively seek them out, having discovered that the beasts' sensitive hearing makes them afraid of loud noises, they use makeshift instruments that gives them some rudimentary control. Such herders and their bizarre flock are highly prized by goblin generals for the destruction they can wreak on a battlefield. The fact that a handful of goblins may be eaten along the way is a price well worth paying. 

These are, of course, night goblin squigs and herders - at least that's what they were called in the days of Warhammer. The new(ish) plastic kits are very much in the tradition of the older metal figures. When they were released a couple of years ago, it was like travelling back to the early 90s. So while my goblin warband is predominantly metal, I am happy to include these newer plastics, which seem more Middlehammer to me than the original metals they were based on, if that makes sense.

On the painting, I knew I did not want the traditional orange, instead I went for the exact opposite with a bright blue skin. I started them with a neutral buff colour for their under bellies, then stippled on green and then blue. Then I dotted on random stripes and lines in various inks (blue, red, purple) before finally glazing with a very diluted blue/purple mix. The end result is a very vibrant blue green effect, which contrasts really well with the lips and gums. The beady little eyes were really easy to do - over a grey base I added a spot of black mixed with a gloss varnish. I am really happy with the way they turned out.

The herders are both playing makeshift musical instruments. The kit includes two options, one musician and one prodder. I hacked the latter body so I could use both sets of music makers. They need to make lots of noise to keep those hungry beasts on the move, a proddy stick just isn't going to have the same effect!

In game terms, there are stats for Gobble Dogs in the goblin warband which are uncannily close to the original squig herds. Funny that. In Dragon Rampant I could probably nominate them as berserk troops. I am unsure how they would be played in Saga, not sure they would fit into that game. If anybody has any ideas, let me know in the comments please.

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Cave Bear

Cave bears are quite common in the mountains and forests around  the dwarf keep of Oakenheim. Down the years, dwarfs and bears have learned to respect and tolerate each other. Dwarf rangers in particular have fostered a mutual understanding. They leave out salted honey cakes and small bowls of beer for the beasts; in return the bears have an excellent sense of smell and will often roar a warning if goblins or wolves are in the vicinity. Sometimes, the bears will even appear during a battle, helping the dwarfs in their never ending struggle against the goblins and their horrible allies.

I picked up this bear model at a local show, I cannot remember the manufacturer but it seemed to be the right scale to fit into my collection. The sculpt is okay I guess, it looks reasonably like a bear, though I did have to remove a lot of flash and extensive mould lines. The pose is a bit strange, I think it would have been better rearing on hind legs and just looking down and forward at it's smaller foes. If I am honest, I cannot really recommend it, so it's just as well I cannot remember the manufacturer.

In gaming terms it will be particularly useful in games of Erehwon. Beasts and monsters can be included in most armies and there is already a profile for the cave bear, so I can just slot it into an army. Strictly speaking, any army can use any monster, but for me it seems most fitting in a dwarf force. I cannot imagine goblins and bears getting along at all - then again goblins don't really get along with any creatures, including themselves.

One other reason to buy the figure was as a present for my wife. It's her birthday and she is quite a fan of bears, usually the fluffy teddy bear type, but I am ever hopeful of bringing her over to the much cooler hobby of toy soldiers.

There's only one thing left to say. Happy Bear Day.

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Mordor Orc Archers

I picked these up online recently, in a GW made to order week for some old Lord of the Rings metals. Let me get a grumble out of the way first - I do wish they would run the made to order for longer periods than one week.There was a good number of items I would have liked which all came up together, if you have a limited budget like me it would be impossible to get all of them in one week. With the funds I had I bought the Mordor orcs and some dwarfs.

Back in the day, when Lord of the Rings was first released (2001?), I was a Warhammer player - I played that one game and that one game only, so while I quite liked the range at the time it was not on my radar. Nowadays my tastes have changed and my gaming worlds have expanded to encompass Mordor, Rohan, and many others. I have picked up a few plastics from forum sales mostly, but the long out of production metals are quite hard to obtain for a reasonable price. So I was pretty happy when these orcs were made available (subject to the above grumble).

I thought they would add some variety to the plastic archer poses, but in truth they are all quite similar - I guess this is fairly inevitable in archers. Still, as luck would have it, the number of the unit is now up to 12, which is ideal for games of Dragon Rampant and Saga.

It felt a bit wrong speedpainting them, I would usually lavish time on figures that were hard to come by and relatively expensive - £3 per figure is expensive in my book. However, having painted the plastics up in one way, it would be foolish to paint up the newcomers in a different way, so I blasted through them in a couple of hours. The end result blends in and is good enough for gaming I think. More Mordor orcs to come at some point, though it could well be next year before I get a time slot.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Rohan In Flames

Orcs bearing the red eye have been seen wandering the furthest fringes of the Eastfold. How they managed to cross the river undetected is a mystery, but they must be stopped, driven back and destroyed. A couple of remote farms have already been pillaged and now they are making their way westward to bigger settlements. A small contingent of Rohan troops have set up defences to try to hold them back, a messenger rushing west to raise the alarm and muster reinforcements. 

This was a clash we played in Matt's dungeon using Dragon Rampant rules, which is designed for smaller games than ours, so we add a few tweaks to make it workable. When a unit fails to activate, the player turn usually ends, but we allow three failures before passing over to the opponent. This allows the ten or so units per side to be involved in most turns, turning a scrappy stop-start skirmish into something a little bit more epic.

Orcs trample crops as they press forward

They close in on the hastily erected defences

The bulk of the orcs push forward on the right

Reinforcements arrive for Rohan

The troll slaughters the archers in his path and lumbers on, orcs pouring into the gap in the defences

Fierce fighting in the farmstead sees the brave Rohan defenders slowly pushed back

The troll is peppered with arrows from all directions and staggers around in confusion

Orcs torch a farm building and are then thrown into the conflagration by enraged defenders!

Another building goes up in flames before the orcs are finally pushed back

A most enjoyable battle, Dragon Rampant really works well in games like this. The orcs made most progress on the right flank, the troll punched through the light defences easily enough, but then was the sole target for a lot of Rohan archers. More orcs tried to follow through but were hampered by rough terrain and harassing archery. In the centre, a single unit of Rohan defenders did well to hold out for so long, finally falling back as the orc leader and his troops rushed over the barricades. With the central farm undefended, it was soon roaring in flames. On the left flank, a unit of warg riders and a couple of light orc units struggled to push back a fairly meagre force of Rohan archers. As their numbers depleted, the orcs finally lost impetus and pulled back from the attack.

Two out of five building were destroyed, so technically it was probably the forces of  Rohan that won the day. But the orcs are many and slunk back into the marshlands, no doubt planning to return and wreak havoc again another day. It might be interesting to fight the next battle using a different ruleset, to see how they compare, maybe Erehwon or perhaps Saga. It would certainly be interesting to continue the tale.

Coming Soon? The Orcs Strike Back

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Cave Goblins

The cave goblins are among the smallest of their kind. Living underground in almost perpetual darkness, with little to eat but mushrooms and the occasional insect or unfortunate comrade, they tend to be small, scrawny and undernourished. In isolation, they are rarely a danger, but in numbers they can be dangerous foe. When forced to the surface by their bigger kindred, they huddle in packs, preferring spears or bows, in order to attack their enemy at range - then run away and hide if the boss is not around to stop them.

When I first started collecting the goblins, my eye was on the standard goblins released in the early 1990's, which was when I started playing Warhammer. When I saw these night goblins on a forum sale, they were not my first choice, but I didn't want to look the gift horse in the mouth so I snapped them up despite my dislike of duplicate poses. These are mainly night goblins from around 1992, with the two slightly bigger models being common goblins from the same era. The shields are a selection of spare bits from various sources.

They have been really pesky little things, painting them has been difficult. I knew I did not want them in black robes with green skin in the traditional manner - it's been done by so many others. I also knew I wanted to have some variation in the skin tones, hoping that this might detract from the identical poses. My main inspiration was to paint the hoods red, after reading about the redcap from folk tales. After many stops and starts, I finally got them to this stage. The shields are mostly painted in leather hide shades, which helps to tie them together but without being too uniform.

In game terms, they are destined to play as levy troops in Saga (twelve per unit), or as light infantry in Rampant (twelve per unit), or in games of Erewhon (up to ten per unit). I expect them to cause very little damage to the enemy and then run away, any better performance than that is a real bonus.

I have the next goblin unit assembled and ready to be primed. This time, I have a much clearer idea on a palette and should blast through them quickly. So the next batch should come bounding (maybe lumbering) into view much quicker.

Sunday 22 September 2019

The real Mines of Moria

I have recently returned from a holiday in the wonderful city of Krakow, Poland - well worth a visit if you ever get the chance. One of the things we did while there was to visit the salt mines of Wieliczka. As usual when sightseeing, I slipped into nerdy mode and explained to my wife (in my best Gimli voice) that we would soon be treated to a "right royal welcome by my cousin Balin" as we entered Moria. As usual she rolled her eyes and we joined the tour. Of course I had just been joking, but when we finally made it down the 350 steps to a depth of 135 metres below ground, we really were in a dwarf mine.....

And here is the entrance, the dwarf statues here are a little tall, but check out the hammer above the entrance and those distinctive dwarf like columns. Note also the salt in the rock. Salt was a precious commodity in the days before canning and refrigeration, for thousands of years it was used in food preservation, and some historians believe that the first city in Europe developed around a salt mine. Food for thought. But enough of that, let's take a look at the dwarfy bits of the mines.

Dwarf Royal Guard

Balin's Tomb

Dwarfs read from the Book of Grudges

Anvil of Power

Dwarf apprentice (no beard!)

Dwarf treasure pouch

That's me sorted for salt for the next few years, I brought this 1kg bag up from the depths. It was a fantastic day out, interesting in a historical and a nerdy way. It's given me lots of ideas on how to develop the Oakenhammer dwarf story and collection. The next unit to be painted will definitely be the salt miners. After the goblins of course.........

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Goblins WIP

Things have been moving slowly on the hobby front, and will not speed up much for at least another week, so I have just a WIP to show for the time being. I have around twenty of these old goblin spear figures which I was hoping to get finished for the end of the month, but two things have been slowing me down.

I cannot quite settle on a palette. I do not want to copy the old style, it's not really me and I don't see the point in trying to replicate what others have done before. I am aiming for a cool skin, warm clothing look, but I cannot decide if the result is interesting and varied tones, or just a mess of too many colours. I probably should put the ground and shields on to make the decision easier.

The other thing that is bothering me is the duplication of poses. There are five different night goblins holding a spear, I have four of them, but multiple copies of each. It's a bit clone wars, probably looks better in a disciplined army like elves or dwarves, but not so much in a rabble/horde like goblins.

The big news is that I managed to find a giant on ebay that would not need a remortgage to buy. Prices on old metals has gone through the roof recently and have reached a point far beyond my budget. So I was pretty happy to stumble across this when browsing during a coffee break. A lucky break, in this case. The paint work is too bright for my taste, but it's nicely done and the face is particularly striking. The oily goblin from the previous post makes a good contrast. On that front, I have suspended experiments in oils on the goblins, I need bigger models to practise on. I will come back to oils at some point. I feel a need for a change, to reinvigorate my hobby.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Oily little git

I don't usually post work in progress shots on my blog, they are usually dumped on to my facebook page. This place is where I tend to post fully finished work. However, this is a completely new technique for me, so I thought it would be worth recording. This is an oily little goblin. And I mean that in the literal sense, as it's been painted in acrylic, then washed in oils. It's a technique I was vaguely familiar with, I know that it's used on vehicles and some folks use it to paint horses.

I was inspired after seeing this amazing video by Marco Frisoni. I am all for achieving effects quickly, and like grimey paint work, so I thought I would give it a try. And for a first attempt, I am reasonably happy. I can see how it could help me to speed things along with my goblins, which has to be a good thing.

I learned a few things on this first experiment. The oil paint has to be much thinner than I used. And I would not use a pure black next time, probably try a range of browns. Below you can see the goblin before he got to this stage. I primed it brown, then painted on basic tones, then smothered it in the oily mix which was too thick. Even with this blunder, it produced an interesting result - the desaturation from the original colours is quite marked. I will try again with more colours/oils for sure, there are dozens of little goblins waiting to be painted.

First stage - basic colours (acrylic)

Second stage - oil "wash" which was more a tarring!
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