Thursday, 16 May 2019

Dwarf Gyrocopter

Feel free to hum the Ride of the Valkyries as you read this post.

The dwarf gyrocopter from 1993 is one of my all time favourite dwarf models. There's just something about the models released in this era that is so, well, dwarfish. What could be more dwarfish than a dwarf wearing a winged helmet, about to lob a bomb from a boiler driven helicopter type machine? If you said nothing, you could be right. If you said the wheeled anvil of doom, the throne of power, or the wooden flame cannon, you could also be right. Golden era just does not adequately cover it. Purists will be horrified that the base is neither square nor green, but just because I like the old models does not mean I have to paint them like it was still 1993.

When it came to painting the model, I had just one starting point. Tormund Giantsbane from Game of Thrones has a wonderful ginger beard, and I wanted my dwarf pilot to have the same. It personifies a reckless, fearless spirit that you would definitely need to take to the air in one of these contraptions. From there, the blue clothing developed. The machine I wanted a fairly neutral appearance, so have gone for natural canvas and wood effects. The boiler is made from copper because, well, they seem to be in real life, plus it's a nice colour.

The next time the dwarfs of Oakenheim take to the field of battle, you can be sure that Fugl Fuglleson will be flying straight at the enemy, bombs at the ready.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019


headland is a coastal landform, a point of land usually high and often with a sheer drop, that extends into a body of water. 

I started inking the map, working on the coastline, rivers and lakes. I was admiring my handiwork when I suddenly saw this shape. Now that's what you call a headland! When the hills and mountains and lettering are inked in, it will probably be a bit less obvious.

It's pure chance that it has emerged like this. The original shape was based on an approximation of the county of Cumbria, the Lake District in England - hence the lakes. At first I was trying to replicate the bodies of water exactly, but it was very cluttered and I abstracted to this form. The outjutting squiggle of a nose I added at random as I was inking. This will be the land of the vikings, though as it's a dwarf map it's not that detailed. Dwarfs don't have much love for water, or other folks for that matter, so they don't bother too much with little details like rivers, towns and such like.

Monday, 6 May 2019

How To Draw a Fantasy Map

Over the past couple of years I have been painting dwarfs, undead, vikings and goblins with a vague idea in my head about how they would all live together. Names and backgrounds come to me, mostly from my local surroundings or from my travels, from reading history and mythology, occasionally from popular culture such as Skyrim. I have jotted a few of these ideas down in previous blog posts, as a little bit of flavour to accompany the miniatures. There's a lot of stuff whirling around in my head, so I wanted to get it down on paper before it disappeared. I thought a good place to start would be a map.

I have been studying different map styles for a while, and came across a book dedicated to this very subject. I am a bit wary about How To books, as in my experience they never seem to convey the subject as well as, say, a youtube video would. However, we all have to start somewhere and so I thought I would give it a try.

The book cost me less than £10 on ebay and I have to say it has been a good buy. The author goes through the various stages with good, clear diagrams in a reasonably logical sequence. It's quite a short book, with lots of diagrams, which are useful. I did find that the suggested sequence of doing things did not always work for me, but maybe that's just me. The last chapter is probably the best place to start! This chapter is a bringing together of all the theory as the author moves through the processes he would go through in drawing a map (not all of it matching the sequence of previous chapters of course).

As I expected, theory is all very well, but the real value of a book like this is in giving you a starting point. You can get past the dreaded blank page by referring to the techniques, then practise them, then refine, then finally put them on your paper. And that's what I have been doing for the past couple of days - the ideal way to spend a typically British cold, damp and dreary bank holiday weekend.

The main thing I have learned from this process, and it's not going to surprise anybody, is that you have to practise, practise, practise. I have a few days under my belt now, and already I have learnt quite a bit on how to do things. Or more accurately, I have made plenty of mistakes and moved on from there. From preliminary pencil sketches, to inking and watercolours, I have had a little try at many things. I have designed my own icons to represent the dwarf holds. I have developed a very basic dwarf language and scratched out a dwarfish font of sorts, heavily influenced by viking culture.

It's starting to come together now and I have an almost completely pencilled map. I still have to add some features, when I have practised how to draw them. Then I have to move on from the pencil version, by inking in the whole thing. It's surprising how long these things take, but it will be worth it in the end. Hopefully, I can get it all finished in the coming week.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Cave Goblin Shaman

As their name suggests, cave goblins spend most of their time underground. As a result, they are a little different to other goblin folk. They tend to be smaller, paler and less well equipped, often with little more than a crude club and a set of filthy robes. However, they do have an affinity with the other creatures of the dank underworld realms, and will often drive these before them into battle. When a goblin warlord recruits the cave goblins into his warband, he does so expecting them to bring along trolls, spiders or other beasts from the dark caverns. The cave goblins also have a greater tendency to practise magic than their overground relatives, perhaps as a result of their diet of mind expanding fungi and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

This is the doom goblin shaman from Knightmare Games. This was one of the first models from that range that caught my eye. The fungi staff is just a brilliant touch. I changed the name from doom to cave to fit my own vision of goblins and how they live. I wanted to give them a pale skin, as I imagine their pigment would naturally fade after generations in the darkness. The red around the eyes could be due to the stress of controlling the magical forces in his mind, or maybe it's just a reaction to the hated daylight. It gives him a nicely manic appearance.

Here is the shaman with a small group of the black goblins, to illustrate the size difference. The bulk of the goblin force will be more like the cave goblin in size - smaller and runtier, as you would expect. Next in the queue, I could paint up a handful of old GW goblins I managed to collect over the past couple of years, but I do now have a preference for these Knightmare figures. I just have to get some more!

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Dwarf runesmith

This is the dwarf runesmith that was originally released as part of the Grudge of Drong campaign, around 1997 I believe. I picked it up in a joblot on ebay recently along with a few dwarfs for my Oakenheim collection. Sadly, this figure is not one of my favourites and is surplus to requirement, but rather than toss him to the back of the drawer, I have painted him up and tossed him into the shop instead. So you see, it is possible to toss a dwarf.

For reference, I have included a catalogue page from the rather excellent Stuff Of Legends site, a must visit for any Warhammer fan wishing to track down old figures, or just see what things were like back in the day. As well as photos of miniatures, there's often some lovely old artwork to admire too.

Incidentally, I have stocked the shop with a few older painted minis from my glass cabinet. There's a couple of Imperial Guard psykers, a Scots/Irish warlord and another dwarf.

Taken from Stuff of Legends without permission

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Sargob The Old

This is probably the oldest figure in my collection, certainly the oldest goblin. It's so old I cannot remember where it came from, possibly gifted to me by another player years ago when I was a club member. I painted it a few years ago, possibly about ten years back.

 Looking on the Stuff of Legends website, I have identified it as a Citadel C12 goblin, named Sargob, from around 1987. Judging by the style, I would guess it was sculpted by one of the Perry twins, he looks a bit too serious to have been sculpted by Kev Adams.

The first thing you might notice is the moustache, which is a bit strange on a goblin. The shield is a modern addition, a plastic from the chaos marauders set. I have recently rebased the figure from square to round, to better fit the new goblins warband I am building. All I had to do was paint the base and he fits right in.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Nord's Painting Shop on Etsy

***Drumroll*** I am pleased to announce, in my most impressive announcer type voice, that I now have a shop on Etsy. Stock is a little sparse at the moment. And by sparse, I mean there's just one figure. But, like the plants erupting all around in the lovely spring weather, it will grow.

This is an Irish warlord by Footsore Miniatures. It came with a Saga book that I had ordered a few months back and it's a really nice figure, though not one I can readily use in my armies. It could easily be used in a Scots or Norse army I would have thought, maybe even a viking force. More pictures on the shop page - yes, pathetic isn't it, that's my cunning plan to get visits to the shop :).

And while I am in marketing mode, here's a link to my facebook page, where I post a fair few WIP shots and step by step diagrams, so worth a visit if you have not already.

And one last plug, I also have an instagram account. Yep, I am fully embracing all the social media sites. #nordspaintingsaga should get you there. Or use this link.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Black Goblins

The Greater Goblins of the Black Vale, or Black Goblins as they are more commonly known, are the biggest of their kind. While most goblins are small, wretched, scrawny creatures, Black Goblins are much larger, some as tall as a dwarf. Consequently, they tend to be leaders, bodyguard or even warlords. They are the best armed of their kind, as they have the pick of  the loot from the battlefields, and steal arms and armour from their compatriots at will. Few goblin warbands go to battle without these bruisers leading the way.

These are the Black Goblins from Knightmare Games. When I first ordered the figures, I had no idea that they were such a large scale. I dreamt up the concept of them being the larger, elite troops of the race - not an original thought I admit, given the role of Black Orcs in Warhammer and black uruks in Lord of the Rings. You can see my first impressions of the models in this post.

I googled images of black orcs to get a few ideas for darker skinned goblins. However, I found it hard to break the mould and started with green skin tones, intending to shade them down quite darkly, but made a bit of a mess of it. I added too many different shades and it just did not turn out as I would have hoped. In future, I will stick to my tried and tested base coat and glazes routine. In the end, I decided to leave the skin and move on to other areas, see how it looked with all the other bits painted. It's often better to get an idea of the overall picture before obsessing on one little bit. With the rest of the colours on, the figures came together and they don't look too bad. I probably spent longer on touching up the skin than I would usually, lesson learned for next time.

The figures are not sold with shields or bases. I used my default system of two pence coins for the bases - they add a bit of weight and stability and are also magnetic. The shields are more of a problem, should I add some, and if yes, what should I use? In the meantime, they will just have to rely on their armour.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Battle Mat day 2

After yesterday's adventure with spray cans, today is the day to play with pva glue and flocks. I used watered down pva glue with a little screen wash (I read that this helps to break surface tension and makes adhesion easier). A little thing I discovered is to paint this on to the mat in circular motions rather than straight lines, for a more natural clumping look. I used a one inch decorating paint brush for this stage, I could have saved time with a larger brush.

Flocking time

I used a selection of flocks that I had in my terrain box. A medium green for the majority of the covering, with a yellow green for a few sparse highlights. I also had some very dark (soil) flock which I mixed with the medium green for a dark green shade. I tried to make distinct clumps of green with a few darker areas in between.


After the flock was added I sprinkled on some clump foliage, to represent scrub, weed bushes, etc. It's tempting to go to town here and really start blending it all in, but this is just a quick game board so it was on to the next step. Some very diluted pva and screen wash was sprayed over the whole mat, I tried to give it a really good soaking. Then I lifted the whole thing and dragged it down in to a sunny corner in the garden to dry off. The fact that most of the flock and foliage did not tip off at this stage I took to be a good sign.

Sunny corner

I guess I spent about two hours in total, spraying paint, applying pva and flocks, then soaking the whole thing. Hopefully, when it's fully dry it will stick to the mat and not shed flock in the house. Time will tell!

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Battle Mat on the cheap

The other day I was in the supermarket (Aldi) and spotted these grass mats, priced at £7 each. With a size of 2m x 1m (roughly 6ft x 3ft), I thought it would be ideal for my dining table, which is sized 5ft x 3ft. The original mat is rather a lurid green shade, but I had a plan.

Vivid green mats

Armed with a trio of rattle cans and a window of fine dry weather, I sprayed some random patches to dull down the green.

Field Grey, Dunkelgelb, British Uniform spray cans

After a few minutes, the first pass looked like this. The next stage is to add some flock and grass.

Already looking less uniform green

Less than ten minutes to get to this stage. I want the paint to be fully dried before I move on, and have a browse through my collection of flocks.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Royal Armoury of Malta

On a recent spring break in the city of Valetta, Malta, I visited the Royal Armoury, dedicated to the arms and armour of the Knights of St. John. It was a huge collection, based in two rooms stuffed with cabinets. It's not really a period of history I know much about, but for sheer spectacle it was a memorable visit. Photos below with captions, hopefully they are mostly correct from memory. The official website can be found here.

Armour Room
Armour of the Grand Master
Shield (ceremonial) of the Grand Master
More ornate armour
Cases of helmets

Ottoman Turk arms and armour

Arms room

Cannons large and small

Powder cannisters

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Viking Longhouse WIP

Returning from a spring break holiday, I was looking for something quick and easy to do to get me back into the hobby groove. I know, I thought to myself, I will get the roof on the viking super hut, that should be simple enough. What a mistaken idea that was!

I bought the tiling sheets from the ever dependable warbases. They come in A4 size and are strips of a thick card, laser cut. You have to cut each strip to size and glue it on to your roof. It's probably quite easy with a standard roof, but with all the slopes and angles it proved quite time consuming. Two afternoons of pretty tedious hobbying later, and it looks like this. Almost there I think, I am pondering whether to put a beam across the apex.

It looks good, but it's definitely a job for the dedicated enthusiast. All future roofs will probably be turfed!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Flippin' eck....

.....these goblins are big guys. Yes, I did manage to fit in a pancake day pun.

These are black goblins from Knightmare Games, part of their Greenskin Wars range. I ordered them not realising they are bigger than your average goblin, but that's fine, I like size variation. As you can see, they are single piece metal sculpts, oozing with character and good levels of detail. The eyes have an iris and a pupil!

How big are they? Here's a comparison with a couple of plastic figures, a goblin and an orc. They tower over the little goblin, almost reaching the height and bulk of the orc. These are going to be the bruisers in my goblin force, either the bodyguard of the general or maybe an elite unit.

Just like their cousins the Black Orcs of the Warhammer world, or the black uruks of Tolkien's world, they are the biggest and toughest in the army. Conveniently, that suggests a palette to me - black skin with dark robes and armour. So here's a few examples of dark skinned orcs to act as inspiration.

Friday, 1 March 2019

March of the Goblins

Goblins have been a part of my wargaming history since the beginning. From my first few tentative games of Talisman and Heroquest, to full blown battles of Warhammer, they have always been around, as grunts to be killed, enemy to be defeated. When I bought my first set of Warhammer Fantasy Battle it contained dozens of single pose goblins, none of which interested me as a collecting or painting project. Years later I painted the night goblins of the Skull Pass boxset, more to provide cannon fodder for my dwarfs than anything. They have always been second best, on the periphery of my collection.

But that is about to change. Last year I spent a good deal of time reminiscing about those early days. I started to collect a few models from 1992, the first year of my personal involvement in Warhammer. They are not easy to come by - you might be lucky and find a few on various groups or ebay, but prices can be very expensive - my rose tinted specs have not blinded me enough to pay some of the ridiculous levels asked by some sellers. And then I found another way.

Knightmare Games have a range of metal goblins sculpted by Kev Adams, the sculptor of much of the early 90's goblins for Games Worshop. They should fit perfectly with the few figures I already have in my collection. At around three euros a figure they are still not a cheap option, and would be eye wateringly expensive if I was trying to collect the big regiments required by the old games. But I am building a force to use in Erehwon, and maybe Saga, so it's much easier on the wallet. I can buy about fifty or so figures and that's enough for a complete force, not a couple of regiments. So that's what I am doing. I have put in my first order and await delivery with keen anticipation.

And so begins the March of the Goblins.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

First Game of Erehwon

The Dwarfs of Oakenheim have had many years of peace and prosperity, little bothered by outsiders. But recently, rangers have reported much more activity on the borders, with goblins from the Red Hills in the east being particularly bothersome. Hoping to squash any sneaky plans the greenskins might have, the dwarfs have despatched a small force from the nearest hold, to confront and warn off the intruders.

You might not realise it, but there is a new game system in town. Quietly launched by Warlord Games, Warlords of Erehwon is a game by Rick Priestley, author of the original Warhammer Fantasy Battle. If you have played Bolt Action or Battle of Antares, you will be familiar with the basic system. If you have no idea what these are, then you can get a rough idea of the new game from this youtube video, in which the basic mechanics are covered.

My own one paragraph description of the game is that it is a large skirmish/small warband game, playable on a dining room table, with forces of around six to ten units per side, units from three to ten figures in size, so about thirty to fifty figures to each warband. If you play Saga, it's a similar scale, but with a very different play style. Units are activated one by one in a random fashion, drawing dice or tokens from a bag to determine this. Each unit then makes a choice from six different activations (move, shoot, rally type actions), carries out that action, then another unit is randomly chosen to activate. Actions are resolved using 10 sided dice by referring to one of six stats, with low rolls being successes (so the ideal game if you always roll 1's). It's a fast moving game, both players randomly but constantly involved at all times - there's no snoozing while your opponent takes his half hour turn. The photo above shows roughly what to expect, with six units of stout dwarf warriors facing off against ten units of sneaky goblins (some of them have obviously sneaked out of frame, the little gits). The photo below shows roughly 800 points of dwarfs.

In this first, trial outing, the game was quite easy to pick up, the rules are pretty straight forward. It plays more like the old Warhammer Fantasy Battle than any other game I have tried (Saga, Rampant, etc), but with much smaller forces and far less fiddly rules. If you like the feel of  the old WHFB games, but have developed a liking for newer, slicker game systems, it is probably right up your street. Suffice to say that dwarfs, goblins, trolls, and ideas for terrain are now swirling around in my over excited mind. I reckon that this game, and possibly the upcoming Saga fantasy supplement, will herald a renaissance in fantasy gaming.

The dwarfs turned their back on the smouldering heaps of goblin corpses. Gently, reverently, they hoisted their dead companions on to the carefully prepared litters, and began the solemn march back to the hold. Dozens of goblins had been slaughtered in the battle, but there was little reason to celebrate. Six of their own kin had been lost, six new burial mounds would be constructed at the hold. Heads bowed, they started the long trek back home.
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