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!

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Rocky Scatter Terrain

Over the past few weeks I have been tinkering with some scatter terrain, just a short session here and there. I want to build some hills, but I thought I would get some practise making simpler scatter terrain to begin with. The main component of these pieces is tree bark, which I collected from a nearby forest. When trees are felled there are quite often chunks of bark nearby. Note that I do not rip bark from living trees, that would be a nasty trick even a horrid goblin would think twice about.

The bases for the terrain varies. The standing stones are based on foamboard, while the random rock piles are based on thick card. I tried to chamfer the edges a little, just using a standard craft knife. The bark was cut with a craft (jeweller) saw and I glued them on with pva glue. Then I left them for a few days to ensure the joins were (ahem) rock solid.

The bark pieces were primed white and then painted to look like rocks. I used an emulsion tester pot as the base grey, then browns, ochres and a black wash. Then I added shadows and highlights using green grey and beige glazes. Finally, I added some green tinges to represent mossy growth.

The ground was made from a mix of fine sand, tile grout and pva glue. Brown tile grout, mixed with sand makes a fairly natural looking sandy earth colour. Mixed up to a paste consistency, it's possible to apply it with little undulations, for a more natural look. When it dries, the tile grout makes it a very solid base. It's possible to use it like this, unpainted, though I did add a few washes around the stones and rocks for a little variation in ground tones.

The final step was to add vegetation. I spread thinned pva on to the ground and sprinkled on some scatter, adding darker and lighter colours to provide a little texture. I also used some scrub/tree foliage, which you can buy from rail model suppliers or online. Again, I just scattered it at random. All the vegetation was sealed with wet water (a half and half mix of screen wash and water) and very dilute pva - about 3:1 water:pva. When it's fully dried, it gives a very durable finish, with little or no shedding of scatter materials. The final step was to add a few patches of static grass and tufts.

Scattered on to my playing mat, the terrain does look pretty convincing. But don't take my word for it! We asked a local mountain dweller and rock expert for his opinion.

"Aye, it's definitely a rock"

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Saruman and uruk hai

Saruman the White, an old metal figure I have had lying around for years, I thought it was time he was painted. I really enjoyed painting the face and hair, it's a very good likeness for the actor. I was tempted to add some variation to the robes, but in the end I stuck with the film look. I am going to try my luck selling him in the etsy shop.

And bringing him a powerful weapon, these two uruk hai carrying Merry and Pippin were the first figures I primed this year. So it's taken seven months to finish them off. That's enough time to run to Isengard and back a few times. I just get distracted by so many other things in my collection, but I do get back to them eventually. There are items in my stash that have been part painted for years, so these two were technically quite hasty. Next time we play Lord of the Rings, it could well be a rescue the halfling style scenario. The three hunters tracking them down, you can see here.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

V&V Miniature Vikings Gallery

In my last post, I mentioned that V&V Miniatures were my favourite manufacturer of viking miniatures. I have posted photos of them on the blog in the past, but as I had the camera set up for some comparison shots, I decided to get them all out for another photo session. Not that there are that many as yet, just these twelve. I hope this photo conveys why I like them so much.

Each and every figure is a character in their own right. There are no clones. You can see that the sculptor absolutely loves his subject. There are so many little details, from the laces on their shoes to the inscribed belt buckles. They really are superb figures. I have tried my best to bring every one of them to life, as they deserve.

One of the things I like is that they are not all the usual bearded, long haired archetype that most manufacturers seem to churn out. The warrior on the far left, for example, is quite young and has his hair shaved up the back of his head. The figure second from right in the rear rank, has a distinctly Gaelic or Irish look to him. Vikings raided and settled all over Europe, so there's no reason why they should always be depicted as bearded Scandinavian types.

I use these figures as my beserker unit. Anyone who goes into battle topless or wearing an animal skin has to be a bit mad! The figure second left, with no shirt and two axes, is one of my favourite figures of all time. 

Just twelve of these wonderful figures are painted at the moment, though I do have more underway, mostly armoured figures. And since I bought them a couple of years ago, the range has expanded and there are more to choose from. V&V have also started a range of Rus figures, which are very, very tempting. The allure of the vikings has not faded.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Victrix vs V&V vs Drabant vikings

Viking miniatures comparison pictures!

There are a lot of viking miniatures available out there, in metal, plastic or resin, with many different styles to choose from. These three ranges are my personal favourites.

On the left is Drabant Miniatures, metal figures sculpted in Russia. There are about twenty figures available in the range. There are also a range of Rus (Eastern or Varangian vikings). In the UK, they are sold by Old Glory. A good choice if you prefer metal figures.

In the middle is Victrix vikings, plastic miniatures made in the UK. A vast range of armoured and unarmoured figures, twelve different bodies and enough parts and weapons for almost limitless poses. This is the range that most wargamers will go for, cheap, plastic and good quality. One packet includes 60 figures, enough for a warband.

On the right is V&V Miniatures, resin figures from Ukraine. There are about 60 sculpts available from the vikings range, including a few less common types such as shield maidens and ulfhednars. These are top quality miniatures, a little bit larger than the other two ranges. These are my favourites of the three, though the most expensive. In the UK, they are sold by Mezzers Minis.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Two more Victrix vikings

Two more vikings from the plastic set painted up, just 55 left to do!

I painted these up quite quickly, I didn't want to labour over every detail like I  do with the V&V miniatures. Although I did add a simple trim design to the tunic/shirt of the bald headed figure. The shields are transfers.

I feel that unarmoured vikings are sorely lacking in the vast numbers of viking minis available, so it's good to finally find some that are both cheap to buy and that look good when you put them together.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Return to Grimdal's Tomb part 2

A horn blast startled the rangers into readiness. They took up positions on the edge of the Oakenwood, peering across the dark glade. Slowly, their enemy hobbled into view. Zombies fell to the ground as crossbow bolts thudded into them. More zombies trailed alongside them, a wall of rotting flesh. Skeletons creaked forward, and wights seemingly floated across the ground, heading straight for the tomb. Behind them, the dark robed necromancer urged them on.

A cheer went up on the dwarf left flank, as slayers charged down from the foothills and made straight for the tomb. The dwarfs cheered even louder as a gyrocopter swept over the treetops. It flew straight over the zombie wall then a brief flash and an explosion rocked the night. Bones shattered and the necromancer stumbled to his knees, the whole Undead army faltered.

The dark robed figure gripped his staff and pulled himself up. Despite his wound, he was able to conjure a chill wind, the blast directed up into the sky at the hovering dwarf contraption. There was an audible crackling noise as the whole machine was covered in freezing ice crystals. The rotor stuttered, the pilot cried out and it careered to the ground. The foul undead creatures shambled forward once more.

Zombies were continually pierced by bolts and fell to the ground, but then rose again under the influence of foul magic. The slayers found their route to the tomb blocked by shambling corpse soldiers. Skeletons swarmed over the downed gyrocopter. Wights silently floated toward the tomb, just as the door creaked open. From that ancient portal, a hulking figure lumbered out, wading into the spectral warriors. The ogre hacked and slashed at the eerie robed figures, one dissipated to nothing as his cleaver struck, but their chill weapons pierced his flabby bulk. The ogre retreated back into the tomb, bellowing in rage. The wights hovered by the tomb door, awaiting a command.

The downed gyrocopter pilot furiously tapped on dials and hammered on levers with one hand, swinging his axe at the skeletons with his other. Somehow he had survived the short descent of his machine to the ground. Even more miraculously, with a juddering wheeze, it suddenly started back into life, the rotor spinning once more. The dwarf gyrocopter swayed back into the air again, skeletons scattered beneath it. With steely determination, the pilot aimed once more at the dark robed figure and tossed a bomb straight at him. The bomb rolled right up to the feet of the figure, then lay there. There was no flash, no explosion this time. The icy blast must have rendered the bomb useless!

Dwarf rangers finally threw down their crossbows and hefted their huge axes. They charged toward the zombies, determined to sweep them away and carve a route through to the dark robed necromancer. Slayers joined them. At the tomb door, there was a frightful noise, as a pack of gibbering, howling gobghouls emerged from the darkness and threw themselves at the wights. This attack was surprisingly vicious, the wights fell back under the onslaught of rusty blades and scabrous claws.

As the zombie lines thinned, the dwarfs crept ever closer to the necromancer and his depleted bodyguard. For the first time, he stepped back, hesitating. A glance over to the tomb told him that his wight servants had failed. A faint glow in the east heralded the new dawn. The darkness would soon be gone. The grating sound of a huge rock door closing signalled the end of the battle.

The robed figure took one last, wistful look at Grimdal's Tomb, then melted away once more. The foul undead plodded after him. As the pink tinge of dawn intensified, dazed dwarfs stumbled over corpses, discovering fallen comrades among the rotted dead. Many had given their lives to protect the ancient tomb, and yet had it all been for nothing? The sacred site had long ago been defiled and infested by other dark creatures. The survivors solemnly began the grim task of gathering their dead for the long trek back home.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Return to Grimdal's Tomb part 1

Long ago, there was a great battle at Grimdal's Tomb, between the dwarfs and a race of men, now long forgotten. The men came seeking dwarf treasure that was rumoured to lie in an ancient burial mound; the dwarfs came to protect their ancestor's resting place.

Grimdal's Tomb lies beyond the eastern fringes of the Oakenwood, roughly half way between Oakenheim and the abandoned hold of Helheim. As a sacred dwarf monument, it is not usually marked on maps, lest any treasure hunters or other undesirables should attempt to visit. Dwarfs far away from home, notably rangers and wandering slayers, often visit the site to pay their respects. It was during one such visit that they first discovered another at the site, a dark robed figure poking around under cover of the night sky, who melted away into the shadows when challenged. Alarmed at this intrusion, the dwarfs doubled their patrol of the area, and sure enough, a few nights later, the dark robed stranger was back, but this time he was not alone.

I first discovered Grimdal's Tomb back in 1992, in White Dwarf issue number 153. I had bought the magazine to further investigate the "new" Warhammer Fantasy Battle game - in reality it was the fourth edition, but it was all new to me as an occasional player of Heroquest.

Grimdal's Tomb was the setting for a battle report between Dwarfs and Bretonnians, with a slight twist. Both sides were trying to get into the tomb, thought neither knew that they would also have to contend with the tomb guardians - a troll and a handful of skeletons.

I adapted completely stole this idea for a battle, though I would be using the Erehwon rules. Dwarf rangers and slayers would join forces to face the intruders, with support from the newly painted gyrocopter. It was also a chance for me to play a first battle with the Undead in this system. A necromancer, leading two units of zombies, skeletons and wights, would be attempting to break into the tomb. And the tomb guardians? A hulking ogre and a pack of ghouls would randomly turn up to attack whichever unit was nearest to the tomb entrance.

As the gloom of night descended on the trees, the rangers settled in for a long wait. Accustomed to the darkness of their underground homes, they could easily see across the clearing to the stone monument of the sacred tomb. Hours ticked by, and it seemed that it would be another fruitless vigil, when a chill descended on the glade. Snorri drew his cloak around him, and lighting his pipe was surprised to see his breath in the night air. It was mid summer, yet suddenly as cold as a mountain peak. Furtive movement across the clearing caught his eye. He nudged his companion to be ready to give the signal. The dark robed intruder had returned to Grimdal's Tomb.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019


This unit popped up from nowhere, almost. I have had the skeletons assembled for a good while, but no real desire to paint them. But then I suddenly found that I had two commission jobs for Undead, so I grabbed these as a practise session, just to get the feel for a bone palette again.

It was also an opportunity to practise speed painting. I set myself the task of painting 30 minutes each day on them, the first few sessions I documented on my facebook page. In the end, it took nine sessions to paint and base them, so that's 22 minutes per model. They are not technically difficult to paint, but still I think that's a fairly good pace. You could say a rattling good pace....if you like corny puns. Which I do not, obviously.

These will be added to my Undead collection, which is starting to "flesh out" quite nicely. Alongside these skeletons, I have two units of zombies, a unit of ghouls, a necromancer, wights/elite skeletons, a few spirits and the Lord of Bleak Fell. That's just about enough for games of Saga and Erewhon.

Monday, 24 June 2019

A trio of Victrix Vikings painted

I finally managed to get some paint on to the Victrix vikings. They paint up really nicely, the details are nice and sharp. Just three armoured figures to start with as a tester. The shields are a mix of transfers and free hand. I will be moving on to some unarmoured figures, hopefully in the near future.

I have decided to try my luck with these on ebay, if you are interested then here's a link to my auctions.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Victrix Vikings as fantasy figures

Following on from the previous post, a review of the new Victrix vikings, I thought that some gamers might be interested in seeing how the new figures compare with some fantasy figures. Clearly, the scale is nearer to 28mm or 30mm than some of the bigger fantasy offerings, which makes them a good match to systems like Lord of the Rings.

From this first photo you can see that they are a very good match to plastic uruk hai, while the Gondorian looks small featured. Bear in mind the slight difference made by the different bases.

In the second photo, the Mordor orc (left) looks quite a bit smaller, while the Morannon orc (right) is a far closer match in height and head size.

In this final photo, the vikings are up against Oathmark goblins, which are plastic and scale well with Mordor orcs. The vikings are slightly taller, though the goblins do have hunched over poses - they are fairly similar in height if you look to the shoulders.

Hopefully that will be useful to some players. Perhaps they could be used as wildmen of Dunland, or the armoured figures used as Rohan or Dunlendings? And of course, they could also be used in any of the many games rules available these days, such as Frostgrave, Erewhon and others.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Victrix Vikings Review

I have been waiting for these figures to release since the day they were first announced about a year ago. I pre-ordered a set a few weeks back, and now here they are. More details on the contents are on the Victrix website, these are my thoughts.

The figures arrive in a plastic bag with a card stapled along the top. On the back of the card are some basic instructions, which bodies are compatible with which heads, that kind of thing. As you can see, I also ordered a couple of sets of transfers and received a free flag for pre-ordering.

The warrior sprue, containing eight figures, with lots of head and weapon options and other bits. There are six of these per pack, making 48 figures.

The command sprue, containing eight figures, again with lots of options to play with. There are two of these sprues per pack, another twelve figures. In total, sixty vikings per pack - enough to man a longboat!

I assembled four figures and glued them to coins, as I do with all my figures. Note that there are no bases included in the pack. The photo is filtered to better show the details. And now some comparison photos with other vikings I own. I do not have any plastics to compare with, as to date I have never seen any that I thought were good figures to collect. These comparisons are therefore the Victrix plastics against metal and resin figures - worth bearing in mind when you see them side by side.

From the command sprue, Victrix on left, V&V (resin) on right

Standard sprue, Victrix and V&V (resin)

Standard sprue, Victrix and V&V (resin)

Victrix and Drabant Miniatures (metal)

I tried to build the Victrix Miniatures to match the poses of the comparison miniature as best I could. In each case, it's a simple matter of attaching two arms and a head to a body. I also added knives and scabbards as appropriate. In one case I trimmed the neck down a little as it looked too long to my eye. I also had to remove a sword hilt from the scabbard to make it empty. Other than that, they were very easy to put together and mould lines were easy to clean.

I am impressed with the level of detail and the quality of the sculpt, the proportions are very good. In terms of plastics, there are no others around that come anywhere close to this quality. I reckon they come very close to the metal figure in the last comparison picture - once painted, it will be hard to separate the two. The resin figures have a slight edge in terms of detail and sculpt, though of course the plastics are far cheaper and have more adaptability. 

If you are in the market for vikings, you cannot really go wrong with the Victrix vikings. At £38 plus postage for sixty figures, they are a complete bargain. Even factoring in extra spending on bases and sheild transfers, they are well under a pound a figure. With all the options available on the sprue, you should easily be able to ensure there is no duplication in your collection. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Mierce Miniatures Troll

There are so many trolls available to the gamer, from grimdark to goofy, from man sized to gargantuan. I have quite a few in various armies, some Warhammer examples, some Reaper, some Lord of the Rings figures, even some ForgeWorld. They are all joined by this absolute beast from Mierce Miniatures, and it's probably the best troll in my collection.

Aesthetically, it's at the "realistic" end of the scale - and that's in quotes for an obvious reason. What I mean is that the proportions are real, the details are fine and lifelike, the sculpting is top notch. If you like realism in your figures, I cannot think of a better range to collect than these figures.

Figures? Well yes, there's only one at the moment, but there's another two underway and a handful prepped. And there are many, many more on the Mierce Miniatures website. I bought them years ago because I was wowed by them when they were first released. I thought I might use them in a chaos Warhammer army, but since then things have changed. I now play other games, and have started to develop my own setting for my collection, so I can use these beasts standalone, as a force by themselves. The beasts of Trollberg are born!

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

My first fantasy map

It's finally finished, my first fantasy map. Now the dwarfs of Oakenheim have a home, along with those pesky Red Hills goblins, the Lord of Bleak Fell and his Undead followers, the witches of WychenWood, and the rest.

For years I have been quite happy to play my games in pre-established universes, mostly in the Old World of Warhammer, or the villages of dark ages Europe. But recently I have been more and more interested in gathering together these fantasy and real world collections into one setting. One world in which dwarfs can fight goblins in classic fantasy style, and vikings can raid Saxons in classic historical style, but there's also scope for trolls raiding viking settlements, Saxons fighting off Undead - a world to include all my miniatures in one big happy collection. It's a map drawn with the dwarfs and vikings firmly in the centre of everything - they have been my main preoccupation over the past couple of years. The areas on the edges of the map, or indeed off the map, represent those figures in my collection that are furthest from being painted.

The basics of how I got started in this endeavour I have already covered in this post. In essence, it's been a process of drawing and refining in pencil, then going over it all using fineliner marker pens. I am quite happy with the end result. The overall layout and the features I am pleased with, the lettering was always going to be the most challenging and that proved to be the case, that is the weakest point in my eyes. But for a first attempt I am happy with how it turned out.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

You wait ages for a dwarf....

.....then two come along in quick succession. Obviously, the gyrocopter came first - it can fly! but this lone dwarf wasn't too far behind. He was discovered during a tidy up operation. I thought he was long lost so was very excited to find he had been hiding in a shoe box among some other bits. He was a bit dusty and looking a bit shabby, so he went straight into a tub for a biostrip bath, emerging an hour later as good as new.

The model is from around 1992, a Marauder dwarf with the catchy name of MM15/50. These old sculpts are really nice, they are so simple to paint and yet have bags of character. It was so quick to paint, I even had time to practise a kilt pattern. I usually paint a handful of figures together, but this time I just went with the flow and painted him alone over three sessions when I had a spare half hour or so. Tuomas Tuomasson the crag walker joins the throng of Oakenheim.

And here is Tuomas with his comrades in arms. Of course there are seven of them!

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.

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