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.

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!
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