Sunday, 31 January 2016

Slannuary! / First Miniatures Month!

So, back at the end of December there was some discussion on the Oldhammer Community fb page about what the theme for January should be (building on the success and popularity of Deadcember and the more established Orctober). A couple of suggestions came forward that seemed to stick – Slannuary and Slaanuary – one being concerned with the anthropomorphic frogs of Oldhammer fame the Slann, and their allies such as Pygmies from WFB3, or the Lizardmen that became prevalent in WFB4/5, and the other being concerned with the androgynous, gender bending, kinks, freaks and pervs that worship the Prince/ss of Pleasure him/herself, your friend and mine, our lord and master, Slaanesh!

Of these two themes I’ve seen a fair few Slaaneshi minis being posted, although not explicitly as part of Slaanuary. I’m not sure I’ve seen any Slann or their allies posted for Slannuary… but that doesn’t matter in the slightest, because it seems like another theme has taken hold stemming from discussions on the Oldhammer forum itself, and/or a few leading Oldhammer blogs, and that is First Miniatures Month!

There have been some great posts about what people’s first ever miniatures were, and what happened to them, and as a theme it is right on the money in terms of what seems to attract so many of us to the Oldhammer Community.

I’m lucky enough to still have a very small number of my first RTB01 Space Marines, although they have since been re-painted and are difficult to track in amongst my various squads of Veteran Fire Angels and Chaos Renegades. I’ve also still got my original WFB4 box set, which I now realise must have been a very early purchase even if most of my efforts at the time went into collecting WH40k models, and then losing them again.

So, I decided to combine two of these themes with a slow burning project I have been working on since I picked up my paints again last summer, which is to go back and finish painting the small fantasy regiments that I’d bought in the mid to late 90s. I can’t remember what the exact motivation was to buy several of the small plastic regiments boxes, specifically ones that did not fit with my existing High Elf army – I suspect it was a combination of wanting some allies, some additional bad guys that might form the basis of a small ‘axis of evil’ type force, and the notion of using them in role play games of various descriptions. Whatever the reason, they were purchased but I didn’t have much motivation to paint them myself. I was more bothered about getting my regiments of High Elves finished, so one Summer day circa. 1995/6 when my mates were all hanging around my house underage drinking and smoking as usual, we decided to break out the paints and shared round the minis to anyone who was interested.

AVP Shaun's Braveheart Elves - the photo is deliberatley blurred to simulate Shauns vision the day he painted them.
AVP Shaun was probably the most established painter there that day, and my memory is that he knocked out 5 out of 8 Braveheart elves to a basic gaming standard just that afternoon, almost certainly whilst pissed on cider. I remember going back to them a few months later and finishing them off in the same style, or as close to it as possible, as I wanted to have a small unit of Wood Elf allies and his set of models were the closest to being finished. Clarkeemon, maker and breaker of RPG campaigns extraordinaire!, settled on some big hatted Chaos Dorfs. His style was fair less accurate than some of the others, but he was also one of the more naturally artistic among us, and without a background in Warhammer figure painting to curtail him he just went for it in his own way and came up with something that looked really effective and more individualistic whilst still keeping them looking like a regiment. I think he came back the next day to carry on working on them as he managed to finish, or half finish, about half of them.

Clarkeemon's Big Hatted Chaos Dorfs - sans tobacco-flock.

When I came back to these some 20 years later in the autumn of last year, around the same time I was mass painting 3rd and 4th Editon Goblins and wanted a break but to still produce something that would potentially be useful as an ally force, I found it much easier to figure out what Clarkeemon had been up to. Inks! Inks mixed and muddied with each other, and in some places curdled in with the still drying paint. Inks over undercoat or even barely primed grey plastic in some cases, and yet it somehow worked overall to create a believable coal smoked smeared Chaos Dwarf to basic gaming standard. I won't thank him for the innovation of using tobacco stuck to the base with green paint as an alternative to flock, but despite that particular unpleasant experiment they were probably the best models produced on the day. Bar one...

Mole was another genuine arty type, it was his best subject at school and he also approached miniature painting in a different way to what I used to. He had picked a Lizard Man Saurus and stated quite clearly from the outset that he wanted to produce a slick and shiny, frog like skin texture. This he did by mixing various shades of green and much smaller amounts of blue, thinning them down with water and applying multiple layers of each, and then going back over with Ork Flesh Wash. He certainly achieved the shiny looking skin he was after and although I always felt it lost some of the definition of the skin pattering in the model under so may layers I've always liked the effect. He chose a striking red and blue combination for the loin cloth and wrist band details, and finished with gold jewelry. The bone pick weapon he carefully shaded with flesh wash over Bleached Bone, again for a realistic look. Looking back now it was still a very basic paint job (although I hasten to add my own painting skills have only recently caught up!), but what blew me away was the way Mole had never painted a model before, but stated so clearly what he was going to do before he even picked up a brush and then just did it with such a lack of fear of failure. I realised then that my paranoia about ruining models with bad paint jobs like I had when I was 12 was leading me to ruin models with bad paint jobs on a regular basis as I was not really willing to go any further than base colours and occasional dry brushing. It is a lesson I have come back to when re-examining Mole's painted Lizard Man and finsihing off the other 7 of his brood brothers.

Mole's shiny-frog Lizardman can be seen on the right of the picture - the others have just had their base coat, first dry brush and ink.
I decided not to emulate the shiny Frog look, but keep all the rest of the colour scheme, including trying to work some blue into the base green colour for the scales. I brought these up with more acidic tones of Striking Scorpion Green and Bad Moon Yellow before bringing it back down and reintroducing the tones from the base colour with blue ink, then building them up ag... ah you know how this works.

Claiban Green Base, Striking Scorpion Green dry brush, Blue Tone ink wash
The skin has had the second dry brush and details are being added
Detail of the three different finishes on the weapons
I enjoyed the variation of the weapons in this set of models and the shield designs were good fun and aid the basically skilled painter in a reasonable hurry (i.e. Me). I copied Mole's colour scheme for the bone pick and used the same method to paint the gilded blades of the axes and sickles as I did for the shields (Snake Bite Leather base coat and then a healthy going over with almost completely deceased Shining Gold from one of those pots with the awful black flip lids - I've bought myself some new stuff now), but then went for an obsidian look (Chaos Black with Shadow Grew highlights) for the other picks which had a flint or other stone like appearance to me, and I'm pleased with how they turned out.

The finished unit - it felt really good to complete something that was started nearly 20 years ago!

Lizardmen Occupy the Temple of the Great God Polo y Styrene (God of chicken and poor quality modelling materials)
This temple is like a 1960s Dr Who set - you can literally see the damaged polystyrene backdrop and nobody gives a shit.
Going back and painting these models, and the Chaos Dorfs from late last year, and the Empire Halbediers that will feature in another post, has been a really satisfying experience. Both as a vindication of my policy of not getting rid of my old models through all the years when I wasn't playing Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and not really using minis in my D&D games, and my promise that I would one day finish off painting the regiments that people started that day, in the styles that they had chosen. But it was ore than that. I was surprised how vividly I could remember bits of that day some 20 years ago. The memories that were conjured up of this strange moment where a bunch of fairly well rounded and mischievious 16 year olds all sat pretty quietly with the stereo on for the afternoon and painted models brought a real smile to my face, and I can't wait to use those units in battle against AVP Shaun's newly painted and steadily growing Undead army soon!

Big hatted Chaos Dorfs occupy the Lizardman Temple
I know the Big Hats are contraversial, but I've always found the Muscovite look interesting. I think they work well as grumpy looking guards.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Quest completed... or have I been cheated?

I've just bagged myself an MB7 Marauder Giant from e-bay!

I've been after one of these seriously for the last few months. It was a model I loved and admired throughout my teenaged years of warhammer collecting and playing, but sort of forgot about as my group of friends only really persisted with WH40k.

I never thought I'd own one.

But then one of my sort of not quite new years Oldhammer resolutions is to stop buying junk lots of e-bay and go for some quality merchandise, and my Orc and Gobbo Army is coming along in collecting terms and already has a number of feature items (Marauder Orc Shaman on Wyvern WIP and Grenadier Orc General's Wolf Chariot in the Dettol as I type), but a Marauder Giant would both act as THE showstopper for the Greenskin armies, prove a formiddable PC killer in my D&D campaign, and fulfill the criteria of being a choice Oldhammer collectors item, if not of the first rank, still a serious piece of lead.

I won this one for slightly less than I have bid previously and lost out, but probably slightly more than the standard going rate. I should be happy right?


I'm now really worried it's a recast.

There are a couple of things that are not quite right when I take a really good look at the picture - the detailing is a lightly soft in places, and there seems to be a little flash left in places there probably shouldn't be - not super obvious from the photo at first glance. It is also possible that some of the pieces that should be seperate have actually been recast while still glued together. And I have some other concersn that it would not be right to share at this point, because I may be a paranoid lune....

.... we shall have to wait and see, as I have paid for the beast and I await with trepidaton whether I have been a fool, or whether one of my Oldhammer quests for 2016 has been completed already!?

Friday, 1 January 2016

2015 Round up and 2016 Oldhammer Ambitions

Lots of people in the Oldhammer Community have been posting round ups of their (in many cases prodigious and high quality) output for the year. Frankly these have been intimidating. I only started painting again over the summer, and only joined the Oldhammer Community in the autumn, so my output has been minimal and of very poor quality in comparison. I've shared some of my recent work here in my post on Deadcember, and my major accomplishment the Marauder Wyvern (currently sans Azhag the Slaughterer) has been seen on the Oldhammer fb page. However, as my output is still primarily driven by my D&D campaign, and some of my players read this blog, I am hampered in how much I can share before the finished minis make their dungeoneering debut without creating spoilers. That will likely change as my painting for WHFB games, and my planned Rogue Quest project, pick up in the next few weeks, and some of my D&D related work is going to be featured here on the blog.

So then, my 2015 'Oldhammer' round up is one of significant moments rather than painted models. Here are my top 5 Oldhammer related moments of 2015:

1. Starting an 80s style AD&D campaign (using original Mystara source material and maps) bringing together both old gaming friends and new gaming friends, has without doubt been the highlight of my year and not just in gaming terms (I can say that, as my wife did not give birth to any children this year). Strangely, it is also what brought me back to painting and collecting Oldhammer style minitaures in earnest. Even though we have since updated the rule set we are using from AD&D 2nd Edition to D&D 3.0 (after 16 years of heel dragging), this campaign has very strong Oldhammer-esque themes running through it, not least in the the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay inspired focus on career progression.

2. Playing HeroQuest (or a version thereof) with my three year old son, and having him ask to play again the next weekend. Some of you will have seen my post about it, and I have another post or two planned as we have carried on playing every couple of weeks or so. His Orc Treasure Hunter has since won races against monsters, hidden from skeletons using his watery illusion magic, used his toolkit to open doors and treasure chests, and shared his chocolate coins with a friendly neighbourhood goblin. And he loves his old mum., so lways brings her a present from the dungeon.

3. Recognising the therapeutic value to be had in painting and modelling again, and bringing my kit in from the garage to set up a permanent painting station in my (tiny!) office/nerd cave. It has been a really rough year for a number of reasons and finding a creative outlet in painting and modelling (and indeed blogging and engaging with the Oldhammer Community in general) has been really importnat in helping me get through it. My wife has been incredibly supportive in this, especially given how much money I've blown on old lead since the summer!

4. Playing my first game of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 4th Edition (the version I grew up with) for nearly 20 years! We started small as I needed a major refresh, and my oponent had only ever played Warhammer 40K before, but it proved to be hugely enjoyable and very much playable in the Oldhammer spirit. Playing with 99% painted forces was also really satisfying and has spurred me on to increase my output to fuel what is hopefully going to develop into a campaign. You can read the first battle report on this blog.

5. Surprising my D&D players with a fully painted Wyvern at the climactic scene of the adventure. This was a brilliant moment for me as a DM and as a painter. The wyvern had already been a feature in the campaign, but no mini had been available. When one popped up on OTC I snapped it up and immediately got to work painting it. This was at a time when I'd given myself quite a few other deadlines in relation to the D&D campaign, so it proved a challenge, but also served as great motivation. The looks on their faces when I placed the finished model on the table made all the money and time spent worth it ten times over.

Other highlights include: a fellow Oldhammerer deciding to send me a model I was after as a freebie when I was having a rough time, we eventually settled on a trade but his generosity of spirit was hugely appreciated; acquiring WHFB 3rd Edition, Warhammer Siege, and Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness in good condition hardbacks for no more than the going rate (so stupidly expensive, but hey); acquiring the last models for my long planned High Elf army at really good prices; finally getting round to selling some models, even if there are loads more to go; buying 28 kilos of rule books for £7.50.... plus £25 p&p but still, 28 kilos!!!

When it comes to the new year, my Oldhammer realted hopes for 2016 are a mixture of ambitions and resolutions:

1. Finish painting my Caledor themed High Elf army. Now that I've got all the models I planned on owning for my High Elf army between first getting the 4th Edition box set back in 1992 and by the time I stopped playing (though not collecting) WHFB a few years later I can consider this army 'complete' - at least in collecting terms (although there may in time be a very limited number of additional purchases to round out unit sizes and add two additional sets of command figures this would not be essential). The next challenge is to have them all painted up. Seeing as they will be the main forces of good in the WHFB 4th Edition campaign AVP Shaun and I are hoping to play, I'll hopefully have some motivation.

2. Start work on my Rogue Quest project. If you haven't seen or heard about Rogue Quest you should check out these three blogs, which is where I first came across the idea:

Magpie and Old Lead

The idea is to put together an adventuring party of 6 characters from the Rogue Trader universe that portray any of the classic D&D character classes: Fighter, Mage, Rogue, Cleric, Bard, Ranger, Paladin, or Barbarian. This is so up my street, and I've been really inspired by what I've seen on the three blogs that I have already identifed and collected three minis specifically for this project. I can't wait to get started on these in 2016!

3. Improve my basing technique. As mentioned in my Deadcember 2015 post I am habitually lazy and unskilled when it comes to basing my minis and rely on poorly executed painted bases 90% of the time. I intend to improve my basing technique in 2016, although it will be small steps at first as I'll be focussing on finishing armies where the majority of existing forces have plain painted bases. I've been really inspired by what people have been doing with bases for their Frostgrave warbands and as that is related to my 4th ambition, I hope it will prove to be a motivation too.

4. Collect, convert, and paint my first Frostgrave Warband. I've been really taken with the idea of a game half way between D&D and WHFB, that also lets you reuse/repurpose your existing mini collection, making a feature out of otherwise random odds and sods. This really appeals to my eclectic collecting and gaming ethos. I've already got a few minis in the lead pile ear marked as possible Wizards and Apprentices but I need to fully digest the rule book (which only arrived earlier this week) before committing any paint to lead just yet.

5. Sell or trade more minis, games, and rule books. My collecting kicked into high gear again at the end of last year, in line with my rekindled love of Oldhammer and while I generally loathe parting with any gaming related items (we all have stories of letting stuff go we now bitterly regret), I have always said that I would eventually sift through my ever expnading collecton and identify stuff I'd be happy to sell or trade that had been acquired through job lots and can't otherwise be absorbed into one army, faction, gang, or another. Joining the Oldhammer Trading Company gave me the prompt I needed and I have now successfully conducted my first sale and my first trade as well as buying loads more minis! Still, there were more job lots bought at the end of last year, so I need to get those ID'd and valued, and did I mention the 28 kilos of rule books?

So, do you have any highlights from 2015 or ambitions and resolutions for 2016 on a similar theme?

Deadcember 2015

December 2015 has been a horible month for me and my family. Infact it has been going on longer than that, starting with a trip to hospital for our youngest with what turned out to be a fractured leg, and two weeks in plaster to recover, followed by what seemed like endless bugs and viruses brought back by our plague carrying children from the giant petri dish that is their nursery. We've seen Hand, Foot, and Mouth (and no, that isn't the thing that cows get), tonsillitis (for both my wife and I), ear infections and perforated eardrums, suspected upper respriatory tract infections, tracheaitis (my wife again), and 6 weeks of post viral fatigue for all four of us. The extra workload and chronic lack of sleep have nearly killed me and my wife. We have truly been blessed by papa Nurgle this Christmas.

Appropriately then, one of the many uses I intend for the skeleton warriors (the last 8 to survive from the classic Skeleton Horde box set I was bought in 1991 - I had the Skeleton Army box too, but sadly only one partial skeletal horse remains, destined to be used as basing fodder at some point in the future) I chose to paint up for Oldhammer Deadcember will be as allies for an RoC Nurgle Warband (eventually). 

Here they are in undercoat of black and base coat of Citadel Bestial Brown for the bone. I've seen reasonable results from peopel who have undercoated in Bone colour and shaded and inked down, but I've seen much better results from those who have started dark and worked up, so that was definitley the approach I was going to take.

Eight Oldhammer Skeleton Warriors led by a Skeleton Champion

Primarily though, they are going to be used in my D&D campaign as much as they will in WHFB 4th and 3rd editions, and also now in Frostgrave after I bought myself the rules as a late Christmas present (more on that in a future post). It was with my D&D campaign in mind that I also started painting 3 likely lads from the 1991 Ral Partha AD&D Ravenloft Denizens box set. They are 25mm scale, but I don't mind mixing up the scales in my D&D games, as charater size is much more variable in D&D and different scale minis can actually help establish that, or can help distinguish between subtly different races like humans and half elves for example. Anyway, I have plans for all three of these guys, though not in their original guises as (from the left) Count Strahd Vin Zarovich, Azalin, and Lord Soth (who is typically in a strop and has turned his back on the camera), and was intending to use them as a study in how to paint black in a variety of different ways. This is still a work in progress as I've done very little more than think further about different approaches for the trhee models. I'll provide an update on these at some point.

Strahd, Azalin, and Soth - three worthy entrants for Deadcember if my painting schedule hadn't been so badly sabotaged by the Plague Lord.
As I mentioned, I wanted to start with a dark base, build up the highlight nad then take it right back down again with inks and washes, before coming back up to the final bone colour. After the Bestial Brown I jumped straight to Bleached Bone. I'm sure others more expert than I would have gone for a more gradiated approach, but I was both pressed for time and wanted quite a stark contrast between light and shadow for the next stage.

Two skeletons with base coat and first highlight, waiting for inks. Note the 4th Edition High Elf Silverhelm Knights lurking in the back ground, hoping to be ready in time for the next week night WHFB battle with AVP Shaun.
I used Army Painter inks, or tones as they call them, for the next stage. First a wash of Strong Tone (dark brown) on all exposed bone and recesses, then once that had dried properly I used Green Tone (mid green), focussing on the exposed bone work to give a feeling of verdigris to the bones for that 'just crawled out of the grave' look that is de rigueur for Deadcember. I then dry brushed in bleached bone, and went back with some simple highlights in the same colour. Once the skeletons themselves were largely done I brought the rest of the models up to base colours only - bestial brown for all wood and leather, chainmail for all metal, then washed all of those areas with Dark Tone (watered down black ink). I also gave the bases a thick coat of Citadel Shadow Grey (more on bases below).

Skeleton champion from the iconic Nightmare Legion - a recent acquisiton via a fellow Oldhammerer. Sadly I don't own any of the rest of this Regiment of Renown, they are on my shopping list along with a hundred other things though.
The champion received more attention, as he has far more detail, but the process was exactly the same. I've seen several people use various purples to great effect on their undead recently, but I had a strong idea about the spot colour I wanted to use for these models, and the champion's cape would be the focal point for this. However, the Hawk Turquoise I wanted to use as a base was in one of the mid-late 2000s pots (black hard plastic flip lid, not as bad as the hex screw caps from a few years before, but still rubbish) so the paint had dried up. Luckily I was able to rescue it with some water and a cocktail stick. I think the cold blue green gives a real sense of cold etherealness.
A better view of the cloak and the resurrected Hawk Turquoise spot colour on the Champion.
I brought the colour down with citadel armour wash (the stage shown in the picture above), then added highlights again with the base colour. I thought about going lighter, but decided that would probably not work with the overall dingy look I was going for, so I stopped there.
The unit assembled. Annoyingly, with 9 minis they dont really form up well into a unit at the moment. I'll look to add a standard bearer, musician, and additional warrior to make the unit two ranks of six in time.
A note on bases. This is a lasting area of weakness/laziness in my modelling and for the most part I only ever paint my bases in a base colour to show consistency within a unit or force. I am sadly new to the old adage of 'bases and faces' - previoulsy happy only to achieve a fully covered model. Bases are something I plan to work on in 2016, but for now I've been sticking to painted bases. I have developed a few staples in this regard however, and the grey flag stone is one I find really useful as nearly all of my models have to do at least double duty in Warhammer and Dungeons and Dragons. Now that Frostgrave also has to be considered (especially for undead) it becomes a very utilitarian option, but also one that I won't hesitate to cover over at some point in the future if the notion strikes me. So, over the base coat of Shadow Grey I paint some very shaky lines in a rough flagstone pattern. Each one is done seperately without any attempt for them to line up, that would just be a pain in the arse if you felt they had to be lined up in a particular way. Then comes a generous wash of black ink to blend the two previous elements and give a dirty dungeon floor look. It won't win any prizes, but it serves a multitude of purposes, and helps keep the overall cold look I was hoping for.
A close up of the Champion. Note the amazing attention to detail in the sculpt - the belt buckle not only has a pin, but the belt itself has tiny little holes. Incredible!

Close up of the back of the champion to show detail of the tattered cape, the poor lighting washes out some of the colour though.
  Here you can see the highlights to the Champion's cape, and the detail at the back.

The champion with two undead cronies. The skeletal cat is a newish sculpt from Darksword Miniatures in the states. The little fella on the right is (I have assumed) pre-slotta citadel of some description, has a bit of a LOTR feel to it.
The other two minis in the picture above have been included to show how even the very simple basing can help pull them all together, and to show the difference between the alternative of a lighter base colour and brown ink wash on the skeletal cat (which looks mummified in comparison) and the method used on the skelton warriors. The pre-slotta model on the right shows my first ever attempt at Object Sourced Lighting (OSL) - very basic, and this photo does it no favours, but it is remarkably effective and something I'll be experimenting with further. Both of these little critters have futures in D&D and Frostgrave!

The warriors formed up into ranks.
It was only when I looked at this photo that I realised I'd made a mess of the right eye of the spear wielding skeleton on the far left. Doh! I've also noticed the bone hilt of the Champion's falchion needs a bleached bone highlight, which I'l have to sort out ASAP or I'l forget. I used the spot colour of Hawk Turquoise in the eye socket, followed with a point of Elf Grey (still not wanting to have any bright white on the finsihed model) in the, ahem, centre. I'll be honest and say that I regret this as I prefered how they looked with dark empty sockets before I added this step. However, it does tie them in with the Champion, and on a couple of them it worked out pretty well. The other option would have been to use the spot colour on the rims of the shields, but I felt this wouldn't really work for all there future purposes (altghough would be great for WHFB).

What are you looking at?
While we are talking about shields, one of them is missing his. At least half of these guys had the shields with spiky boss already welded to their arms. I had to scramble a few more together, and before the Nightmare Legion Chapion arrived I was planning to make one of them the unit leader with my last remaining Undead Cavalry shield and a very rough attempt at a freehand lightning strike design. The least said about that the better. I need to reread Orlygg's excellent tutorial another few dozen times. Anyway, once the boss had arrived it made more sense to leave one off and hope a matching shield turns up.

Oldhammer Skeleton Warriors and Champion
This was my first time participating in one of the Oldhammer Community's theme months and I've really enjoyed it. Orctober came a little too early for me, even though I was painting Orcs at the time, I wasn't blogging yet. I've made sure to use the motivation to finish something I'd been thinking about, and will be useful, but would not otherwise get painted. I've already got similar plans for Slannuary!

Mixed undead group shot

Many thanks for visiting. If anyone can help identify the little wraith chap then please leave a comment!