Thursday, 24 April 2014

Love/Hate Relationship

I'm sure the work of Jeff Vader must be familiar to many already, but it's always worth a look:

Were it not for the fact that Jeff is a great guy and a talented artist, I'd hate him. His kitbashing is incredible, and I'm not even going to compare our painting standards.

That said, Jeff's Inquisitor conversions led me to attempt not only my own Inquisitorial force, but also to dabble with 'true-scale' power armour. This gets back to the GW fluff that says Marines are huge compared to a normal man, and away from the models where everyone of the same rank is the same height!

This motley crew are my inquisitorial gang. All of them are converted from GW plastics, and were built over the course of a few months with bits and bobs as inspiration struck. They are most definitely not built with any system in mind!

Left to Right: the Inquisitor, the Scout, the Paladin, the Runt, the Abbot, the Gladiator, and the Gunner.

The Inquisitor, is the true-scale one, and is built using GW Terminator and regular Marine parts. The amount of green-stuffing alone made this the most time-intensive and difficult conversion, while the Runt is simply a Warhammer Ghoul head on a 40K Grot body. The fit was so perfect no other work was needed. I think my favourite, however, is the Gunner (better seen in the close-up, left). Again, a simple piece: a Marine Scout with Heavy Bolter, a Catachan command head and an Ork 'shoota' barrel replacing the original. A simple, but effective heavy stubber. 

My other Inquisitorial gang is the complete opposite of this one. With one exception (the Deacon), all these are stock GW models, though the Missionary did receive a bit of a re-sculpt in the form of a green-stuff hood and back to cover up the socket and flat area where his backpack would have gone.

The Guards are simply Cadian infantry (from the snap-fit box, rather than the proper kit), and the Zealots are Necromunda Cawdors. The Missionary is just that: a Sisters of Battle (or whatever they're called now) Missionary (or whatever they're called now). I love the Cawdor models, especially these two shotgunners, and I'm glad that I finally have a use for them! It's worth noting that all the lasgun barrels have been sawn off into more compact, carbine-style pieces. A minor change, but I much prefer the sleek look it gives the weapon.

The Deacon uses Marine Scout, Empire General, Dark Angel and Cadian Command bits. This is by far one of my favourite GW heads, and currently I'm looking for another to use in another D&D Duergar conversion (so if any kind reader has one going spare...). Eyepatch, grizzled beard, bald. The epitome of a veteran soldier.

Similarly, the Missionary is one of the most characterful models GW has ever done. The eyepatch, bionic arm, reliquary and plasma gun really tells the character's story as a long-serving, dedicated servant of the Ecclesiarchy.

As you will have noticed, I like eyepatches.

Monday, 21 April 2014

An excercise in compromise

When I first made the Usurper, I decided that it would have some firepower in the form of a bolt-thrower or ballista or something. I duly snaffled a couple of Roman scorpions from Warlord Games... and then broke a key part of one of them.

So, with a solitary scorpion and a set of rules that requires 6 figures per unit, I was a little stumped. My initial plan had been to represent the scorpions as a unit of Crossbowmen – two machines and four crew, making a small battery. Due to my clumsiness, that was no longer an option. Happily, the Gripping Beast Arabs provided me with plenty of good crew figures, but I didn't really want 5 crew for a single war machine!

I was looking over the scorpion sprue when a realisation struck – the number of figures in a unit are merely a representation of that unit's combat functionality, so all I needed to represent would be elements crucial to the operation of the device. Off the sprue came two quivers of spare ammo, and all of a sudden I had a semi-vignette that would serve as a plausible unit.

The shields were a late addition as the crew looked a little bare without them, and Pavises are an optional upgrade for a unit of Crossbowmen, so I thought it made sense to model them right off the bat in case I want to use them in a later game.

Painting has just started, but I'm pretty chuffed, and the unit will look great once I get everything in a movement tray.

Umbar goes to war

...well, some of them anyway.The Umbar crew is up and running, with the unit of Marines and Bûltungin the Mûmakani (the latter still, alas missing his Savannah Warg companions) all painted and awaiting a spot of clear weather to be varnished.

Despite having converted Bûltungin before The Renaissance Troll did his, I was beaten to the punch on painting (not surprising, really). Happily, I went with a more Masai-influenced palette, and kept the warpaint/scarring to a minimum, so there's going to be a pretty complimentary couple of Mûmakani/Mahud running about the place. He was painted using exactly the same painting style as I employ for all my models, albeit with a darker base skin tone – all I changed was which Army Painter tone I used: "Soft" is my default on for most models, for this one I switched up to "Strong". I'm very happy with the results.

I didn't enjoy painting these Marines, so I'm glad they're done. The Mongol shields I used look great, but are a nightmare to paint. I'm not a fan of painting then gluing, so these were affixed to the models pre-paint. Normally not a problem, but these shields are so concave that they took almost as long as the rest of the figures! Still, quite happy with the end result, and they've set the the colour scheme for the force as a whole.

The Marines are still a little squat for my liking and, depending on how they fit when all the other corsairs are done, they may get updated. In retrospect, I'd rather have them with pikes anyway, as that fits both the role I have in mind for them and the explanation for arming Maugor the troll-thing as I did.

Still, no doubt they'll get a run-out for a few games at least. Perhaps if they perform admirably I'll let them stay!

Oh Captain, My Captain

The only thing I pre-ordered for Salute was Gripping Beast's wonderful plastic Arabs. While I would have been content to simply use them as-is for my Umbar corsairs, I had high hopes that they would be compatible with my Fireforge plastics (another box bought at Salute, by the by) and, rightly so, they're a perfect fit! A couple of the Fireforge arms don't work with the Arab bodies intended to be used as archers, but nothing I can't work around.

Sunday morning, then, I put together these chaps as the basis of a Corsair unit for my Lion Rampant crew. They're a mix of Gripping Beast and Fireforge, mainly for test purposes, but as nothing went majorly wrong (the guy in the top left is nearly headbutting his spear shaft, but the high shield gives him the appearance of sheltering from arrows...) I think I'll stick with them.

In Lion Rampant terms, these are going to be Foot Yeomen. Pretty uninspiring infantry, but with a variety of options that make then suitable for a rag-tag pirate crew. As I'm planning on putting together a unit of archers further down the line, one option is to give them 'Mixed Weapons' that allow a combination of ranged and melee combat, albeit at the expense of melee toughness.

Of course, eagle-eyed readers will note that there are only 5 corsairs here, while all my previous ramblings have gone on about 6-figure units. Well, there's a very good reason for that, and he is...

Erentur, Captain of the Usurper
"He's a ruthless bastard, and there's nothing he likes best than pursuing his old grudge against Gondor. Still, for all his recklessness and rage, he's got a gift for picking out the prime targets, so if you can keep on what little good side he has, there's wealth aplenty for you."

Erentur ("Iron Ruler" in Quenya), is my second attempt at a captain model. I discarded the first as being too fantastical, and not in keeping with the more "historical" Middle Earth I envisage. This guy is a pretty standard Bretonnian build, with arms, body and head all coming from the Men-at-Arms kit. The cloak is Fireforge Templar, and the shield is Gripping Beast Arab. I'm avoiding armour as much as possible (except for my Marines) as it has no place being worn by fast-moving pirates! I went for something a little more Western as this guy is of Numenorean descent, and less influenced by Haradrim influences as are the rest of his crew.

In Lion Rampant, commanders are not treated as separate characters – while the do have certain unique skills and abilities, they are attached to a unit (so Erentur here will make the corsair unit above up to the required 6).

Monday, 7 April 2014

They Have A [something] Troll

I'm a great fan of including a large monster or similar model in armies, especially smaller, warband-size ones. Not only does a suitably impressive model make for a cool centre-piece (and arrow-magnet, if you're lucky), but it also breaks up the outline of the army and gives it (to my mind, at least) a much more pleasing aesthetic. I've had Shaolin gangs with yeti, Sinbad gangs with djinn, even a VSF Mexican army with Cabrakan!

It comes, therefore, as no surprise that I felt the urge to include something... chunky in the crew of the Usurper.

The obvious choice was a troll of some kind – definitely in keeping with the (still nominally) Tolkien stylings of the force – but my ship simply isn't large enough to accommodate a full-size troll! I thought then of the half-trolls and troll-men that Tolkien mentions at the Pelennor Fields, but wasn't overly keen on the official GW models. I considered doing something with one of the Abrakhan Guard figures, but while they're chunky, they're more fat than tall. So, I did what I always do when faced with a need like this: looked to plastic pre-paints!

While pre-paints are usually pretty rubbish, many of the larger models have great potential – all they need is a bit of cleaning and a neater paint-job.

I found this chap in the D&D Dungeon Command range, and picked him up for a couple of quid. His paint-job was all over the place (literally – a good centimetre off in parts), and his right arm was a discernible distance from his torso, but, by and large, not bad for the money.

First thing I did was slice him off his base. Some pre-paints have a foot peg, others are just glued on. This guy was the latter, and I haven't quite got the measure of my new scalpel, so he lost a couple of toes. Whoops.

Next, I clipped off the axe as it was too cartoony, and I wanted something a little more in keeping with the rest of the force. Cue a spot of drilling and the insertion of a boarding pike. The pike is a little on the weedy side compared to the big guy, but I quite like what it says about him: it's a human-sized pike that he's wielding in one hand, so he's clearly strong, and armed with something the crew has lying around, but it's something other than a huge bludgeon, which suggests some kind of intelligence and ability – much more compelling than the bestial trolls of the LOTR movies, and much more in keeping with the troll-man schtick I was after.

Finally, the green-stuffing – rejoining his arm and torso and filling in a small crack on the back of his knee. I took advantage of the spare green stuff to place a small blob under each foot before supergluing him to the new base. I'm told this gives a rock-solid bond, which is useful given the relatively top-heavy model. I did the same for a small rock I pulled out of the garden. A little larger than I was initially after, but it had a mostly flat bottom, which was too convenient to overlook!

Here, then, is the big guy for my Corsair crew. He's currently unnamed (suggestions?), though I'm considering Maugor – 'tough warrior' in the Black Speech. He stands twice as tall as a man, so he might actually be a full-fledged troll, rather than a half-troll. Still, he's big and will fit in with the rest of my crew, which is all I really care about.

In Lion Rampant terms, I'll be fielding this guy on his own as a full unit of Fierce Foot – fast, unpredictable, aggressive. Disco.