Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Viva Tezcatlipoca! Viva Mexico!

After the fiasco with my lovingly done Greyjoys the other week, I was a little down on wargaming, and decided that what I needed was something that would perk me up and remind me how enjoyable painting is!

So, I rummaged through the file boxes into which I had placed all my models following our office move, and dug out the largest army I have ever completed - my VSF Mexicans.

I painted these guys about 5 years ago, for the simple reason that I like Mexican history, love the Wargames Foundry 'South of the Border' range, and I wanted to. They've never taken the field, though the release of The Men Who Would Be Kings may well change that (though Dragon Rampant would probably be more sensible).

Two units of Infantry.

One unit of Peons.
One unit of elite San Patricios. These guys are also Foundry figures, but from the later Mexican Adventure range, so they're a good bit bigger than the Mexican troops. Clearly strapping sons of Erin, one and all.
One unit of Apache scouts.
One unit of Cavalry. Perry Miniatures (ACW plastics), put to good use!
One Cannon. Both crewmen are converted from Foundry Peons - one is clutching a telescope, while the other has a sponge/rammer made from brass rod and green stuff.
One Siege Mortar. Completely unnecessary for a field force, but I really wanted the model! The shells are ball bearings that fit the gun barrel perfectly. One of the crew is converted with another sponge/rammer, and is displaying far more arm strength than common sense!
One Command Squad. Colonel, standards, and musicians. The standard bearer with the Tezcatlipoca banner (which I really wish I'd taken a better picture of) and the drummer (I think) are Crusader ACW miniatures.

At this point, history takes a decided back seat, and the weirdness creeps in. Rather than go full-on steampunk for my army, with mechs and walkers and whatnot, I decided to skew towards Deadlands and throw Aztec/Mayan mythology into the mix, with a blatant disregard for cultural distinctions and consistency. If it was cool, it was in.

One unit of Spawn of Cipactli. Sounds very Cthulhu-esque, and not unreasonably so. Cipactli could well be Cthulhu by any other name. No idea where I got these little critters from!
Two Balam. Jaguar demons. I think these are D&D prepaints.
One Son of Cabrakan. Because every weird army needs a 'big guy'. This one (clearly) descended from the Mayan god Cabrakan. Another D&D prepaint.
One Coatl. Because you can't have an Aztec-themed army without one! Yet another D&D prepaint. I was worried that the red and blue feathers (done to tie it more to the colour scheme of the human troops) would end up looking daft, but I'm kind of fond of it.
The real commanders! A random collection of Aztec minis. The priest can be removed from the sacrifice vignette base to act as an independent character if desired.
The full army in all its glory.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Angry Kraken

Angry Kraken is angry.
Now, I know about GW's Purity Seal, and its propensity to frost on miniatures if the temperature is too high. Or too low. Or if the humidity is too high. Or if the spray is too far from the miniatures. Or too low. Or if it's high tide. Or if it's the year after one in which the World Series was won in a National League stadium...

Because it's easy and convenient to get hold of, I choose to run these risks. I've run afoul of it in the past, but only once to the point where a model is unusable. Not bad for more than a decade of using it. Generally, a second light spray fixes it; in extreme cases, a small amount of touching up is required. Or so I thought...

Left: A Greyjoy. Right: A Grey Greyjoy.
Having finished the second half of my first Greyjoy unit, I gave it the usual light spray of Purity Seal. This time, however, I was less than amused to discover that, rather than providing the satin varnish it is supposed to, or even frosting in the familiar manner, it coated the six figures in a light grey shade.

Anyway. The Greyjoy project is on hold until I get some motivation to repaint these guys, or (as I suspect is more likely) build six new models. In the meantime, I'm open to suggestions for alternate varnishes. I've heard good things about Testors Dullcote and mixed things about Vallejo varnishes of various types.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Greyjoys: A Start

Well, I've been putting it off for long enough. I'm a big fan of Game of Thrones, and the armies being shown off by various people over at the Lead Adventure forum are inspiring as all hell. So, with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that, I've thrown my cap into the ring and started a Greyjoy force for Dragon Rampant.

I've been a Greyjoy fan from the start, and while I like the role the Boltons have played, I couldn't envisage painting dozens of freehand flayed men on shield and banners. Of course, painting freehand kraken isn't that much easier, but I figured it was a lot more open to interpretation! My freehand has never been great, to say the least, and I very nearly gave up on this project in the early stages, but I'm glad I stayed the course.

What I don't like about the Greyjoys is the frequent interpretation of them as Westeros' Vikings. They're a great house, albeit one with a powerful navy and a history of raiding. While the parallels with the Vikings are there, I wanted to make them a bit more modern, and so nabbed Perry Agincourt plastics as the basis for most of the kitbashes. I figured that if most armies (Tyrells, Lannisters etc.) were at the Wars of the Roses level in terms of armour and tactics, rolling back a few years for the Greyjoys would be in keeping. They're a little isolated, and perhaps generally a bit off-the-pace in terms of modern arms and armour, but they're warriors, and will have paid the iron price for kit from other houses, so I've thrown in some elements from the Perry WOTR sets as well. I did briefly consider using Frostgrave Soldiers for the bodies, to give a wrapped-up look more in keeping with the TV show, but in the end I wanted armour - these Ironborn aren't scared of drowning!

While I knew most of my force would be Raiders (Offensive Light Foot), I did want a core of solid, dependable infantry, so mustered the Pyke Guard (Heavy Foot) to fill that role. They're the aforementioned mix of Perry plastics, with wire spears and Fireforge shields (which also helps give them a slightly less fantastical look). These are the first six of the eventual twelve-man unit.

I'm especially pleased with the kraken shields, though they do look much better on the tabletop than up close. I decided to give everyone a different design, for fun as much as anything else, but I am fond of the unique-but-uniform feel it brings to the unit.

All told, I got the whole demi-unit done in little over a week, from basecoat to varnish. Next up, the remaining six Pyke Guard, a unit of six Drowned Men, and the first of my big units of Raiders.

As it stands, I'm looking to build the following, to give me some options for the force:

  • 1x unit of 12 Pyke Guard (Heavy Foot)
  • 2x units of 12 Greyjoy Raiders (Offensive Light Foot)
  • 1x unit of 12 Archers (Light Missiles OR 2x units of 6 Scouts (Scouts)
  • 1x unit of 6 Drowned Men (Bellicose Foot)
  • 1x unit of 6 Outriders (Light Riders)
  • 1x unit of 3 Greyjoy Commanders (Elite Foot)

The Scouts are more thematic than the Archers, but the figure content is identical, so I'll pick and choose as I like there. The Outriders are an inclusion by which I'm not fully convinced, but I do like the idea of a couple of horses being brought on a raid to allow for rapid scouting... and a couple of very light mounted raiders will just look good!

The Greyjoy Commanders will, when I'm not using them as a single command element, represent the three leaders of my force: Balon to oversee the Pyke Guard and command the whole force, Victarion to head up the Raiders and lead from the front, and Asha/Yara to command the scouting force. Of these, Victarion is done and awaiting paint, and I've got a definite plan in mind for Balon. Not sure what to do for Asha/Yara just yet...

The Pyke Six

Monday, 13 June 2016

Overdue Minis!

My productivity when it comes to figures swings massively. I'm generally always up for kitbashing, as I find it by far the most entertaining, rewarding, and therapeutic part of the hobby. Painting? Not so much. I'm not a great painter, and while I like my style for the tabletop, it never seems to do justice to (what I reckon) are good conversions!

Anyway, here are a couple of overdue minis that I painted recently...

A really simple conversion, this is a Frostgrave cultist body with Frostgrave soldier head and arms. I simply cut away the two-handed axe originally being held, and replaced it with a length of brass rod that I happened to find knocking around the bottom of my tool box. Twenty seconds of drilling, and voila! One monk for D&D or Frostgrave adventuring.

Annoyingly, while I went for a ridiculously simple paint-job, the spray varnish I used gave it all a light white misting. I fixed a lot of it, but it's still spoiled the figure for me a little. Still, this actually represents the first model I've made using the official Frostgrave plastics - something long overdue!

Next up is a more involved conversion, and one I'm really pleased with...

I'm a big fan of Tre Manor's Red Box miniatures, especially the Aenglish - I love how each figure is a character, regardless of whether they're a knight or a foot soldier, and each one looks properly equipped for a campaign or an adventure, with bedrolls, backpacks, spare equipment etc. This chap, then, is my homage to that. He started off as a vague concept for a D&D cleric, and kind of evolved from there.

I knew I wanted the pseudo-Medieval look of the Red Box stuff, and had settled upon a mace (natch) and shield combo early on. First stop was the Bretonnian Men-at-Arms box, which has served me so well in the past. I wanted slightly more clerical legs, though, so nabbed some of the trench-coated legs from the Cadian command sprue. Removing the legs from the torso, and filing down the top of the Cadian legs, I ended up with something that seemed proportionate, and then went to town with polystyrene cement, filling the gap and covering it over with baggage (Flagellant hammer, Frostgrave backpack as a belt-tied knapsack, and my favourite trick - a de-headed Fireforge helmet). His head is a Frostgrave cultist with the pointy hood filed down to something a little less dramatic (I almost used the same head as for the monk above, but I loved the haughtiness of this guy's expression).

I painted the guy up to match the knight I did a while back - coming from the same range, the costumes complement each other nicely, and I'm definitely putting the pair up in my 'favourite kitbashes' list, so it makes sense. They can be a dishonoured Knight of the Vale and his squire, and will also be gracing my Frostgrave warband.

Unfortunately, the knapsack turned out very brown. I mean, I painted it brown, but post-varnish it blends into the robes a lot more than I would have liked. It's not a huge bugbear, but I was so happy with the model that the paint-job does annoy me a little... Ho hum.

I enjoyed this pair so much I've recently completed a third member of their little crew, and will be painting him in due course. Chap No.3 was produced while waiting for the glue to dry on the opening shots in a project I've been meaning to get around to for a while...

Thursday, 9 June 2016

UK Games Expo Haul

UK Games Expo at the NEC last weekend (3-5 June) was a great show, and everyone on the Osprey stand put in a shift and a half! As a buying show, though, it was relatively quiet for me - I had no big plans or objectives, and so limited myself to cool little impulse buys.

First up, for a forthcoming project, this little doozy from Cosy Dice, who were right opposite our stand (talk about fortuitous!). A really nice dice bag from a couple of lovely people. I heartily recommend the company, especially if you have a custom job in mind.

This Kraken bag can be found here.

The best thing I found at the show, however, was something that had slipped under my radar - the anthropomorphic animal models from Oathsworn Miniatures. I found them on the Friday (I think - time stopped meaning much after the first couple of hours!), and picked up the rulebook for their game, Burrows & Badgers. It's essentially Redwall: The Wargame, and is great stuff! Badger mercenaries, dormouse sneak thieves, drunken weasels, fox crimelords... I read over the setting and the rules and fell in love with it.

Of course, having a nice range of models helps, and I went back on the Saturday to pick up a couple of choice figures... then sent a mate over on the Sunday to grab one more! They're adorable figures, and I'm looking to nab a load more once these are painted. Clearly, I need a badger to support the pug, weasel, and fox I have at the moment. And an otter. And probably a wildcat. And there's a brilliant bat necromancer...

Finally, and not miniatures-related in any way, is this t-shirt featuring the greatest Pokemon of all time: Gengar. Picked up from the very nice people at (and coming with a free art print of the image too!). I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for more of their stuff.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Good, The Bad and The Steampunk

A bit back (see here), I spoke about my first published work, Steampunk Soldiers: Uniforms & Weapons From the Age of Steam. It was pretty well-received, and a sequel was green-lit! Fast-forward a year or two, and the sequel, is now available (from all good bookshops and the Osprey website).

The sequel delves more deeply into America. It covers the Sioux and Apache wars, the lingering cold war between North and South, Canada's border skirmishes with the Union and Russian Alaska, and the Mexican-Confederate confrontation. Naturally, a look is also given to the non-military side of things - gunslingers, bounty hunters, and cowpokes.

This volume was a real labour of love, and I hope that enthusiasm shines through. Mark Stacey has done a bang-up job on the artwork as usual, and even thrown in a few familiar faces (I suspect he loves old Westerns as much as I do!).

Who knows - if this sequel goes well, we might see another...

Anyhow, here are a few of my favourite spreads (click to embiggen) from the book to whet your appetites, along with a little "director's commentary". Enjoy!

We had a Pinkerton in the first volume, but while that one represented the Presidential bodyguard, this one represents another aspect of the Agency (and its historical peers) - strikebreaking. John Sayles' Matewan is one of my favourite films, and inspired me to read more about the early American labour union movements. So, when I started out with the planning for this volume, I knew I wanted to pick up some elements from this rich history, and thus this rather seedy, past-his-prime gun thug was born. His face reminds me of a cross between Jonathan Pryce and Titus Welliver, which pleases me no end!

I can only thank my co-author, Joe, for putting up with me. Having agreed from the start that we were not going to muck around with geography (apart from the division of North and South), I almost immediately threw that out the window (sorry, Kansas City... pages 14-15), and then smashed the window with this one, establishing an independent nation right in the middle of the US. While he didn't complain too much at the time, I do think this artwork went a long way towards seeing me properly forgiven for it...
One thing we decided from the outset is that while hephaestium gave us license to introduce all kinds of bizarre technology, we wanted to keep it grounded in something resembling reality - less is more. So, while every artwork shows off some anachronistic element, there is a range from the outright unbelievable (pages 60-61, for example...) to the more subtle, such as this one here. A classic bandito, armed with a prototype flamethrower weapon alongside a more reliable (seriously - look at the holes burned through his sombrero - that flamethrower is a double-edged sword!) sawn-off shotgun.
Not all of the plates depict individual soldiers, mind you - there's a fair few that show off vehicles and equipment too. This is one of my favourites, and is really my steampunk homage to The War Wagon and the remake of 3:10 to Yuma - two westerns that I can happily watch over and over again. With art plates, the authors usually supply reference material from which the artist can work. For this one, Mark received a bundle of pretty random images - steam engines, trains, pillboxes, weaponry, period fonts, corporate logos, costumes, film stills... - and turned them into this beauty. Mark always does a good job of telling a story with his art - often even with a single figure (see the Pinkerton clutching his hip flask just as tightly as his shotgun), and the tone here is perfect - the motor idling while the drivers argue about directions and the gun crew take the opportunity to escape the searing heat of driving around in a metal box!