Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Stalk This Way

I'm a fan of the 'Eastern European Apocalypse' settings of video games such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and Metro 2033 (not to mention the Pripyat level in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - perhaps the single finest game level ever made!), and the original inspirations for them - Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic (set in Canada, mind you) and Dimitry Glukhovsky's Metro 2033 novels.

I do love the Lead Adventure minis designed for these kinds of settings, but I much prefer to work with plastic than with metal. So, when I was mucking around with some spare sprues recently, enjoying a bit of kitbashing for kitbashing's sake, I started slotting together some Warlord Bolt Action WWII and modern plastics (from their zombie range) to make some modern-ish figures. Pleased with the fit of the pieces, I decided to take a little break from Fantasy and indulge my interest by building some Stalkers.
There is a clip in that AK... honest!

I started off with what I had lying around - Warlord USMC and Airborne (acquired as part of a half-arsed attempt to build a Crimson Skies-style 'fractured USA in the 30s' force. Unfortunately, these guys didn't have the cold-weather feel that I really wanted, so I bought some Winter Soviets, giving me a ready supply of greatcoats and fur hats.I also grabbed some modern special forces as a source for weapons and less old-fashioned-looking kit.

This guy, then, is my first completed Stalker, and incorporates parts from pretty much all of my source kits: greatcoated body, satchel, and spade from the Soviet infantry, rifle arm from the special forces, head and backpack from the USMC, and left arm from the Airborne. All goes together nicely, though my one real gripe is that the neck joint is a bit on the tight side for the USMC heads. The special forces arms are a little more slender than the WWII stuff, but not so much that it's glaringly obvious.

Painting was a doddle - my wash-heavy style isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and it suits post-apocalyptic figures more than it would some (F&IW French, for example...). I wanted something civilian, but vaguely military (military surplus, really!) with the kitbash, and carried this through to the painting - mismatched gear, a military-looking green poncho on top of the rucksack, civilian cap etc.

Just noticed the mote of dust on top of his hat... Curses!

The only real bugbear was weathering the boots and the bottom of the greatcoat to look grubby - easy enough to apply, but it took a couple of attempts to stop it looking as though he'd been wading through a river of mud!

All told, I'm really happy with him. The mix of modern and WWII parts worked out to give the overall effect I was after and I'm pleased that I trusted to my gut and added a few more pouches (much like a Rob Liefield character design, you can never go wrong with more pouches) to lend a feel of being seriously prepared. Mixed in with the other couple of Stalkers I have under way, he's going to look like a real grizzled survivor of the Zone.

I'm now starting to doubt that there is actually a clip in that rifle...

Disclaimer: All links to third-party sites are solely for the purposes of sourcing the models/components I have used or discussed, if anyone is so inclined. I have simply linked to the original manufacturer (but feel free to shop around!) and make no money from people clicking through.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

LuchaScores: Off the Beaten Path

I have a soft spot for movies that take established genres and transplant them to a different setting, preferably a quirky or unusual one. This is probably why I like Bruce Willis' Last Man Standing as much as I do - a transplant of Kurosawa's Yojimbo from feudal Japan to Prohibition-era Texas, by way of Clint Eastwood's Spaghetti Westerns. So, when I saw news on Jesse V. Johnson's Savage Dog, a revenge movie set in Vietnam between the French Indochina and Vietnam wars, my spidey sense started tingling...

Savage Dog

Directed by: Jesse V. Johnson
Starring: Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Cung Le, Juju Chan, Vladimir Kulich & Keith David 

Savage Dog is the story of Martin Tillman (Scott Adkins), an Irish boxer, ex-Legionnaire, and ex-IRA man. We first meet him in the jail of a rural police outpost where he fights in bare-knuckle boxing matches for the benefit of the prison's overlords, a corrupt group of ex-Legionnaires ruled with an iron fist by The 13th Warrior's Vladimir Kulich, and including Chilean martial artist Marko Zaror, and a Vietnamese Army officer played by former MMA fighter Cung Le. Thereafter, chaos ensues, with Tillman going from bare-knuckle prison fighter to one-man-army.


What can I say? I really enjoyed this film. Sure, the acting wasn't always great, and some of the CGI used during the fights was a little shonky, but it was great fun! The villains were villainous, the hero was... effective, if not heroic, and the setting lent it something that set it apart from most B-Movies of this type.

Looking for a moment at the villains, I can't remember the last time a movie like this did such a good job making them stand out. You expect a certain 'levelling up' in movies like this - with the hero progressing from low-level mooks to sub-bosses, and thence to the big bad - and we get it to a degree, but each of the 'sub-bosses' are distinct characters. There's the cowardly older Petain supporter who acts as the cabal's accountant, a former Spanish Blue Division killer (Zaror), an ex-SS man in hiding (Kulich), and a Vietnamese paratroop officer (Cung Le). I appreciated the variety of backgrounds, and the Foreign Legion offered a logic for why such a disparate group would be all together (something often missing in movies like this). Vive la Légion, says I! There's also a surprising complexity to them - Kulich's SS man has a difficult relationship with his daughter (Juju Chan), who is, almost inevitably, Tillman's love interest and motivation for going on a revenge spree; Cung Le's officer is just doing it to get money for his family, and even though Tillman gives him the chance to walk away (which would have deprived us of one of the best fight scenes in the whole film), he still throws down. Marko Zaror's Rastignac is the most irredeemably villainous of the bunch, a knife-fighter known as "the executioner", and represents the sternest test for Tillman. Surprisingly, as the Big Bad, he's a little bland - a generic psycho, really. Cracking fighter, though!

"Don't smile... don't smile..."

Scott Adkins as the hero is good enough. The real hero, for me, though, is the setting. The entire plot of this movie could have been transferred to a classic Wild West or present-day setting (man goes on rampage against corrupt cattlemen/rogue special forces unit/crime syndicate/PMC outfit etc.) and it'd have been OK. Post-French, pre-Vietnam War Vietnam is great, though - the lawlessness and presence of huge amounts of firepower (any film that has an MG-42 being fired from the hip gets an additional half-star in my book!) make sense! It's also much prettier than New York's mean streets, the cowtowns of the Southwest, or the nameless Eastern European countries where a lot of equivalent movies take place. I really want to watch it again in a double-header with The Rebel, a Vietnamese movie set during the French colonial days in Vietnam (also highly recommended).

Still, it's a B-Movie. It's never going to win awards for acting or storytelling. What it is, however, is a standard story elevated by its villains and its setting. It's got flaws - the pacing is a little off at times, and Tillman is a fairly unlikable protagonist. I won't ruin it, but the conclusion of his feud with Zaror seems... excessive. Fitting, given the title, but I'm not sure how necessary it was. Speaking of the conclusion, there's the vague hint of a sequel, as the MI6 man who has been hunting Tillman (long story short, his sniffing around is what drives Kulich and the gang to release him from prison) recruits him for devastation and hijinks in the conflicts to come. I, for one, welcome more hijinks.

3.5 Luchas

While browsing for more films like Savage Dog, I stumbled across Buffalo Boys which, while a little sparse on information, looks to be an Indonesian western featuring two brothers taking on the VOC in the 1800s. The initial art releases are right up my street, and I'm looking forward to seeing more about it...

Friday, 13 October 2017

Long(bow) Overdue

It's been... too long since I felt the urge to pick up a paintbrush. There's been some kitbashing in that time (and stuff that I'm pretty proud of, at that!), but I just haven't been of a mind to paint. Recently, however, I felt the urge, and I took another swing at some archers/hunters for the Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile that had been sitting, half-painted, on my desk for a couple of months.

I don't have a punny disease-based name for these guys.

I'm actually quite happy with these kitbashes. They're Frostgrave Cultist bodies and heads with arms from Perry Wars of the Roses plastics. I have something of a love-hate relationship with some of the Perry kits - the detail is exquisite, but sometime the pieces are just a bit too fine for my taste. Here, they work well (in my opinion, anyway!).

Fluff-wise, these guys are the scouts, saboteurs, and general 'dirty tricks brigade' for the Order, so I kept the use of yellow to just the hoods and a couple of sashes - my thinking is that these guys are better than most of the cult at infiltrating a crowd, and can whip off their distinctive hoods to blend in. Current plan is for the main body of cultists to have a more yellow-dominated costume, closer to those of the Magisters.

All in all, I'm actually quite happy to have the urge to paint again - these flew from the brush once I got started - and I'm reinvigorated on the Order front. Next up (once I figure out what kits I'm going to raid for parts with which to build the models) are probably going to be 5 Templars - slightly more heavily armoured guys to act as bodyguards for the Magisters, and whips to keep the brethren in line. Thereafter, just 10 cultists to go!

Disclaimer: All links to third-party sites are solely for the purposes of sourcing the models/components I have used or discussed, if anyone is so inclined. I have simply linked to the original manufacturer (but feel free to shop around!) and make no money from people clicking through.

Friday, 16 June 2017

LuchaScores: Action Packed

It's been a tad warm recently (to say the least!), so I've retreated from my attic lair to the cooler climes of the lounge. There, I've indulged in a few new movies – it's been a while since anything has really taken my fancy, but two recent releases have continued in the vein of a couple of my favourite movies of recent times, so I eagerly snapped them up!


Directed by: Timo Tjahjanto & Kimo Stamboel
Starring: Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan, Sunny Pang & Julie Estelle

I really enjoyed Merantau. I bloody loved The Raid. I love The Raid 2, so when I saw Iko Uwais' new movie up for purchase, I jumped at it. The basic plot behind Headshot is a mysterious man (Uwais) washing ashore with a bullet in his head and a body covered in scars. In a coma, he is watched over by a young doctor (Chelsea Islan), and named "Ishmael" after the character in the book she is reading (no prizes for guessing what book that is, or what the last line of the film riffs on...). Soon, he wakes up, and finds his past catching up with him in the form of fistfights, gunfights, and whatnot.



Right. Now that the kids are in bed, allow me to gush a little. This was a cracking little action movie.

First off, Iko Uwais actually got to do more acting here than he really has in a while, and while he's not going to beat out Daniel Day-Lewis to any awards, it was certainly better than I'd normally expect from an average martial arts film. He was fairly convincing as the confused amnesiac struggling with both excruciating head pain, fuzzy flashes of memory, and mobsters coming at him left, right, and centre. Chelsea Islan was good as the sweet, plucky, and eventually badass-when-the-chips-are-down doctor that befriends Uwais' Ishmael, and whose capture by the villains lures him to them, but the real hero of the piece is Sunny Pang as, ironically, the villain, Lee.

Lee is introduced in a manner that makes it clear just how dangerous he is. Not only is he shown to have the influence to organize a jailbreak, but his action chops (Sunny Pang is a veteran Singaporean actor and martial artist) are swiftly shown off, as is his cunning as he sends inmates running to their deaths to clear the way for his own escape. His crimes are hinted at from the off, and while it doesn't take long to figure out that he's kidnapping children to brainwash into loyal followers, the exact nature of this is drawn out until just before the final sequence, and it's an effective means of filling in the blanks for both Ishmael and the viewer, and emphasising how villainous Lee is.

Speaking of the final sequence, the film boasts some great fights, following the usual structure – nameless mooks, then sub-bosses with a bit more personality and their own gimmicks, then the final boss. None of the fights really match the intensity of those in the first Raid movie, which used its claustrophobic setting and the shockingly brutal and realistic nature of the fights to its advantage. Here, the fights are still brutal, but the shock value has diminished a little, and the choreography less inspired. What they do have is frenetic, breakneck pacing – while the outcome is never in doubt, Uwais gets messed up sufficiently badly and often that it is still genuinely exciting. Even when he's fighting a nameless mook, there's a palpable sense of tension, whether because the opponent is his equal, he's trying not to kill, or (in perhaps my favourite scene) he's handcuffed to a police interview room desk, and facing a mook with a machete.

I did particularly appreciate the sympathetic nature of the sub-bosses. A couple are shown to be assholes, but one is pleasant and philosophical about his fate, and another is conflicted about fighting Ishamel. Once the source of Lee's recruits is made clear, you do start feeling for them a tad, even while seeing them execute rival gangsters and cut ribbons off the hero. When the exact nature of the recruitment process is revealed, it's a bit of a wrench when they fall.

Overall, this was a stonker. The basic story was predictable enough, given the tropes involved, and the general approach an Uwais movie takes to plot development, but a host of good performances, nice character twists, and the expected quality of fight scenes more than made up for it. It's not The Raid, but then it'd have to be something really special to hit that level! I enjoyed it immensely, and look forward to director Timo Tjahjanto's next film, The Night Comes For Us, which stars The Raid badass (not that that narrows it down much) Joe Taslim alongside Headshot's Uwais, Pang, and Julie Estelle. Can't wait!

4 Luchas

John Wick: Chapter 2

Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Laurence Fishburne & Common

I did enjoy John Wick, despite all initial evidence suggesting I wouldn't. Keanu Reeves in a revenge movie about a retired hitman... everything smacked of a Taken-clone featuring a fading star attempting to prove they've still got action chops. There have been many of such movies, and aside from the original Taken, they're pretty poor

The original was a surprise hit with me – great action, simple story – and I was very pro-sequel.




As expected, this was a worthy sequel to the original. Keanu Reeves continued to be a pretty expressionless plank of a man (I find him eminently likeable... just not particularly compelling in some films – much like Kevin Costner, I can really only stand him in certain roles), but it works in the context of a recently bereaved retired hitman forced back into action.

My favourite part of the original was the mythos surrounding the underworld – The Continental, a hotel run by Winston (Ian "Lovejoy" McShane) in which the criminal fraternity can operate without fear of assassination or assault; the gold coins which seem to be the default currency for the various hitmen operating in New York; Winston himself, an enigmatic titan who wields absolute power within his hotel. Happily, the sequel took all these things and expanded on them. John Wick goes to Rome, where he is received in the Rome Continental by Franco "Django" Nero (marked out for that one) and asked one question before being given his room key (not going to spoil it, but it did please me mightily), and eventually acquires an arsenal from the in-house Sommelier (Peter Serafinowicz). I like the introduction of the Continental as a chain, operating under the same rules from country to country. Markers are introduced – faintly occult-looking icons bearing bloody thumbprints that represent unshakeable debts (along with no killing in The Continental, honouring markers is one of the two unbreakable rules of the underworld). We also learn about the High Table – the heads of the world's most powerful crime syndicates – and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), the kingpin of the syndicate of beggars and vagrants on the streets of New York, and see the rockabilly call centre that coordinates global assassination contracts. I was reminded of the 100 Bullets comics, with their criminal mythology of the Trust and the Minutemen – one of my favourite comics.

Plot-wise, where the first was about John Wick taking revenge, this was about his past catching up with him – an old marker given to a crimelord being called in in the form of a high profile assassination attempt against a member of the High Table, and the hijinks that ensue. Here, the basic plot actually works in the favour of the film – it really allows attention to be called to the quirks that make the underworld of John Wick unique, and is richer for it in my eyes.

The action sequences are (with a couple of issues that I'll get onto in a sec) spot-on. Like Headshot, they're fast, ferocious, and brutal, but with more of an emphasis on style and less on pure visceral impact. Gunfights take place in halls of mirrors and Roman tunnels, with lighting effects and muzzle flash illuminating the combatants. Fights tend to incorporate both hand-to-hand combat and gunfire – "gun-fu" – which is now standard for this kind of movie, but which I think John Wick shows off far better than most. From the outset, John Wick takes a licking and keeps on ticking – his badassery is clear. Unfortunately, when he's preparing for the initial hit, along with arming himself from the Sommelier's stock, he also buys a bullet proof suit. I was okay with this – it was a daft conceit in a slightly daft movie – and it didn't make him invincible. He brushed off some shots, but it was clearly skill not tailoring that was the deciding factor. That is, right up until he tucked his head under a lapel as he fled an ambush. Retreat was the sensible tactical move, and I like that he made that decision... I just can't get the image of him doing so while caught in a downpour without an umbrella... In fairness, I got over it quickly enough.

One of the big final scenes as he pursues the villain is in the aforementioned hall of mirrors. I really cannot express how much this trope annoys me. It's overused and lazy. Now, John Wick 2 does this gimmick better than most (although the only one I really like is in Tango and Cash – go watch it, thank me later), but come on, Hollywood, mmmkay?

By and large, everyone in it is good. John Leguizamo's cameo is a bit pointless, but he's in the first movie and I like John Leguizamo, so fair enough. Ruby Rose appears as a mute bodyguard to the villain. She's a good opponent for Keanu, but I don't know why she's mute. All I know about her is that she's Australian, so I choose to believe that she has an accent that would make her a shoe-in for the Crocodile Dundee reboot (come on, Hollywood, mmmkay?). Aside from Ian McShane, who I would, quite frankly, pay to watch build an Argos bookcase, the stand-out supporting actor is Common. As Cassian, the bodyguard of John Wick's initial target, his personal vendetta makes him a more interesting opponent than either Ruby Rose or the actual villain. There's a great scene where a fight brings them back into The Continental where Franco Nero tells them off and suggests they go have a pint. His fate (stabbed in the heart and left on a subway train with the warning that pulling out the knife would kill him but leaving it in might allow him to survive – a "professional courtesy") also gives me hope in light of the now-announced John Wick 3 movie and The Continental TV prequel series.

Speaking of those new expansions of the franchise, the word is that the High Table will become a more significant presence, as the stakes following the end of John Wick 2 keep rising. There also seems to be the suggestion that a trilogy is the extent of current plans – if true, this does please me. Much as I love the setting and the story, I do wonder how many times they can come back to it, and – like Justified – I'd like to see it end on its own terms, rather than burn out.

As an action movie, I'd give this a solid 4 Luchas. However, because of the world-building, and the mythology that's being slowly developed, I give it...

4.5 Luchas

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

In the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, There's a Pretty Mixed Bag...

So, the contents of the forthcoming Dark Imperium boxed set for the new Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition was just revealed.

I can't help but notice that the plague-infested mutant hordes that are making up the numbers in the Nurgle-worshipping Death Guard force are called Poxwalkers... the same name as my own shambling demonic hordes. In fairness, a bit of research just now revealed the existence of a Chaos artifact called the Poxwalker Hive that uses insects to create zombies (or something), so I guess Gee-Dub wins this round!

Going from the fluff, a zombie-type creature that's essentially a walking hive for demonic insects would be great... a 40K version of Mushizo from Ninja Scroll. Unfortunately these just look like they've taken the "Nurgle = bone spikes" motif from the Putrid Blightkings (elements I all but removed entirely from my own Plaguetouched), turned it up to 11, and crammed it into human-sized figures. In fact, the whole Death Guard figure range here seems to have gone that same way. Still, the actual Chaos Marines are more ornate anyway, and seem to weather the over-detailed storm better than the mutants (especially the guy with the tentacle-jester-hat and bionic arm, and the one bursting out of his gimp suit).

The flipside to that, in other, more positive, news, is that the new Space Marines have gone the other way! They seem more military and less ornate than many of their predecessors (it helps, not doubt, that the base set will be the 'vanilla' Ultramarines (or whatever other orthodox Chapter one wishes) rather than the more gimmicky Dark/Blood Angels, Space Wolves etc. I'm FINALLY getting the Marines I always wanted: bad asses that actually look like super-soldiers! This guy especially.

So, I guess... in the grim darkness of the far future, there's a pretty mixed bag...

Monday, 22 May 2017

A Morbid Taste For Bones

Having built up a rather hefty flock at this point, I decided that the next addition to the ranks of the Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile would be a couple of shepherds to lead them on their unholy and pestilential crusades.

What I wanted was two models in robes that could pass as vaguely clerical garb. What's more, I really wanted them to look a bit tatty, to reflect their less-than-salubrious existence amongst the faithful of the Order. Beyond that, some deformities to reflect the demonic influence they wield was desirable, but not a deal-breaker. Shopping around for a bit, I found loads of nice-looking necromancers and mages, but none that really hit the nail on the head for me. Then, Nick at North Star sent through some of the new Frostgrave releases for me, including the second pack of Beastcrafters – perfect.

Their fishy, Innsmouth-y look fit nicely into the predominantly Nurgle-inspired line-up of the Order, though I did clip away the existing sickle and club and replaced them with more traditionally wizardly staffs.

Painting was the usual swift combination of the by-now familiar colours, with the addition of a darkish grey for their jackets to contrast with the yellow of the cult robes. The combination works well for me, and means that I can always use them as Confederate cultists as well if I want to!

Currently nameless, and title-less for that matter. Time to hit the books on monastic orders...

Already on the workbench, 5 cult archers to lend a touch of ranged support to the force. They'll be followed, in some order, by 5 cult templars and 10 regular cultists.

  • 10 Poxwalkers – pestilence-ridden demons
  • 5 Plaguetouched – half-demonic berserkers
  • Dirty Frank – blind ghoul king
  • 20 Wretches (here and here)– ghoulish troglodytes
  • 2 Cult Magisters – corrupt priests

Tuesday, 9 May 2017


A quick post, this one, to catalogue the second batch of Wretches.

As with the first batch, these are Hobbit goblins from GW. Unlike the first ten, I painted these with a different base skin tone, slightly more green than brown, with the intent of mixing the two batches together for a bit more variety. The end result is... negligible!

Also unlike the first ten, I really didn't enjoy painting these at all – and lots of bitty little errors meant that I had to go back and fix more than one of them on more than one occasion. I'm glad they're done!

The Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile currently stands at:

Next up, a Wizard and his Apprentice in the form of two cult magisters, then the cult faithful.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

LuchaScores: Outrageous

Things I like: Manga. Wargames. Cyberpunk. Lucha Libre.

Things I have read recently: Infinity: Outrage – Kenny Ruiz, Victor Santos

No luchadores (alas!), but a stonking good sci-fi military Manga set in the universe of Infinity. Infinity is a sci-fi wargame setting from Corvus Belli that incorporates a heavy dose of both Cyberpunk and Manga influences – Ghost in the Shell meets Apocalypse Now meets a touch of Cowboy Bebop meets the Takeshi Kovacs series from Richard K. Morgan – and avoids playing too heavily into the generic tropes. Yes, we have a classic Americans-in-Spaaaace faction, but they're a somewhat old-fashioned force thanks to having colonized an isolated planet along with Cossack, French and Scottish settlers, making for a strange multi-cultural force... with werewolves. By contrast, the major high-tech power in the galaxy is a nation with heavy Oceanic, Brazilian, Indian, and Scandinavian influences... and a number of religious orders. It's balls-to-the-wall crazy, and massively fun.


I really don't care for the game set in this universe. It's not that I don't recognize its quality – it's massively popular for a reason – I just can't get on board with it. So, when I saw that Infinity was going to put out a Manga, I was very pleased, and promptly pre-ordered it. The book turned up today, along with a limited edition mini (also very nice), and was rapidly devoured.

Art-wise, it's gorgeous. Classic Manga lines, but with a slightly European comic influence in presentation. Action sequences are clear yet dramatic – there were a couple of instances where I had to double-check that I'd identified the correct character amongst all the gunfire and chaos, but these were few and far between.

My immediate concern with tie-in fiction is that it can all-too-easily descend into a game of getting in as many references as possible, in order to satisfy as many existing fans as possible, and we did have the early "getting the team together" scene, which featured iconic troop types from a number of the game's usually rival factions. Despite this, it doesn't play out in that way at all, and while the various characters each get some screen time and a chance to show off their specialties, there's a deeper story at work behind the slam-bang action sequences.

It's a relatively short read, so the plot cracks along at a decent pace, but doesn't feel rushed except in a couple of places (which, in fairness, are not massive faults, but which could have been a bit more developed to the benefit of the plot). I do wish it was a bit longer, though. The ending, while satisfying enough, is a little predictable, and feels like the start of a series – it's got quite a 'prologue' feel to it. If a series does come from this, I will not be complaining!

4 Luchas

Monday, 24 April 2017

Scuttle, Scuttle

So, hot on the heels of Dirty Frank come his minions in the form of the first ten (of twenty) Wretches. These guys are simply the Hobbit goblins with a brown-ish paint-job. No conversions, save to remove a whip from one of them and to remove the slotta tabs.

I'm not a huge fan of the models, to be honest – the aesthetic is spot-on for what I'm after, but the sculpts themselves, being single-piece, leave a little to be desired. There are certain vague elements, especially around the ears, hair, and shoulders where distinction is rather vague, to say the least. Still, they paint up quickly enough, and are meant to be pretty grimy and grotty, so they'll do.

The little guy (far right in the above pic, and left below) is tiny – had I not got a couple of additional models on the Goblin King sprue to round out the mob to a full twenty, I'd have cherry-picked my favourites, and run with just ten.

As of press time, the Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile comprises:

To come, 10 more Wretches, a couple of cult leaders, and the faithful cult members. After that, I think a little break... if only to restock on brown paints!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Dirty Frank

I always like to have a big model as a centrepiece in my warbands, if at all possible, and for the growing Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile, my recent Plaguetouched just weren't cutting it in the size stakes, so I went looking for a big, pestilential model...

The existing Nurgle options from GW aren't my cup of tea, not to mention being more than a little pricey! They were also a little too big and over-the-top – I needed a troll or ogre, rather than an immense demon. I discounted all the not-Nurgle options from various companies for similar reasons.

Having decided to include some Hobbit Goblintown goblins in the warband, I took another look at the Goblin King model. Turns out, what made me hate him in the movie (alongside oh-so-many other issues) was what made it work for me in this context – he's big, deformed, and liberally covered in pustules without being too excessive (I wanted something a little less plague-ridden to act as a halfway house between the demonic troops and the forthcoming human cultists).

First thing to go was the excessively pointy crown – I don't see this guy as a leader as much as a tank (more along the lines of the cave troll in the Moria sequence in Fellowship of the Ring, before they started throwing trolls at everything...). This has left him with a rather odd circlet, but... meh. I'll cobble together some rationale at some point or another...

The real work, such as it was, lay in clipping away the big old staff/mace the model was originally holding. This necessitated a minor resculpt on his hand, to add in a couple of knuckles that were previously covered.

Painting, as with all the recent Nurgle stuff, was swift and simple – flesh, green/purple wash, drybrush with more flesh, paint loincloth, pick out pustules and warts, wash the lot. He's come out much darker than I expected, not that I dislike it, but it's definitely not what I originally had in my head. It does set it apart from the usual paintjobs I see on the model, which lean much more towards the pale. Still, minor niggles aside, I think he fits in well with the gang so far:

The four-day Easter break was productive – I got this guy finished, and ten of his goblin minions (to be reskinned as ghoulish troglodytes) painted. More on those when the basing is done and dusted.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


I was really pleased with how the Plaguebearers came out recently, and set my mind to painting some more stuff in the same vein.

Enter, stage left, one box of Putrid Blightkings. I've had my eye on these for a while, but never really had cause to pull the trigger on getting them (a very un-wargamer attitude, I know – I once came back from Salute having spent just £2.50...). Still, I was on a roll, and I found a box dirt cheap on Ebay...

I also picked up the plastic Lord of Plagues, with a view to adding him in as a 6th model for a Dragon Rampant unit. That plan didn't come to pass: having built all 6 models, I dropped one (fortunately, my least favourite), and stood on it... its sword ended up in my foot, its arm broke off, and I cursed and threw it in the bin. Oh well, it's by no means my worst modelling accident. Five it is – at least this will save me having to paint up two more Plaguebearers...

Construction was straightforward, with the only real alterations coming in the form of a simplification of their armour – helmets were sheared down to plain metal masks, removing the horns and plumes, and the shoulderpads were chosen for simplicity, some having spines removed and replaced with drilled-in rust holes. I also chopped down a weapon or two, limited most of them to a single weapon, and carved a Nugling out of a stomach cavity. I'm not a huge fan of the over-the-top look, and much prefer the pin-headed, brutal anonymity of these guys.

Painting-wise, I followed a similar approach to these guys as I did for the Plagubearers, starting with a brown basecoat, which is now my preferred approach – the clarity compared to black is great, and it's much more forgiving in the nooks and crannies. Fleshtone were mixed – I threw in some Army Painter Barbarian Flesh and Necrotic Flesh (the latter was used for the Plaguebearers) and added a touch of ochre for a couple of the models. Everything then got a really sloppy wash of green and purple to add a varied and unhealthy hue to different body parts. Finally, I gave a few areas a little wash of watered-down Barbarian Flesh to bring the complexion back up to 'human' in parts. I think it gives them a really quite disconcerting part-human, part-demon appearance.

Slap on some plate metal, and everything else was a doddle – dark yellow for the cult robes, which will be continued on the cannon fodder (it also picks up on the larger boils on the Plaguebearers, tying – I hope – these two units together), boils and pustules picked out in cream, white and bright yellow, open wounds in bright red, and the weird spherical blisters in a dark pink. Wash everything top to tail and job's a good'un.

With a couple of exceptions (e.g. a tentacle mistakenly painted as a ragged length of loincloth, a skintone a little too close to the yellow of the robes), I'm really happy with these models. They represent a noticeable (for me, anyway) evolution in my painting, and were painted with a confidence that I don't normally have when it comes to painting. There's a long way to go before painting takes the place of kitbashing in my affections, but...

The Plaguetouched, berserkers of the Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile.

Next up for the Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile (in no particular order): the faithful (Frostgrave Cultists) and the wretched (Hobbit Goblins).

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

LuchaScores: Recent Reading

I've really been reading a lot recently. I mean, more than usual. I'm on a Fantasy kick at present (which is true for my gaming as much as my reading – I suspect an upcoming RPG campaign I'm running is the source of much of it).

So, just a few thoughts on what's been filling my fiction hole recently:

The Tiger and the Wolf (Echoes of the Fall 1) – Adrian Tchaikovsky

Now this is just cracking. A tribal saga set in the frozen north of a world that is dominated by clans that follow animal totems and a capable of 'Stepping' in and out of animal forms at will. The Wolves are tough warriors, whose priests are the few with knowledge of ironworking; the Horse are traders, whose influence rests upon their neutrality and their trading network; to the South, the plains tribes of the Lion and the Hyena (bonus points for any book that includes Hyena shapeshifters), the Serpent and the Crocodile. Oh, and there are 'Champions' who are able to take on the form of an ancient ancestor of their totem animal – the Champion of Crocodile, for example, can also Step into the form of what is implied to be some form of raptor (clever girl).

We meet various characters from a number of tribes, and it's simply a fun, exciting ride. Part Last of the Mohicans, part Apocalypto, part Werewolf: The Apocalypse, part Lawrence Makoare's The Dead Lands, which are MASSIVE touchstones for me. Parts of it feel like an RPG adventure, chiefly those chapters following the Champion of Crocodile on his journey north – meet a new character, who joins his gang; ambushed by another tribe, Character X challenges their leader to combat (these leaders tend to be Champions, making that concept feel a little prestige class) – but Maniye Many Tracks (the protagonist) is a superbly written character, who really evolves over the course of the story, and several of the supporting cast are fantastic, and I was casting them for an adaptation (as the author does himself – we agree on more than a few!).

All told, this has been a great read, and I'm really looking forward to the second volume, The Bear and the Serpent, in Summer (I may have to break my usual policy of waiting for paperback...).

4.5 Luchas

Kings of the Wyld (The Band 1) – Nicholas Eames

I snagged this based on the concept alone: Fantasy mercenary bands... as bands. Well, not quite – the idea of following a bunch of mercenary bards around is not for me, to say the least (in fact, the author seems to feel the same way about bards, given how many have been lost by the eponymous mercenary company over the years). In this world, mercenaries are rock stars – they swan around the place, slaying monsters, causing trouble, and debauching themselves with all manner of recreational substances and groupies. As elevator pitches go, this was fun, and the simplicity of the concept appealed to me.

It started well enough, with the classic trope of "getting the band back together" – the long-estranged members of the band all getting introduced, and some of the fun rock-and-roll parallels established – a Yoko-type ex-wife, problems with their former manager etc. Then it started to lose me a bit... At its heart, the band get back together to rescue the daughter of their front man, who is trapped in a besieged city the other side of a massive forest – the Wyld – that is the home/source of the monsters that are slain by mercenaries (although there are several that seem to fit in well enough in various mercenary crews and taverns – I'm not sure I caught the line that was drawn on that score). In any case, the band is finally reunited, and one expects them to head off on their epic quest. Except they don't. Instead, they seem to bounce around various cities before getting an airship (on a side note, I'm pretty sure these are described as rare in the first few chapters of the book, but by the end it seems that everyone has one) and heading out.

What saves it in these meanders is that it's undeniably fun. The characters are all quite entertaining, especially Arcandius Moog, the wizard, who is obsessed with owlbears (as is only natural) and has been surviving in retirement as a purveyor of gentleman's stimulants. Unfortunately, the story climaxes in an epic battle (the "Battle of the Bands" – gah!) in which the gang opens a portal from the annual mercenary fair to the besieged city, through which comes an ever more frustrating selection of puns and riffs on various bands (including Neil the not-so-Young or something – I almost gave up at that point).

I don't know if the book really knows what it wants to be – it could have been a fun dissection of the rock-and-roll lifestyle in a Fantasy setting (in the style of Pratchett's Soul Music), or it could have been a serviceable mercenary-focused military adventure (there's a vein of GrimDark running though it – cussin' and bloodshed). As a whole, though, it falls between two fences for me – pleasant enough reading, but the product didn't live up to the pitch.

1.5 Luchas

Thursday, 9 March 2017


I've had a box of GW's Plaguebearer demons for a while - I nabbed it when a FLGS was selling off all its GW stock (should have grabbed the Demon Prince too, dammit!) at a pittance. I've sat on them since, not really knowing what to do with them.

I still don't really know what to do with them, but the other weekend I just wanted to do some modelling and painting, and didn't have the inspiration to do anything more unique. Instead, I carved off the horns and filled in some of the more ridiculous bodies (one with a Nurgling cavorting in the stomach cavity and one with a gaping maw in the belly), and set to painting.

Were it not for the horns, the cyclopean eyes, and the random mutations, these might be the best zombie models around.
One 'gut-mouth' survived; the other became a vague mass of innards. Thank-you, Polystyrene Cement.

These were my first attempts using a brown basecoat. It felt a little odd as I'm so used to black, but I think I may switch over to it for future models. Paintjobs were simple - zombie-green flesh, purple wash on the swollen limbs, open wounds and exposed organs in dark red, large pustules picked out in dark yellow, smaller pimples in white (I had my doubts but it does make them really pop... no pun intended), and a few spots picked out in a bubblegum pink for contrast (again, had my doubts about that, but it worked well). Finish off with my usual brown wash all over. Basecoat to basing in about 5 hours.

Got to say, I never really liked the Plaguebearer models - the rictus grins, mono-horns, and capering Nurglings always seemed a bit silly. Having actually had them in-hand, I'm something of a convert. The 'silliness' is far less than I originally thought and, with the removal of the horns, I like the sinister profile they have. The filthy, plague-ridden hordes of Nurgle seem a good fit for my wash-heavy style of painting too. Might have to try some more. Blightkings, you say...?

The horde. I'm kinda tempted to throw in some Mantic zombies to make these guys really look like the bruisers they are.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (and the Sewer Watch)

Hot (for me, anyway) on the heels of the Breacher for my little Fantasy gang come two more generic guardsmen named (natch) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I've also started to string together a little fluff for my own entertainment, so while they're not dead (yet), they're the next best thing...

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern

These two started out as basic troopers, simply intended to make up the numbers. As I got increasingly kitbash happy, though, they took on a bit more personality.

Rosencrantz looked a little sparse, so I chucked on a GW Empire gorget and a small Bretonnian shield to tie him more to the Breacher - I see him as the guy that's second through the door, attacking over the Breacher's back with his spear. Arms are a Frostgrave Soldier's, simply drilled out for a wire spear.

Guildenstern, meanwhile, was destined to become the pack mule of the gang, receiving various bits and bobs, including a Frostgrave Soldier rucksack (again, as with the infantryman/cleric, used as a knapsack off the belt), a Perry axe and buckler, and the vitally useful rope (again, Frostgrave).

The bodies and heads of both are Fireforge infantry of some description.

Overall, pretty chuffed with them. Simple models, but fun.

I'm now up to five for my little gang - this tends to represent the tipping point for my interest unless I'm working towards a specific project. Normally, I'll wander off onto some other random little faction. However, in the case of these guys, I'm really enjoying just cobbling together some kits every now and again, so I think I'll keep at it. Like I say, specific projects help, so I've got my fluff on...

The Sewer Watch

Felstad Sewer Watch, 3rd Patrol (Tanners' Quarter)
Everyone knows that Felstad (1) is built on a maze of sewers, tunnels, and (it's rumoured) the ruins of older civilizations. Everyone knows that these passages house smugglers, beggars, and thieves. Everyone knows that the penalties for venturing below the city are harsh. Very few, however, know what's really down there...

Sinister cults, crazed mages, roving undead, and monstrous oozes rub shoulders with thieves and assassins throughout the sewer levels. The tunnels beneath them are home to savage humanoids and half-blind monsters while, deeper still, even more bizarre and terrifying creatures may be found.

The job of handling all this falls to the men and women of the Sewer Watch. Made up of convicts, disgraced soldiers, bastard sons of petty nobles, and individuals the Council simply wants to disappear, the Watch maintains the security of the city from threats from below ground, just as the Army and Navy guard against external threats, and the Council's mages prevent invasion from other planes of existence. Unlike the Army, Navy, and the mages, the Sewer Watch's resources consist of a spear (2) and helm per man, whatever the Office of Public Works can spare, and whatever the Watch can scrounge and extort from their 'beat' (3).

Were it not for the stench, the enchantment placed upon them that ensures their silence about their duties, and the fact that they're all ornery bastards (4), the Sewer Watch might be hailed as Felstad's greatest heroes.
(1) Not that one. 
(2) Despite the impracticality of using a spear in some of the tight tunnels and passageways beneath Felstad, they prove useful in the larger caverns and junctions and their length provides an advantage against many foes, not to mention the vast convenience of having a 10ft pole with which to test depth, surety of footing, check for traps...
(3) This is by far the greatest source of income for the Watch.
(4) If they're not a miserable, resentful, spiteful bastard before they get chucked into the Watch, it doesn't take long for them to become one...

Tuesday, 24 January 2017


I'm still on a bit of a roll with painting, which is nice, as I'm clearing my desk of models faster than I can kitbash new ones!

This chap has been half-finished for some time now, but I didn't really have the motivation to go back and finish him off until recently.

He's a very simple kitbash - Bretonnian Man-at-Arms body, head, and shield (what would I do without that kit? Glad I stockpiled a few boxes before GW discontinued the line) with an Empire warhammer arm and a gorget. As with some of my recent conversions, the only real work was carving away the arm that was originally in place while leaving a flat surface for the new one to sit on, and ensuring that the hood lay plausibly on top of the new shoulder.

I saw this guy as the 'breacher', responsible for kicking in doors, so wanted to give him a bit of bulk. I used the fat Bretonnian body, but decided early on to paint it as a breastplate rather than a belly, and opted for a leaner face to emphasize 'size' rather than 'fat'. He also got placed him on a piece of slate for a bit of a height boost. This also tied him in nicely to my knight, around whom a small gang is slowly forming. This also inspired the painting, using the same mix of blues, greys and browns that I liked for the previous figures in this group (the knight and the infantryman/cleric).

Now I've got a few characters for this little gang, they're starting to take on some personality, and I have a few more models destined to join them (hopefully) before long.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Oh Captain, My Captain 2.0

I've loved the Frostgrave Wraith Knights since I saw Dmitry's initial roughs for the artwork, but I never got around to painting them up.

Rummaging in my Drawers of Mystery (a couple of old file drawers I keep on the windowsill behind me at Osprey Towers) the other day, I found a sculpt of the one drawing his sword, and immediately knew what I wanted to do with it (which makes a nice change).

Step 1: clip off the helmeted head.
Step 2: carve out a hollow to accommodate a new head.
Step 3: glue on one of the Frostgrave Barbarian heads.

For once, everything went as planned.

Off came the head, the hollow was carved, and the new head fit perfectly at the first time of asking. At this point, I panicked and left the miniature alone for a few days lest I glue it to my face or something.

When I did get back to it, I went for a simple paintjob, roughly keeping the Lord of the Rings Rohirrim in mind, though I did go back and repaint the scale mail as metal rather than leather as I initially started out.

All told, this might be my favourite figure in a long time. He really looks like a grizzled veteran, and I'm looking forward to adding him to a warband as a Captain.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Got back into painting after a bit of a lull, and started polishing off some half-finished pieces, including this chap:
Executioner, torturer, and generally unpleasant chap.

There's something eerily iconic about executioners, and this guy was mostly inspired by the hangman from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - classic hood, studded leather, evil leer.

Inevitably, that meant a dip into my box of Bretonnian Men-at-Arms. While I did consider going full studded leather, as offered by one of those Bretonnian bodies, it seemed a little much, so I erred towards something a little less ostentatious. The hardest job was carving out the existing arms so that there was a flat surface onto which I could attach Frostgrave Barbarian arms while still leaving the studded leather collar sitting plausibly on the new shoulders. The rest was a doddle - Frostgrave Cultist head with minimal work to get it to sit flush and for the cowl to blend into the collar. Stuff on the back of the belt is my usual mish-mash of junk, including a skull (Frostgrave Gnolls, I think) as a souvenir of his work, a bottle (Cultists again) and a crossbow quarrel quiver (Perry Miniatures, I think), because it works perfectly as a generic belt pouch on slightly larger figures.

Despite using a GW body as a base, he's surprisingly squat, with the powerful arms and slightly too-small head giving him a really thuggish look that I'd love to claim was intentional!

A minor mishap with an over-heavy satin varnish means it's just a little too shiny (a matt layer took the edge off). After the disaster with the Greyjoys, I've moved from GW's evil Purity Seal to brush-on stuff, which is a) much cheaper, and b) gives me more control... or will once I get used to using it.

Monday, 16 January 2017


We (Frostgrave author Joseph McCullough and myself) were up in Nottingham recently, and decided to call in at Warhammer World and take a look around the exhibition hall/museum. When in Rome, and all that. This was actually our second visit in the last couple of months, but we were on a schedule for the first, and only managed to make it to the store (conveniently enough to pick up some Genestealer Cultists for me and some Lord of the Rings models for Joe) before having to head off.

This time, we did it right, and made sure we had time to see everything before rolling out. First off, a tour of the Warhammer World exhibition is well worth the price of admission (£7.50, as it happens). I'd been a few years back (well, perhaps more than a few...), courtesy of a friend then working there, but the scale of the current gallery of models and dioramas past, present and future is a far cry from what I remember.

The 'tour' takes you through several rooms, starting with the 'nostalgia hall', showing off classic models from the early days of Citadel/GW. I seem to recall this being more extensive; as it is, it's a little brief for my liking - I would have loved to see more of the old toys. Still, it did include these two beauties, which are just as good as I remember:

Warhammer Quest. A lovely, characterful diorama, with some great touches, such as the Wizard's hat getting transfixed by an arrow and a Trollslayer about to fall through a trapdoor.
Lustria. A simple scene, lacking the complexity of some, but telling a superb story of a rescue mission and an interrupted sacrifice. I can't remember if this accompanied a specific release or not, but it's stuck with me!

From Nostalgia, the exhibition leads into Warhammer/Age of Sigmar, showing off Studio paint-jobs for what I believe is every model in the current range. Impressive, to be sure, but it was still the dioramas that caught the eye. The standouts for me were these three:

The first of two paired dioramas for Age of Sigmar, this one shows Wood Elves (or whatever they're called these days) sweeping from the forest to overrun an Orc warband.
The second of the paired dioramas, showing the devastation wrought by a victorious orc horde. Both are simple scenes, but do a great job of conveying their source material. I actually started to appreciate the Age of Sigmar 'realm' set-up with this visual depiction.
From the relatively subtle, the dioramas swing upwards to the colossal, such as this Nurgle army marching out from their fortress.

There were some that just didn't photograph well, unfortunately, such as a 360-degree Skaven vs Dwarves scene with the combat taking place through a honeycomb of caves and tunnels.

Feeling philosophical, I did comment that the dioramas seem to be a perfect metaphor for the evolution of the GW Hobby - from small and quirky to big, brash and just plain more. The huge dioramas include lots of lovely little touches, but you do have to hunt for them a bit, or just stumble onto them by looking at it just right...

From the Warhammer hall, it's through into the Imperium of Man, a hall given over to Space Marines, Imperial Guard and all those chaps. Perhaps I'm just not a fan of the Marines as much as I used to be, but this hall I went round pretty quickly. The highlight was the awe-inspiring Pilgrym terrain and gangs by such folk as Jeff Vader and the Iron Sleet guys. Having worked with Johan (Jeff Vader) on a couple of projects for Osprey, this was one of the main reasons for my visit, and I'm pleased to say that it's even better in real life than it looks in the photos I've seen online and in White Dwarf (and that's saying something!).

After the Imperium comes the 'Enemies of Mankind' hall, given over to everything that isn't a Marine or a Guardsman. I absolutely believe the anecdotes about GW selling one Marine for every other model if the balance shown in the exhibition is anything to go by!

A classic Crimson Fists vs. Orks scene? Yes, please.

The conclusion of the tour is really phenomenal. A colossal scene that fills a stairwell, with Khornate forces assaulting a Marine-held fortification. You enter it at the top, looking down from spires and towers on a battlescene that comes into focus as you circle down around it. It's a mammoth work, and needs to be seen to be believed.

Then, in the grand tradition of all good tours, it's out via the gift shop!

All told, I really enjoyed the trip, and with dozens of games tables and Bugman's Bar on the premises as well, it kinda made me wish I had a Warhammer army to play with. Then again, having seen the new Age of Sigmar Orcs up close, I am tempted...