Tuesday, 22 November 2016

BitzBox Warband - the troll and the centaur

Just over a year ago, I started on a Bitzbox Warband which followed these simple rules:
  1. Every model must be converted / kitbashed to hell (and therefore unique)
  2. I must use only currently owned bitz (no buying more stuff!)
  3. I must not use more than two parts from the same kit on one model
  4. If using Realm of Chaos, then rolls must be adhered to or complete the conversion and then find attributes to match (I did the latter here).
And as a reminder (to me and you) that this is what I "rolled up" on the Lost and the Damned retinue table:

  • Seth Spawnbloat. Level 10 Human. Champion of Nurgle. Infestation of Nurlings. Atrophied Arm, Enormously Fat. Palanquin, Shield, Warhammer
  • Darn the Veiled. Chaos Marauder. Mark of Nurgle, Horns, Heavy Armour Shield.
  • 5 Beastmen. Standard. I decided to create a Beastman champion to lead these; 
  • Araf. Level 5 Beastman. Mark of Nurgle. Bestial Face (Dog), Limb Loss (leg), Demonic Steed (Skull Face, Horn)
  • Chaos Centaur

The last model on the list is shown here and whilst working on it, I also found a partly converted stone troll from my old bitz box that was just screaming at me to be completed - I've painted a lot of stone trolls in my time and they always provide a treat for the brush. So I've added him to the group and in doing so have broken my own rule 4, but for completions sake, here's the new addition:

  • Troll. Pinhead, Horns

Hands up like you just don't care. The score sheet is based upon "When The Saints Go Marching In". Imagine him banging that out on his drums as the warband approaches....

The parts used for the conversion are pretty diverse, Orc drums, Horror torso and arms, flagellant boards, plastic dragons(?) tail, plastic cold one body. I deliberately painted him pretty Tzeentch like with yellows, blues and purples, but the addition of a greenstuffed gut, gave him a slightly Nurgle look.

The troll is a very straightforward conversion; a plastic chaos warrior head applied and greenstuffed around the neck and a ForgeWorld GUO horn added to his shoulder with some sculpted flesh around it. I wanted to create an albino feel to this chap, working with cool pinks and a cool blue for the scales, contrasting with the more solid colours of the wood, metal, axe and base. Always a pleasure to paint these though.

Moving onto the 4 Beastmen next, maybe.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Warlock of Fretop Mountain. Part 2; Sleeping Orc Sentry

There is a right -hand turn to the north in the passage. Cautiously you approach a sentry post on the corner and, as you look in, you can see a strange Goblin-like creature in leather armour asleep at his post. You try to tiptoe past him. Test your luck. If you are Lucky, he does not wake up and remains snoring loudly - turn to 301. If you are Unlucky, you step with a crunch on some loose ground and his eyes flick open - turn to 248.

For Part 1 of this adventure I had to create just a piece of terrain, but this entry required a figure too, which greatly complicated matters (more of that later). For the sentry's post I used the same technique as before, using the expanding foam over a dense polystyrene base and then carving back into the expanded foam once set to create a niche for him to sleep in:

A small torch was scavenged as a left over from my son's birthday castle and some thin wire wrapped around it to make a sconce and so as to hold it to the wall and some greenstuff added (not shown here) to extend the flame upwards. Obviously I was constantly referring to Russ Nicholson's illustration as I was working.

Finding the appropriate model was the most time consuming part of the build. Trying to source a scrawny orc was quite a challenge (so many of them are brawny nowadays) and after flirting with some of the Midlam Orcs in the end I plumped for this crewmember from Notlob's artillery which I paid £2 for:

He obviously needed a fair bit of converting and greenstuffing (on a very minute, detailed scale) to get a likeness, you can see a wip shot below where I've lengthened his nose, added wrinkled bags under his eyes and some tattered clothing. Only the helmet and draping loincloth to add at this stage. The legs were repositioned to make him recline and some mantic ghoul arms were added across his chest to re-create the same slumbering pose as per the illustration.

Yet again I forgot to take photos of the painting stage, because it really is such a quick process for me now. Sprayed grey and brown, dark wash over everything, highlight up and then glaze with browns and greens for the mossy appearance. I had to spend a bit more time working on the lighting effects from the torch, glazing in with some yellows and oranges.

The painting of the orc skin followed my usual recipe and I finally added a few clumps of foliage for some extra detail on the rock face. Here's a few other photographs where I was experimenting with angles and lighting:

The prisma app is a wonderful thing for projects like this, as I can turn my model back into an illustration in the style of Russ Nicholson's originals. Unfortunately my app is no longer working, so I had to interrupt JB's romantic weekend through Messenger, with a geeky favour. And of course the good chap that he is, he came up trumps (hopefully during a lull in the weekend) :

I think the top one works best. Of course I also coloured in the same illustration from my colouring in book, trying to capture the sense of light and dark and a slightly gaudier palette than on my painted model:

I deliberately built this diorama to also fit in with my modular dungeon, as one day I'd like to play the Warlock of Firetop Mountain, with all the re-made illustrations integrated into the layout,  following the actual map from the book:

I do need to make and add a small modular floor that can cover the exposed magnetic strip, as can be seen above.

The next instalment of this will be page. 240..

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Kids building houses

This is what started the scenery building bug for me, the infamous townhouse from an early White Dwarf. Using cereal packaging, a scrap of mdf pilfered from my dad's garage, some foamcard (what a revelation that stuff was to a young, enthusiastic model maker), some polyfilla (again from the garage), some balsa wood and loads of pva, I followed the plans meticulously to produce my first scratch built, scale building.

This particular building has a lot to answer for and has helped me start to create a legacy. For this is the actual one I first made, way back in the late 80's (and is one of the few things I have kept from those days) and set me on the track to creating a whole range of different terrain when a teenager and then more recently after my hiatus. But fast forward to today and this little model building just keeps on giving.
In September I formed a model making club (rather than a gaming club - a reflection of me I guess), mostly because it is a love of mine that I can share with the students at my school, but also because my school does not have a D&T department, so the construction of things does not feature massively as a part of the students education - which is a huge shame. The club is popular, initially starting at 30 kids (there's only 100 in each year group) and now down to a hardcore 18).

I provided them with my model townhouse as inspiration (and gave them the backstory) and told the kids that I'm going to teach them how to create something like this, and then shared the White Dwarf schematics and the tools necessary for success. Here are those wonderful plans again:

Now considering it's a lunchtime club (about 30 minutes) and occurs only once a week - with the usual disruptions, here are the early stages of some of the wip townhouses (the other's are awaiting gluing):

And what a wonderful experience it's been. As a teacher I'm often amazed at how old skills I learnt (the hard way - from mistakes and pre-internet) come back into your mind when teaching and this is certainly the case with model making. Some techniques which I took for granted about the processes, the students had no idea about. For example, how to cut a straight line (I assumed they would use the set squares and rulers provided, but some went freehand and made a right old ugly edge). Doing a dry run before gluing, again the students didn't all consider this - again quite messy and catastrophic as the elements didn't fit, no matter how much pva was applied! Anyway it's certainly obvious that they are learning new skills, applying them, making progress and of course having fun with it. Our hobby is pretty special in those regards.

As an aside, I'm often asked how you teach art and am given the line that it's a "natural talent and some are good at it and others not". Bollocks. It's often used for sport and music too. I hate that, it makes the teaching of these subjects sound redundant. Yes some people do have an affinity for these subjects, but boy do they have to practise and experiment to improve further. And if it's a subject someone is weaker at (perhaps because they've never been taught it due to the overwhelming focus on numeracy and literacy at primary school these days) then they can often be the students who make the most substantial progress; unrestrained by poor habits or a self-belief that they've always been told they're good at it and therefore are shit scared of trying something different in case of failure. And besides a good teacher should be able to make any individual learn new processes if there's enthusiasm on the part of the learner and thoughtfulness on the part of the teacher. As an example, in our hobby I'm constantly seeing people on blogs and Facebook make huge strides of development in their skillsets (myself included) as they lap up all the shared advice, tutorials and videos there are available to us through a quick search.

I just wish I could build a real house. I need a teacher, some time and money/resources...

I digress. Town houses. I also spent a few rainy days with my kids making some more simple houses, but using the same techniques (and a bit more hands on help from me with cutting etc.). My daughter decided to add steps to her doorway and therefore positioned the door higher in the wall (the house on the right) and my son has spent a bit more time on his and has just polyfilled/textured the walls and tiled the roof. He loved that bit as he was just using his fingers to apply the sticky pva and coarse polyfila.

Here they are hard at work. Daughter is gluing on the wooden beams (note the coffee stirrers in lieu of balsa!) whilst my son's actually painting a figure in this photo as he waits for something to dry. My oldest daughter wasn't interested in all this, she prefers the games, and therefore doesn't make the cut for the photo.

Here's the result of his endeavours, a lovely, multi-coloured dwarf! However he did listen to me by thinning his paints and holding the brush nice and low for control. He's 4! Not bad eh?

Here he is in action. My wife says I pull a similar face when concentrating on painting my toys, but I generally use both hands.

And over the past few weeks he's painted all of these; decent speed to model ratio too! Can the zombie be added to the ScaleCreep  Hero Quest Heroquest blog please?

Finally, in other news, I've also been doing a bit of hobby work myself and my ode to the sleeping orc sentry from the Warlock of Firetop Mountain is nearly complete...

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Fighting Fantasy Characters (Warbands Part 5)

My love of Fighting Fantasy has been evident in quite a few posts now and this one takes it a little further - using some of the illustrations from the Trolltooth Wars novel by Russ Nicholson and some of the text which I recently re-read, I've created a small warband based upon the main characters of the story. Firstly I had to source the miniatures and as you can see from the photo, they are a combination of Citadel and Otherworld Miniatures. Can you guess who's who though?:

Our intrepid adventurers assemble in the town square, ready to adventure. From left to right we have; the Mantrapper, Gareth Yaztromo, Nicodemus, Chadda Blackmane, beast of burden and the Chervah

Walking across the town bridge, heading into the unknown. But not just walking; also pointing, waving or loading weapons or just testing out their lanterns or raising dead spells.
Approaching the entrance to Firetop Mountain, our adventurers decide to investigate to see whether the layout is the same of yore. They turn to page 42.
Exploring the dungeon rooms, the adventurers take it in turns to lead and incessantly re-arrange themselves into different positions within the group. The lantern is working and casts some long shadows. Nicodemus' spell takes an age to raise a full zombie. The mule waits by the entrance.

They feel like they are being watched from above as they admire the not so carefully placed dungeon scenery

With the adventuring done, they all retire back to the studio for a quick photo-session, ensuring they show their best sides and line up in a roughly symmetrical way. "Most important character in the center" - they hear the photographer bark at them. The Mantrapper being not best pleased at being the symmetrically opposite of the mule.

So the individuals, first up; Garth Yaztromo.

A slither of descriptive text in the novel provides an insight into his age, beard and attire ie. a slightly faded red cloak.  From the illustrations and other Fighting Fantasy references, he of course has his familiar, Vermithrax the crow; which is a plastic bit (unsure from where) that has been added to the base here. An Otherworld Miniature wizard was acquired as the sculpt seemed to perfectly match the description; in fact I'm sure it was pretty much sculpted to be Yaztromo; the face, beard and garments all allude to the images of him from the books. Therefore an easy choice of miniature and a straightforward paint scheme. I used several thin glazes of red over a flesh colour to create the faded robe effect and a little bit of osl from the lantern. I also had this illustration from the cover of Shadowmaster (the third and final book in the Trolltooth Wars trilogy) to help me out with the colour red and blue colour scheme:

Some other reference images I found that helped inspire me:

For this warband to work in the Frostgrave format, I needed a wizard and apprentice and decided that the Otherworld model I chose for Yaztromo had a slight apprentice like feel to it, i.e, just not as powerful and dynamic as the next model I wanted to use (even though he's not in the Trolltooth Wars). A peer of Yaztromo - yes Nicodemus:

 Now this Mordheim model (actually named Nicodemus itself) has been on my painting wish-list for some time, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to paint him up. I decided to keep the rising zombie from a previous aborted project as I can imagine Nicodemus being powerful enough to control the dark magics without them affecting him. Although it could be imagined that he does appear to have a slightly darkish side from this iconic illustration of him from the City of Thieves:

I think there is more than a passing resemblance in the miniature and in the drawing. Obviously the illustration came first. To add to this dark side I imagined for Nicodemus, I decided to paint him monochromatically which also provided a contrast with the slightly more garish attire of Yaztromo and the rest of the warband. The grey tones also provide a nice contrast with the yellowing, fetid zombie rising from the floor.

Next up is Chadda Blackmane.

I spent some time contemplating which model to use for this brooding character; in the novel he is described as knightly; armoured, broad-shouldered and stocky, with the usual courtly and garish outfit. Obviously he has dark skin and jet-black hair which I could paint onto any model... But in the end I plumped for the old Valten model- perhaps not the most appropriately dressed for the role of Darkmane, but certainly dynamic and heroic in pose and with a mane of hair waiting to be blackened by my paintbrush. Also again, a model I have long since wanted to paint. I like dynamic poses. I went for the fashionably quintessential blue and white striped trousers and strong complementary greens and reds to make him feel quite well dressed. I was tempted to add some insignia to his garments, but decided it would be too difficult and may clutter the model too.

The Mantrapper is described as an elegantly dressed gent, but a lethal, strpping swordsman.
I again returned to Otherworld Miniatures and found a bard which had a moustache, some nice robes and a foppish hat. I removed his lute and added a greenstuffed knapsack to his back to indicate that he is a mercenary and likes to collect gold and jewels (this is certainly referenced in the book and his greed is his demise). In lieu of not painting patterns onto Blackmane, I decided that the Mantrapper must be even more elegant, hence the diamond/stripe pattern on his strides and the circular motifs on his jacket. I went for nicely polished, jet black boots (working with a bit of gloss varnish here) and a light, plain neckerchief.

The Chervah was the most problematic model as his description in the text and from the illustrations is pretty clear.
 I should have taken some time to sculpt a head onto a goblinoid figure, but was starting to flag on this project and decided to choose a model, paint it and move on. I delved into my Citadel lead pile and found an old goblin, with moustache and decided that some garidh colours would help define him as a courtly man-servant. Given the inclination I would have sculpted some pointy shoes, a large, round head and some ruffs too.

Finally to complete the group of adventurers (and even through it's not mentioned in the story) I felt that they needed a beast of burden to carry all the assortment of weapons, provisions, spellbooks etc as they wandered around adventuring.
This model is another Otherworld sculpt and fitted in perfectly with the group. I imagine the Chervah to be in control of the mule. I did a little bit of research on colour and pattern choices for the mules coat and decided that a reddish tanned colour contrasting with an off-white underbelly would do the trick:

I'm currently reading the subsequent novels to the Trolltooth Wars; Demonslayer has Gan the smith's apprentice as a pivotal character, so he may well make an appreance in the future to add to this band of Fighting Fantasy adventurers...