Sunday, April 29, 2012

Beastlord and Beastlore

I managed to finish painting the GW Beastlord which I bought second-hand off ebay last evening.

This figure is a bit iconic - there are two versions of it currently being sold by GW: one swinging a two-handed axe, and this one which is supposed to be holding two axes. The previous owner obviously tried to do a conversion and had cut the axe on his left hand off, which meant it was sold as "incomplete" and I managed to get it at a bargain; in fact, I have planned to field him with a shield, so I actually saved a bit of effort there!

It's a rather busy figure, with all the studs and bits he is carrying, but the colours responded to my usual block-and-wash technique once more.

What is interesting to me is that both versions of the figure come with one of its horns broken - I don't know if there is some fluff associated with that, but it did get me to think about fluff for my beastmen.

The GW beastmen (and their derivatives) come with so many skulls or other human body parts sculpted on them it makes me wonder: why do they hate us so much? "Chaos" is a convenient excuse, but I sort of wanted a... a nobler beastman.

Then I came across the Gundestrup cauldron and subsequently Pashupati while browsing, and I came up with a mythology for my beastmen.

In their creation myth, the beastmen tell of a time when all animals (including men and I suppose the other humanoid races) came to Pashupati to be given their traits.

The carnivores were first and asked for padded paws so they could stalk their prey, and claws and teeth to take them down.

The herbivores were next and they asked for hooved feet so they could run from their predators, and horns with which they may use to defend themselves.

Then man came before Pashupati and said: Lord, you have given the best traits to the carnivores and the herbivores - how shall we strive against them?

So Pashupati in his kindness gave man the greatest traits: feet to walk on, and hands which he may use to craft tools, on the condition that he used them only to keep himself safe.

But man exploited his advantage and enslaved and killed the other animals, so they came back to Pushapati, saying: Lord, with the hands you have given man he has made weapons to hunt us down and chains to enslave us. He has slain us not just for food or in defence, but also for sport. Our claws and horns are no match against his iron, and our paws and hooves do not outrun his arrows and spears.

When Pashupati heard this he was wroth, and he turned his supplicants into beastmen, giving them the hooves of the herbivores so he might run swiftly, the teeth and claws of the carnivores that he might be fearsome in combat, and the hands of man so he may craft and use weapons, and he sent the beastmen forth with the sacred mission of punishing man for breaking their covenant with Pushapati.

And that, my children, is why we beastmen make war on man.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Skull piles

I don't know what they are called officially, but that's what we call them here...

The dwarf-themed one on the left was rather easy to make. I took a 1" metal disc and glued my usual "spice mix" of sand and fine gravel to the top and side. When it dried I spray-primed it black, and when the primer dried I placed chopped up pieces of the dwarven barricade from GW's Skull Pass set, leaning the stone pillar against a piece of cork, and then half of a warhammer (a metal bit from some figure I must have cut off - can't remember which...) and the handle-half of a weapon cut from the plastic beastmen sprue. When everything dried, it was another coat of spray-primer and then a quick paint-job, followed by some tufts of flock.

These are rather cheap and quick to make, and offer a break between colours when painting by the production-line method. They don't take up much space to store, and can add some character to the tabletop. I think I'll be making more of these as I come across suitable bits.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Strandhogg Game 8: Dawn Attack

It's our eighth game of Strandhogg and the first appearance of the Perry WOTR infantry which I have painted. It seems strange that we are playing a fantasy skirmish game based on a set of historical rules, with both fantasy (LOTR) and historical (WOTR) figures, and refighting a historical (Great Northern War) scenario described in a recent issue of Battlegames.

Anyway, I finally decided to add a little background narrative to our games, so here goes:

After suffering a number of attacks by the goblins, the dwarves decided to form an alliance with the humans from the Barony to launch an invasion into goblin territory. In the opening stage of the campaign Barony troops secured several riverside settlements and made the logistic preparations while waiting for their dwarven allies to concentrate their forces.

The goblin king, learning of their plan, prepares for a guerrilla campaign, but decides to inflict a defeat on the Alliance to teach the humans and dwarves that the goblins are a force to be reckoned with...

The scenario depicts a small force of Barony troops billeted at a river-crossing near a village. With a swamp and a few rivers between them and the known goblin location, they did not expect to be surprised at dawn by a determined attack on their camp, led by a troll.

The herald blew a blast on his horn to wake the men and summon help from the village, while the troll charged right into the encampment, killing an archer and without pausing for a breath headed right for the leader of the group... who failed his Courage test and fled!

The other group fell back towards the village even as the goblin warbands surged across the bridge and the river.

The arrival of the more heavily armoured men-at-arms, led by the young Lord Holmes, prevented the battle from becoming a total rout. In the centre of the picture, our knight once again failed his Courage test...

The flanking force of warg riders which Martin sent now arrived at the centre of the table, but just when the Barony troops thought their fate was sealed, a small band of dwarves arrived on the scene, running as quickly as their legs could take them (fg using a Fate Card to speed their advance!).

The battle now turned into a massive brawl with both sides taking heavy casualties. The goblin king, seeing his point made, decided to leave the field early... but the young Lord Holmes was not about to let him go unchallenged!

Meanwhile, our troll finally gets his man (before dying in a hail of arrows off camera...).

Worried that his heavy armour would prevent him from fording the river safely, the Lord Holmes decided that the bridge would be a wiser course (Martin played a Fate Card that allowed him to move fg's figure). Seizing the opening, the warg riders launched an attack on him.

The attack was beaten off by the arrival of his household knights, while the goblin king made his escape.

The scenario was a bloody draw, although many of the losses represented combatants fleeing the field rather than dying.

The use of Fate Cards added another dimension to the game. I gave each player two cards to start with, giving their opponent another one each time he played one; both players were initially unwilling to use their cards, but eventually we had seven cards played in all.

Strandhogg is currently our most-played set of rules (which isn't saying much since we don't really play often), and while I am harbouring hopes of expanding my WOTR force to a size where I can play a mass-combat game, the others are painting up their own warbands.

Here is a shot of the Gripping Beast plastic Saxon that Martin painted. Hopefully they will be joined by more of their countrymen soon!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

WOTR project update

Ten months and many other concurrent projects later, this is what I've got:

The first shot is taken using my usual 50mm prime lens, which is equivalent of a 80mm lens. This shot is taken from the end of the table, about six feet away.

I've arranged them in blocks for photography, although they will be used as mixed units in my Strandhogg skirmish games. As I mentioned before, they share the same colours as the state of Nordland in Warhammer's (The) Empire; I've got here enough figures for a general on foot, a priest, and mage, a unit of 10 fully-armoured men-at-arms with polearms (Great Swords), a 20-man unit of halberdiers with leader, standard and musician, 12 archers (which may be fielded as a unit or as attachments, and an artillery piece and crew.

They are a long way from a full WHFB army, especially with the large number of figures I read are favoured in the latest incarnation of the rules. I have been looking at Kings of War though. With my planned purchase of the Perry mounted men-at-arms box I can add one or two units of knights, a mounted general and an army standard-bearer. Add a box of Perry mercenaries and I can have 10 crossbowmen, 10 handgunners, and another unit of 20 foot which I may or may not arm as pikemen - I hear swordsmen are pretty cool, so maybe an arms-swop using Warhammer bits is possible? Last but not least, a box of ECW cavalry from Warlord Games will provide some light cavalry in the shape of Pistoliers... Well, one can dream.

The next few shots are taken with a wide (10 ~ 22mm) lens a friend lent me. These are taken with the lens literally a couple of inches in front of the subject, and they have a very different perspective which I quite like.

The lord's household.

Friar Tuck, Sir John Savage, and Maid Marian from Trent Miniatures, with the billmen to the left.

Perry WOTR breech-loading field piece. Although artillery men were mostly "civilians", I chose to paint them in the same livery, giving them red hoses and inner shirts to reinforce the uniformity and to mark their "elite" status. Plus red goes well with yellow and blue. If I decide to expand the army then more artillery and perhaps an organ gun will be a quick way to make up the points

Archers are visible on the other hill.

Finally, a shot of the beastmen who are partly responsible for my slowness. Here are all the Gors I have painted so far - to Ungors are waiting for their bow-arms. Unlike the WOTR figures I have no desire to expand these into a full army - they will remain a skirmish warband of 19 figures, supplemented perhaps occasionally by any nice beastmen figure I may come across. 

With these figures done, I am down to six casualty figures and 15 mounted figures for WOTR, and six Ungors and a Beastlord for the beastmen.

I wonder if it will take me another ten months...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Imminent Perry Paralysis?

I came home today to find my Perry metals in the mail. As before they are good sculpts but bad casts - one of the casualty figures is missing the tip of his foot, and most of them have deformed hands...

Anyway, the mounted command pack allowed me to have an idea of how big a cavalry figure would be, and whether the D&D hippogriff I intend to use as a mount for the commander will work. Here is a photo:

I decided to pull the wings off as I couldn't see how you can find a place to fit a man in front of them (short of making the model the size of a real chicken...). The wingless hippogriff is about the size of a horse, which means I will probably just give it warhorse stats - no need to bother with flying rules.

I've cleaned the casualty figures and mounted a couple which need to be based on bases, ready to be primed tomorrow.

Once more I am a little overwhelmed by the number of figures I have to paint: 6 remaining bowmen, 6 casualty figures, and 15 mounted figures including standards and musicians. Add to that six beastmen Ungors awaiting for bits... Hopefully the fully-armoured mounted men-at-arms will just be mainly a coat of silver paint and a wash of Badab Black.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Making camp

I came across one of those wooden road signs online and once more at the local gaming store earlier this week and thought to myself: I can make something like that myself at a fraction of the cost!

So I cut a few strips of balsa wood and glued them together, then stuck the end into a blob of putty on a washer.

When the putty has set, I glued my usual base mix on.

Since I also found a camp-fire scenic piece in the LOTR sprues wahj gave me, I thought I would make a whole camp set-up since I had a few resin tents from... I can't remember whom or where. Unfortunately, the resin didn't react well with my spray primer...

So I decided to use the Saxon tent template I featured on one of my previous posts instead. I manage to fit six of them on an A4 sheet of card (although I did lose one during the gluing process...).

A bit of white glue along the spine, a coat of off-white paint, a wash of Devlan Mud, and they are ready for the table. I kept the tents plain so they are generic enough for dwarves and men alike. Not too shabby for an afternoon's work, even if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Orc War Styracosarus

Remember the styracosarus I bought on a whim last month?

I have been thinking about getting a crew for it, but didn't come across anything I liked, until I saw the Beast of Gorgoroth on the GW website.

The remote resemblance was enough to stir my imagination, and I was reminded just that day that wahj had given me his collection of GW LOTR figures many months ago. A quick search revealed several suitable crew figures, and I set about thinking of a way to make a howdah.

A few failed experiments later, I decided to keep things simple and turn to my new best friend: masking tape.

As it is impractical to seat the mahout on the neck of the styracosarus in view of its horns, I decided to have a cockpit for him on the back of the dino. The fighting crew would be housed on two 'gondolas' on the sides. The compartments are made with cardboard taped together by masking tape, with the floor of the gondolas made from foamcore for added sturdiness. I've draped a piece of cloth soaked in dilute PVA over the back of the dino.

In this second picture you can see how the whole rig is put together. The idea (I don't know how sound it is mechanically...) is that the weight is all borne by the square frame which makes up the base of the cockpit and which sits on the back of the dino. I've bought some chains yesterday which will be used to secure the front two corners of the frame in a loop below the neck of the dino; the rear two corners will likewise be secured by a chain passing beneath the tail of the dino.

The extra bits of balsa on the side of the frame and the gondolas represent the fact that the gondolas are suspended by sheets of leather which are nailed to the side of the frame.

The mahout is the star of the show, as his weapon and pose makes it look like he is using it to steer the dino by manipulating its horns.

The whole thing still looks more cute than intimidating, mainly because the dino looks docile, but a proper paint-job should rectify that. I've also got to decide how much work to do on the howdah - it's easy to make them all too spiky and scary, but the crew need to be able to get in and out of them... In any case, historical howdahs didn't come with anti-boarding spikes and whatnot. Perhaps a couple of pegs to hang the shields for the crew will be sufficient.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quick and dirty sword racks

When we still used to build tentage Battalion Casualty Stations my job was to make a rifle rack out of some ropes - it was an important job as that allowed us to stow our rifles while we continued with our work.

(That's actually one of my medics undergoing assessment. The rifle rack would be a rope strung between the metal poles.)

Now I just recently found out about "unit fillers" while browsing the internet on Warhammer Fantasy Beastmen and Empire armies. For those who are not familiar with them, unit fillers are mini vignettes or dioramas on bases the size of several single troop bases, used to represent the equivalent number of figures that would have otherwise occupied that same frontage, presumably to save on the expense and time of actually buying and painting those figures - although I have seen at least one unit filler that contained the same number of figures it would have replaced. Like the mini-dioramas of Impetus bases and DBA/DBM camp and baggage elements, these unit filers add character to the armies the are included in.

Anyway, there I was cutting the tabs off the feet of my plastic GW Beastmen (the figures came with tabs but the bases that came with them did not have slots...) when it occurred to me that they would be useful for making... stuff.

Looking at the spare swords on the sprues of my Perry plastic WOTR figures, I decided to make simple sword racks. After some googling, I sat down in front of the TV and started work...

I started with a stable base and the uprights...

Then I cut a piece of crossbar that would fit nicely between the uprights, and carved notches in them with an Exacto knife...

Then I glued the swords into the notches, and simply glued the crossbar to the base.

Since everything was made of polystyrene, gluing was clean and fast. But then I thought a two-sword rack was a little impractical, so I decided to make a bigger one, this time with a different type of base.

A spray of primer and a quick paint job should see them ready for the table.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Beastmen Herdstone feat. Phaistos Disc

I've been working on this little project secretly over the past week, and it's finally done.

Presenting: the Herdstone!

I was thinking of building a 'traditional' obelisk herdstone, but then I saw a documentary on the Phaistos Disc and decided to find out more about it. It looks alien enough to pass off as a non-human script, so I went on ebay and found a fridge magnet of the correct size.

To make the 'base' I cut a hole in a sheet of foamcore and then stacked it on three more sheets, and carved a hill shape out of them as well as some steps, covered the whole in masking tape, then glued sand on it.

After the glue dried, I spray-primed it black, painted it the ground colour I use for all my bases, dry-brushed a lighter yellow-brown, and flocked it.

The steps were painted grey and the edge of the hole was painted dark green with a light-green highlight as the disc. My fluff is that the herdstone is some meteorite/warpstone which is embedded into the earth.

The disc fits snugly, and between games can be removed and returned to my fridge. This also allows the hillock to be used for other 'races' by substituting the centrepiece.

The whole thing still looked a little bare, so I googled around and learnt that beastmen would leave heaps of skulls and other trophies around their herdstones, so I rummaged through my bits box to find stuff I could use.

I decided to make a small removable base of 'stash', centred around an orc sabre stuck into a blob of putty moulded on a washer. The base was textured, and when it and the various bits were painted, I applied white glue onto the base and arranged the bits around the sabre. Again, this gives me the flexibility of using the base as an objective marker or just decoration in a game.

Here's a shot of the herd painted so far posing for a family photo.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Trent Miniatures Friar Tuck and Maid Marian

I was planning to complete a terrain piece today, but the mechanics of daily living took a little more time than I thought they would...

I did manage to finish painting the two 'civilian' figures I bought.

Their proportions are cartoony compared to the Perry figures, but their height are style of dress are compatible. Hopefully they will see action soon.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Beastie Boys

With the first three figures of my beastmen warband done, I decided to do up a couple of GW beastmen to compare the size.

The figures on the extreme left and right are GW Gors, and the one second from the right is Reaper's Traeg, beastman hero, given a GW beastmen shield.

The three non-GW figures are larger than the GW Gors, and have different head-shape and horns from them too. A limited palette gives a sense of uniformity and helps to tie the force together.

The GW Gors are easy to put together and take the block-and-wash approach well.

I think I will do up a couple of the Ungor skirmishers next.

Added: I just realised that my beastmen are from the old mixed Gor and Ungor boxed set, which means I don't get bow arms...  If you have some Ungor bow arms which you are willing to part with, please leave a comment and we'll see if we can work something out.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

We band of brothers

(Background: Under the Singapore system, a male citizen typically enlists at the age of 19, serves two-and-a-half years full time, and then undergoes annual training of about two weeks' duration for the next ten years, before being phased into the reserve.)

Yesterday, the infantry battalion which I have served in for the past ten years formally stepped down, and I will be phased into the reserve in the middle of this month.

Having gone to medical school before rejoining the military, I did not start in this unit as most of the men did, but I did undergo every one of their annual training with them. However, my involvement with this unit did begin way back while we were both serving our full time stint twelve years ago, when I was the base Medical Officer at the army's training base in Thailand when the battalion came for their overseas training, and I was again the base Medical Officer at one of our Australian training bases when my current Commanding Officer went there for training too.

Over the past ten years we underwent a few changes of commanders and principal staff officers, went through tough training missions, and through all that we grew to trust each other. I gave myself the personal mission of not losing a single soldier under my watch, and when the battalion stepped down yesterday, I was glad to say I achieved that (although at one point it came really close...). While I enjoyed the camaraderie that has developed over the years, I often wonder to myself if I can deal with seeing so many friends and comrades being killed or maimed if we were to really go to war.

Today, my Commanding Officer made me a gift of his green beret which was awarded to him at the end of his US Special Forces training, as well as the badge and tabs.

I have a small collection of hats which I bought on my overseas trips or which were given to me by friends and family, but this beret has the most history behind it. It will take the place of honour among my collection, and remind me of the times I spent with the remarkable men whom I had the privilege of serving along.