Friday, 30 December 2011

Empire General - On Display

Here is the completed Empire General in situ on display in my mother's house. I'm rather pleased with it: it made a great personal gift plus it meant that I actually finished the year with another fully painted miniature! More than that, of course, I was able to experiment with my Blanche inspired painting style. I'm very happy with this direction - particularly the effect on the flag, which carries the heaviest influence with the washes and glazes over a bleached bone base colour - but also on the distressed and tarnished metal on the barding and armour.  

Friday, 23 December 2011

How To Draw Dragons

Hobby Christmas Everybody! In my first post from England (for those who don't know, it's a small country to the east of Wales) something lighthearted for the holiday season - follow the link.

Useful advice for the monster obsessed 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Hobbit - First Full Trailer

Oh look, it's the first trailer for The Hobbit (still a full 12 months to wait, mind you)! Seems like it might be quite different in tone from the LoTR movies - not surprising really, as The Hobbit is a more straightforward romp of a narrative. Personally, I always preferred it to the three LoTR books. Of course, given the nature of these things, the following trailers may capture a completely different atmosphere. If we HAVE to wait until next December then I'll be very happy to spend the time guessing and speculating on the basis of such tit-bits. 

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Gothic Punk - Celebrating Blanchitsu

As I've been working on my Empire General Christmas present I've been giving further consideration to the direction of my painting style. I'm very keen to develop my skills but I'm no great fan of the hyper-clean, comic style that's favoured in-house by GW, or the 'realism' that seems to dominate other miniatures sites (and as my brother says, whoever saw a 'real' Chaos warrior anyway?).

The work of gothic punk extraordinaire John Blanche is becoming a constant reference point as I look to evolve as a painter. Blanche's style is perfect for capturing the tattered, torn and tainted appearance that I want to give my miniatures, thereby placing them in a hard and harsh fantasy world, where life and war is a nasty and grimy affair. To my mind, this grubbier version of Warhammer fits the narratives of both the WFB and 40K universes far better than the slick presentation provided by the majority of what is currently offered in the GW promotional material. There are still bold highlights in Blanche's miniature work - shade is nothing without light - yet he limits his palette brilliantly in order to emphasise the contours, contrasts and details in his models.

The pictures featured here are from the Gothic Punk blog, which is a fabulous fan-created resource for all things Blanche - highly recommended. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Games Workshop Corporate Video

United All Action posted a link yesterday to this very interesting corporate video from GW. It's certainly worth a look, even if it is perhaps at least a couple of years old. This is the company as it would like to be seen by potential investors rather than hobbyists:   

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Tamurkhan Review - Campaign and Rules

Plenty has been written and debated elsewhere about the Chaos Dwarf list included in Tamurkhan: The Throne of Chaos. It's very hard to escape the excitement surrounding the 'official' return of Hashut's favoured sons (as demonstrated by the fact I'm mentioning them from the off...). I actually find them - as with all dwarfs - rather dull, even if some of their siege engines look rather nifty. So enough about them and on to some of the interesting aspects of the campaign rules, creature and character lists that provide that real meat of the Tamurkhan book.   

Campaign Scenarios 
Rules are included that allow players to organise all the phases of Tamurkhan's campaign. What is especially welcome are the designer's notes that explicitly encourage altering and expanding the narrative is multiple ways - this makes the book wilfully inspirational and illustrative of the kind of imaginative depth that can be reached through the hobby. For those who seek and prefer a little more 'official' structure there are six new scenarios based on the saga that could easily be adapted to stand as regular WFB scenarios: simply roll a D6 on this list instead.

Chaos Beasties
Rot Knights... Bile Trolls... It's impossible not to be drawn to the filthy wonders of Nurgle! For me though, it's the Siege Giant that really shines in the new Chaos bestiary. The rules for the 'regular' giant make it one of the most entertaining monsters in the game and, similarly, it's 'pimped' cousin comes with a raft of special rules and upgrades that have taken it right to the top of my monster purchase list for the new year.

Pimp my Giant
While most people have been over the moon with the Chaos Dwarfs, I'm far more interested in the prospect of seeing some Great Hosts of Chaos take to the table, with warriors, beastmen and daemons in a combined force. On first glance this might seem to be an overwhelmingly powerful prospect. However, some very straightforward rules on the paragon, disciples, antagonism, and the tide of conquest will likely make fielding such a host an unpredictable and highly entertaining task.

The Empire of Men and some Bound Monsters
As I'm not really a fan of special characters it's the Land Ship that sent my imagination flying. This would be absolutely insane to field and I find it difficult to envisage it doing anything other than rolling across half the battlefield before blowing itself up - but what an extraordinary model! Once again the spirit encapsulated in these rules perfectly replicates the attention to detail and narrative that I try to develop around my own armies.

Soon to be commanding my very own Dread Host
If only the Land Ship wasn't so expensive... Especially when compared to the exquisite Carmine Dragon (No. 2 on the must buy list for 2012).

The Best Bits and Hidden Gems
For me, this is where things go from the great to the sublime. I've mentioned before that I prefer fluffy rules to balance rules. I'm not against balance - I just think it's of lesser importance. In this frame of mind Tamurkhan is a goldmine. Here are a few of my favourite examples:

  • The conquest of giants scenario: A brilliant capture the monsters scenario that opens up the basic WFB game to dozens of different interpretations that don't all have to hinge on the 'my plastic toys are killing your plastic toys' approach.

  • Colossal squigs: Paint an evil face on a pumpkin, roll it randomly around the table, and when it gets blown up, anyone too close is drowned in a torrent of guts.

  • Tamurkhan's possession attack: Oh, so you think you've killed my general? Well he's now possessed your champion. Cheers then!

  • The Dread Host: Commanded by a dragon and using Storm of Magic as an army book, core troops drawn from the monstrous infantry and monstrous beasts lists, special choices are monsters costing less than 150 pts, with rare choices (all non-daemonic) costing over 150 pts. My next army without a shadow of a doubt.

And so ends my brief journey alongside the horde of Tamurkhan. Of course, I think this book is fabulous and I congratulate everyone involved, especially the marketing people at Forge World who have now convinced me to spend hundreds of pounds on chunks of resin. Roll on Monstrous Arcana.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Steampunk Star Wars

When passions collide it can sometimes turn messy. These steampunk versions of Star Wars characters from the artist Bjorn Hurri, however, are superb. There's a rather effortless elegance about them that I just adore. I have a few steampunk novels on my Christmas list, although it's not a genre I know much about. These great illustrations have really whet my appetite. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tamurkhan Review - Narrative and Fluff

Alan Bligh looks every inch the fantasy writer. In this interview he talks a little about working on Tamurkhan, and while it's not exactly packed with revelations it does highlight some of the key aspects of narrative and fluff that characterise the book.

There is a huge amount of background material here, with almost half of the book consisting of what might be called the 'saga' of Tamurkhan and his assault on the lands of men. The story here serves a purpose and is reasonably entertaining even if it would make for an extremely bog-standard novella. However, what the saga lacks in character development or story arch is certainly made up for by an abundance of atmosphere and rich description. I really enjoyed getting a taste for the seldom visited realms beyond the fringes of the Empire, particularly the north and the mountain domains of the ogre kingdoms. The interspersing of non-narrative descriptions - covering, for example, the tribes of the north - alongside more storied vignettes helps break-up the saga narrative while adding to the 'found artefact' flavour of the book (although the fancy type-script used for these latter parts is difficult to read in places).

Of course, this wouldn't be a GW publication without a healthy dose of typos and a few other errors, which I find really annoying: if I didn't want to like this hobby so much, this kind of sloppy attention to detail would ruin it for me. How hard is it to employ a copy editor or even carefully check your own work? 

These bugbears aside, the fluff here is great, and the fact that the campaign is set within a decade of 'current' time in the Warhammer world means that it provides ample source material for fluffy gamers like me. With a further book focusing entirely on monsters on the horizon I'm practically bursting at the seams with excitement. I might even offer to copy edit it for them.  

Monday, 12 December 2011

Tamurkhan Review - Design and Art

This week I'm reading Tamurkhan: The Throne of Chaos and it really is a book that deserves some serious attention. In this spirit, I'm splitting my review into three short sections, with the first looking at the design and art.

As many people have noted, this is an absolutely gorgeous book. When placed next to Blood in The Badlands that particular offering seems seriously underdeveloped and rather naive in comparison. Tamurkhan is very well bound (I used to work in the book trade so I always pick up on these things) and the quality of the paper is superb. Above all though the art work shines through. I've included a couple of photos here, but these can only begin to indicate the wonderful illustrations inside - I urge you to take a look at a copy if you've not already had a chance. The art captures an essence of Wahammer that I feel has been missing since the Chaos books of old. The tone is grim and murky, the characters rendered as harsh and callous no matter their allegiance, while the rancid pestilence of Father Nurgle almost wafts off the pages. 

The absence of photographed miniatures helps elevate the book to an entirely different level from the standard GW texts. I thought I liked Blood in the Badlands. I still do. It's just all of my expectations have been raised to an elevation I wasn't aware existed. If this is what we can expect from Warhammer Forge then many treats await us in the coming years. I may just be developing a fetish. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Blood In The Badlands - Review

Blood In The Badlands could be subtitled 'the book that came out of nowhere'. With only a week or so 'official' notice before release, we were promised a 'campagin system... [and] rules that can be used in any Warhammer game, from massive multi-player scenarios featuring new magic items and spells, rules for underground battles and a complete siege expansion'. As a side note the blurb says that the book also features that tale of a campaign played out by eight of the GW studio staffers. Now, this is where the major criticism can be laid. Because this is a very misleading sell. 

Get it while you can! (Says the official source...)
Blood In The Badlands is almost entirely made up of the tale of this studio campaign. It certainly isn't, as an unsuspecting punter might think, what might be called a genuine supplement or expansion. But I actually don't have a problem with this. Effectively this book is like a large, hardback version of White Dwarf, with most of the pieces that don't usually interest me removed. I never buy WD so this is a good thing. And at £20 - which is around the newsstand price of 4 issues of the GW rag - the price is pretty good too.

Aside from the fact that a cynic could take this to be a massive advert for Mighty Empires, Blood In The Badlands is a cracking read. What we get here is the diary of a group of experienced gamers playing narratively deep yet highly competitive linked battles. The rules that are here - for campaigns, underground battles, and sieges - are brief, succinct, and seem to compliment the 8th edition core set perfectly. They introduce a flexible framework and some colour to the game that will hopefully encourage gamers (younger gamers in particular) to develop narrative and fluffy rules around their regular tabletop games. The occasional 'poem' that crops up in honour of a particular army's victory did induce a queasiness akin to reading a love letter written by a soppy teenager, but in general the writing isn't bad. 

Some people will moan about the book, and certainly it isn't perfect. For me though, it really strikes a chord. This is what gaming is all about: a generous dose of fluff with a healthy edge of competition. Although why anyone would bother to buy Mighty Empires is still a mystery to me.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Embrace Your Inner Monster

If you were to suggest that I'm a little bit obsessed with monsters, then you'd be right. It's also true to say that my wife finds this a rather less than endearing character trait. Earlier today when I told her there was some spare change on the shelf 'next to the trolls' she sarcastically noted that I really was helping her live in the house of her dreams (she blogs about interior design and is many degrees of class more refined than I).

I actually think a minor (ok, major) obsession with monsters, with the grotesque, the macabre, the unsettling, the weird and the twisted, is a very healthy thing indeed. These are such central aspects of our imaginative and creative selves that we are taught to forget and encouraged to abandon in the process that is supposedly called 'growing up'.

I recently saw some amazing paintings (copied in this post) created by an artist who attempted to make 'realistic' versions of children's drawings. The way these amplify the young imagination is not only breathtaking, it also illustrates perfectly how the monstrous is the ever-present, undeniable, shadow aspect of humanity. Embrace your inner monster, I say. But do try to remember to keep the wife happy too.

Kraan, Thain of Baalor

Tabletop Fix: Maelstrom Games - Kraan, Thain of Baalor: Maelstrom Games presents a new BaneLegion miniature: Kraan, Thain of Baalor:

Yes please Santa. 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Mangler Squigs - A Finecast NIGHTMARE!

This weekend I had my first finecast nightmare - it was truly awful. My previous experiences with the GW resin had been pretty positive, but all that was to change when the temptation of the new Mangler Squigs became too great to resist. 

I picked up a pack on Saturday for the princely sum of £36. That's a lot of cash for a rare choice slot that has totally ridiculous rules and only costs 65 points to field. But the model looked great on the GW website and I reasoned that it would make a wonderfully characterful final addition to my Night Goblin army.

On opening the box it was immediately obvious that something was seriously wrong with the model components. There was the much commented on 'bubbling' and in several places the definition on the chains and ropes was fuzzy at best, absent at worst. One of the goblins that is a non-optional part of the model (it's pinned by the claws of the top squig to the back of the bottom one) was so badly deformed I was actually astonished.

Today I returned the box to my local GW and showed them the problem. I have to say that all the staff I spoke to were great - they were concerned and very apologetic. The manager asked that all the packs that they had in stock be opened to see if they could find me a better model. This is where the nightmare became even worse. All SIX packs had exactly the same kinds of flaws on the models. 

According to the manager these will now be sent back to GW with the warning that there may be a problem with the batch. However, before you think the problem was limited to casting... there's more. I should've taken a photo to illustrate this, but it's only really dawning on me now how strange this is: the models in the packs were different to the one illustrated in all the GW promo material. The top squig has a goblin in it's mouth, and this was clearly in a different position on the model when compared with the photos - how odd is that?!

Fear not though, dear reader, as there is a happy end to this sorry tale. I exchanged this travesty in resin for the new plastic Ghorgon kit, which is fantastic. Although... having said that... as I type this I'm left with the nagging feeling that I might never trust finecast ever again...

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Spellcrow Heroes, Or, Didn't We Used To Date?

I'm always on the look out for good fantasy miniatures made by small companies, so I was really pleased to stumble across Spellcrow today. I'm particularly taken with the female dwarf with spear and owl (I'd probably use her as a halfling, depending on the size - she actually looks a little like an ex-girlfriend of mine...). I have all the models I'll ever need to field a number of fantasy armies, so in the future I'll be collecting 'heroes and monsters' with great sculpts that can be used for WFB or any skirmish game.
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