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.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Empire General - First Look

As the year draws to a close and parental responsibilities are on the up, hobby time is at a premium. I'd like to finish 2011 with a flourish, though, and in a manner that I'd like to continue into 2012, by finishing a highly detailed centrepiece model in about two weeks. 

This mini project will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will provide me with the perfect opportunity to 'go to town' with all the techniques that I've been dabbling with over the past few months. In this spirit, it will give me something truly aspirational to look back on and push me forwards with all the projects that I've got planned for next year. Secondly, it will be a unique Christmas present - lovely for the person set to receive it, but also providing a good deadline for me!

The model I've chosen is the mounted Empire general. I've done a small amount of kit-bashing, adding the banner from the state troopers set, in order to lend the piece a great appearance for the display cabinet. The planned recipient isn't a gamer, so this will need to standout from the shelf and never have to worry about gracing the tabletop. The next step will be to decide on a colour scheme. No plans as of yet, but it will be something different to the Marienburg colours I'm using for my own army - Middenland possibly?  

Also, I know that the photo quality here isn't that great, so I'm going to use this small project as an opportunity to generally improve my skills at miniature photography.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

I Tried Growing Up, But That Didn't Work Out So Well, So I Decided To Just Be A Kid

This is my new mantra / catch phrase / reply to anyone who questions the time I spend on my hobby.

There's a post over at Known World, Old World that sums this up rather neatly, including a cracking quote from C.S. Lewis on the importance of remaining fearlessly childish. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Escape from Suderberg - WFRP Episode One

Our plucky band of PCs have begun their adventure. Here's how they got on in the first episode...
Episode One

Ulrike, Albert and Mordrin were arguing in the cell they were sharing in Suderberg watch house. With all of their possessions confiscated at the time of their arrest for smuggling Kislevian furs, they were feeling quite vulnerable and annoyed - particularly Mordrin, who had been wrongly taken into custody. 

While Ulrike and Albert tried to convince the watchman Gustav to let them out (Albert even offered to cook them all breakfast), Mordrin struck up a conversation with the dishevelled old man in the adjoining cell. This scruffy character introduced himself as Otto and explained that he had once been a farmer in Kislev. Otto told of his homeland having been ravaged by something he kept referring to as the winds of chaos - he'd seen his people meet some kind of awful fate and was clearly driven half mad by the experience.  

As the conversations continued, Gustav noticed that the town bell hadn't rung to announce the morning market and that his colleagues in the watch hadn't arrived for the next shift. The other PCs also noticed the growing sense of unease; something made all the worse by Otto's resigned laughter. Gustav looked out through the iron grill on the watch house door and saw shambling figures through the early morning mist - he recognised some of them as townspeople, but they were somehow physically distorted and twisted... and they were heading for the watch house.

Gustav made the decision to release the other PCs, reasoning that the extra manpower was his most pressing requirement in the face of what he judged to be an impending 'situation'. As he was releasing them from the cell, an ethereal fog seeped through the high bar windows of the watch house - it was diffused somewhat by the sturdy solid stone foundations of the building, yet it still managed to touch each of them - Albert sensed a cup of milk on the table in front of his curdle, while Gustav passed out as the fog lanced up his nostrils. Only Otto, though, felt the full effect of the chaos magic, rapidly undergoing a succession of horrific mutations until his eyes grew six inch fangs that spat acid and began to corrode the bars [all PCs gained an insanity point]. 

As the PCs gathered all their belongings and the few weapons that the watch kept in its simple armoury, Ulrike revealed that she had a boat moored at nearby Blacksmith's Quay. The group decided to take the horses from the watch stables and make their way to the boat as swiftly as possible. A quick dash down the stone steps and a few strides across a courtyard later they found the horses being devoured by a group of horribly disfigured mutants.

Mordrin took off at a run down the road only to find he could not judge the erratic lurching movements of the monstrous creatures that were emerging from every building and side street. Ulrike and Gustav cut away in the opposite direction, into the woods and downhill towards the quay. Albert ducked into the shadows and had to dodge the attacks of four mutants before following Ulrike and Gustav. Mordrin doubled back and down through the woods. All the PCs emerged unscathed on a dirt track running along side the river - about 50 yards from where Ulrike's boat was moored. 

Their way, however, was blocked by three extremely ugly (and certainly malevolent) mutated townspeople. As they moved a safe distance from the tree line, Mordrin loosed a succession of quarrels from his crossbow - but they all missed their targets. The mutants lurched towards the PCs, who decided to take the initiative and charge (all except Albert, who snuck away to ready to boat). Through three rounds of combat their three advisories were neatly dispatched - Gustav even managed to slice one clean in half - although Ulrike suffered a handful of wounds. They soon made it to the boat and out onto the waters of the river, through the clearing mist...

The GM's perspective 

Overall a very pleasing introductory session. The PCs had some time to explore their characters and negotiate the beginnings of their adventuring relationships with each other, while also gaining a real sense of impending mortal danger. There was a mixture of narrative and combat time, and we were able to get to grips with the 2nd edition system for melees. Hopefully this has established the 'end of days' atmosphere that I'm aiming for, which will help us all construct this adventure as being quite different to our other ongoing campaign (the classic Enemy Within in 1st edition, where I'm a PC). 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Under Siege

My plans to expand into gaming systems other than WFB might be a little delayed given the news that a further set of expansion rules is on the way. In another 'leak' from a Spanish edition of WD we're offered the cover of 'Blood in the Badlands', which will apparently include an up-date for the siege rules.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Mangler Squigs... Wow!

These. Look. Amazing.

It Came From The Forest...!

I've got a real soft spot for monsters. I'm often tempted to just collect and paint them rather than a 'real' army. So I was pleased to see that GW are getting round to releasing the official models for the beastmen army. They're doing the rounds on a few sites - I saw them here.

If I'm tempted into a purchase, it'll probably be so that I can have one of these...

The new Ghorgon

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Secret Art of Cleaning Paint Brushes

R. Mutt's 'masterpiece'
I like to think that miniature painting is art. Perhaps this sounds a little deluded, but if Duchamp could put a urinal on a gallery wall then a well painted model can be called a work of art. That's not to say that all painted miniatures are art, or even artistic, or for that matter, actually very good at all. What is true though, is that painting is an artistic craft, even though it can sometimes feel like a bit of a slog.

Following this line of reasoning (and as part of a *secret christmas project*- all very hush, hush...) I've been reading up on artistic techniques and tips that go beyond what you might usually expect to find in miniatures painting guides. Probably the most instructive so far has been a check list of how to clean paint brushes. I suspect it's fair to say that most people use the 'twiddle it around in some water and give it a bit of a wipe' technique. In contrast, what follows is a digested version of general advice given to artists (you know, the proper ones with paper and canvas and porcelain and such)...

1. Wipe off any excess paint using a cloth or soft tissue. Gently squeezing the bristles from the ferrule edge outwards with your fingers, or with a cloth, will help remove paint from the brush. But be careful to avoid pulling on the bristles.

Not R. Mutt's 'masterpiece' 
2. Rinse the brush in lukewarm water. Never use hot water as it can expand the ferrule, causing the hairs to fall out.

3. Wipe it on the cloth again to remove the last of the excess paint.

4. Wash gently using a little bit of mild soap (or a gentle dishwashing liquid). Dab the brush gently onto the piece of soap, then work up a lather in a small container or the palm of your hand.

5. Rinse and repeat until there's no trace of any color coming out. Over time a brush may become stained, but don't stop rinsing until you're sure there's no paint left.

6. Rinse once more in clean, lukewarm water to remove any traces of soap. Shake off the water.

7. Use your fingers to gently shape the brush head into its correct shape.

8. If necessary, wrap the bristles in a piece of tissue or toilet paper while the brush is still wet. When the paper dries it'll contract, pulling the bristles into shape.

9. Leave the brush to dry at room temperature. 

10. Don't let acrylic paint dry on a brush as its water-resistant when dry. But also never leave a brush standing in water.

11. Never use excess pressure to force paint out of a brush. Be patient and rinse it several times.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Citadel Small and Medium Dry Brushes - Review

Drybrushing is seldom a good idea on a miniature but it does work wonders for weathering buildings and terrain. I picked these two brushes up a few months ago and they've served very well at their intended purpose (unlike the other Citadel brushes, which are pretty rubbish).

I've also discovered a few other unexpected uses for them. Because drybrushing is tough job for a brush - life expectancy is rather short - I don't really mind what these get used for. 

As a result I started using them to hook paint out of the pots and onto my pallet. They're really useful for this as they'll take a reasonable load without clogging up the ferrule, which can be a sod to clean. Both are also useful for applying thinned base coats, delivering the paint very quickly and effectively on a batch job, like my Blood Bowl Orcs. As with all the Citadel brushes it's hard to recommend these, although they have come in rather handy. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Dogs of War Redux?

Good batch of rumours doing the rounds over at BoLS lounge about some incoming 'contingent' rules for WFB. Some silly things like fishmen and insectoids (really?) are included alongside some fan favourites such as Estalia, Araby, Kislev and Pirates. Sounds like a DoW redux of sorts, which would be no bad thing.

From Suderberg to Eternity - Prelude to a WFRP Adventure

As my wife shows no signs of going into labour just yet I've decided to plan the beginnings of my epic-to-be WFRP 2nd edition adventure. I'll be running this on regular Thursday evenings with the rest of my enthusiastic gaming group as the PCs. I'll use posts here to record session episodes and chart a few out-of-session goings on so that the PCs have plenty of opportunity to develop along interesting career paths at a reasonable rate. 

Rather than run an 'adventure in a box' I'm going to be designing everything as we go along. I have a general narrative in my mind, including where I'd like the PCs to end up once all the adventuring is done (assuming they're not dead), but I want the structure to be reasonably loose. This began with my percolating the beginnings of the adventure from the narrative morsels that could be picked from the bones of the freshly rolled-up characters. 

In this prelude-to-the-adventure post I'll introduce these characters, explain where they can be found, and situate the whole business within the history of the Old World. My PCs will be free to read and use the information here 'in game' with their own discretion - this will form part of their 'common knowledge'.

The Empire
The PCs

Albert Wick
A halfling originally from the Moot, Albert hasn't had the easiest life. At the age of 34 he finds himself with the inauspicious career of Tomb Robber. His diminutive size make him perfect for this role though, and he has the tunnel rat skills you might expect of someone in this line of 'work'. He's also an accomplished cook - not unusual for a halfling! - and with the additional language of Khazalid it's clear that he's spent plenty of time either catering for or detained by the lawbringers of the dwarves. Albert yearns for adventure  - especially in search of the hidden knowledge and lore buried within the Old World's many tombs - and even though he is consistently lucky when dodging traps during sorties around barrows and the like, he's never been fortunate enough to find a group of adventurers as keen on his talent at theft as they are for his pies. 

Ulrike Esk
Like Albert, Ulrike has found herself making a living on the wrong side of the law. A 23 year old hailing from Ostland she navigates the waterways of the Empire as a Smuggler. Despite her youth and slight build she really knows how to take care of herself in a fight and she's got the pronounced broken nose to prove it. She has adopted the styling and manner of the river folk, usually opting to wear a mixture of silks and hard worn leather, alongside a penchant for showy golden hooped earrings. An only child, Ulrike is fond of looking out for 'number one' and is very likely to be a 'friend' to anyone if she feels she might lighten their purse significantly by the time the night is through. Fond of the oft-repeated maxim that smugglers are the 'champions of the oppressed', she is also keenly aware that a careless smuggler can expect to either spend a long time in gaol, or a short time alive.

Mordrin Tok
Mordrin is a 35 year old dwarf - a mere beardling by dwarf standards - who was born in Fortenhaf in Ostermark on the North-eastern tip of the Empire. Unlike the majority of his mountain dwelling cousins, Mordrin is fast: really fast. Consequently he's made a good living as a Runebearer and dreams of setting the new record for the Kislev to Estalia run. His favourite weapon is the crossbow and his rapid reloading skills make him a deadly adversary, although he will seldom stop for a fight when he has a message to deliver. He is currently returning from Marienburg where delivered a message to an important merchant guild regarding the payment for a shipment of rare ores from the Worlds Edge Mountains.  

Gustav Dietershafen
A tough no-nonsense Nordlander, Gustav is a hard-as-old-boots Watchman currently in the employ of the small Suderberg town watch. A copper with (fittingly) copper coloured hair, he's not entirely pleased to be working in such a sleepy backwater but he needs to send a regular wage home to his four younger siblings who are scratching out a hard living on a farm on the coast of the Sea of Claws. He plans to find better work in Middenheim once the harshest of the winter has passed and eventually make his way back to his family. Gustav's physical training under the tutelage of the priests of Sigmar has been extensive; he's an experienced and coolheaded fighter who, at 30, is the veteran of several campaigns. Although he can dispense justice as he sees fit - he's highly knowledgable in the laws of the land - he will leave the judgment of more serious crimes to the travelling judges or those from the Cult of Verena.

The State of Middenland
The Setting

We begin in the sleepy riverside town of Suderberg at the edge of the Howling Hills in South East Middenland. In terms of the history of the Empire and the Old World more generally, this is just at the beginning of the Storm of Chaos. The major events of the Storm will be the backdrop for our adventurers. However, as they are obviously far too weak to stand up to anything truly Chaotic they'll be spending most of their time (if they have any sense!) running away from the heart of the action as fast and as far as possible. That's not to say, of course, that they won't have the opportunity to rise to fame or infamy - it's just that theirs will be a life of adventuring on the margins of 'big events'. And I like to think that it's in these margins that the truly bizarre and challenging opportunities await our plucky PCs... Although we begin in the back end of beyond, this rag-tag group will have the opportunity to live on through songs of their deeds. Or they might just get horribly murdered, we'll have to wait and see.

The Set Up

Autumn is turning to winter and the harsh winds are rattling the small town of Suderberg. Three unlikely cell mates are huddled together on a flea infested straw mattress. Ulrike and Albert have just worked together bringing in a large haul of furs from Kislev; a fact they failed to declare to the local tax authorities. Ulrike had planned to get Albert drunk and slip away with his share of the rewards, but the halfling proved to be just too hard to drink under the table. They had been joined in the tavern by Mordrin, who, over a few jars of ale, had unwittingly shared some useful information about the mercantile guilds of Marienburg with the ambitious smuggler.

It could have turned into a profitable night for Ulrike if the watch hadn't been tipped off. Suderberg was in the middle of nowhere, but enough of the black uniformed bastards had turned up to catch them unready and outnumbered. They'd dragged Mordrin to the gaol too, despite his protests. Now only a single watchman called Gustav remains on guard as the cold morning stretches through the cracks in the watch house door. He's dozing quietly in his chair, seemingly oblivious to the loud snoring of the ragged old man sprawled out alone in the adjacent cell. Ulrike curses her luck. But a bad night was about to turn a great deal worse...  

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Completed Garden of Morr base plus extra custom terrain

The buildings from the Garden of Morr now have a finished base to sit on, which can also be used as a separate piece of terrain - I like the idea of doubling up and maximising usage. Using the same techniques of card, paper, wood filler and bits of junk I found scattered around the house, I've also taken the time to knock up some additional terrain pieces. First, two bases of ruins, and secondly a 'modular' barrow hill.

The buildings in place - finishing these is the next job

A small bit of added detail

Two bases of ruins - always useful terrain pieces

Some detail from the ruins

The 'modular' hill - I decided to make this in the style of a barrow, with
the suggestion of a ruined entrance at one end

The top section removed for ease of placing troops

A detail from the hillside - perhaps the doorway to an ancient barrow is
hidden beneath the ruins and foliage?  
I'm rather pleased to have got all this finished this weekend, especially as I spent most of my time painting something completely different...

My latest masterpiece in high-shine gloss ;-)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Foundry Fantasy

Fans of the fantastic Foundry fantasy range of miniatures are in for a treat. I've just discovered that Foundry now have these all gathered together on a new website - and there's currently a sale on. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Flames of War - but which army to choose?

A simple question today: which army should I collect for Flames of War? I'm thinking of going for Germany so that I have a large selection of troops and, importantly, tanks and other vehicles, which is really the big selling point for this game. Two of my regular gaming opponents seem likely to go for the USSR and the UK, so this choice would also make sense from that perspective. Any general advice for getting started with FoW is also welcome! 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Garden of Morr - Custom Base

With the aim of maximising the usage of all the parts in the Garden of Morr I've been working on a custom base for the buildings. These are too good to use covering up the graves and the graves are too good to be covered up! With the buildings, walls and fences, and the graveyard, this is certainly the best value terrain kit that GW produce. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Napoleon Rises!

A batch of approximately 300 soldiers - one of several
rediscovered goodie bags 
A few months ago I had a rummage through some bags and boxes that I had stored in my parents' attic room. In the process I chanced on a box brimming with historical figures that I used to collect back in the 80s. Some of these are English Civil War, a few are American Civil War, but the vast majority are from the Napoleonic era. Over the weekend I began to sort through these properly and started to think about using them on the table top again.

As you can see from the photo, the models are within the 1:72 scale range. I'm not sure about the manufacturer but a search around the web seems to suggest that they were from the now defunct Esci, which I believe was taken over by Italeri. All they need is to be based and painted and I'll have a whole new game to play with very little expense (my wife will like this aspect!).

When I was 12 my friends and I used to spend the day setting up a battle scene - usually Waterloo - and then use a very basic set of rules (of our own devising) for movement and combat. I'm not sure these will suffice today though (!) so I've been exploring some of the many different kinds of rule sets that are available for this era. (I found a very useful guide on the site Napoleon Guide).

What's immediately obvious is that this kind of game is far more 'serious' and tactical than fantasy of science fiction systems (nothing you didn't know already). Historical war games have always exuded a more mature tone because historic representativeness is key to their design and spirit. As someone who likes to mess around with house rules they'd always seemed a tad restrictive to me. 

But looking through three of the different sets of rules on offer I'm actually quite looking forward to playing within the tactical parameters of a 'realistic' historic setting. In essence, gaming in this era and at this scale is somewhere between open table top warfare (e.g. WFB) on one end of the spectrum, and more 'board-orientated' games (e.g. Dust Tactics) towards the other. Because my interest is gaming - rather than some kind of serious recreation - I'm actually really excited at the prospect of using a new and tactically-rich system.

I've begun by looking at 'General de Brigade', 'Grande Armee', and 'Elan', although there are several other systems that I mean to explore. What's useful is that there is no standard way of basing figures. This means that you don't have to settle for one system at the loss or exclusion of the others. One down side though, is that I actually feel rather lost at the most basic level of the game because I'm not being instructed on how to base my models! Individual infantry figures represent between 20 and 50 men, while in the case of Grande Armee it's the size of the base or movement try that matters, so there is an unfamiliar level of abstraction here. This has taken a bit of getting used to because the entire scale of the game is very different from what I'm used to.

Whichever system I decide to use I think I'm really going to enjoy the challenges that historical gaming at this scale brings. Luckily I have all the miniatures I need for several armies and a willing opponent in the shape of my brother. Occasional up-dates will follow... although maybe not until next year. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Garden of Morr WIP

With my daughter due to 'drop' next Tuesday I've not had as much time for painting in the last week as I would've liked. Saturday night is always a good one for a long painting session though (oh, the exciting life of the parents of young children!) and I managed to get started on the Garden of Morr. Something that I'm trying to do with my Warhammer scenery is inject a good dose of colour. The box pictures of this set show a rather drab cluster of buildings - rather fitting for a graveyard one might think - but not the look I'm going for at all. After priming everything in Skeletal Bone (better than dull old black) I decided to start with the statue, as this is straightforward in design and model terms. 

As you can see I'm working with a range of greys, greens, and good old rotten flesh for the paving and stones. The statue itself is fun to work on because it's one place where dry brushing is effective and appropriate - it's nice to use this looser method with greys, whites and greens, alongside washes with Devlan Mud and various greens in order to achieve a weathered look.

For the buildings I'm adding the colour with the roofing. Greens come into play again, but so does the amazingly vibrant Warlock Purple, which is quickly becoming my favourite Citadel colour. I'm looking forward to working on the roses this week: these are the neatest design touch in this particular kit. Hopefully all these bright elements will detract from all those skulls...
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