Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Not Quite Human

Since I've been on the "28mm" diversion of late let me briefly present a few photo essays.

In the first Squats discover an abandoned Eldar settlement:

Next, a few pictures of Eldar at work and play in their fields:

Finally, maybe this is a record of what happened:

It just really doesn't look good does it?

No. Not good at all. Maybe the dwarves have the numbers to forestall the fate of the elves.

Several Shades of Crimson (Dragons, Fists, Cardinals, & Cetera.)

I've done a lot of "28mm" posts of late, which distracts a little from my more recent historical work, but I beg you to bear with me. I've been doing the sci-fi wargaming rather longer so it's a bit of a game of catch-up to make my explorations here current. (Though to be fair, it's been ten years since I last played an actual "game" with the science fiction kids.)

Still, as an artistic endeavor, they're important to me.

After my forays into Space Wolfery and Orcdom I had a lot of human miniatures in need of repainting, or half in old paint jobs that didn't work for my newer wolves. I took to repainting the older marines in other chapters. (I still have several boxes of old paints sitting around to be repurposed. It's an ongoing process.) The repaints thus far fall into one of two chapters: one of my own creation called the Crimson Dragons that are native to the desert world where my story is set, and for a few of my oldest marines the Crimson Fists. (No relation.)

Dragons first:

Ignoring the early 90s heavy weapons troopers at the end the vast bulk of this army is vintage late 80s stuff. In my opinion these were and are still some of the finest sci-fi models produced. A little dark and exaggerated, to be sure, but with tremendous character. And compared to the new stuff (note grossly out of proportion weapons of last two minis) they almost look plausible.

Of course they look quite startlingly different from Citadel's original marines:

There are several more of these, including a different officer and a rocket launcher, that await retouching as time permits. While they're not quite the same as the miniatures on the cover of Rogue Trader, they're similar enough that I hope my artistic inspiration is apparent. And while none of these are particularly recent paint jobs, they're good enough that they're not destined for the strip-bin yet.

Another hangover from the RT era is my obsession with adventurers. In Girls, Girls, Girls!  I talked a little about some of my recent adventurers, but I have many going back a long way. They represent a mixture of Imperial forces, some priests and inquisitors, and the sorts of random fringers and roustabouts you might find on the old Logan's World.

Several of these miniatures have an interesting history. Of the three below the fellow in the center started out as an "adventurer with chainsword" but was promoted to the position of "sensei"; a sort of reborn Emperor, or at least a piece of him. (Oh yes, did I mention that the "Emperor" really is just a dessicated husk with no life in it? The High Priests of Terra seem to be propping him up, Weekend at Bernie's style so that they don't have to give up power. Or at least this was the story as it unfolded in the days before the First Great Heresy at GW: The Cameran Schism of 1993.)

Anyway, the center fellow became a "sensei" as per the 1990 Realm of Chaos. The fellow on the right was released as an "imperial scout" and was for many years attached to my Space Wolves. I have since cut him loose as I think he's a bit too intriguing to be pinned down so narrowly. I can't quite identify the fellow at left, but I like him, so here he is for now.

The next few fellows are a group of dwarves, one dwarf adventurer and a couple ordinary dwarf troopers. A sensei could attract quite a following and I decided these guys had joined up.

Since the sensei is the reborn "star-child" (isn't that remarkably New-Agey for a dark future?) I figured he needed a good star banner. This Ironclaw squat was happy to provide one. And his short friend gives the sensei a pretty solid puch at range.

Here's another mixed bag. The miniature on the right was from a Citadel licensed range. The one in the middle is technically supposed to be an inquisitor. The wonder-boy is apparently quite persuasive.

Of course no adventure is complete without bad guys. Two of the three models below are "Ordo Malleus Inquisitors." The third is a quite similar model from another company. (Grenadier, perhaps? I don't quite recall and I'm not willing to pop him from his base right now.) Well, I like red and the red and white were quite striking. And only the High Priests of Terra wear red, so . . . the college of evil cardinals it is. I mentioned Emperor Bernie, right? Meet the props.

Of course all cardinals propping up long dead prelates need their own Swiss Guard. To my mind the Grey Knights serve that function. 

All marines, all monks, and all inquisitors.

Next time: non-humans.

Girls, Girls, Girls! and the Guys that Run With Them.

I've always wanted to play Warhammer 40K as a role-playing game, but I've long lacked for interested partners. Lately I've revisited the idea and convinced an artist friend, her husband, and my wife that a good old classic dungeon crawl through space with miniatures might be fun. Maybe this takes care of that little problem. But with girl gamers, well, maybe I need some girl miniatures. After a frantic e-bay buying spree and some long nights painting you can see the results. Clearly I picked up a few boys as well along the way as well. At some point I'll try to go into some of the "how to" on cleaning, converting, painting, and finishing models of this sort, but for now I'm just going to do another photo-dump.

Kara "Stone" Mason and Hary van Erikson are a pair of Citadel "Necromunda" figures: a Von Saar leader and an Escher ganger .

Lorita is an older pirate from the Rogue Trader era. (She even came with the name.)

Kitty Luong started out as an Escher juve from the old "Necromunda." Care to guess what inspired the nick?

Jackie Chu is a De Lasque leader, again from "Necromunda."

Lastly, PFC Bush is an Imperial Guard vet from the RT days. A bit out of uniform, I suspect. She does appear to be wounded, so I guess we can make exceptions. (Women in post-apocalyptic settings never do seem quite fully dressed. I guess things get ripped up when the end comes. But only things that cover PG bits. R and NC-17 coverings are more durable.)

For what it's worth, she does have feet, but my wife insists she looks better when you can't see the base. Here's the whole guardswoman, head to toe:

The lighting is a little flat on that one, but you get the idea. More will, of course, follow, but here's a start.

WWI Commissions

A while back a friend of mine asked me if I'd paint some miniatures for him. I've taken commissions every once in a while in the past, but I don't do it often because it's a lot of work and I don't have the guts to ask for the kind of scratch that would actually be commensurate with the time I invest. Maybe this isn't surprising. But this was a friend, and I said yes. Originally this was to have been a simple "paint up the Panzerschiffe" project, but darn if I can ever leave well enough alone.

Well, my friend Owlfeather wants to play some WWI games, and of course the Battle of the Falkland Islands is a nice, if rather unbalanced, place to start. The most famous participants are probably the two British battlecruisers: Invincible and Iflexible, followed closely by Graf Spee's two heavies: Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. (These are, in fact, the very ships Owlfeather first purchased.) I started with the British pair. As usual you can see some of my styrene additions to the model.

The tripod masts are .020" cylindrical stock topped by small rectangles cut from more styrene blanks. The aerials atop are .015" stock. For anchor chain I've found that smashing .010" cylindrical stock with a pair of textured needlenose pliers works fairly well. The anchors themselves are carved out of think styrene sheets. I cut a small square and put two groves in one side that I pry open a little. I then trim the resulting center bit down a little to make a sort of squashed sideways E that works fairly well. The anchor capstans are very short pieces of .020" stock. I glue them to the deck and then file them down to the same height and simply run my anchor chains up to them. In reality the chains should generally wrap around them and go back, but at this scale a little abstraction is inevitable.

While imperfect, it helps to solve the empty fo'c'sle problem. With nothing the expanse simply looks too large and too barren on ships of cruiser size or larger. (I've decided paint suffices on destroyers and under. Not only is the hardware smaller on lighter combatants, and thus less visible and harder to model at 1/2400, but you generally need many more of them. For the sake of mass production I have decided some sacrifices are acceptable. And prop guards give a better return on investment, but that's something for another post.)

Here you can see the result after I've applied a basecoat and the deck color.

Here you can see the completed effect. Invincible and Inflexible lie at anchor on the Sea of Shijin ready to do battle in the name of grognardery and the right to drink dark beer. The Kaiser's fleet will no doubt attempt to extend the hegemony of both yellow beer and lighter gaming. Me? I like both. I guess that makes me a neutral in this battle.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Goblins of Greater Stature

A hundred years ago a goblin was a sort of evil faerie. Something slightly unseelie, perhaps, not quite right. And an orc was a typographical error. Fifty years ago all things seelie and else were bent to the will of an English philologist cum storyteller and goblins turned green, grew several feet taller, and emerged rather more loathsome and of slightly fouler disposition. I suspect it was an uncomfortable metamorphosis. Of course he trademarked the enlarged breed in the midst of some long forgotten legal fight, though it was never a mark much respected in the storytelling community. Among the many abusers of said was one British workshop with which his estate no doubt had some small contact, thanks to a licensing agreement. While they absconded with the species for their own use, much like everyone else, they had the courtesy to change the name and respect the professor's mark. Thus did orcs emerge from the memetic closet as orkz. While they might be phonetically and genetically indistinguishable from their fantastic forbears they too were subjected to rather tedious and incredibly loathsome (trade)marking, which I shall deign to respect just as they did before me. Et dimite nobis debita nostra sicut et nos demitimus debitoribus nostris, gentlemen. I'm going to need it.

Right: down to the sinnin' part.

In some mythologies, goblins ride wolves. In space, they fight them:

The fine gentleman above, whom I sometimes call the "Mountain King" after Grieg's incidental music to Peer Gynt, was officially christened Gazghkull Mag Uruk Thrakha. Say that three times fast. The name feels like a nod to the professor, in whose orcish tongue "Ash nazg durbatuluk" means "One ring to rule them all." In the same tongue "uruk," of course, means orc. (Or ork if you prefer filing lawsuits to being named in them. Sometimes it truly is better to give . . . )

Aside: what happens to unholy things when they are christened? Maybe that's all a part of the dark gestation that brought us orc/ks in the first place. Seal your lovely little gobli-mogwai up in a chrysalis. Pour in some holy chrism sometime after midnight has tolled. After the smoke clears a hunched little man with green skin and a bad case of halitosis emerges. And you realize something has gone very very wrong. I recommend you run at this point. And you best hope he isn't riding one of these:

Every police officer will gladly tell you that the red ones go faster. Just why we're not sure, but they do. Red fire trucks, red corvettes, red cobras, and indeed little red wagons with rubber-band drives.

Of course, one of the great joys to this, my second army, was converting things. The observant will have noticed a gun not found in any Citadel catalog next to his Mountain Majesty. It's built up around a toy rocket launcher from a transformer, fitted out with panzer wheels, zoid gears, and a modest variety of other bits and bobs. Below you can see what happens when an ork encounters a beakie on the workbench.

Note: my friend Mike played the blood angels. Of course sometimes even orks take to piracy. When they do Germy Warfare calls 'em Freebooters. (With a z.)

Sure, that's one of Mike's on the stick, and I confess that I had it out for the Ultramarines on general principle. But the conversions are on the Flash Git, not the banner. Other flash gitz might find themselves in possession of chainsaws from titans or just too many arms and legs:

Of course the very most impressive conversions are those that are indeed meant to be conversions. Orkoid conversions. Once upon an orky time certain mad orks, mad even by the rather low standards of the greens, joined forces thus:

On battlefields all over the known universe they collected the bits and pieces cast off in the heat of combat, and from the detritus they assembled . . . dreadnaughts. Or perhaps dreadfuls. (Dread little and dread less, really.) Ghastly, crummy, tiny, dreadful dreadnaughts.

These have piracy written all over them. (Appropriate of Freebooters, yes?) Mixed in with a job-lot of second-hand orks I bought were two remarkably shoddy Imperial dreadnaughts. These were truly horrible little creatures, not really suitable for any imperial army. They were cratered and pocked from some far off battle; tired, miscast rejects. But being frugal, ork pirates can salvage the wreckage of even the most dubious armaments.

After hacking and slashing, and with the addition of titanic arms, key fobs, mecha(nized) legs and a gremlin or two they became a virtual mob of killer tin cans. (Which was how you got a lot of dreadnaughts into a Goff army back in the day.) There were even rules for the things. Sort of.

So in conclusion, by the mid nineties I had two good-sized armies: one Imperial and one green. (Or red, really. But to hear the red-staters tell it greens are just rebranded reds, ahem commies rather. So maybe this works.) More would follow later, but not until after the downfall. I like my stuff pre-heresy, thank you very much, so it was all after-market from about 1995 onwards.