Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Valkyries - choosers of the slain

It seems like real life has got in the way of my hobbies yet again. Just as I started to get on a roll with my painting life comes along and kicks me in the teeth.

My father passed away suddenly on 16th May 2016. He was not very well following a heart bypass operation a few years before but seemed to be making a great recovery recently. Then, unbeknownst to me, he was taken to hospital the week before he died as he suffered from shortage of breath.

In the early hours of the morning following his return home a week later, he was found outside his house by one of his neighbours surrounded by crows. The neighbour shooed them away and called the authorities to take care of my father's body. Now, although I am not at all religious, I would like to see this as the Valkyries (myth suggests that the Vikings saw crows and ravens, constant attendees at the aftermath of battles, as Odin's handmaidens) coming to choose an old warrior (my father was in the Royal Engineers) to party away eternity in the halls of Valhalla. It is a comforting thought for me.

The Ride of the Valkyries by William T. Maud

Following this bad news and the subsequent funeral preparations, house clearing, legal matters etc., I got some good news in the form of a new contract role. It took a good while to get started and go through the onboarding process, but at least I am now back in work, albeit only for a few months again (one of the pitfalls of being a contractor). To add to this, our family holiday arrived to take my mind off of all the goings on.

All of this has had an impact on my pastimes, but now that I am settling back into everyday life I am hoping that I can find the time again for my hobbies. I will have to dig out all of the painting paraphernalia and miniatures that are half-done and set out a plan to get some units completed in short time so I can maybe get some playing done by the close of the year. I also want to get back to (re-)reading my old comics (I still have the last 14 years worth of 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine to get through! as well as several dozen of the latest Dark Horse Conan run) and putting my efforts into training to improve my running times again.

Anyway, until next time...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Gondor update

I haven't updated in a while but things have been moving along nicely with my Gondor army. I have been painting or modelling for about half-an-hour to an hour almost every day since I began the project, but it seems that I am trying to do too much at once and not actually getting anything completed. I am flitting between painting warriors that are almost finished, tidying up newly bought miniatures (removing flash, sticking figures to their slotta bases and so forth), and undercoating those that have been prepped.

Here is a picture of some of my EBay metals haul, prepped and ready for a coat of paint. There is still a big stack to go, but I am progressing through them at a steady rate. The nice weather today has certainly helped as the garden is available for spraying again.

Next up are some of the original Gondor knights' horses. These are the ones that only have one point of contact with the base and thus constantly break (the horror stories I have heard on other blogs are too numerous to count on this point). As I have some metal knights to be mounted, I was going to use the newer style horses (with more than one contact point with the base, and thus much sturdier to take the extra weight of metal riders) for them and use the older horses that came with the metal knights for one half of the pastic unit.

The newer horses are much sturdier so will not get broken so easily - hopefully. The newer horses are pretty much the same poses that can be gained from the older metal set, but with a couple of extra halves for a bit more variety.

Finally here is a view of my first unit of archers with their banner bearer (captain and champion still to come). These have not seen much paint recently due to the other prep work I have been doing, but soon they will be my main focus again.

They need to have their faces looked at but my eyesight just cannot see the details, even with my glasses, so most of the fine detail will be guess and dab with the paint brush. They also need their scabbards and quivers painted to finish them off before some shading and highlighting is attempted.

Friday, 15 April 2016

My Gondorian EBay Haul

To fill the gaps in my Gondorian army I turned to EBay at the beginning of this month in order to get the rare and out of production (oop) items I need. They have all now been delivered. I think I got them all at a reasonable price, as they were all bought at less than their current or original, if oop, RRP with postage included. I was able to grab plenty of heavy weapons crew too, so I should now have enough to man all three of my artillery pieces.

I also picked up a few figures (Guardians of the Fountain Court and a second pose of Faramir in armour) that were not on the list as they were available at a good price and will fill a gap as bodyguards to Denethor (I just need one more Fountain Court Guard to make the four as depicted in the films). The extra box of Warriors of Minas Tirith is of the 24 variety, and I got it as BNIB for only a quid or so more than a brand new box of 12. This was an offer I could not refuse as it will allow me to create the two extra converted units I am looking at doing.

To complete the army I require just two more boxes of Gondor Knights, one box of Dol Amroth Knights and a couple (Osgiliath Veterans and Citadel Guard Archers) of blisters, which I will most likely get direct from Games Workshop as they are all still available.

Over the next few days I will be cleaning them all up (I have done some already - those that are in the slotta bases) and preparing them for undercoating along with the other minis I already have in the collection. The weather has been a bit rotten recently so I have not been able to get out and use the spray can, but as soon as the sun pops out again I will get out into the garden and undercoat as many as I am able to.

The painting of the basic warriors is coming along slowly in the background and I should hopefully have something to show you all in about a week's time. I am almost finished that unit of 12 archers - the block painting is done, now they need a bit of drybrushing and a few washes to complete them.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Gondor Archer unit (wip)

Here is an update on how far I have got so far with my Gondorian archer unit. Progress has been slow (I am only able to find about half an hour to an hour per day at the moment), but I want to keep the blog ticking over with details of what I have been up to. The eight archers in the previous post were undercoated and had the flesh added to their faces. At this stage, the armour has been painted with GW Chainmail. This is a very tiresome procedure as each individual shoulder plate, vambrace and greave has had to be painted one-at-a-time. However, once the first dozen (four to go now) have been completed then it will be onto the more exciting stuff to paint. I have decided to paint the first unit with red tunics to tie in with my ideas discussed earlier in the blog thread. Looking at those in the photo below, I think the black and metal scheme is a little bland.

I have 16 (4 sprues/boxes worth) of each troop type (archers, swordsmen, spearmen) on my paint station, most are undercoated and some have a little paint on them. I am currently working on getting a dozen archers ready to represent a unit on the tabletop for Dragon Rampant and the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. Each unit will also be accompanied by a banner bearer and a captain. I am also thinking of adding a veteran/champion type figure to add a bit more variety to the command structure. I know this doesn't really fit in with either game, but I want the army to match some ideas I have had.

There are a number of EBay purchases ready to come through the post at the moment. I have been busy bidding on a further box of 24 Warriors of Minas Tirith, as well as crew for the war machines. I have also looked at some more captains and banner bearers to fill out the ranks. Hopefully these will all be through over the next week or so. I will show them all off when they have all been delivered.

In future I will not detail each stage of painting for a unit on a separate post, but try to get a unit finished and then detail the method (if anything unusual), paints and materials used with photos of the end result. This may mean that updates will be fewer and further between, but at least something more solid will be shown with each new post.

It would be nice to get four or five units finished in the next month or so, then move onto an enemy. Hopefully after a month of starting that second army I should have enough for two sides to play a game. I am currently looking at Easterlings to be my next project.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Savage Worlds : Conan

Last night I was invited back to the RP Haven for a taster game of Savage Worlds set in the Hyborian Age of Conan. The campaign had already run for one gaming quarter and was just starting up for its second quarter. I was the seventh player at the table (6 is the maximum usually allowed) so the GM was being very kind in allowing me to play - thanks Gianna.

The promo picture from the RP Haven site

I have played Savage Worlds once before with Rod (who invited me along tonight to sample the game) as the GM. It is a great little system that lends itself to almost any genre due to the generic nature of the rules.

This evening I played a Pictish warrior (another player's character) who was a dab hand with the bow. I didn't do my usual write-up of this session as I am not a full-time member of the party, but I am hoping to get the occasional invite when the party's numbers are low.

The general gist was that the party had concluded the previous adventure and now had to head north to Vanaheim to repatriate a valuable horn. We were told it was at a certain place deep in the northern realms of the Vanir. We were accompanied by an old-timer who had lost the lower part of his sword arm (the story of how he lost it changed with every telling).

Along the way we ambushed a Vanir slave train which also had some barrels of ale for the celebrations due to happen at the temple where we were headed. We managed to destroy the Vanir raiders and set free their slaves (I, along with my Pictish cousin, managed to take down the leader and one of his other mounted cohorts). We poisoned the ale in the barrels enough to cause stomach cramps and vomiting and then headed towards the fortification.

We disguised ourselves with hair-dye to match that of the red of the Vanir, and it was a good job we did because that was one of the checks to get into the fortification. Once inside, we distributed the ale and watched for an opportunity to get inside the stone edifice. As soon as the vomiting started, we knew we could move around with a little less chance of being discovered.

We managed to find a side door in the wooden pallisade that led into the temple complex and then proceeded to work our way toward the main stone temple entrance. We encountered a few guards, a black-robed bard figure playing a lyre (who conjured some ghostly wolves with it), and three red-robed priestly types, all of whom we killed, but not without my character picking up a phobia of stringed music (caused by the magic of the bard's lyre). In revenge, it was I that killed the blind red-robed priest (my Pictish cousin killed the boy priest) and took their instruments of doom.

We called a halt to the proceedings just as we broke into the main temple complex on our search for the horn. I am sure the others will have a great time recovering the horn and all the adventures associated with it.

It was a great session and has whetted my appetite for more adventures in the Savage Worlds. The Hyborian Age of Conan is also one of my favourite fantasy worlds, so this for me was a match made in heaven.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Gondor Artillery

After much uhmming and aahing I have decided to use what I have got rather than try to purchase OOP metal minitaures (I am not keen on Finecast so I doubt I will buy anything in that medium) of the Gondor artillery from the film based range by Games Workshop at the hiked up prices seen on EBay.

I decided to utilise some Early Imperial Roman scorpions and a ballista from a box set I bought from Warlord Games when I first started updating this blog. They no longer seem to stock the resin box set I bought, but the individual units can be bought in either a plastic or metal box set. The set I bought was known as Roman War Machines and came with an additional eight metal crew miniatures to man the weapons (which I will get around to completing so the artillery can be used for two armies).

The ballista is a mean piece of kit and will look great in place of the usual Gondor trebuchet, although I may pick up the Warlord Games Onager to do this as well though as that looks like a fabulous model too.

Here is the ballista in its deconstructed form. I just used normal superglue to put it together, and a two-part epoxy resin glue to adhere it to its base.

Here are the two scorpions you get in the box - ideal for use as proxies for the Avenger Bolt Throwers. Again, shown in deconstructed form and stuck together using the same glues as the ballista.
Finally, here is a picture of the three models after construction. Very little effort was required to clear off the flash and venting material; just a few scrapes with a scalpel.

In the meantime, I have been putting some paint onto the Gondor warriors. This is a painstaking process as I am having to paint each individual piece of metal armour one at a time. I have almost completed the first 12 Archers to this stage. Hopefully I can get a picture up of them soon.

Something I have not done before is welcome new people to the forum. That is very poor manners, so from now on I shall try to say hello to everyone who joins this little community. So, today I welcome Ubique Matt. I will also take this opportunity to say hello to everyone else who has signed up either via Blogger or Google+. Thank you for dropping by and keep the comments coming.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Games Workshop's support of Lord of the Rings

I have just read this very welcome article on the Wargames News and Terrain blog.

I hope that many of the old Lord of the Rings minis are brought back into production so that we all can complete our armies. I would really like to get hold of all the original nine Ringwraiths (foot and mounted), as well as several other sets, in a material that is better than Finecast - hopefully the Forgeworld resin is a much better medium than Finecast. It would also be cool if they could fill the gaps in what has already been released (e.g. Rohan Royal Guard both foot and mounted in plastic), Dol Amroth pikemen in plastic, more Elves and maybe some better plastic Dwarfs. I would also like to see some of the old metals re-released, such as Kings of Men, the Commanders sets and the hobbits would be great to see again, especially the personalities.

I also like the idea of a rules tidy up and the release of more source books. I have almost all of the original ones, so any new ones with stat collections and new scenarios would be great to see.

Four years is a long time to revive interest in Games Workshop's, in my opinion, best ruleset. It would be even better if they could promote the game's revival with a DeAgostini style monthly part-works - I am sure GW can afford to put resin and plastic miniatures to good use in this way.

This is very welcome news to me seeing as I am just getting back into the game at the moment.


Stonehenge - 4th April 2016

It was an overcast day today, but we still decided to head on down to Stonehenge as the Easter holidays draw to a close. It was spitting with rain when we got there, but everyone was up for the visit.

We decided to go straight to the stones to see how the new layout looked. The visitor centre is now a fair distance from the remains so a hopper bus is laid on to transport everyone to the monument if so required. The mini-bus runs to within a few hundred metres of the monument but the rest of the way can be walked quite easily. The old road that used to run beside the stones has been removed and the landscape is looking a lot better now that the surroundings have been returned to "native" plains/grass/scrubland. The main road, the A303, is still there in the background but now seems to be a lot less intrusive. Visitors are still not allowed to enter the henge or stone circles contained within, but the outer-rim grass walkway is just the right distance away to still get some decent shots of the monument.

The old visitor path still crosses the henge's ditch and bank like it used to so one can get a little closer to the stones at that point, and the entry way to the monument now has a new environmentally friendly path that runs past the Heel Stone. There are some new visitor information points with lots of text and pictures to explain what one is looking at.

After spending a good half-an-hour walking around the monument, we decided to head back to the Exhibition Centre. We hopped back on the courtesy bus and had a quick look in the hall. There is not a great deal in there but just enough to pass half-an-hour comfortably without getting too bored or snowed under by umpteen musty display cabinets. Everything is now high-tech and displayed in a coherent and east to understand way. The two shows in the main auditorium and hall are short enough to keep the kids enthralled without the chance to get bored.

We then spent a little time in the gift shop where all sorts of goodies are on offer; there is the usual cheap tat, but also some very interesting books, clothing and ornaments. The gift shop is laid out in a way that they are bound to make loads of money (that is now required more than ever as English Heritage is now a charity and not a government run department). We bought a few items; the ubiquitous guide book, activity and pop-up books for the kids, and a t-shirt for our youngest.

Finally, we headed to the restaurant/canteen to grab a coffee for Mrs. Odo and a sandwich for our eldest daughter (she didn't fancy what we had brought for her in the packed lunch). This is where the attraction makes a lot of its money - the food and drink is very expensive. I am so glad we brought a packed lunch. We retired to the car to eat it and then headed on home.

All in all, it was a pleasant few hours to spend at an awe-inspiring monument that I have great affinity for.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Modelling Tips

I don't usually have many modelling tips to pass on as I am quite conservative in my modelling abilities; most of my minis are as they come out of the box, are painted as per the source material and very rarely converted. Safe, safe, safe. It is a bit like doing DIY in my home - I rarely want to go off the beaten track or try anything new in case I muck it up. So, I am hoping with this resurgence in my gaming mojo I will try to do a few of these things in a different way.

First up is a little tip I picked up many years ago when plastic minis first came on the scene. At a trade show (I cannot remember which one) I got chatting to an old grognard about painting and modelling and the virtues of plastic miniatures versus metal ones. He suggested that to give my plastics a little more heft so that they are less likely to be "blown away" during a game, that I fill any cavities on the minis with Plasticine (for those outside of the UK, this is a kids' modelling clay that does not dry out). The reasoning behind this was that it was cheap, flexible enough to fill the cavities, gave the miniature a little more heft and because it does not dry out will remain serviceable for a long time.

Above is a picture of the plasticine that I bought the other day (it was only £1.50 for the pack from Hobbycraft) alongside the horses from one pack of knights of Minas Tirith that have been snipped from their sprues and cleaned up in readiness for preparation for painting.

I previously followed the old gamer's advice with my Norman knights from a few years back, so this is the reason for going the same route this time with my Lord of the Rings minis. All of my plastic animal miniatures (mainly horses at the moment, but there are others that can benefit from this treatment) will be treated in this way.

Once the horse halves had been clipped from the sprues I tidied them up with a scalpel and needle file to get rid of as many mould lines as possible. I then tested them so that they went together correctly and then filled the cavities with Plasticine.

I then tested the fit again to make sure that the filler did not bulge and thus not allow the two halves to come together neatly. Any excess was scraped out with the spatula that came with the clay until I got a good, tight fit. I then used standard plastic glue to stick the two halves together and then the completed horse to the base.

It does not make much difference to the weight of the miniature (only a few grammes) but it is noticeable and allows for just a little more "grip" by the figure on the gaming table, especially on slopes.

Saturday, 2 April 2016


This crept up on me all of a sudden, and a very pleasant surprise it was too considering I have been a little slack with my blogging recently.

A big thank you to all of you for those visits and thus making it all worth while. I am glad my little exploits in the gaming world bring a little diversion to your daily schedules, and I hope I can continue to add more to those little diversions over the coming months.

I have a lot going on in the background at the moment, so there will be some more posts within the next week or so. The Gondorian army is coming along nicely, and the few small Ebay purchases I have recently made are beginning to fill the remaining holes in the collection. I have also sorted out the box set of Warlord Games Roman war machines I bought a few years back to be used as artillery for my Gondor army. They are slowly taking shape and are looking pretty cool so far. I am just awaiting some of the crew to come through the post.

The amount of Gondor minis on the paint table at the moment is looking a little daunting, but I am planning to try to do around 30 minutes work on them every day. It may not seem much time to spend on my hobby each day, but so far things have actually started to come along quite nicely. It is good to see the paint slowly going on, more minis getting cleaned up and glued, and the lead/plastic piles slowly reducing. I cannot wait to update my painting tally later on this month so I do not get yet another null point for this year's painting progress.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Gondorian Archer Unit

We had some nice, bright weather for the early part of this afternoon here in the south-east of the UK today, so I was able to get the spray can out again in the garden and then put paint to brush on some of the figures already undercoated. I managed to get the rest of the Gondorian foot undercoated, as well as some of the metal command miniatures. I decided to start work on the Gondorian archers unit first.
A small part of the Gondorian archer unit

I sprayed the figures with Citadel Chaos Black from the old can that was still lying around in the man cave. I then got the old brushes out and managed to put some GW Dwarf Flesh onto the faces of the first eight warriors - a nice easy start to the painting campaign. I will try to get the next eight archers' faces painted tomorrow and then start on their armour. I will probably only go forward with the dozen required for the unit I am making though, plus a captain and banner bearer.

Tomorrow I will also try to pick up some plastic glue (my existing tubes have now either dried up or run out) and a pack of Plasticine (more on the reasoning for this with my next post) and get some of the cavalry undercoated too.

Once they have all been de-sprued and glued up, I will lay the army out again to see what I need to buy (EBay here I come!) to complete it. I am envisaging a sort-of equivalent to a Roman Century plus support units in the cavalry and artillery. I do not know what Tolkien himself thought of the Romans, but I am a great admirer of their technology and warfare nous.

Until next time...

Monday, 28 March 2016

Gondor Rampant

Soldiers of Gondor

I have to apologise again for the long hiatus on this blog. Ill health and lack of hobby time recently has led to not so many updates as I would have liked.

After it had been built and decorated around this time last year the man cave became a junk room again, just like it was when it was the garage. Lots of those superfluous items have now been either thrown away or passed onto the charity shops as appropriate. Also, I have now sorted out and collated all the gaming related stuff in the hobby room and it is now time to get to work on the figures that have been without paint for several years since purchase.

What with the advent of Dragon Rampant in my games library, I have decided to create warbands based upon that ruleset for larger sized skirmishes (50-60 figures per army) for Lord of the Rings. I will also continue to play at the smaller LotR:SBG scale (20-30 figures per side), as the unit sizes in each are around a dozen. I will be carefully crafting unit stats for my LotR miniatures bearing in mind that Gondor is supposed to have the best troops in the kingoms of men. I will present my workings here for all to comment and critique, but only when I have painted samples of each unit completed - this is to spur me into action so I can get onto the fun of spreadhseet number-crunching creativity.

My first troops to see paint are the Gondor footmen. I have four sprues worth of these giving a total of 48 warriors that will be divided up into four units of a dozen each; one of archers, one of swordsmen, one of spearmen and a mixed unit. I have managed to clip them all off the sprues, glue them up and undercoat eight of each troop type so far...
Gondorian Archers...
Gondorian Spearmen...
Gondorian Swordsmen...
Unfortunately, I did not think too carefully about what I was doing, so I think I have missed one or two combinations that would have led to more troop variety (especially with the spears).

However, I may add to this number so I can create an additional full unit of either swords- or spearmen. I have metal captains and banner bearers for each unit, as well as some named heroes. I also have four of the metal knights of Minas Tirith as well as a dozen of the newer plastic knights. I also have some mounted leaders for these. If I do pick up another couple of sprues of footmen then I will work out the combinations I missed and maybe replace some weapons to create further units - axes might do the trick as I have some spare axes from other plastic minitaures that could be used.

These warriors will form the bulk of the Gondor army along with a couple of units of Rangers (with metal leaders), some more realistic ballistae and catapults (borrowed from Warlord Games's Early Imperial Roman range) with metal crews, and a unit of Swan Knights of Dol Amroth (I still need to buy a few more blisters/boxes of these to make up what I want). I may also look at substitute miniatures for the more well-known fiefdoms like Blackroot Vale, Lebennin, Lossarnach, Lamedon etc.

I will try to run a weekly update on how this army comes together in a staged process. As the weather has been brighter recently, my focus can now be on painting rather than cutting and glueing. I really want to get the first unit together so I can get to work on the stats for them.

I am also yet to decide upon the colours for the warriors' tunics. My initial thoughts were to create a scheme that had each colour of the rainbow represent each of the seven levels of the city of Minas Tirith; Red for the lowest level and troops stationed in Ithilien and Osgiliath, Orange for the second level, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet for the rest. The three companies of Citadel Guard mentioned somewhere in the book (I don't remember where the reference is but it has stuck in my memory) could then be in Black as per the colour scheme presented by the films, and the Fountain Court Guard in White. I am not sure about the company of cavalry/knights. After much thought, I have been thinking of going for red for the scheme for the warriors and knights and green for auxilliary units like the ballista crews to juxtapose the standard warriors. If I get tempted to create more then I can paint them in the other rainbow colours. As I said though, I am still undecided. I will get the armour painted on and then see.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Dragon Rampant - first viewing

I am a bit late to this party, but I have seen a lot of column inches on the web singing the praises of this game (and its predecessor Lion Rampant). I have been tempted to pick the rules up for ages, but just never got round to it. I have plenty of RPG and skirmish sized games, what difference would an extra one make? And, as I got it really cheap from Wordery, even if it turned out to be a stinker, it was not much to spend on a couple of hours' reading entertainment - it could always be mined for ideas.
I have only had one read through of the rules so far, but they seem to be pretty good, so the money was very well spent. I would like to try them out very soon, but I will need to see what forces I can actually muster. Luckily each "unit" can be made smaller but still have the points values/stats without too much detriment to the game (at least whilst trying it out). This will also spur me on to sort out a few more minis from my lead/plastic pile and get some paint on them.

I have a fair number of the GW Lord of the Rings figures that could serve as the bulk of a couple of fantasy armies, even if the first game or two would see them in action in an unpainted state. I am sorting out more junk and having a move around in the man-cave this weekend, so hopefully I can set up the gaming board again in readiness for a bit of Dragon Rampant action.

The game itself is open to any figures being used; it is not affiliated to any particular manufacturer or range and the photos in the book itself show a very wide range of fantasy products. This is a great selling point as everyone has a pile of old fantasy miniatures lying around that are screaming out for a fresh lick of paint and some action on the gaming board.

There are a few rules I would consider chaning from the off, but I will play the rules as is for teh first few games just to see what (un)balancing effect changing them would have. The two main ones for me are;

1) The way that the number of dice rolled only changes at half-strength. I would perhaps roll a dice per point so it changes as the unit diminishes in size due to casualties.

2) The 3" rule - seems a bit limiting to me at the moment.

As I said though, I will try them out as written first before seeing if my amendments would unbalance the game. Also, unless I missed them somewhere, I would introduce a campaign system such that when a battle is over, casualties are rolled for to see if the warriors/beasts/monsters return in the next fray.

I have to admit I don't really like the idea of "unit" based games for fantasy. Yes, great armies would come together in their legions (or whatever tactical size) to fight over fallen idols, great temples or just for the hell of it, but smaller skirmishes in my mind would just be a tactical free for all with individuals having free rein on the battle field. Dragon rampant has the figures in loose formation, so I can live with that.

Still, this is all supposition and procrastination, and I am sure things will sort themselves out when I actually get down to fighting a test battle. I will provide an after action report as soon as I am able.