Sunday, 24 June 2018

A Knight, Death and the Devil

It is funny how the next diversion, or impulse buy, can seemingly come from nowhere.  A chance comment left on one of the many notable weblogs that I enjoy alerted me to the fact that ‘Antediluvian Miniatures’ were to have a Kickstarter.  My curiosity was piqued, for not only is my weakness for indulging in crowd funding hobbyness well documented, but ‘Antediluvian Miniatures’ are also the purveyors of some rather fine ‘Lost World’ related miniatures; but gentle reader, these were not dinosaurs but demons!  Taking mediaeval manuscripts as their inspiration the plan was to produce a host of demonic denizens of the dark, along with the usual stretch goals, to unearth all manner of ungodly creatures.
Always looking to justify an expenditure*, I squared this unusual purchase away as possible material for my Witchfinder General project.  The idea of battling demons across England’s green and pleasant land seemed to fit well with the ethos of a game that continues to hold my interest.  Exploring the rich and diverse folklore of the country continues to provide a rich vein of inspiration and the recent investigation of Donnybrook as a more accessible rule set have continued to see time, and pocket money invested, in the project.
*It helps me sleep at night.
 There has always been a fascination with the macabre, the oh so Gothic or the downright terrifying; not, you understand, to any worrying level, but a genuine fascination as to how evil has been depicted through the centuries.  As a budding art student young Master Awdry would stare in wonderment at Piranesi’s inescapable prisons or marvel at Dore’s illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy, but it was the complexity of Albrecht Dürer’s etchings that really stirred my imagination.
Imagine my delight when I discovered that one of stretch goals ‘Antediluvian Miniatures’ was proposing was a Demon Prince, inspired by the etching, ‘A Knight, Death and the Devil’.  This virtuoso engraving by Dürer depicts a lone knight riding through a threatening, desolate landscape all the time stalked by Death and a hellish abomination.  Created in, and around, 1513 here is an image that is packed full of ominous symbolism, evocative of the 23rd Psalm, ‘Though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I will fear no evil’ (Psalms 23:4).

As for the miniature itself, it was beautifully cast in white metal, but is made up of five constituent parts!  I have to confess that I find this much assembly a bit of a chore, but decided to persevere because of my love of the subject matter and ultimately glad that I did.  I pinned the arm and tail, but not the wings as they seemed to have a sufficient amount of cast lugs to make the join secure.**  The difficulty came with deciding on a colour palette, after all Dürer’s etchings are all black and white!
**I may ultimately regret this decision.
A little web based research unearthed some suitable reference material and I was fortunate to also find a painted version on the company’s website that acted as an invaluable source of inspiration.  The application of the paint also saw a bit of a departure from my usual approach.  I have been watching more of the talented Sorastro's painting tutorials on Youtube.  There are a number on painting zombies for Zombicide: Black Plague using base colours and Quickshade, so I thought that I would give this a go.  I have to confess that I was a little sceptical, particularly when it came to covering my carefully painted miniature with what looks like wood stain, but lo and behold, it works!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Fire & Brimstone

Whilst struggling to get underway with 'Forgotten Heroes' this month, I have managed to complete a couple more additions to my Witchfinder world.  Part of the ‘Warlord Games’ Fire and Brimstone set, these two looked like likely candidates in the war against evil.  The puritan will be press ganged into service as a Witchfinder, which allowed me to indulge in a little popish extravagance in the form of a white hatband and red hose ties.  
Not entirely sure how the ranter, or leveller, will be used?  He certainly seems to be getting rather animated about something, perhaps the vampiric hordes have descended on his land and swept off one of his pigs?  
The basing gives him an elevated position to better address those foolish enough to stop and listen to him and is an homage to the extremely talented ‘Stone Cold Lead’, from whose amazing weblog I stole borrowed the idea.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Let's hear it for the band.

A quick post this morning to showcase the band members that formed part of the care package from Dave Stone of ‘Wargames Terrain Workshop’. As with the previous miniatures, I need to stress that these are created for Dave's own personal amusement and are not commercially available due to licensing restrictions. Dave has a hankering to create the many denizens of Jabba’s palace and so it was inevitable that he turned his sculpting skills to the Max Rebo band.
Now as gigs go, being the house band for one of the vilest, most dangerous gangsters in the outer rim, must have been a tough act to pull off!  Jabba the Hutt’s propensity for violence and torture is well documented and still the band played on!

Max and his band first appeared in the Return of the Jedi, as a three piece with Sy Snootles as the vocalist, but with the release of the special edition in 1997 another nine members have been added to the ensemble and Dave looks determined to represent them all!  The resin sculpts that I have are instantly recognisable as Droopy McCool and Sy Snootles from the original line up, with Rappertunie* and Joh Yowza** from the special edition.
* Rappertunie is a stage name, his full name being Rapotwanalantonee Tivtotolon.
**Again another stage name, but hardly surprising that he adopted a non de plume given that his real name is J'ywz'gnk Kchhllbrxcstk Et'nrmdndlcvtbrx!
Unfortunately, Joh Yowza had lost an arm in transit and so one of the first jobs was to stick it back with superglue, which seemed to be a lot harder than it needed to be. Is this peculiar to resin models or just me being impatient I wonder?  After much cursing and swearing I finally got the limb attached only to drop the blasted thing and have his feeler snap off instead – the air was now very blue!  I had considered rebasing the miniatures on to some nice 'stone slab' MDF discs that I have and even asked Dave what was the best way to go about this process.  The answer was with a Dremel, at which point I decided not to push my luck and went with them as they are.
My band members were primed in white, which is a bit of a departure for me, and as I had the trusty air brush to hand gave each one a basic base colour to hopefully speed up the process. First to be tackled were Droopy McCool and Rappertunie. Droopy was relatively straight forward to paint, in fact after his base coat he was given a wash with Agrax Earthshade and then some shorts and that was pretty much it. 

Similarly, Rappertunie was also a case of building on the existing base coat, although I did try to achieve some roundness to his tummy with some highlights.
Buoyed with the success of the first two, I was keen to tackle what I believed would be the more challenging paint jobs.  Sy Snootles with her wonderfully distinctive, mottled skin was great fun to work on, the large protruding lips standing out with their deep red accent.  Finally, Joh Yowza was done, but somehow he ended up with a grey/green pelt!  It seemed to work quite nicely against the rust brown, I had used for his skin and what with his ruddy complexion has actually turned out to be one of my favourites.
So my line up was complete and at this juncture, I discovered another trait of the exceedingly generous Dave Stone Esq. - his unbridled enthusiasm for a project!  Already he has progressed more band members, which can be seen in a post on 'The Game Cupboard' and in a flurry of emails, I found myself swept along by same said enthusiasm and before I knew what I was doing an order was placed with 'Tritex Games' for a couple, or three, Star Wars Miniatures!  

So once again Dave a huge, Thank You , this has been such a fun distraction and I dare say I will sketching out some ideas for a throne room board before too long!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Han Solo in Carbonite

With the recent half term came some precious hobby time and an opportunity to finish off a whimsy that had started with the discovery of a Star Wars related ice cube maker.  The silicone mould of the unfortunate Han Solo, following his entombment in carbonite, proved too much of a lure and was duly ordered.  When it arrived, I started to wonder if there might actually be a modelling opportunity here?
After a quick chat with a colleague regarding the melting temperature of pewter we decided to give it go and whilst the molten metal didn't run straight through the mould, neither did it prove successful in capturing the fine detail.  Unperturbed, I tried some plaster of paris, which proved more suitable and left me with a couple of workable pieces to experiment with.
Once the plaster was dried, I went for a simple black undercoat, but at this stage I decided that it wasn't quite right and needed a little more detail.  After much head scratching, I reached for some styrene strip and cut sufficient pieces to represent the control panels along the side of the carbonite bed.  To these were added styrene tube 'buttons', or least they were when I had finally gathered the pieces that had flown across the room as I cut them!
With just some simply dry brushing and picking out one or two details the job was done and I have to say looks just the part.
I was pleased with how the scale seemed to match well with the Imperial Assault miniatures and couldn't resist setting up a quick scene to depict the moment that Boba Fett returns, triumphant, to Jabba's palace.
Eagled eyed readers might notice some custom made band members, part of the care package from the very generous Mr. Stone, he of 'Wargames Terrain Workshop' and are likely to feature in a forthcoming instalment! 

Friday, 1 June 2018

"This R2 unit has a bad motivator!"

I had hoped that I would take part in 'Forgotten Heroes' this month, but it would appear that my best laid plans have come a little unstuck at present.  I had an idea ready to go and with the help of Jez, of 'Carrion Crow's Buffet', had even sourced a couple of likely miniatures ready for conversion.  It may well be that I enter something before the end of the month, but just for the time being, I have a couple of other items that are demanding my attention.
The first of those items are a couple of droids that formed part of a care package from the incredibly kind and generous Dave Stone; he of 'Wargames Terrain Workshop'.  Now before I go any further, I need to stress that these miniatures are custom sculpts, produced for Dave's own personal amusement and are not commercially available due to licensing restrictions.  Apparently during an email exchange, I sounded a little down and the next thing I knew an amazing assortment of Star Wars inspired miniatures had hit the doormat of Awdry Towers.  I hope to show more of the denizens of Jabba's palace in a future post, but instantly fell upon the droids to paint first, seeing that they fitted into my current theme.
Sensing an easy win, painting wise, I decided to start with an RA-7 Protocol Droid; Action Figure aficionados might remember this one as the Death Star Droid.  The body was duly given a silver base coat before washes were applied and the various details picked out in black.  A RA-7 can be seen in the Jawas' Sandcrawler during Episode IV and so I decided to give mine some additional weathering and rust to match the hapless droid.
If RA-7 was to be a quick win then R5-D4, the second of my droids, was to prove much more costly, time wise.  As with my R2-D2 the miniature this droid has a lot of small detail and required a bit more concentration and research to finish.   Certainly not blessed with a lot of screen time, R5-D4 was always a favourite of mine and so I couldn't be more thrilled to add him to the collection.  Similarly to RA-7, I wanted to give the droid a weathered feel and so more washes and rust effects were applied, although I stopped short of adding his shorted motivator unit.
So with two more droids added to the collection, a droid hunt across the Tatooine sands is looking like a real possibility as a scenario.  I just need to thank Dave again for his hugely generous gift and can confirm that it most definitely brought a smile to my face. 

Sunday, 27 May 2018

"What a desolate place this is."

Just the briefest of posts to document some of the terrain pieces that can be seen in the earlier episodes of this themed month.  ‘Combatzone Scenery’ produce a range of resin, impregnated plaster pieces to compliment the Imperial Assault boards.  They are simple and durable, but have the added advantage of making the table pop!
For ease, I simply airbrushed mine a base colour that I felt matched the illustrations on the board pieces and then just added a series of washes and drybrushed effects until they took on a semblance of desert rocks or moisture vaporators. 
Fortunately, the desert world of Tatooine is a tough, unforgiving place and so rough and ready doesn’t seem to look out of place, at least that is what I told myself anyway!
The problem with these pieces is that there are as addictive to buy as the booster packs and I am currently in a battle with my willpower over whether or not I ned the Smuggler’s Hideout set!
The pieces on show are from the Desert Skirmish set and the Cantina Skirmish set, although I haven’t got round to doing the bar set.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Who shot first?

Greedo, a Rodian Bounty Hunter, was one of the second wave of action figures that young Master Awdry readily exchanged for his pocket money.  Like many other small boys at the time, I was mesmerised by the Cantina scene in Star Wars.  The fleeting glimpses of so many wondrous beings were almost too much to assimilate, but with their immortalisation in plastic, we were able to relive our favourite scenes over and over again.  In fact, the only difficulty was deciding which one of the many alien creatures to collect first, Greedo, Hammerhead, Walrusman or perhaps even Snaggletooth?
Not surprising then that this was one of the Imperial Assault miniatures that I was really looking forward to painting, not least because sculpt for Greedo is a real belter, with the Bounty Hunter in mid draw; although one hopes that the outcome is slighter better than in the film.  When it came to painting, I hurried off to the appropriate Sorastro tutorial and was guided through the intricacies of zenithal highlighting, another new technique for me!
Slowly, but surely, the character started to emerge and again, I have nothing but praise for the clarity of Sorastro’s presentation.  As with previous efforts, Sorastro’s calm and methodical approach resulted in me producing something that I was truly happy with, the man is certainly a talent.
With another miniature safely finished, please excuse me as I indulge myself with a bit of a rant!  Never has there been a clearer insight into a hero’s character than when Han Solo is cornered in the Cantina by Greedo.  A tense passage of the film ensues, revealing a little of our hero’s back story.  Knowing that there is no way out, the smuggler carefully releases his blaster from its holster before terminating the Rodian’s contract.  There is no doubt in my mind that Han Solo does what is required, in fact, the question itself, who shot first? is somewhat redundant, as there is only one shot and the man who fired it, gets up and walks out!
That is until the 1997 special edition!  Why, oh why, does George Lucas feel the need to revisit this scene?  In the newly remastered scene, we are left without any doubt that it is Greedo who fires first.  Is this a bout of intergalactic political correctness?  Perhaps the Director, wanted to remove any stain from the scruffy looking nerf herder’s character?  I appreciate that it is his film, but in the words of D. H. Lawrence,

“Never trust the teller, trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.”
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