Thursday, 21 September 2017

Happy Birthday Bilbo!

Bilbo Baggins is eighty years old!* Or rather, the book The Hobbit was first published on September 21, 1937. You could argue that this is day zero for all the fantasy stuff we read, we watch on TV and the cinema, we play games over. Without The Hobbit there would have been no Lord of the Rings, which is widely regarded as the grandfather of the fantasy genre, from Dungeons and Dragons to Warhammer Fantasy gaming.

Legend has it that Tolkien, an Oxford professor, was marking exam papers and was so bored that he doodled in the margin, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit", the first line of the book, thus beginning his epic tale.

*As any self-respecting Tolknerd (that should be a word) will tell you, Bilbo's birthday is actually tomorrow, September 22nd. As is Frodo's for that matter. 

I am a self-confessed Tolkien nerd. And to prove it, here's a photo of my nerdy bookshelf. There is a lot of Tolkien material there, either written by him, about him, or art based on his works. Look closely and you will see that I have five versions of The Hobbit, from a pop-up book designed for young readers, to an annotated version for the full-on geek.


The pop-up book was recently rescued from a trip up into the loft (attic), I presume it was bought for my two young boys years ago - I really cannot remember! It's very sweet and the illustrations are actually very well done. 


Another unusual format is this graphic novel - a step up from the pop-up but still plenty of pictures for the word shy readers. Again, there are some lovely art spreads in this version.




Moving on to the more typical versions, I have an illustrated version and a facsimile of the classic standard version, with a few illustrations by Tolkien himself, which I find to be very charming.


And finally there's the wordiest, nerdiest version - The Annotated Hobbit. This book describes in detail possible sources of inspiration that Tolkien used, from experiences in the trenches of World War 1 to landmarks of his home environments, and plenty of references to academic and mythical influences. If you are the kind of person that would be fascinated to learn that nearly all the dwarf names come from the old Norse poem "Voluspa", that Rivendell was probably inspired by a walking holiday in Switzerland, or the origin of the name Baggins, then this is the book for you. 


So let's raise a glass to the old boy, without whom none of us would be here now, blogging or gaming or watching the movies. Cheers!


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Lord of Bleak Fell

Shunned by man, haunted by fell wolves and restless spirits, Bleak Fell lies deep in the jagged mountain range known as Helsridge. At one time in the distant past, it was the burial place of kings, a place where the dead were honoured. Interred in palatial tombs, those people are now long gone, a lost and forgotten civilisation, whispered of only in ghost stories. And yet, a few still seek this place. Most perish, for the road is long and hard, the old paths are gone, and many terrors lie in wait. For any mortal foolish enough to seek out the rumoured treasures, there can only be pain, failure and death. 

Kulgin Bachensteiner long gave up his mortality. His foul necromantic rituals and unspeakable acts have extended his life far beyond the span of any mortal. He has studied old maps and lore for decades, to seek out the Lord of Bleak Fell, to enact the magic rituals to restore his corpse, to learn from him the deep, dark knowledge. And so he braved the dark forest path, hidden from the wolves and beasts by his magic. He ascended the long, icy road to the summit, the freezing winds and snow no hindrance to his cold, unbeating heart. He found the hidden entrance and descended into the dusty crypt, with no fear of the spirits haunting those old passageways. Finally, he unlocked the mystery of the tomb, chanted the forbidden verses, and saw the Lord of Bleak Fell rise once more, to do his bidding.......

Or something like that. This is an old metal figure from the 1990s, a wight. Back in those days, the Undead army book contained wights as a unit and a small number were released. At the time I thought they were really cool. Now I look back and think that the Undead were possibly the goofiest army ever released!

Still, when I was looking around for a figure to lead my new Undead force, I chose this old wight for nostalgic reasons. The Undead were my first fully painted army, the first army I took to a tournament. Though I never actually owned any of the wights at the time, I did pick up a few on ebay in later years, again mainly for nostalgic reasons. And finally one of them is painted. The only concession to the modern era is the plastic skeleton shield.

In truth, as an Undead lord, it's not a particularly special figure. The plastic army of the dead figures would have probably been better candidates. But I wanted to pay homage to the old times, so here we are, the Lord of Bleak Fell rises once more......

Skyrim fans will recognise the setting I have stolen from been inspired by - the Bleak Falls Barrow. I live on the edge of the Lake District in the north of England, and here our mountains are called fells. It didn't take much work to arrive at Bleak Fell as a location for my Undead Lord.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

X.III - Daemons

In this, the third of my celebratory posts, I am looking back at the year 2010. I painted lots of fantasy in that time, and played it almost exclusively, so there's a good selection of potential candidates. I added a few units to my orcs and goblins army - black orcs and green squigs stand out - and made more progress on the wood elf army. I also built but two pretty big conversions - a treeman and a shaggoth, which get honourable mentions. I reckon that already qualifies as a good vintage, but my biggest achievement for the year was putting together a small contingent of daemons.



I started by building and painting a unit of daemonettes. My aim at the time was to try something a little different, and a pink/purple palette was definitely that. These days I tend to paint in small batches of eight or twelve, but I obviously had more stamina in my youth - eighteen daemonettes.



After that I rewarded myself with a character model, a herald built from an old Warzone figure, with a whole host of (cute?) little attendants.



Then I finished off the project with a unit of pink horrors, the classic metal figures from that time and still my favourite renditions of the model.


Though the daemons started as an add-on for my chaos warriors, I did have grand plans to develop them into a full army. I have metal plaguebearers painted up and bloodletters half-painted, plus more daemonettes, screamers and various other figures. However, as with so many grand plans, nothing came of it.

One figure I did add a few years later was a Daemon Prince, converted from an old Azazel model. I left off the wings and replaced the head with that of an old school metal Fiend of Slaanesh, the tail I forget the source. I had this model half-painted for a good few years, but thought it would be nice to finally complete it as part of my celebrations.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

X.II - Chaos Marauders

The second of my celebrations of ten years of blogging. 2009 was a return to a more typical year for me. I returned to my wargaming heritage - painted and played mostly fantasy. I made a solid start on a chaos warband, painting marauders, spawn, hounds, warriors and a few characters. Then I had a crazy idea to develop an elf army that could be used as either High Elves or Wood Elves. From all those models I have chosen this unit of chaos marauders as my pick of the year.



This was the first time I had tried something new in painting terms. Previously, I had stuck to the prescribed method of base coat, shade, then highlights, but I felt that this was only really suitable for darker coloured models. With all the light flesh to paint, I tried a white primer, then used glazes to add the colours, in just one or two easy steps. It proved to be very quick and very effective and I started to use this method on more of my painting. So this unit marks that significant change in the way I paint. It saves time and looks better (in my eyes) to the old layering method.

This unit was also the first of a chaos army that was to feature heavily in coming years. Chaos had always appealed to me for so many reasons. There was huge variety, there were so many units to choose from. The background pantheon allowed for great creativity - these marauders as followers of Slaanesh would have looked different had they taken up arms for Khorne, or been blessed by Nurgle. The army could also be built up quite quickly as many units (though not marauders) were low count - chaos warriors, ogres, knights, trolls and the like. This unit was the start of a big, ongoing project.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Blood Rage : Bear Clan Vikings

I painted these figures as a little experiment - to see how the pvc miniatures would look after my usual speed painting techniques. These are the Blood Rage bear clan, consisting of a leader, eight warriors (in just two poses) and two mystics.

The first thing I did in preparation was clean the figures of mould lines. I used a knife blade rather than a file, the material is very soft and easy to cut, with such small details you have to be careful you do not remove too much sculpted material. Luckily, the mould lines were usually hidden away and not too visible. Next, I glued a penny into the base. This acts as a weight to keep the figure upright. If you use UK currency it's also magnetic, which can be useful if ever you want to rack them up on movement trays. After a soapy wash and drying, I spray primed them white, then washed with a brown to provide a rough guide to the details.

Most of the painting was very basic - thin coats, washes and drybrushing. I did zero highlighting. Even the bases are very basic paint washes slapped on. I think the end result is fine - nothing amazing, but decent enough for the basic techniques used. On the whole, I would say the pvc takes the paint in a similar way to all my other figures, mostly like painting resin - any bare patches that are missed by primer can be a little resistant to paint adhesion. There are tons of detail, but none is as sharp as any other material. For some reason I cannot explain, I do not particularly enjoy painting the pvc figures, there's something about the softness that I find saps my usual enthusiasm with the brushes. The end result is fine, but the road to get there is a chore. Still, it's a few less minis in an unpainted state, which has to be a good thing.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

X.I - Orks

I thought the easiest way to celebrate my ten years of blogging was to pick something from each of the years, starting back in 2008. This first year I actually started the blog in June, so there's less to choose from, but I still managed to find three contenders.



I painted a Norse team for Blood Bowl and a few regiments for my Warhammer Orcs and Goblins army, but my pick of the (half) year would be these ork shootas. They were the start of a new foray into this ruleset. I never quite got to grips with the 40K gameplay, I found it far more fiddly than the fantasy rules. In recent times I have enjoyed playing the orks using one-page-40K, but sadly these boyz have been in storage for the best part of the decade.

As a celebration, a ten year old snap is a little lacklustre, so I have dug out the boyz and persuaded them to pose for a few more photos. The whole force was painted in fits and starts over a couple of years, with many units left abandoned as grey plastic or still in the boxes. Shame really, as there are some really nice models here.



First up, the original mob of shootas, with a nob (boss) and the warlord in the background, persuading the boyz to get stuck in. The yellow was chosen as something I would not usually paint, and also as a less frequently seen ork clan the Bad Moons. According to the fluff, this meant more shootas than usual, hence this first unit.



The Bad Moons are the richest ork clan and thus have plenty of equipment. So I gave these ard boyz some serious amounts of armour. If memory serves, these are all converted from various plastic and metal bits, some fantasy parts in there too. They have a truck that is 90% painted, just waiting for the final touches.


Finally, my favourite unit of the force, both in gaming and painting terms. The warboss is a lovely model, seeing this figure was one of the main reasons I started collecting orks in the first place. And I just love the squigs, which I painted in a funky blue to contrast with the yellow. 

There's far more sat in storage waiting to be loved again - nobz, deffkoptas, burna boyz, grots, lots of standard boyz, a few meks, kans.........maybe in the next ten years they will get finished.
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