Friday, August 31, 2007

Airborne horror

Today I'm making the update early in the day, lest I be late again... as said last Friday, here are the fell bats.

My bats are, as you see, pretty unorthodox. I told you last time about my thinking phase when working on a mini, well, these are the result. I'm kinda proud of these bats, them being one of my most ambitious projects to date and I'm at least partially happy on how they turned out.

Even before thinking about what exactly did I want for my fell bats I'd known the standard GW bats are out of the question. These minis are not very high-standard, with very oversized heads and generally a poor design. Second of all, I definitely didn't want a 'flying' model - I had the experience of 'flying' bases before, broken lugs and all... besides flying models look terribly cheesy to my mind.

After much pondering, I decided to go with something akin to gargoyles. Having no gargoyle models handy (in fact the only gargoylesque-looking mini I could find distributed in my country was the Reaper Crypt Bat, pictured left)... not at all what I was after. It seems to me that mini designers always tend to forget about proportion when it comes to wings. The pinions always seem to be undersized, looking more of a decoration than capable body part.

I wanted something different. The wings on my gargoyles aren't the right size as well (to be honest, the should be at least twice the size), but I think they at least look right, they convey the feel of being capable of flight. At some point I thought about using the ghoul bodies instead of strigoi vampire ones, but I simply like the strigoi much too much to leave them out of this project. I knew I just had to include these models somewhere in the army and I think I've found a perfect spot.

These models are also curious to me in one more way. On these was the first time I've used the Vallejo Game Inks and the new GW Foundation paints and both turned out to be working very well. The inks - Vallejo ones, forget the GW - are a great way if you want a quick shade, without being too accurate and caring. The Vallejo inks give a matte finish, without that ugly GW sheen, therefore are very well suited to painting masses of rank-and-file models; in fact I'm using them on the zombies I am currently working on.

Now, the pictures above show the bats-gargoyles as they were originally based. Barring the snow (which was the reason for rebasing), I've used ruined columns on the bases to get a feel of the creatures dwelling in some sort of crypt or ruins. The column bits are manufactured by a local hobbyist from dental plaster and are a very decent product. I definitely will be using them in my upcoming Warmachine Cryx project.

I'm not exactly happy with the wings' look. If only I have waited another fortnight or so, I'd know about the upcoming Chaos space Marine Possessed frame, which contains a splendid set of wings. These are a tad smaller than the fell bat wings I've used here, but look much more gruesome and menacing.

Oh, and you can see the redone bases here:

See you next Friday!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ghost riders in the sky

Yeeees, I am making an update on Friday as is due, hooray for me.

I decided that today I will show you the black knights. I am proud of how these turned out, if not as happy as I might have been if I had sat to working on them properly and devoted as much time as they deserve. Well, too late to shed useless tears now, let's see the models, shall we?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I like to think my projects thoroughly before I start them. I like to think on how I want the models to look like (or more accurately, what 'feel' I want to achieve on them), then what models exactly I need to buy to achieve that feel. Then, I'm thinking how much conversion work is involved in making my idea come to life and lastly how exactly am I to be original and differentiate my works from what is fashionable/customary/often seen. Only when I have finished this planning stage do I sit to work on the minis themselves.

These black knights were no different. From the start I knew I didn't want to convert them from the imperial Knightly Orders or Bretonnian knights - let's face it, very good as they might look in some people's versions, the idea is so worn-out I definitely wanted to do something else. Secondly, I DID want my rotten cavalry to wear barding (I've even thought of giving them caparisons, but I simply couldn't find a way to make these look good, tried as I have. Besides, I didn't want my knights to look too goth). All in all, I accepted the fact I was left with no models but the GW Black Knights.

However, that didn't mean I wasn't going to pimp them up a notch, even if was only adding the croupieres and peytrals (pieces of barding covering the horses' chest and hindquarters, respectively). You can see on the pics how exactly did they turn out.

I also wanted to model my bases with some sort of a twist. I have never been very good in the base department and one of the things I'd like to achieve on the Vampire Counts project is the improvement of my bases. You have seen the wolves and their bases; on the knights I've had the idea of them riding through a cemetery. In the end it didn't work out as well as I predicted, but I think I'm making progress.

Also, the VC army is going to be fully magnetized. For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, it's essentially adding magnets to the underneath of the models' bases and making the movement trays out of metal sheets. You can see the unfinished tray on the photos.

I've used round, 3mm by 2mm rare earth magnets for the knights, two per model. The force that through the magnet sticks the mini (kudos to Dylan Thomas for inventing possibly the weirdest title for a poem ever) is astounding; I'm even thinking it is too strong... but I'd rather have it a bit too strong than a bit too weak. I could easily have gone with a single magnet if the minis were all plastic, but given the metal rider, a single magnet wasn't strong enough (tested'em).

Some eagle-eyed cherries... readers might notice the unit champion is just a tad different from what GW serves us. It's a 4th edition Skeleton Horseman with Axe model, which I am very fond of. It simply oozes character with its torn chainmail, cut breastplate and all other other nicknacks it possesses. Very creepy. The photo shows him in his pre-rebased state.

Plooschack was worried about me losing my motivation being the reason behind the update-less Friday. Rest assured Plooschack, the motivation is there, waxing and waning, but present.

A lot of people asked me about the comments publication on this site. I'll restate - all the comments you submit have to go through my approval before they are actually posted. The reason is simple - I don't want every other comment to be concerned with penis enlargement or centerfold pictures. No thanks. If the comment is written in proper English and is relevant to the matter, it will be posted, even if you write death threats or compare my work to solid body waste. Opinions are what make us human and don't let any angst deter you from posting them here.

I'm reviewing the incoming comments usually before making an update, so don't be alarmed if yours isn't handled immediately.

Also, I have another announcement to make. At least one person has posted my works on a site without my knowledge, let alone consent. He didn't plagiarize them claiming they were his own, he just posted them. While this is really fine with me, it would be nice to know about such stuff. Therefore, I've come to the realization that I need a logo to stamp my pictures with. Being a complete retard in Photoshop and even MS Paint (yes!!) it is my plea to people out there who aren't so graphics-editor-challenged: if you can come up with a nice logo for my minis, I'll love you long time. Nothing too fancy or time-consuming, if you have five minutes to spare and can be assed to create something just for the hell of it, please send your brainchildren to me and you'll have my everlasting gratitude and a honorable mention here.

Right, I hope I didn't sound too cheeky. Next week, watch your skies and your hair, the bats are swooping in. See you next Friday!

Monday, August 20, 2007

King of the Hill

This update is full three days overdue, I know, and I'm terribly sorry. Blame good beer, good computer games and my overwhelming fondness of both. Guilty as charged.

Regardless of the delay, here to present itself before you today is the Dread King, more affectionately known as The Man. It is a very, very old mini, apparently from the Warhammer Quest line. I am not sure of its origins in the least bit and having no time or patience at the moment to browse through the Stuff of Legends, I'd be grateful for any information about this mini's provenience.

The model consists of two elements, the mini itself and the hillock I've carved for it. The former is sadly incomplete, it is missing a pedestal with a grimoire on it. Everything else is there, and it is in my opinion the most characterful undead model GW has ever produced.

Getting the throne to stick together was a pain, as the model I was supplied with (second-hand, bought it online for an amount proportional to my love for it, and that's a lot) had some ridiculous amounts of glue - the nature of which I was unable to ascertain by any means I had handy, it wasn't epoxy, it wasn't cyanoacrylate, it was sticking as the ninth hell - in some strategic spots. The glue blobs were so hard and so resistant to every kind of debonder I possess that I was left with no choice but to actually sand and sometimes even carve them out. Luckily, I managed not to ruin this piece of heavenly cream and got it stuck together.

In the meantime, I was busy ruining the vacuuming I had done in my room earlier by carving the rock out of extruded styrofoam (commonly known by the brand name Styrodur - yes boys and girls, capital letters here, it's a trade mark of BASF). I don't have a hot wire cutter, therefore I had to use one of my favorite tools - my jewellers' saw. My fondness for it comes from the miraculous resilience of its blades; they can be strung with the force that is comparable to this with which piano strings are, yet they still maintain their power when cutting.

After I got it cut, the rest was very easy - glue on the stairs, texture the rock a bit and paint. Lastly, I stuck the finished throne on it and added the snow.

That said, I'm not happy about the way the rock turned out. Looking at it right now, I think I'd be far better off having textured it more.

On the gaming side of things it is a filler. Yes, I can hear you moaning and groaning, and I can relate. I'm not that keen on unit fillers myself. On this baby however, I decided otherwise. Firstly, I love this model so much I just had to include it in the army, period. Secondly, I do also have a unit of grave guard made from the old Armoured Skeleton models, and having no money to order a full twenty-five strong batch of these, I had to have a filler.

Next week - or rather next update, I do hope not to be late again - I'll be showing you either the black knights or the fell bats.

See you next Friday!

Friday, August 10, 2007

In the society of sheep we want to be the wolves

Today we start with my other project - the Blood Dragon Vampire Counts army. This project is still very much underway, in fact so much I'm unable to give any approximate time of finishing. I think, however, that I'm beginning to finish this and hope to make it really soon.

The army is somewhat themed in a way that it contains no vampire models whatsoever. I do like the GW vampires very much, but I decided to make this force unique and interesting. The inspiration behind the army comes from two main sources, the old Warhammer Armies-The Undead book and Warcraft.

The former was very influential throughout my entire career as a wargamer. Back in the days of the fourth edition of the Warhammer game system things were much different, much more fandom and climate was present in the game (and much fewer children were playing too...). The old army book, published before the undead were divided into Vampire Counts and Khemri, contained so many evocative graphics and so much quality background material it would be really shameful not to use this plethora of inspiration.

If the old Undead book provided the spirit of the army, Warcraft on the other hand provided me with its body - you see, the ultimate nemesis for Azeroth (the world of Warcraft) comes in the form of The Scourge - a massive undead force amassing in the northern, polar regions of the world, but quickly spreading southwards to engulf the whole domain of Azeroth. But this is not what we should be looking at here.

The Warcraft undead were designed in a very generic way, the classic skeletons, zombies and ghouls all present there without any unifying or classifying factor - no colors, no banners, no uniformity to speak of. This was exactly what I wanted. Of course, an unifying factor is needed for an army. For mine, I decided to use a single color - dark green. Otherwise the colors used are neutral and not in any way striking.

Anyway, I know some minis are due, so here they are:
These dire wolves were made form the warhounds of Chaos models. Some heavy conversion work went into the making of these, cutting, sanding and sculpting all in contribution to the effect that is other than uniform, plastic dire wolves GW is forcing upon us.

Here, I cut out the tail and the spike on the wolf's sole (that's right kids, the sole; all canines, felines and similar walk on their fingers only) and glued on the bone parts from the plastic undead horse model - here thanks are due to Robbie B. for supplying the horses. The ribcage in the abdomen area was gouged out with a rotary carbide cutter. i was unable to find a picture of this extension anywhere; it looks like a spherical razor. It is generally used in engraving and is wonderful for cutting out pieces of a mini too.

This one has had its tail, right leg and the top of the head removed and replaced, again, with the horse parts. I don't like the way in which the head turned out, on second thoughts I'm positive I'd be better off with gouging out pieces of the head area and gluing the bones in instead of shaving off the whole head top. Overall, my least favorite of the five.

This, on the other hand, is my beloved. Almost no conversion here, save for adding the bony tail, filing down he spines and sculpting the fur. The model is undead enough as is, with a ruptured stomach and skin peeling off the skull. Lovely!

The warhound used above comes with a second, optional head, which is also splendid in terms of being undead-looking. It would be a terrible waste not to use it, so I did - on the fourth model. This one has a very menacing baying pose and this was fine, but its original head was a pain for me. It sports two sets of horns, which is very nice for a Chaos warhound, but not so much for an undead wolf. Having a spare hornless head, I cut out the horned one and swapped it. The amount of green stuff used here is copious, as was the gap between the head and the body, but overall I'm very pleased with it.

The fourth wolf also didn't have any major conversion work put into it, again cutting down the spines and resculpting the fur did the job.

The last one I don't have the photos of, but it's very similar to the first one, same model, minor differences in conversion.

The bases are made of cork and the well-known baking soda snow mixture, but I will be covering it with the GW Snow Scatter, as it has proved to be a very decent product, which I will show you next time we see. All bases fit to each other:
Some final words... the flesh of the wolves was made using the formula found on the Brushthralls website, under 'Painting Dead Flesh' article. The Thralls are a lovely, very professional bunch of hobbyists and their articles solved many of the problems I've had on various occasions during the pursuit of my hobby.

That's a wrap, if you have any questions in regard to any of my projects please feel free to ask and leave some comments.

See you next Friday!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Noblesse oblige, pt. II

Second installment of the last part of my dark elf army review. Tonight we take a look at the Rare units as well. Oh, and as promised, I'll show you the harpies.

Always in favor of subtlety and stealth over raw force of arms, Yenlui's army roster has always been quite heavy on scouts and skirmishers. She has been a long time ally of a shades clan residing in the wilderness surrounding her estate. While actually being poachers on a nobleman's land, the shades were dealt with in quite a different way than is prescribed in the Naggaroth law. Instead of wasting precious time and resources in trying to bring the shades before the swift and sure druchii justice, Yenlui struck a deal with them. She agreed to their hunting parties shaving off the number of wild animals in her domain in exchange for regular shipments of conscripts and information. This agreement quickly proved mutually fruitful and the house Yenlui and the shades clan quickly became something akin to allies.

Unconverted Dark Elf Shades models. I never knew GW made no less than five different models for the shades until, by pure coincidence, I got the five I wanted for my army and realized each one is a different sculpt. I was pondering substituting them with the Mengil Manhide's Manflayers, but the price of these is whopping. Besides, these would be proxy models, which is in fact fine as far as rules go (I don't take part in any tournaments, doubtful if I ever will), but not so fine in terms of aesthetics. And I'm an aesthetics Nazi.

Nobody knows - and nobody has ever asked - what prizes did Yenlui promise and to what lengths did she go to lure the harpies of Clar Karond into her domain - and keep them here. For creatures who crave only flesh and blood, the harpies have shown and unheard-of degree of fidelity to Yenlui and are a sight often seen, circling the spires of her mountain manor and screeching menacingly at whatever visiting parties come into her lands. On more than one occasion the harpies were sent after some specific goal, but what that aim was or where it was located, Yenlui has never disclosed.

Again, unconverted GW Dark Elf Harpies models. The minis are not that bad, it is I who screwed the painting and the bases. I was, at the time of working on these, without any paints other than GW ones and highlighting the flesh from codex grey to elf flesh resulted in a paint layer much too thick for my tastes.

The bases were a major screwup on my part. I don't like the way they turned out one bit and once I get back to redoing this army, the harpies are in pole position.

Drazhar, on the other hand, likes his job done easily and surely. To this end, he has ordered the construction of the druchii artillery pride - the reaper bolt throwers. The design for these is no secret in the lands of Naggaroth, however it takes a truly skilled carpenter to choose the right kinds of wood and shape the planks correctly. The process is a costly and time-consuming affair, however the final product is a peerless piece of light artillery, unparalleled in accuracy, range and the ease of maintenance even by its high elf counterpart. Needless to say, Drazhar found a way to get in touch with the right people for the job.

Whomever designed the Reaper Bolt Thrower minis really has a feel for the current dark elf line guidelines. The models are in my opinion splendid, the design really capturing the druchii 'feel'. These babies just have 'wicked and stylish genocide' written all over. Love'em!
That's a wrap - as far as my druchii army project is concerned. As you can see, the army is somewhat themed - no Temple of Khaine units, no Black Guard, no Executioners. Well, I doubt an outcast mercenary army would ever have something in common with the temple of Khaine, let alone king Malekith's personal bodyguard. As for the Executioners, I might include them, just have to figure out a fluffy reason for them being here...

Next week - we start with the Vampire Counts army project. To provide you with some aperitif, it is definitely an unorthodox army in terms of models (no vampires!) and definitely my most ambitious project up to date. As per your requests, I will show some work-in-progress shots of the models. I have no idea about the order in which I will present the pieces, I guess the appearance order makes the most sense; after all the army is still unfinished (but getting there!).

See you next Friday!