Friday, September 21, 2007

Capo di tutti capi, part one

You're right, this week's update marks the beginning of of the VC general project. I'm not sure whether this will be fielded as a Blood Dragon count or lord, but definitely as a Blood Dragon and a Lord level character.

While searching for he most appropriate model, I decided to go through well-trodden tracks and use Archaon as the basis for my conversion. Almost everything spoke in favor of this model, it being very imposing, full of character and easy to convert. In fact the only downside was that it has been done before, lots of times even.

I've bought the Archaon, Lord of the End Times kit (is he a Mormon or something?) long before making this update and played with the parts by dry-fitting and examining them thoroughly ever since it arrived. Therefore, I knew exactly what I will be facing when actually completing the model.

I was very impressed by the quality of the sculpt and it was really a shame I wasn't going to use several bits of it, most notably the shield and the uber cool base bit. Here are the components that made it through the selection:

Now, saying that it's easy to convert does not mean it's dead easy, pun not intended. There are some problem areas that I had to tackle before I could assemble and paint the model. These included the Chaos icons on the sword crossbar, the huge Chaos symbol thing on the horse's hindquarters and the spikes on its shoulder, and the star on Archaon's breastplate.

In the process of preparing this mini for assembly I decided to leave the spikes. They're not that bad-looking on an undead model and definitely add a sinister, evil feel to it. The Chaos star, on the other hand, had to go.

First, I filed it down to the skin level (it sticks out in one or two places). Then, I filled the gouge with Vallejo Plastic Putty, a great material for just that kind of work. It comes in a tube and has a very narrow applicator which makes the work one hell lot easier and cleaner. It is also sandable and can be drilled into, albeit gently. It took three or four application-sand-repeat cycles for me to get rid of the star and still it isn't completely gone, but I will be covering it with a set of severed heads hanging from the chainmail tunic. Here is the horse 'after'.

The sword's crossbar, on the other hand, was really easy. I just filed down the three stars from the blade and that was it.

With these alterations taken care of, I could assemble the horse and begin painting it. As it had some nasty gaps in very prominent places, I decided to use green stuff as an adhesive. By squeezing it out of the joints, I could scrape the excess, leaving a very small amount of the putty showing. When working with green stuff and its quantity on the model, less is definitely more. The less GS you use to fill the gaps, the less you'll have to sculpt it and struggle to make it invisible after painting, which sometimes is a pain to do. I was happy to find out I managed to achieve it somehow. Here is the horse (plus some other parts of the model) after assembly and mounted on handy implements, ready to be undercoated and painted.

When waiting for the GS to cure, I handled the base. I had to mount this model on a standard 25x50 mm cavalry base, since no VC character can be mounted on a 50x50 mm monster one unless it rides the zombie dragon and mine doesn't. Using a two-part epoxy resin glue I stuck two rare earth magnets to the underside of the base. I also cut out the holes for the horse to stand in. By using magnets I was able to stick the model to some kind of mount in order to touch it as rarely as possible when painting. Here, I've used a tall, sand-filled jar.

After that, the painting was, citing the Marovingean, like wiping my ass with silk. It's really a pleasure to work on a model that you genuinely enjoy and it is my advice to all the people who try to improve their painting skill - if you can afford it, buy models that you really, really like and turn a blind eye to whether or not you can use them in game. Having fondness of your 'patient' can really give you an incentive to work harder than usual and try something new.

The painting of this piece was no different. I tried to keep it muted and not very outstanding, as it already is a focal point due to its size and pose. For that reason I've also made the base as modest as I could. I won't go into the detail of brands and colors used, but if you'd like to know more, feel free to ask. I will be talking more about paints and painting next week, when I hope to show you the upper partof this mini.

Here is my general's steed finished.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Yes, you guessed it, the zombies are making an appearance in today's update.

The idea for the unit came to me after very much pondering, discarding what was considered unfit and generally brain masturbation. I had a major nut to crack when trying to make the zombies both in a winter theme and that bit unorthodox. The frozen river motif sprung up out of the blue really, but was in a way inspired by the zombies from one of my favourite music videos (sincerely recommend the band as a whole too, they rock). The idea of having sombies emerge from the down under was just too cool not to try.

Having said that, I'm not at all happy with how the models turned out, nor had I actually expect to be. Confused? Let me explain.

I've treated this project as a test drive for both my idea for the aquatic zombies and my skills in actually making that idea come to fruition, plus the aptitude of my workshop too. I tried two major things here, the overall unit theme and the magnetized bases, pictured left. To make the magnets (3x3 mm, 1mm thick, rare earth) work, I had to place them directly in contact with the movement tray. The underside of a standard GW base has 2mm of space left. Faced with the choice between using thicker magnets and making my own bases, I went with the latter.

You see, when dealing with plastic minis, too much magnet force could easily mean ruining the mini - they have to be lifted from the tray, right? Now, using a magnet twice the thickness would mean absolute impracticality when it came to gaming. Left with no other option, I set about to making custom bases for the zombies.

I used two thicknesses of polystyrene, 1 mm and 0,5 mm. The former is used to host the magnet in a drillout, the latter covers both the hole and the magnet and forms the surface to which the mini itself is glued.

The unit consists of twenty four models, complete with a musician and a standard bearer. To get across that water emergence thing, I modeled the ranks as literally emerging, starting from the rearmost. To the right, you can see what I mean.

The zombie skintone is not what I aimed at by a longshot, but this is entirely my fault. When I finally substitute my worn GW paints for P3 Formula or Vallejo, I think I'll be able to pull out the color I wanted for these.

The water is made out of Vallejo Still Water polyurethane disperse. I'm not at all happy with this product though; while having the shine and full transparency, it does not look like water at all. Or maybe I can't use it properly.

The movement tray is made out of a 130 mm by 80 mm steel sheet, 1mm in thickness, with balsa sides glued on and textured.

As I already mentioned, this unit is not to be considered a showcase quality in any way - it was a test drive. I have the other 24-strong unit of zombies awaiting its turn, and with the lessons learned on this project, it is my hope that I will be able to make that other one much better.

One of the valuable bits of knowledge I got from making these is the increased familiarity with the P3 Formula metallics. I realize that I scoffed at them some weeks ago, but when putting them to a diligent test, they turned out maybe not awesome, but decent, and much better than the GW ones. In my upcoming project I will put them to much more use and i think I'll be able to say decisively where do I stand on them. For now, look at the musician's bell and decide for yourselves.

This, however, does not apply to ordinary P3 paints, which are just plain great. I used 'Jack Bone and Ryn Flesh on these zombies extensively and have nothing but praise to utter about their performance. Let me just say this - I was able to achieve complete coverage of beige over black with one layer. Really.

As for the next project, I won't spill any beans today, mainly because I have to decide between the general and the Black Coach. Both, however, are going to be very involving projects and it is my intent to make each update a 'step' in finishing these.

Out of the less in-topic announcements, I have added a modest logo to all pictures posted here, mainly due to another case of theft of my work. I've rehosted all images, but haven't really got the time to resize them properly. My bad, you'll have to cope with this until I sit to them.

Righto, off to the next project. And the realization of being that one step closer to digging my teeth into the Cryx Battlegroup makes me work all the more diligently. I hope.

See you next Friday!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Adding some character

Hello and welcome to Drazhar's Miniworks on this wonderful day. Wonderful, because I've just recovered my hardware from a major virus infection and I'm in the process of bringing it back to shape, which also explains the late update.

Today I want to show you the characters for the Vampire Counts army project, at least these I've made so far. They're still one character short - the general.

I might have told you that I didn't want any vampire models for this army. Of course I will use the rules for vampires, Blood Dragons at that, whenever I actually play a game, but as far as the models themselves go, no vampires.

I've started the character part of this project with the necromancers, partly because of the nice models, partly the ease of their execution. Pictured left is the first of two corpse entertainers I got. Nothing much to comment upon here, the model is quite old and therefore not THAT good, but still quite a decent piece.

I restricted my color palette on these to a very limited set of colors, in fact there are only two major tones - black and dark green, with some neutral colors to break the dark feel. I thought of the necromancers not as some really powerful sorcerers, but rather practitioners still on their way to damnation. This also affected the choice of the models, obviously.

The second wizard is a bit more 'cluttered', but still, to my mind, possessing only a few accessories, which is exactly what I was after here. The model is very characterful, second only, I think, to Heinrich Kemmler in dark and brooding appearance, drooping mustache and all. The only things I don't quite like on it is the staff headpiece and the weird Phrygian cap he wears. Other than that I find the model very much to my liking.

The third, last character, and at the same time the penultimate in the army, is the foot battle standard bearer. Here, there were no choices, I immediately knew what model I was going to use. The older fans surely have guessed by now; presenting - the IVth edition skeleton banner bearer, AKA the bellman, model extraordinaire:

Definitely one of my favorites when it comes to undead minis, with the addition of the oversized, IVth edition style banner pole. Younger gamers might not know that, but in the times of the IVth edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle there was this weird trend of making the banners and banner poles bigger than their bearers; sometimes this was very characterful, sometimes very awkward. This model falls into the former.

Also, veterans might recognize the banner as being none other than that of Arkhan the Black. Here is its uncolored version, painting is, of course, mine. I have reinforced the paper photocopy with a 0,20 mm polystyrene (yes, apparently they make is that thin) and I sincerely recommend it for any paper banners. They don't rip, but can still be twisted and cut with ease.

These are the characters I have made so far. The general is still not even started, so I won't go into any massive detail about him. All the beans I can spill here is: expect some conversion work and a truly imposing, mounted model.

Now, I'd very much like to show you the zombies come Friday, but that requires some discipline on my side and I don't know if I'll be able to conjure it in equal amounts. Still, keep your fingers crossed. Oh, and GW Space Wolves Grey is possibly the worst paint ever made. Honestly.