Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mangler Squigs - done!

 They are finished at last. I really like how all the different colors play along on this piece. I was unsure to the last minute about the blue, but in the end it worked out pretty well.

I know there are manglers being released just days from now, but I must say I like mine better.
From the start I wanted to do something with leftover bits from other projects, and here is the result.
Not bad for leftovers, hm? I'm glad to be done with them nevertheless. On to the savage orcs, finally some proper muscle for this army!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Product review - Kromlech orc parts

Hello. Before we begin, I'd like to stress that the use of Kromlech-owned images is done without authorization and no challenge to their status or rights is intended.

My camera is simply broken and I was unable to take pictures myself, but I'm really anxious to drop my opinion on these kits by you.

A while ago I picked up some conversion bits from Kromlech, a Polish company specializing in such. Namely, I went after the orc parts. Here's a brief review of what I received.

Bare Orc Torsos

You get six per pack, two of each design. These are suitable for use with both, fantasy and SF miniatures. Don't be fooled by the bullet on the middle one, it can be very easily cut out or even painted as a tooth.

The sculpts are very decent, despite being just bare torsos, there is very convincing musculature. They fit the existing GW orc kits perfectly. As far as fabrication goes, there is one word I can use to make it justice - superb. On the six torsos I received there is literally not a single miscast - no air bubbles, no shrinkage, nothing of the sort. In fact, these are so well-cast there is barely any flash or mold line. Five out of five stars.

Kneeling Orc Legs
 Again, intended to use in both settings. You get three pieces in the pack.

The detail on these is incredible. You can see patches, some rough stitching, pockets, cloth creases and the like. Booths are iron-shod, with ankle straps and all manner of great detail. Every belt and boots design is different.

However, on the bits I received there are some miscasts. The "back" ankle (i.e. the lower one, on the kneeling leg) has some minor casting error. While easy to hide, it's still an error, I have to drop a star. Four out of five.

Running Orc Legs
Similarly, fitting fantasy and SF alike, There are no distinguishing details. Three pieces per pack.

And again, I was in awe of the amount of detail on these. Three different poses with boot treads sculpted, pants with flies, pockets, stitches... great, great stuff. They fit both the GW torsos and the Kromlech naked ones like a glove.

As far as casting is concerned, there's nothing special either way - no errors or bubbles, some typical flash. Nothing difficult to remove. Really, not a fault is to be found. Five out of five stars.


There is nothing more to say than how great these products are. Quality of the sculpts and the casting is very high, but even more importantly, these bits fill a void that desperately needed attention. No other company I know of, including of course The Company, makes such bits for orcs. With these, you can finally break the boredom that orc poses are as GW makes them.

The price is also very decent. Look at Kromlech's Ebay stroe and see for yourselves. Delivery is swift (but I also live in Poland, mind you), packaging is top notch.

And I saved the best for last.

I only purchased the six torsos. One pair of kneeling legs, one pair of running legs and a human head in some sort of samurai-style gas mask were all sent to me free. I shit you not.

There can be no other verdict - Kromlech gets five out of five stars from me. I will be returning to them often.

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mangler squigs - the 'squigs'

...or rather spiders. Since before the start of this project it has been my intention to use spiders instead of squigs, to reinforce the forest theme and to use the miniatures I already have and not have to buy anything.

I painted the abdomens in a color not to be used anywhere else in the army to make them stand out as a different species of spider. They are supposed to be mangler squigs after all.
I also made the rest of their bodies as understated as possible to make the blue really pop. Once they are put together on the base along the shaman, I think they will look decent.

Now just to base them and the project is done. Time for some rank and file orcs!

Monday, November 21, 2011

On the reasons why I prefer plastics

Hello and welcome to another week! My camera has hiccups severe enough to warrant a trip to the service, so it's a perfect opportunity to make a rant (like I need one...). Today I want to share with you the reasons why I came to prefer the "new" over the "old".

I'm talking of course about the shift many companies made towards plastic and resin miniatures and accessories, driving more or less away from metal ones. Normally I'm a fan of the old ways and the tried and true, but in this case I found myself drawn more and more away from white metal and embrace the ever more familiar sprues of plastic goodness.

It all began when Games Workshop released their first ever plastic multi-part regiment sets. I was immediately interested (like, I suppose, the most of us) and picked up the Night Goblins and the Orc Warriors sets. These were the times before the Internet became as major a source of communication as it is today, and I've never been a follower of technology, so I had no way of checking upon the quality of these products beforehand.

What I saw gripped me right from the start. There were, for these times, so many options, so many parts, so many possibilities to assemble the miniatures I didn't know where to start. Of course, compared to what we see today these sculpts are quite low quality (and I'm still dying to see new plastic orc boyz...), but back then... Whew.

Moving on.

Why was it such a breakthrough? Because before these products hit, we had blisters containing three or four metal models, normally quite similar to one another. I did not like it at all, not to mention the huge price decrease for a full unit at that time. Twenty orcs in metal would set me back three or four times as much as twenty orcs in plastic. It was a time before I started working full time and such costs would make it simply impossible to enjoy my hobby. All in all, plastics won immediately.

It was also the time I still played games quite often. One of my worst pains were chipped paint, broken off parts and the similar. Plastics provided an immediate solution. They were so light that they would never damage under their own weight and due to their chemical make-up they actually absorb paint, making chips impossible and with good varnish they would stand any rough-and-tumble.

Years passed, more and more plastic kits began to surface. Not all were better: if you remember, for example, skaven Night Runners or the previous dwarf warriors kits you'll see what I mean. Some kits, like the gnoblars, are to this day a huge waste of material and a perfect example of how not to design a sprue. But all things considered, the plastic was becoming a medium of choice.

And I came to notice quality was going on par with quantity. The days of metals being more detailed and better sculpted than the plastics were gradually becoming history. If you managed to observe new waves of plastic kits you'd clearly see the company was in the process of learning the plastic how-to. They even fiddled with the composition of the material itself. But I was still unsure. I still hunted auctions and other second-hand means of acquiring old metal models.

Then the seventh edition hit, and along with it the Battle for Skull Pass set.

This was the final argument in favor of plastic models. What I saw in this kit was a wholly new quality of models, even for plastic ones. I've never suspected that one-piece miniatures could be so detailed. The mass production of this kit also made the models very cheap on the second-hand market.

When it comes to true, multi-part sets, the amount of parts and the way they are assembled takes converting and kitbashing to a whole new level. As a strong supporter of personalized armies these are the things I probably love most about the hobby. You simply cannot achieve this level of possibility with metal models.

As my last point, there's something else. Metal can be stripped and repainted over and over, which is good for learning. You cannot do the same with plastics, not to mention resin. This, in my opinion, makes plastic models actually more demanding: by not being so able to redo my work, I strive to make my models as good as I can on the first go. I can see how such approach can make me a better painter and ultimately a better hobbyist. This is the mindset with which I sat to my orc army and it is my hope I manage to pull it off.

There you have it, I hope you enjoyed. See you on Wednesday when, hopefully, I can show you some actual models.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mangler squigs - the shaman

While working on the arachnarok I remembered I'd left the shaman aside and decided to use him on this project. Having spiders instead of squigs gave a green light to adding someone to act as a guide or summoner. A spider whisperer if you will.
While I'm still under the impression of how much detail has been squeezed on such a tiny fellow, I'm not sold on his six eyes and eight limbs. Seeing him in the pictures I was sure the spider legs and the webs are artificially fastened to his back and that would be great. However...
...that's just not the case. You can see the legs literally grow out of the goblin's sides. I don't like this idea, it reeks of John Blanche and his "aesthetics". I was on the verge of cutting these straight out, but then I'd be stuck with the six-eyed head, which alone would look even worse. And I didn't want to lose the great headdress too.

That's it for today. The spiders are halfway done and once they are the whole gang is going to get comfy cozy on their base.

See you folks on Monday, have a great weekend!

Tutorial - brass etch fern

Hello there. Today I decided to have a look on how brass etch plants work and how you can use them on your bases, terrain and even the miniatures themselves.

What you need
  • The brass etch, obviously. I'll be discussing fern here.
  • Floral wire
  • Superglue
  • A pin vise or a similar means of holding your fern while you are working on it.
  • Clippers, pliers and paint.
Step one

Cut lengths of floral wire a bit longer than your plant leaves. You can use any wire you have around, but floral wire or plastic-coated paperclips work best - superglue has much better adhesion to plastic. Leave some wire as a means of holding the whole thing in a pin vise.

While mounted in the pin vise, bend the wire as the leaves tend to bend naturally.  The wire is of course your armature. To get it to bend more smoothly, use a round object as a jack, like a bottle, or even a big brush. It all depends on how big your plants are.

Step two

Cut the plants from the frame. Take your time and use a new blade. You want sharpness and no repetition while working with such delicate bits. Use various sizes of the fronds, don't stick to the same on a single bush, it will just look unnatural.

I actually primed the whole frame black before I did any work on it, but this is entirely optional, as you'll be priming the whole frond anyway.

Step three
Glue your fronds to the armature. Take your time and be patient. This is delicate work and it needs to be treated with care.

Don't glue the whole thing at once. Start with the base, let it properly set and see how far your frond goes. Clip your armature just a bit short. This goes a long way in hiding the wire.

If you have a CA glue activator, use it. It works wonders when a strong bond is needed fast.

Step four

Prime and paint! If you have an airbrush, you will never be more grateful to own it than on such projects. If you don't, by the time you get here you'll already know how gentle a thing you're working with, so again, take your time. Use the best varnish you can find!

Step five

Get your fronds out of the pin vise and use the bit you were holding them with as a mounting support. In the following picture, I actually drilled holes in the tree bit and glued the fronds in; the mounting is parallel to the base:

As a final word, don't try to save on quality of your brass etch. This stuff is pricey, but it is pricey for a reason. Get as much bang for your buck as is possible. I can't name any brands for you, but a trip to your local model store will solve your problems if you are unsure.

And look who came to visit while I was shooting these pictures for you:

Thanks for reading, we'll see each other on Friday!

Rebasing the arachnarok, part four - complete

Welcome to a new week. I know how everyone likes Mondays, so what's better to start a week with a completed project? Something you don't have to work on anymore?
Like so. Here is the finished spider, or rather its base. It's the same spider as before, I've only got one. It's the base that I have been working on I must say I'm happier with this one than the one I've originally made.
I love the Arachnarok Spider kit so much I can't put it into words. Besides being a very nice model, it is a clear statement by GW on how they are going to be making monsters from now on. And I like what I see.
With this version of the base I went for simplicity and natural looks. Hence the fern, the tree bits, lots of flock and of course the water pool. Projects as big as this one benefit immensely from bits and pieces not commonly seen and in my mind water is just that.
I also got hold on Gale Force Nine autumn clump foliage and I must say it works nice, breaking up the coloration of the base with its red and oranges. I know there are GF9 haters out there, but this product is really, really good.
I will also be adding this clump foliage to my other bases to further tie the army together by basing, something I feel has to be done on an army that is by definition as rag-tag and completely lacking organization as the orcs.
So here it is. On to the mangler squigs.

Thanks for looking and leaving feedback. See you on Wednesday!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mangler Squigs - the base

Hello again.

Today I want to show you my newest project, the mangler squigs. I know the models proper come out in December, but I started this before I knew they were actually making models for these. Moreover, I figured that I can easily make my own 'count-as' for something so random with the models I already have... the extra trees from the arachnarok kit. For anybody making any kind of forest
project - I sincerely recommend you pick these up from you favorite bits supplier. If you're not a fan of spider webs these can be easily cut away and I can't help thinking they made them like that on purpose. Mine of course still need work.

The tree is airbrushed and glazed. I think I finally managed to find a glaze formula that works. I really need somebody to show me how a glaze is supposed to look like; I'm the kind of person who learns by imitation and observation, much less from instruction.
The base is done with my usual basing scheme for the orcs. And I've just realized there is not a single orc in my army yet...
I also tried some highlighting on the ferns. It was actually more like shading - there is just one color I used here, namely Dark Angels Green. The center of each frond has simply more layers of paint. I find this effect very much to my liking.

That's a wrap for today. My country is actually celebrating Independence Day today and I'm off to celebrating as well. See you on Monday!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On armies and themes

Welcome. I know it's late, but my day was so terribly idle and discomposed I only brought myself to updating now. I hope you can forgive me.

What I wanted to talk about today were armies and specifically themed armies; and let's face it, who does not do a themed army? Is it even possible to make an army that is a haphazard collection of miniatures from the same army list and still call it a playable force?

To me, theme is put in an army just by the sole fact of using a limited palette of colors throughout the force. It doesn't of course have to end here and it usually does not, but sometimes it's just that: an army is 'themed' by being painted by the same person, using the same techniques and the same style of basing, even if it's just sand and static grass glued to the bases. And this is fine.

Some of us go more or less further. Be it basing (the abundance of resin bases and basing products has made it very tempting to try), or unified color scheme (with armies like the Empire, the high elves, Bretonnia or even the vampire counts it is not only possible, but strongly suggested to make your force coherently dressed), or both, as is most often the case, very many gamers really sit down and think how their force is going to look like and what colors, techniques and materials they're going to need. And this is fine.

Still others really go nuts over their themes. I'm talking about naming their commanders, actually writing pieces of fiction about them or their armies and going insane over the conversions. If such people have the skills to match their plans, what you get in the end are forces that stick in any viewer's mind forever. And this is also fine.

However (you knew something was coming), there are some hobbyists who just can't stick with one fictional world at a time. Who mix Dungeons & Dragons with Warcraft, Middle-Earth with Westeros and the Imperium of Man with Narnia. And that is not at all fine.

Don't you catch my drift? Haven't you ever heard something like
I really wanted to style my dark elf force as the drow from the Underdark!
This is not OK. Warhammer is not a D&D setting nor does it have drow as you know them from Baldur's Gate or whatever. The races in our beloved game are, despite what haters will have you believe, quite well-established as far as fable is concerned and the world really offers plenty of scope to experiment and come up with a them that is purely your own. For the first time since a long time Games Workshop has not only acknowledged the existence of such old gems as Araby, the Kingdoms of Ind, Cathay or Nippon but actually seems to be giving the unexplored parts of the world a nod of approval. There is simply no explanation for such mixing of settings.

Or another gem:
Why don't I make my necron force steampunk-themed? With top hats! And whirlygigs for guns!
 Because  it's Warhammer 40.000 and it is not a steampunk setting. Nothing in my mind makes an effort less worthy than such things. Want to play steampunk (and with it being SO fashionable and 'in' right now, why wouldn't you? It's not that you by definition engage in escapist hobbies that tend to drift away from concepts of "fashion"... oh wait, you do!)? Then there are so many possibilities! SMOG 1808 is one, with miniatures that regularly put me into gorgeousness-induced coma. Or Dystopian Wars. Just not Warhammer. Warhammer is dark fantasy - and 40k is too by the way, given the literary definition of 'dark fantasy'. It has nothing to do with any other fantasy setting.

"But wait" - I hear the screams. - "Such things only prove how creative some people are"! And I can just answer "no". This is not creativity. This is striving to be "original" at any cost and has nothing to do with creativity. Being creative is being able to make something original and unique, but without breaking certain constraints and guidelines - in our case, the system's setting. Putting top hats on ancient, sinister synthetic life forms does not make for a creative effort. It just makes for a wasted effort. I'm sorry, but that's the harsh truth.

There. I know it was not a pleasant read but at least it has the benefit of being true to what I think. And I suppose I'm entitled to an opinion after being in the hobby for at least fifteen years.

See you on Friday!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rebasing the arachnarok, part three - water pool and more details


The rebasing project is going more smoothly than I'd imagined and this is the penultimate update on it. Remember the details I posted last week? Here they are 'applied':

They of course needed to blend into the base more smoothly, but that was minor work in comparison with the whole project. In addition, I was happy to see the pool apparently didn't need more than one or two layers of Still Water to look decent.

I'm thinking about adding some orange clump foliage to the base in very small pieces, to represent fallen leaves and dry scatter.If I manage to get some that is cheap I'll definitely give it a go.

In the meantime, thanks for looking and see you on Wednesday.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Product review - Vallejo Still Water

It's Friday, Friday, gonna get down on...


Before we start with the review, I'd like to inform my esteemed readers that I'm changing the update schedule for this blog from two updates a week to three. We'll see how it goes, it's just an experiment in motivation and working to deadlines. So, from now on, expect updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

I've decided to review the Vallejo Still Water for two reasons: I haven't seen much buzz about it in the blogosphere (and I just had to risk it when I bought it) and I'm using it right now on my arachnarok base. So here it is.

This is our subject. It comes in a 200 ml plastic bottle with an applicator. It ships sealed tight. It's clear, colorless and odorless. From the technical point of view, it's a water-based polyurethane dispersion.

How do you use it?
Quite simple really - you just pour it straight from the bottle onto whatever you want your water to be in. Right? It says so on the bottle, must be true.

It's not.

The hole you get after you cut off the seal is much too big for anything smaller than monster bases. If you want more control over the flow (and you do), apply it with a large sewing needle or a toothpick. The liquid is viscous enough to allow it. I got around the spillages by gluing a syringe needle onto the bottle and it worked perfectly. So far so good.

How exactly does it work?
Firstly, what is very tempting about this product is its simplicity. It's a one-part dispersion, whereas other model water products are mostly two-part resins. Moreover, it says on the bottle that this product "extends and levels by itself". What could be better, right?


While it does level, it does not extend; it's not insulation foam. Quite the contrary, it actually contracts like holy hell, which is the major disadvantage of this product. After it dries, what you get is like a U-shaped basin with recessed center. This, however, is actually an advantage in my book. Look at this picture:
The 'rim' of the pool has already dried and it's crystal clear. Its level is higher than the wet, milky center due to the Still Water's extreme surface tension. Now, when I said "advantage", I meant that when you pour it all over, you instantly get the 'rims' of your water area defined and you're very unlikely to spill it where you don't want it.

And what do you do about the basin shape? Simple - pour another layer! By using multiple thin layers you will eventually get the desired depth in your water.

Secondly, remember to use it after you have varnished your project! Otherwise your water will be matte...  And here is another major caveat - if you want a deep water ('deep' meaning more than just some spill on the floor) you simply have to use multiple layers. Now imagine yourself finishing a project, you have only the water left to do. You'll need, say, five layers of VSW and you'll have to wait at least 12-15 hours between each... frustrating, isn't it? And it becomes 24 hours for larger areas, like the one above (it's about seven by five centimeters, 5mm in depth).

How is it useful?
For making puddles, small pools and such there is no better product within this price range. It's not dirt cheap, but in comparison with other water products it has one of the best price-to-quantity relation.

Also, if you're feeling adventurous, VSW can be used as the ultimate gloss varnish (if a very thick one). You can also try it when making things like drool, slime and such - it can be tinted with pigments or paint.

It will not work when you want flowing or choppy water. "Still" is the keyword here. However, it does not dry to a perfectly still, glass-like surface, it retains some very minute 'waves', making the water look more realistic.

Also, when poured onto a perfectly flat and level, non-porous surface like glass pane or a floor tile, it can be peeled off and cut when dry. I've never found any reason to use it like so, but it sure does have potential. Model window panes, maybe?

So, to sum up:

  • Non-toxic, odorless, water-soluble and perfectly removable from clothes and such when still wet;
  • Decent price;
  • Ease of use;
  • Can be tinted with your usual miniature paint;
  • Can be drilled;
  • You get a lot of it in the bottle (but you also need a lot);
  • It doesn't 'go bad', I've had my bottle for at least three years now and it still works perfectly.
  • Extreme shrinkage, you'll need multiple coats to get your water looking right;
  • Drying time;
  • It takes a while to get to know exactly how it behaves;
  • You can't model splashes and such with it, nor any sort of flow;
  • Sort of 'amateur' product - there are better ones out there, more expensive and more difficult to use, but ultimately yielding better results.
 On a final note, keep it out of direct sunlight. I lent mine to a friend who didn't and it turned milky in the bottle. It's not ruined like I'd feared it was, but it takes longer to become transparent on the model. Just a word of warning.

All in all, I don't discourage anyone from getting a go with the Vallejo Still Water. It's not perfect and if you are serious about your water projects, get a two-part clear resin or something by Woodland Scenics. If, however, you are like the most of us and use water areas sparingly on your bases, this is the product for you. VSW falls into the category of "might always come in handy".

Thanks for reading and see you Monday. Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rebasing the arachnarok, part two - base details

Welcome to the second installment of my spider rebasing project. Today, I'll show you some details I'm adding to the base. such. All of these are form wood elf plastic kits. After reading their newest fable, I thought it would be a nice idea to include some rune stones and the like in my army if it was going to be forest-themed. If ALL forests in the Old World are, supposedly, connected, it would be a nice hat tip to this.

Next, the brass etch fern fronds.

Difficult to work with, flimsy and delicate, but after putting them on the base you can hopefully see they look great. They will also be used on my next project, already in the works. If you give them a go, remember to varnish them and touch them as little as possible.

And lastly...
Cat tails! Nothing in my mind says "water" more than water vegetation. These were easy to make from a paper clip and some putty. Undercoat, paint, varnish, done.

Next time I'll be showing you how exactly have I put these on the base.