Monday, March 21, 2022

Final Post of Challenge XII: A Bookcase Vignette

Well here we are, three months, 885 posts, 86,634 points and gosh knows how many painted miniatures later, sitting at the close of another edition of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. Wow. It's been another terrific season, with friends reacquainted, new ones made, and a general delight in all things wee, fun and somehow essential to our spirits.

Speaking of good friends, for my last post, I've traveled to Noel's Comet where the location asked that we provide something related to 'friendship'. 

I admit that, of all the thematic locations within the Challenge XII Sector, I've been looking forward to visiting this one most of all. 

I really miss Noel. He had a wonderful wit and a tremendously generous spirit. I always enjoyed a 'Noel post' as I knew his stories were always good for a BIG coffee and a good laugh. Just before he passed, Noel wrote a wonderful article about the Challenge for Wargames Illustrated. It was a 'typical' Noel piece, funny, engaging and ebullient about its subject. He loved the Challenge, most of all the people that make it, and it clearly shows in his writing.  I'm including a copy of it here for you to enjoy (and begging forgiveness from the publishers for 'spreading the Word of Noel' - thank you Sander for the PDF).

Rest easy Noel - You are missed.


As to my entry for Noel's Comet, I wanted to illustrate the 'friendship' theme by doing something regarding my best friend, Gary.

Gary and I have been friends since our teenage years. We both come from the same small northern community, his family farmed, while mine worked in town. We met through a mutual friend who told me about this new game called 'Dungeons and Dragons'. I was intrigued, and the next weekend I cycled out to my friend's farmhouse (not having a car I cycled EVERYWHERE) to see what it was all about. 

I found the four of them, all sitting around a small card table, oddly shaped dice and paper strewn about, madly scribbling, talking furtively, while penciling-out a map on graph paper. I was absolutely entranced (remember, this is 1980, when it was all so new). Gary introduced himself and he asked if I would like to roll up a character and play. And there it was. My first tentative steps into gaming, and the beginning of a friendship that has spanned decades.

Over the following years Gary and I were nigh inseparable. We hung out all the time. Gaming, movies, listening to music, concerts, holidays, you name it - we basically lived in each other's pocket. As we were both fairly quiet and bookish, and our community being, um, quite rough-and-tumble, we became each other's refuge. I cringe to think of what my teenage years would have been like without him.

Gary is a few years older than I am, and so when he left for university, I would often skip school on Fridays in order to catch the bus to hang out with him in the city over the weekend. Later, when I left home, Gary joined me in Winnipeg, where we started a game store together. I met Sarah through him, and he was my Best Man at our wedding. Due to my career, I've had to move around the country, but our friendship, over the years and miles, has never dimmed. We always make time to see each other a few times a year, and when it happens it always seems like putting on an old comfortable sweater.

So, what is the thing that I've made to illustrate our friendship? Well, after the first few months of playing D&D (and gosh, we played it every possible moment we could), we decided to plunk down for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books. This was a substantial expenditure for young teens of limited means. But we saved and scraped our funds together, and placed a group order to TSR in Wisconsin. A few weeks later Gary received a big parcel in the mail containing all our books, some dice and a bunch of figures. It was absolutely magical. I still have my original books from that order, as does Gary. Really, it's amazing the pages haven't fallen out of those books for the amount of time we poured over spells, creatures, magical items, etc. They really were a gateway to another world. 

Anyway, fast forward a few decades, where I'd come across Otherworld Miniatures, who offered a brilliant set of models depicting the scene on the cover of The Players Handbook. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to get it.  Well, it's been sitting on my worktable for the past few years, you know, seasoning, while I ruminated on how I wanted to build it... and here we are.

I've been quite taken with these bookcase inserts I've seen featured on various design websites. Basically it's where an alley, or street scene, is rendered in miniature within a roughly hardback-sized dimension. I've wanted to try my hand at one, and thought that perhaps I could come up with something using the Players Handbook cover as inspiration.

I sketched up a design and sent it to Byron, who then cut it into 3mm MDF for me. He was also kind enough to pass along a few sheets of 3mm depron foam so I could make the stone walls. Thanks Byron! 

I cut the Depron to shape, traced out the pattern for the stonework, and then textured the surface using a couple of rocks. 

After that, I used a blunt pencil to score the edges of the stone blocks to give them better definition for the dry brushing to come later.

If I had used the depron on the floor, I would have raised it too high for the statue to fit nicely within the archway (bad design on my part), so I tried an old trick I've used in the past. I simply cut out 'flagstones' from old business cards, glued them straight onto the MDF floor, and then dry brushed them to match the existing stonework. Not perfect, but it does the trick.

I considered rigging the scene with LED mini lights, but I knew that sooner or later they would degrade and fail, so I decided to go full analog instead. With my airbrush having packed it in recently, I did up the flame and lighting effects using a wet pallete and a good old brush. Very analog indeed!

After painting the enclosure and pinning the miniatures into place, I then glued in the remaining side wall. I then gave the exterior a coat of satin spray to help in future dusting... and it was done.

This upcoming week, Sarah and I will be travelling to Winnipeg to stay with Gary and his partner Mike for a little vacation. Gary's birthday was earlier this month, so this will be a belated gift to him. I look forward to seeing it, along with his collection of RPG books, nestled in the bookshelf.

- Curt

Saturday, March 19, 2022

'Dimitri' the River Troll

For the past month or so I've been running a Warhammer Fantasy Role Play campaign with our local group (including the Lady Sarah). For this past Friday's session I needed a River Troll to use for a planned ambush on the party while they were travelling by river barge. 

It was last Wednesday when I came up with the scenario, so I needed to source a troll model, or use something as proxy, which I really wished to avoid. Sure, I could have used one of my LotR trolls, but I find they are too gritty and 'realistic' for the Warhammer setting (if that makes any sense) and besides, they don't have an aquatic look to them. No, I wanted something a little more high fantasy if possible, so I looked to see if there was something suitable on MyMiniFactory.

Bingo! I found this chap digitally sculpted my Onmioji who fit the bill nicely, and, as an added bonus, it was offered as a free download. How sweet is that?! Big kudos to the sculptor! I've called him 'Dimitri'. :)

I quickly printed it off and managed to get him painted after work Friday, before our scheduled session in the evening. Again, Contrast paints came to the fore, with lots of wet blending using Contrast Medium. Super quick and sloppy, but it worked well for this guy. For his fish takeout I used some of the Colourshift paints from Greenstuff World to give its scales a bit of a shimmering quality.

He was duly chopped into bits in the game, but not after giving the party a nasty start, and even managed to vomit on a few characters for an extra bit of fun. It was like a good night out at the pub!

Thanks for popping in!

- Curt

Monday, March 14, 2022

Elven Squirrel Raider vs The Bell Sentries!

Hi All!

I'm back with a few more figures from the marvellously creative and quirky CobraMode. 

This time we have an elven female fighter, astride her giant battle squirrel, facing off against a quartet of enchanted bell sentries whose mist-like forms carry monstrous war hammers. 

I know, it's all completely mental, but I love 'em.

All of these figures were great fun to work on. The squirrel rider turned out to be quite a delicate model with lots of nooks and crannies to contend with, requiring me to paint most of the component parts before final assembly. 

Still, all the bits went together without a hitch. I decided to pin her mount's leg to the base as everything is balanced on that single limb. 

On the other spectrum, the Bell Sentries were one-piece models and a complete doodle to paint up. As I kept the colours pretty straightforward, they cracked off fairly quickly. I decided to do non-metalic metals for these as I found the anime style seems to work well for them.

Thanks for dropping in!

- Curt

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Ottoman Laylar Fanatics at The Great Siege of Malta, 1565

For the past few Challenges I've tried to make an effort to add a new unit for my Great Siege of Malta project. This time round I thought I'd add some more fellas to the Ottoman mosh pit with some Iaylar fanatics.

From what I understand, the Iaylars were a large, irregular force of religious fanatics which the Ottomans used as expendable shock troops. They were typically thrown in the the initial assaults to soak up missile fire, disrupt defensive lines, and generally pave the way for the more high-value troops.

It's rumoured that the Iaylars regularly used hashish to help put themselves into a religious frenzy before flinging themselves into the assault. I like to think that perhaps their imams stoked them up by telling them that the defenders held vast stores of Cheetos and Mountain Dew behind the lines. I figure that after a good hookah pipe, there's nothing like the prospect of a big munchie run to get your blood up. :)

These 28mm models are from Old Glory and fit the Iaylar bill quite nicely. They actually didn't look like much when fresh out of the bag, but as with many OG models, they paint up wonderfully and look great in a mob. In order to give them a little more variation I bent a few limbs, drilled out some fists to add some banners, and played around with their skin tones to reflect the wide variety of ethnicities which would have made up the ranks.

I've been quite taken with Dux's wonderful 3,2,1 basing for his ECW Covenanters, so I thought I'd do something similar with these lads. This mob will give me two groups of 12 figures (plus one hanger-on) for any future 'Pikemans' Lament' scenarios. I hope to double the numbers for this contingent as I feel the Ottomans should have a schwack of cannon fodder, er, enthusiastic recruits willing to spread the word that Suleiman is rather Magnificent.

Thanks for dropping in for a look. Have a great week!

- Curt

Saturday, March 5, 2022

The Death Knight Poses an Important Question, while his Mooks Look On

When I posted my fantasy Star Wars entries a few weeks ago I didn't have the files for the not-Stormtroopers, so I just ran with what I had ready at the time. Nevertheless, it somehow just felt wrong, not having the classic White Bucketheads mucking in with their nasty overlords, so when I managed to chase down the STL files, I quickly got them printed and painted-up to add to my collection of villains.

These are the crossbow-armed versions of the Troopers. For additional variation, the talented folks over at One Gold Piece also offer a sword and shield set, along with a polearm-equipped squad. As we're now on the clock for the end of the Challenge, I decided to stick to the missile armed flunkies as they seem to have that iconic, hapless mook-with-a-blaster look about them (yes, they will be re-rolling any hits in our future games).

I primed the Troopers black and then oversprayed them using Krylon Ivory, which I think gives the armour a nice, smooth, satin finish. I then used an assortment of Contrast paints to pick out their gear and weapons. I wanted to keep them fairly high-contrast, to trace back to the iconic source material, so I kept it all very stripped-down and simple. 

As to the Death Knight, again, I didn't see any reason to overthink him too much. I kept his paintjob fairly minimalist, just using some colourshift colours on his spooky enchanted blade and working up some contrasting highlights for his gloss black armour.

It was fun going back to painting renaissance style 'puff & slash' for the Rebel prisoner's uniform. Funny, working on him made me a little nostalgic for my Italian Wars stuff - I may need to do-up a few more Landsknechts to quash those silly romantic notions. :)

These guys being so high-contrast, photographing them was a bit of a nightmare (one of the inherent limitations of my older iPhone camera). Anyway, I hope you can get a sense of what they look like.

Thanks for dropping in for a look!

- Curt