Monday, 31 May 2021

Lord Blowfly among the unquiet dead

A place of the dead. But dry, sterile. His antennae twitched. In the sarcophagus. Not stench, not moisture, not flesh. But magic. A gift for his patron. He raised the axe aloft and struck the tomb, and again, and again, the stonework crumbling.

From the sarcophagus, dry bones. Dry bones shifting, becoming living bones. Living bones shrieking for vengence, grasping, clenching the magic sword, ready to strike.

At the moment, my table is full of unfinished/ barely begun painting for Bring Out Your Lead. But in the meantime, a small finished project: another month's entry for Jamie Loft's White Dwarf Monthly Painting Challenge. This month it was WD113, which features among its contents a taster of the Lost and the Damned.

I decided to paint the classic Citadel fly-headed Champion of Nurgle that I've had in my leadpile for a while (a better executed version of which appears on page 70 of that month's White Dwarf). I then placed Lord Blowfly in an encounter from the narrative generator on page 54: "The sarcophagus contains the bones of an undead Champion who immediately rises to engage those who desecrate his tomb." The undead champion is a Fenryll skeleton that came spare with a recent purchase for another project and who I hadn't been intending to paint, but now I'm rather pleased I did. No idea where the shattered sarcophagus comes from, I'm afraid; I inherited it with my father's collection.

Friday, 30 April 2021

Lord and Lady McDeath

With some trepidation... I've taken the plunge and painted Lord and Lady McDeath. I've had these for a while but was waiting for the 'right time' or some special occasion to paint them. But like the quote from the film Sideways, "The day you open a ’61 Cheval Blanc, that’s the special occasion". So when Jamie Loft's White Dwarf Monthly Painting Challenge asked us to paint something from or inspired by White Dwarf #76, and I found that it was the issue that contained the McDeath 'prequel' Glen Woe, I thought now was the time.

Ok, so readers of this blog have probably heard enough about my hobby psychodramas, but actually I found it was very hard to really enjoy painting what are basically a pair of antiques, because I felt more pressure than usual to 'do them justice'. Has anyone else had this problem? It's probably one of the problems I have with archaeogaming, too much pressure to 'do it right' rather than just to do it your own way. Anyway, they're done now and I'm glad of it.

In the scenario, King Dunco is on his way to visit Lord and Lady McDeath - but he really should have some very strong suspicions about Lord and Lady McDeath's motives based on the fact that their clothing is covered in skulls. Or maybe he just assumes they're goths? Anyway, to keep with that theme I gave the "King hereafter" a shield with a skull - it's one of the plastic Marauder Orc shields, I believe.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

The Bold Thady Quill vs Bungus Ness - a St Patrick's Day retrospective

To celebrate St Patrick's day, I thought I'd go straight for the stereotypes, and dug out the Talisman Leprechaun from the shoebox where he's been stored recently.

In fact, he forms part of what is almost certainly my favourite little warband, painted for a game at the Foundry back in 2017.

W.B. Yeats described Leprechauns and their kind as "sluttish, slouching, jeering, mischievous phantoms" (probably meaning sluttish in the earlier sense of slovenly, unless there's a side to them that I hadn't realised). Rather than the usual sword-swinging hero, I thought it would be fun to summon a warband of fairies and creatures of the woods, fighting mostly with their wits and frustrating their opponents with mischief.

Painting him in the sterotypical green (rather than going for a red jacket as per Yeats' account), I dubbed my leprechaun hero "the Bold Thady Quill" after one of my favourite Cork folk songs, and played him as an Illusionist. He's backed up with some slightly more thuggish (if still diminutive) myconids from Hasslefree. Hasslefree also sent me a "tooth fairy" miniature as a free gift and I thought that would work very nicely as a companion. Finally, rounding the group out, a sprite from the Wood Elf Glade Guard plastic sprues.

One spring morning, The Bold Thady Quill and his companions set out to teach the one-eyed warlord Bungus Ness a lesson. Why? Because Bungus Ness (in fact, a Fimir painted by Orlygg) couldn't take a joke. And there's nothing worse than someone who can't take a joke. Bungus Ness terrorised the nearby villagers with his annual demand that they provide him with a bride. One year, tricked into receiving a pig slathered in make up in place of one of the daughters of the valley, Bungus Ness could not see the funny side and set out on a path of destruction.

While battle raged, The Bold Thady Quill sneaked. (This, and the other two photos of the game, are by Tom Reynolds.)

Rather than fight Bungus Ness' henchmen, he misdirected them with illusory buildings and terrified them with visions of terrifying undead creatures. (The model here is a Kelpie from Oakbound.)

Bungus Ness himself was tormented by the buzzing of the sprite, distracting him so that he was unprepared for the final attack.

With Bungus Ness gone, the villagefolk could throw off the shackles of their oppressor once and for all.

To all in Little Albion who can't take a joke: beware!

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Converting Tyranids for use in Age of Sigmar is closer to the spirit of Oldhammer than fetishising old lead

These days one of the main reasons I have facebook is to keep in touch with Oldhammer people. Personally I prefer the forum and, of course, seeing other people's blogs - but especially in these days of lockdown there's a comfort in seeing all the cool things people have painted pop up on my screen. My ambivalence about facebook partly stems from the frustrating time I had as a moderator for the Oldhammer community, and the rather poor job I did there (mea culpa), but also from the fact that in a group of 12,500 members, with varying levels of engagement and interest, it's pretty much impossible to keep a sense of oldhammer as a creative project rather than just being "old minis".

One consequence of this is the frequent ritual of someone posting "What is Oldhammer?", a debate which rolls back and forth along predictable lines before getting locked or deleted. However, this weekend there was a rather interesting twist on the theme - a post that triggered a "What is Oldhammer?" proxy war without even posing the question.

The backstory seems straightforward enough - someone on a different facebook group bought a lot of early 90s Tyranids and is pondering how they might convert them for use in AoS. News of this was posted on the Oldhammer Community group, possibly with the mischievous idea that it would get some interesting reactions! And so it proved.

The vast majority of reactions (generally in the form of memes or "heresy detected" jokes) seemed aghast that anybody would do such a thing. Where reasons were stated these included:
a) AoS is smelly;
b) miniatures should be kept in their virgin state;
c) miniatures belong to certain games and should be used for those games rather than in games for which the minis are unsuitable.

One respondent went so far as to say that metal conversions are "junk" - an opinion that would consign many Golden Demon winners and numerous pages of 'Eavy Metal to the bin.

Now, hobby gatekeeping is generally a twattish thing to do (and my ill-fated stint as moderator proved that I was an inept gatekeeper), but I can't help but feel these kinds of "that belongs in a museum!" type responses miss the point altogether.

So I thought I'd just spell out my opinion: converting tyranids for use in AoS is Oldhammer as fuck.

Oldhammer is about creativity, it's not about slavishly adhering to someone else's intellectual property. I don't know much about the world of Age of Sigmar, but if someone wants to make it their own by adding in giant bugs, then good on them!

Oldhammer is not about the purity of one particular edition of a game, nor is it about restricting yourself to miniatures from a particular era (even if it is shaped by a particular aesthetic sensibility). It's about bringing new life to old forms, whether that be playing old editions with new miniatures, playing new games with old miniatures, or anything in between.

Oldhammer is not about venerating old miniatures as some kind of 80s/early 90s relics. It's about bringing them to life, playing games and finding new stories to tell. If that means converting old lead to create something new, then I salute you.

What was that I said about gatekeeping being twattish? Ah well. Oldhammer is creativity and storytelling or it is nothing. Something like that anyway...

But wait, there's more!

Funnily enough the concept itself sent me down a corridor of nostalgia. When I was a teenager, I was pretty fanatical about coming up with new rules and concepts. And one of the ideas I was developing around the time I first dropped out of the hobby was - you guessed it - a Tyranid army list for Warhammer Fantasy Battle. A genestealer cult in the court of an Elector Count, perhaps? Spores of death falling from the skies? Ripper swarms in the sewers?

My friends shot the idea down immediately: it didn't fit with canon, I was told. And anyway, there was no way that the Warhammer World would survive such an infestation. Hormogaunts could overwhelm the planet within weeks, rapidly reproducing until there was nothing else left. Maybe they were right, but even then I kind of resented the idea that the only stories worth telling were the ones that Games Workshop had already told. Partly it was just that the absence of an insectoid race in Warhammer Fantasy seemed like a gap worth filling, but also it was the sheer apocalyptic horror of the whole thing... And such apocalyptic visions and prophecies saturate the consciousness of the medieval and renaissance societies that Warhammer plays around with.

And as Thantsants pointed out, how else would you explain what's going on in Hieronymous Bosch (take, for example, The Temptation of St Anthony)?

Look up there - death from the skies...

Monday, 1 March 2021

Scenes from Courtly Life

"The court ministers will be as powerful as the king is weak" - Simon Nicholson, Scenes from Courtly Life, White Dwarf 98

As I've mentioned before, one of the ways I've been encouraging myself to paint over lockdown has been The Monthly White Dwarf Painting Challenge. For February the challenge was to paint something found within - or inspired by - White Dwarf 98 from February 1988.

I've gone a bit left field this month. I'm trying to use these challenges as a reason to paint up miniatures that have been languishing in the leadpile, not an excuse to buy more - but it turns out I only own one miniature featured in this issue, and that's a dwarf. I've painted dwarfs the past 2 months so I wanted to try something different.

Reading through the issue, I really enjoyed Simon Nicholson's article "Scenes from Courtly Life - Courtly Characters for FRP", looking at struggles for power and influence around the throne. That inspired me to paint up two spare miniatures that might never have seen paint otherwise - they're part of the Lancastrian Command set from Perry miniatures (so at least they have the Perrys as a link to true Oldhammer greatness) and are meant to be Henry VI and the Lord High Treasurer Longstrother, though I plan to use them as a prince and his minister in a petty domain amidst the Border Princes... I figured I'd start with these miniatures and then see how the story unfolds!

Simon Nicholson's article gets us thinking about the intrigue that surrounds the throne - the messiness of human frailty and ambition. What happens when a king is old and weak? Or if a king is too strong? What role does his physician play? How do the ministers work for him or scheme against him? What goes on in his servant's chambers? Although all this is written with fantasy roleplay campaigns in mind, given that battle is so often an extension of drama at court, all of this gives narrative shape for our wargames.

Recently I've inspired by Phil Dutré's Chronicles of Lowenheim over at the Tiny Tin Men blog - he's been playing a whole solo campaign based on events generated by rolls on random charts, and it's been great reading. He's taken inspiration from Tony Bath's magisterial book Setting Up a Wargames Campaign, rolling on tables to generate the personalities that inhabit the town and shape its destiny. I wanted to take a leaf from the same book, but focussing on the Intrigue and Court and then seeing how that might give shape to a narrative. I decided to use the system Tony Bath devised using playing cards to develop the personalities for wargames campaigns:
Tony Bath's Personality Generator, from Setting Up a Wargames Campaign

The first card determines the individual's overarching characteristic:
Heart, Good Nature; Diamond, Love of Wealth; Spade, Ambition; Club, Love of War/Patriotism. The higher the card, the more intense this characteristic.

Then, deal 7 additional cards detailing the personality:
Ace: Spade or Club, a disloyal intriguer. Diamond, loyal intriguer. Heart, exceptional good nature. (A reversed ace signifies a hunchback or cripple)
King: Spade or Club, Energy. Heart or Diamond, Courage
Queen: Great lover
Knave: Spade/Club, Unreliability, oath-breaker, liar. Heart/Diamond, Merciless, revenge-prone
Ten: Loyality (Absolute loyalty in Diamonds, grading down through Hearts, Clubs, Spades.)
Nine: Physical beauty, except for Spade, which is Ugliness
Eight Spade/Club, Cruelty. Heart/Diamond, Generosity.
Seven: Spade/Club, Personality. Heart/Diamond, Jealous of Family Honour.
Six: Spade/Club, Lazyness. Heart/Diamond, Charm
Five: Spade/Club, Wisdom. Heart/Diamond, Cunning.
Four: Spade/Club, Stupidity. Heart/Diamond, Cowardice.
Three: Spade/Club, Bad Temper. Heart/Diamond, Good temper.
Two: Spade/Club, Arrogance, pride. Heart/Diamond, Merciful.

Resolve any inconsistencies using common sense!

I love a good random generation table, so before I started painting up my two guys, I grabbed a pack of cards:

So, first I deal the cards for the Prince. The card that determines the overarching characteristic is a heart - ok, so we have a good-natured ruler. Then, the other seven personality cards. Straight away, an ace of hearts - EXCEPTIONAL good nature! How lovely for his subjects! The rest of the cards: stupid, energetic, beautiful, cowardly, good temper.

Alright, not sure what I can do about beautiful (as you can see, I'm not a miracle worker with a paintbrush!), but the picture is clear enough: we've got a kindly but dim man, full of ambitious plans for his people but too cowardly to venture out much beyond the castle walls.

Now for his trusted minister. First card out is a diamond - so his overarching motivation is a love of wealth. Now let's see what the rest of the cards tell us: disloyal intriguer (!), wisdom, bad temper, cruel, unreliable/oath-breaker/liar.

Wow - that's almost a pantomime bad guy! Sneaky, cruel, smart but deceitful, and with a tendency to fly into a rage!

Quite a contrast between the two fellows! From here the story almost writes itself: the minister is a ruthless operator, taking advantage of a kind (but thick) prince. For his own enrichment, he has been embezzling charitable funds that had been meant for the realm's sick and poor. What terrible wickedness will the minister employ to stop his corruption from becoming public knowledge?

To be continued...

Thursday, 18 February 2021

The goblin who wanted to fly

Gimrod had ideas. That was the trouble with Gimrod.

There was the time he'd tried to make a steamtank out of two barrels and a bathtub looted from some fancy-pants Duke's castle. There was his idea that nests of bees might make good siege projectiles, which ended up with half his camp getting stung.

But Gimrod's greatest dream was to fly. To soar like a majestic bird of prey. And today, thanks to his latest idea, he was going to achieve that dream! If only the goose he'd stolen and stuffed into a bag on his back would stop biting him.

A wonderful sculpt by Michał Ziętkowski. The moment I saw this 'flying goblin' on the Oldhammer Sculpting Group I fell in love with the concept and had to get hold of one. A genius idea, and the goblin's look of steely determination is just great. Really enjoyed painting it, and thanks to Michał for sending me a cast. I'm looking forward to seeing Gimrod take flight over the battlefield in the near future!

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Liberating the Badlands

"Father! Father! I bring wonderful news! We have been liberated!"

The old blind man laughed. "Liberated, you say? Oh my dear girl, I would not be so sure."

"But father, surely anything is better than being overrun and enslaved by Orcs?"

"Before the Orcs, my girl, it was the army of the Duke. His brigands ransacked our chapel while he claimed Droit du Seigneur. And before them it was the sneering Elves. Were we anything more than slaves to them while they obsessed night and day uncovering ancient ruins? And before them, how many were driven mad by the cults of strange gods? Oh, my dear, I have seen too many liberators in my time. What is the difference between one occupying army and another?"

The door swung open. A fat soldier with a scar across the right side of his face stood in the doorway barking. "This house is now commandeered for the army of the Emperor. Woman! My men are hungry. Bring us food and bring us ale."

The old blind man sat and said nothing. He knew one thing: this would not be the last army to liberate their town.

While we're all locked away at home, one of the things that keeps us going is dreaming about the games we might play in the future. Which is why I've been getting so excited about Benjamin May's planned campaign weekend using the Warhammer 5th Edition campaign rules. 5th edition was the edition I played in my youth and some of my best gaming memories are of the Southport GW summer campaign back in 1998, so this will be a nice nostalgia trip for me as and when it happens. I wrote a couple of microstories for the campaign pack, so I thought I'd stick them up here.

We'll be campaigning in the Badlands, amidst the ruins of the Kingdom of Strygos, and in search of the legendary Doomstones!

He surveyed the barren lands that stretched out before him. Clotted rivers through fetid swamp. In the distance, twisted mountains. Who would lay claim to such a hellhole? But he knew these lands had secrets. Ancient monuments, forgotten temples.

Were the historians to be believed? If the stories were a lie, this expedition had been in vain. They had doomed themselves for nothing. But... what if the stories were true? What then? Even thinking about it made his heart race. The four stones, the four great crystals of legend. Whoever had them had the power to bend the fates to their will.

Of course, he had been sent to bring the doomstones back to his patron. But once he had them in his possession, who could stand in his way? Then he would have no need to bow and grovel before any patron. All time and space would grovel before him! For a moment he sat there, staring into the distance, lost in a kind of reverie. Then, coming to his senses, he gave the signal to his troops to advance.

In my teenage years, my only army was the High Elves, and so in returning to 5th edition, I wasn't going to miss this chance to restore my High Elves to their former glory! The only problem is that my collection is split between my childhood home in Liverpool and my current home in Orkney, and most of my old High Elf army is down in Liverpool. And of course I want to start getting ready now... So for that reason I'm going to use the minis I have here as the heart of the army, giving me a reason to finally get some paint on them: a unit of White Lions, a handful of archers (the old Melnibonean models), and a Great Owl (counts as Great Eagle).

I'll also be able to call on support from my Sea Elves if needed, but what's a new challenge without new minis to paint! And those White Lions have been waiting for paint since 1998, which is tragic in itself...

Hopefully I'll have some painted models to show you soon enough, and I can start telling the story of this army.