Friday, 24 December 2021

Looking back on Orctober: a goblin playground scene

My review of the year past has almost caught up with the present. I just have one more completed project I thought it would be nice to share here: my contribution to Orctober. Funnily enough I've never managed to paint anything up for Orctober before... and this year was no exception, as it didn't get finished until November.

A couple of rather old Citadel fiend factory miniatures that I inherited, paired with a more recent purchase from the Foundry:

FF65 Goblin Children crying to their FF64 Goblin Mother about having been thrown off the seesaw by Warmonger Orclings! Blue sky and clouds in the background courtesy of a painting by my son James.

I've been chatting with Warlord Paul and we're thinking of having a game (probably next Night of the Living Lead) where goblins are the good guys for a change- or at least the ones we're trying to defend. He writes: "The goblins of Little Albion are having a hard time right now. Their princess has been abducted by Lord Kraust and they are being used and abused by him as he expands his power..." A good opportunity to bring out all the weird and wonderful goblin civilian and character models... but that's for next year!

In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas Day, and I hope Father Christmas brings you lots of presents!

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

The Brotherhood of Public Sanitation

After the years of plague, as death washed over the land, a new threat even more virulent arose among the survivors. The Cult of the New Colossus had arisen to prey on the hopes of the people. It must be stopped.

Only the most devoted to the cause of wiping out this strange new movement could be trusted to deal with the horror. What was needed was a brotherhood: a brotherhood against all cults. Those initiated must be ever-zealous in their devotion to hunting down and wiping out new religious sects as they arose. Unflinching in the face of religious fanaticism. There was to be no corner of the land where dogmatism could take root. The purifying fire of the brotherhood would render all cultish dogmas anathema.

This was the promise of the brotherhood. After the plague, an assembly of the children of reason, determined to fight the new plague. Their faces covered, as they had been since the plague began, to show their unwavering commitment to the cause.

Next in my series of posts catching up on the passing year, we move to Bring Out Your Lead 2021 - a quieter affair than usual, as it was delayed to the autumn, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as it made it a more relaxed occasion altogether.

Many of you will be aware of Steve Beales'/Thansants mastery of the Old World Army Challenge, painting an enormous, mindbending, literary Chaos army - the Cult of the New Colossus. I did what any right-thinking person would do, faced with clear evidence of someone's far greater talent and work ethic: I sought to destroy it. Luckily, I was not alone - Steve had managed to inspire envy and disgust all across the Oldhammer world, and so the stage was set for an epic struggle at Bring Out Your Lead, as we all gathered our forces to stop the Cult of the New Colossus before they performed whatever horrific ritual Steve's fevered and well-read imagination could think up. Expressing the true warmth and mutual respect that is the hallmark of our Oldhammer community, the battle royale was quickly christened "Kill Beales".

I wanted to gather a new force with the specific goal of destroying this disgusting cult. An anti-cult cult assembly if you will. The key themes I decided on were:
1) that the army would be entirely masked or otherwise have covered faces - a tradition of hygiene that began during the plague and has persisted as the mark of true faith among those fighting the moral plague that is Steve Beales Chaos.
2) that the army would display an unhealthy fascination with the purifying force of death as the only thing that can subdue chaos.
3) that the army would epitomise the principle expressed by Nietzsche but which - let's be honest - we all know from the opening of Baldur's Gate: "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster... When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you..."

The first unit to be painted were the Brothers Spiritual - Fenris Miniatures Plague Cultists with CP Miniatures Night Terrors. With this unit, I really wanted to lean into the plague mask theme, but also give a sense of the brotherhood evolving into horrors themselves...

The next unit were the Brothers Militant - pretty straightforward Witch Hunters really, mostly from White Knight's Miniature Imperium, with a couple from Perfect Six Miniatures.

At this stage we needed some muscle to try and tackle some of the larger horrors of the Cult of the New Colossus - and so I painted up Brother Pyramidhead, an Ogre from Dark Art Studios.

Also with some of the larger and more damage-resistant targets in mind, I decided that adding a mortar would be a good idea: enter the Brothers Fulminant - evil hooded minions from Pulp Miniatures tending to an OOP undead cannon from Fenryll miniatures.

And finally, some old lead: rank upon rank of the Brothers of the Flensing Shame (i.e. Citadel's Regiment of Renown Knights of the Cleansing Flame) - though to fit them with my brotherhood, and to compensate for a lack of the complete command set, I added a C03 series Cleric Bishop to lead the unit, and an Oakbound Mari Lwyd style figure to serve as a suitably creepy substitute for a standard.

How did they fare at BOYL? Not surprisingly, even as one small part of the forces amassed against the Cult of the New Collosus, we made little inroads to stopping their foul and perverse rituals. We were just too slow in disrupting their ceremony...

The brotherhood did slightly better on a trollhunting mission the next day (winning by errrr... abducting the troll's children while directing the rest of the trolls into battle against the other forces... but that slightly shady moral tale is for another day!)

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

A tribute to the creators of White Dwarf

Continuing on the theme of "catch up" blogposts, I realised there was a neat little project that I never got around to putting on here.

As you may recall, I'd been taking part in the White Dwarf Monthly Painting Challenge initiated by Jamie Loft - each month, a classic issue of White Dwarf was selected, and our challenge was to paint something contained within, or inspired by, its pages. Alas, Jamie's become the victim of his own success, with the growth of Old School Miniatures over lockdown leaving him with not enough time, so the challenge seems to have died. However, I feel like this was a suitable note to end on!

White Dwarf 90 contained a celebratory retrospective by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, looking back on the origins of the magazine and of Games Workshop. Well, what better theme for a White Dwarf painting challenge than to paint up the founding editors of White Dwarf?

Pirate Steve Jackson (aka "the Ruffler" from the C04 thieves - although this casting is from Foundry's re-release) was a sculpt apparently inspired by Steve turning up to the 1984 Citadel Open Day on crutches due to a broken ankle.

Ian Livingstone is apparently a big fan of baseball and so his likeness for the White Dwarf Personalities box set ("Livingstone, the 'ed hitter") is wielding a baseball bat - but the pose itself is inspired by his cameo appearance in the artwork for his Fighting Fantasy classic Deathtrap Dungeon; wonderful artwork by Iain McCaig with a figure based on Livingstone chained up and recoiling in horror.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Summer 2021 - a retrospective

Though the time has already flown, I wanted to take a moment to record the strange summer of this year that is very nearly over. A summer when we finally got to see one another for the first time in too long.

My 2021 gaming finally began on a beautiful early summer's day in a woodland outside Nailsworth. I had arrived at The Woods in the Woods - a chance to finally play a campaign of Geoff Solomon-Sims' fine diceless skirmish game The Woods.

I brought with me my Myeri warband - over the course of the day we scouted out the edges of our realm. Unwanted Huldraugur guests sought to seize a monument on our borders and had to be repelled.

We tried to avoid being seen by Bucca spies - having to finally kill their leader before he took back the secret of our location.

And we found ourselves shot at by Gnawlocks erecting their own totems in contested territory.

The day finally ended with a grand battle involving all of the forces trying to seize fae to obtain their secrets.

The setting was beautiful, the terrain flowing seamlessly into the woods beyond. I even saw a stinkhorn mushroom!

I returned home rested and refreshed. We'd been looking after my mother ever since my father died last winter. She'd been suffering from long COVID, and I wanted to get back to meet with the occupational therapist who was coming to the house to advise on how we could support her recovery. The signs were encouraging and my mother, though still very tired, was making good progress. June passed and I was full of optimism. Little did I know that within weeks, my mother too would be dead.

My next gathering for gaming, then, was in the shadow of her funeral. Bring Out Your Lead had been postponed, but resourceful gamers still hatch plans to use the accomodation they had already booked in Newark. The result was three games in three days in three counties.

First, to Nottingham and Warhammer World (my first ever visit there, in fact), to play a mini-campaign of Realms of Chaos with the insanely creative Curtis Fell.

Then on Saturday to Derbyshire for the 'main event' at Bonsall Village Hall, organised by John Ratcliffe. This was the latest installment of our Adventures in Little Albion campaign, Ye Olde High Speed 2
John wrote up the background as follows:

Baron De Pfeffel (the corrupt and narcissistic ruler of southern Little Albion) and his evil Tilean advisor ‘Dominico the Rat’ have a plan to build a new high speed cart track through the ancient woodlands of central Little Albion. De Pfeffel is selling the cart track on the basis that it will cut 5 minutes off the four day journey from the fetid, southern swamplands of Hacked-Knee Marshes to the frigid, northern moors of Mankburgh.

Why anyone would want to make this journey, in either direction, is a complete mystery.

All the foulmouthed, unwashed, cruel and spiteful creatures of Little Albion adore De Pfeffel and have flocked to his banner... As the Goblin Warlord Snagsnaffl put it: "Ee shayrz ahr valyoos, innit."

I gathered together the treehuggers in my collection - elves and halflings - and placed them under the command of the inestimable Professor Tiggywingle.

You can read more about the sacrifice the creatures of the woodland and their allies made to stop Ye Olde High Speed 2 over at Fimm McCool's (i.e. Geoff's) blog... But as you can see, the battle - and especially Curtis' Tree Crushing Machine - were quite a sight to behold!

And finally on Sunday to Lincolnshire and to Foston Village Hall (many thanks to Tom Reynolds for organising!) for another game of "The Woods" - a 3 way skirmish, struggling to desecrate tombs while Geoff's Fae attempted to consecrate the land themselves, and goblins under the command of Jerome Franklin-Ryan simply tried (successfully) to trip us all up.

After all of which I needed to go back to Liverpool, to the family home, to try and reckon with the loss of my mother. As Matthew Street and myself wait in Grantham station (which contains, it should be said, a very fine micropub) ready to go our separate ways, we find the trains massively delayed. Someone had thrown themselves on the line somewhere to the south. We sat and waited and drank and spoke with the lad behind the bar about life and death and the things you wish you'd had a chance to say to people now gone.

Why do I mix up all this chat about gaming with the pain of grief? Not to try and spoil the pleasure of the games - that was very real. Nor to trivialise the loss, which still cuts deep. But that is just how life is. Darkness and light whisper sweet nothings to one another, and neither seem in any hurry to let us in on their secrets.

Well, mostly, I just wanted to write something like this: people sometimes say that playing games is all about escapism, and there's obviously truth in that. But I don't think that's all there is to it. The creativity, the laughter, the absolute joy of spending time with friends - that's not escapism. Escapism implies trying to get away from 'real life' for a brief spell; but that creativity, friendship, and joy brings you back to what real life is like, or at least what it can be like. These moments are not some mere escape, they are life at its brightest. And I am thankful to you all for making them happen.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Blogging and the Facebook monster

Another few months of silence on this blog. Partly that's just general laziness, partly it's just the fact that life has been coming pretty thick and fast.

Of course, one of the things that makes blogging a bit more of a chore is that the energy in Oldhammer has moved away from the blogosphere and towards other forms of social media. I honestly think that's a bit of a shame. True, blogging is pretty newfangled itself compared to the lead we push around - the most appropriate medium for what we do would probably be something like a mimeographed newsletter. But still, blogging gives the time and space to record your projects, share ideas, and then for people to be able to find and look back on them in the future. Compare and contrast with facebook with its deluge of pictures and endlessly looping chatter, where anything more than a couple of days old becomes hard to find.

The thing is, Oldhammer kind of revels in being SLOW: pottering around, beer in hand, admiring things, chatting, and occasionally pushing some toy soldiers across a table. It's about time spent enjoying life with friends, far removed from the "get a couple of games in quick" mentality that modern worklife forces our leisure into. For this reason, social media like facebook doesn't seem like a very good fit. That kind of social media is about instant gratification and short attention spans. And all too often about the kind of bad tempered reflex that comes from not taking time to reflect. Given that it's taken some of our models 40 years to see paint, you'd think we could take a little bit longer to think before we speak!

Ironically, the key reason I'm on facebook these days IS Oldhammer. It's how we plan for the next Little Albion games, think about what we'll do at BOYL, etc. And even though I much prefer the old-style Oldhammer Forum I do like looking at the pretty pictures. But I'm not very good on social media - it's led to some of the bigger fuck ups in my life in recent years. Even in Oldhammer my time as a moderator was a clusterfuck, and I've fallen out with some people there's been no need to fall out with.

Things change. The centre of gravity moves. But I hope there's life in blogging yet, in people being able to share ideas and not just pictures, in things that can be read years later and not lost the second you scroll past them. Let's hope there's more to Oldhammer than just feeding the facebook monster.

And did I write this just so I could show off the Scibor Facebook Monster I finally painted - the one they released when they reached 10,000 likes, and which I got free years when I was buying some shields from them? Of course I did!

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

From the marshes, into the woods - a Myeri/Fimir warband

On the edges, where land becomes water and water becomes land, keeping vigil. Listening to the birds and to the reeds for shifts and changes. On guard for incursions to an ever-diminishing domain.

Most of you will know of my fascination for the fens. And in particular, my fascination for those one-eyed denizens of the fens, the fimir. I've recently returned to that early enthusiasm, painting up a small warband that I can field as Myeri in Oakbound Games' The Woods. Way back when, the first range Oakbound produced were some fine not-fimir, and The Woods has really grown a life of its own around that: Geoff Solomon-Sims has expanded the range with more and more creatures, a growing folkloric world. So when Geoff announced that he was holding the first Oakbound Games Day, "The Woods in the Woods" - in an atmospheric and COVID-guideline-appropriate Gloucestershire woodland venue - I decided that this was something I needed to be part of.

The first minis I painted specifically for the warband were two wonderful Oakbound miniatures from their current myeri range.

Of course, fimir affecianados may well recognise that these sculpts pay direct tribute to the very artwork that provided the inspiration for the fimir - Alan Lee's Fomorian:

I then turned to Krakon Games' Fomorian range for the next recruits - Ross Whitehorn, sculptor and proprietor of Krakon Games describes these sculpts as "the sentry" and "the wayfarer".

Alongside those, I used different bits from Krakon Games (who supply an excellent range of fimir myeri fomorian heads!) to convert a magic user (a Draoi in the world of The Woods; or a Dirach to use fimir terminology). This was a last minute panic conversion using an industrial amount of superglue, and to be honest I'm amazed it worked.

First, I cut the legs, hands, and head off of a spare cultist-type I had from Pulp Figures. Then, I gave him the staff/scythe from a current-day Games Workshop Sylvaneth Branchwych, and stuck on a head, legs, and a tail from Krakon Games. I was having trouble working out what to do when painting the robes, so ended up blending purples and greens, giving him a kind of hippy tie-dye effect like he's a member of the Polyphonic Spree or something. He's accompanied by a Raven familiar from Reaper.

As always, time was running out before the big day, but there was one more model I just had to paint: Jes Goodwin's fimir prototype. One of my all time favourite miniatures.

The warband was rounded out with a couple of models I'd painted a while ago: First off, the Fimir Mutant I converted last year (to be fielded as a counts-as-Kelpie).

I then I dug out and rebased an Uilleann Piper as a Scealai for my warband - one of the original range of Myeri that Geoff launced Oakbound Games with, now OOP - and also a Barguest (aka one of Games Workshop's Fenrisian Wolves for their 40K Space Wolf army). Clan Slea were ready to enter the woods...

Many thanks to Geoff for the wonderful photo of the assembled warband - the terrain and painted background is all his work. And thanks to him for a wonderful day of gaming in the woods, which will be the subject of my next post...

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...