Friday, December 28, 2012

Anwyn - A Female Bard

Well, it looks like I will once again fall short of my painting goal for the year.  December 31st is rapidly approaching and the deadline draws near.  I tried to finish off the Thorin & Company project (which would have put me over my goal by one miniature) but it looks like those pesky dwarves will not be finished until after the New Year.  So, it looks like this mini will be my final completion for 2012.

This absolutely beautiful sculpt by Werner Klocke is not a bad way to end the year though.  Anwyn, Female Bard (03080) is available from Reaper Miniatures.  The miniature is a perfect example of why I'm such a big fan of the company.  The sculpt is simple yet elegant and devoid of all the unnecessary additions and trappings (I'm looking at you GW) that make many fantasy miniatures look absolutely ridiculous.  Skulls hanging on chains, forty-seven different weapons arrayed on the body, and 80's-style shoulder pads complete with spikey bits just doesn't work for me.  Anwyn shows that a company can produce a striking miniature while still adhering to the laws of fantastical reality.

Admission:  I've never been a big fan of red-heads, both in real life and in miniature painting (no offense to those of you out there that have been "kissed by fire").  I really don't know why either.  But lately, for some odd reason, I have painted several - both male and female.  Perhaps it's because one can only paint so many blondes and brunettes before growing bored of the same formula.  Or perhaps it has more to do with the striking contrast that red hair provides.  Whatever the reason, I have grown to love red-heads these days and decided to paint Anwyn as one as well.  I think the hair color gives her a bit of charm and more than a hint of innocence, which is perfect for the project I want to include her in.  Of course, once I determined she was going to sport red hair, I knew I wanted to go with a strong green to set off the hair even more.  And while I was at it, why not a white top to really make the model pop.  Don't you love it when colors choose themselves for you?  I wish all my color decisions were that easy.

Several months back...or maybe it was even last year, I started a project of collecting and painting Level One Adventurers.  I wanted a party of simply-clad dungeon delvers to represent that oh so scary first adventure.  To qualify for the project, on the miniatures, equipment must be kept to a bare minimum along with armor and weapons.  Believe it or not, finding miniatures to match that description is not all that easy.  As I mentioned above, it seems most minis are the exact opposite of what I was looking for.  When I found Anwyn however, I knew I had a winner.  First level bard?  I would say so!  A short sword, a pouch, and a flute....I could not have asked for a better example of what I was looking for.

As far as other characters for this First Level group, I think I only have a female fighter selected and painted at this point.  If any of you have any ideas and suggestions for other party members, I would be interested in hearing your comments.  I think it would be quite fun to see what others think of when they envision new adventurers heading out into the wilds for the first time to start their new careers.

As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Non Traditional Goblin Skin

The tree is up, the presents are wrapped, and the wine is open.  Looks like I have a bit of time on my hands for one more update before Christmas.  I just finished up this goblin the other night....proof that I actually complete a miniature from time to time.  He represents the start of yet another project where I will be playing around with goblin skin tones in order to avoid the bright green cliche that seems to dominate goblin painting.

This particular goblin is from the Hasslefree Miniatures Orcs and Goblins line.  The line itself is fairly limited with only a few pieces, but it's a good choice for painters and gamers that want a bit more of an "old school" look (Otherworld Miniatures also produces goblins with that old school feel and I hope to showcase some of those completed models in the coming year).  Though there are not many models in the group, they are varied enough to create a chaotic looking little warband.  And since some of the weapons and equipment seems to be interchangeable, adding additional goblins to the warband should not be very difficult for those with some minor miniature conversion skills. (Scroll below to see some of the other miniatures in the line).

Except for in the Warhammer world, I'm not a huge fan of painting goblins green...or bright green I should say.  I prefer more subdued colors that suggest some past relationship/common ancestry with humans.  I'm fairly certain I developed this taste from Tolkien's works where it is hinted at that his orcs and goblins are descended from captured elves during the First Age.  Though it seems that before his death he was beginning to regret that version of events, he never changed his legendarium and the story remains the same today.

 I've always liked the Professor's descriptions of his goblin-kind in the books that illustrate their skin coloration ranging from grey to brown to a sallow-skin.  It is in this tradition that I have tried to paint this little goblin.  I used an olive base color (Reaper Olive Skin 09221) then played around with the highlights and washes to get the chosen color.  For this particular model I wanted to play up the sallow skin part so I applied faint yellowish highlights in a few prominent locations.  Several washes of Delvan Mud (GW) helped to blend the different tones together and provide additional shadows.

For the most part, I'm fairly happy with the coloration.  However, I have been playing around with a few other skin types for some of the other goblins in the Hasslefree line.  As you can see on some of the models below, I'm trying out a brown based version on two of the goblins to provide a bit of variance amongst the group.  I still need to tweak the colors a bit though.  They look a little too reddish at this point.  I would like to tone down the warm colors and bring them closer in style to version one.  I'll try a few washes and see what that does to them.

I'd be curious to hear what color schemes others use for their non-Warhammer orcs and goblins.  Do you like the your goblin-kind to be "green-skins" or do you prefer some other approach?  Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Anyhow, as mentioned above, this the last update from the hobby desk before Christmas.  So once again I'd like to thank all those that take the time to read my ramblings and visit this blog.  But I'd also like to wish everyone a very happy Holiday Season.  No matter what you celebrate, I hope it's a safe and happy one.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pirate Profiles - Pascal

Though I have been focused quite heavily on fantasy miniatures and gaming, not to mention most recently LotR and The Hobbit, I have not given up on any of my (many) other pursuits.  Though the going has been slow since my hobby time has been divided by so many different projects, I have been able to complete (or nearly complete) several pirate miniatures for my Legends of the High Seas campaign.

Pictured above, is one such miniatures from Black Scorpion.  He is one of the four miniatures included in their Rogues 2 blister.  Fortunately I purchased him a good while back so he is metal and not their resin rubbish (sorry Black should have stayed with metal.  Your quality has gone done hill since the change over).  In metal, he is a wonderful sculpt.  I really liked the slightly hunched over look which makes the miniature look quite brutish.

With the simple color pallet I chose for him, he was pretty easy to paint.  The dark skin gave me a few issues though, but only because I have not practiced with dark skin tones much.  To help me with the new tones I used the Reaper Dark Skin triad and that seemed to work pretty well.  I still need more practice though and plan to paint another pirate figure in the near future using the same colors.

As I mentioned many times before, every miniature I paint gets some type of background treatment.  For armies, it may be something as simple as a name only but for others, they may get extensive back stories and full profiles.  I know it may sound strange, but thinking about such details actually helps me paint.  As I develop their story in my head, it drives the color selection and the overall theme I choose.  It even guides my brush  strokes in some instances.  Once the process begins it pretty much drives itself, which can be quite fun.  Though I may have ideas in mind when I purchase a miniature, I really never know in what direction the mini will take and in the end, the finished product may end up looking quite different from what I had envisioned in the beginning.

For instance, this miniature's unexpected journey began the moment I cleaned off the flash.  I had one profile in mind but once I started, the background took a very unexpected path and in turn, so did the miniature itself.  Below is his backstory I developed for him while painting:

Pascal hails from the Dahomey region of the Slave Coast in the Bight of Benin.  He was initially sold to an English slaver in 1710 and promptly loaded upon the Endeavor, a slave ship out of Bristol.  The Atlantic crossing was difficult for the human cargo as always but fortune would intervene for some of the slaves.  As the ship neared its destination of Barbados, the vessel was captured by the Courbet, a French pirate sloop out of Guadeloupe.  The French pirates looted the vessel of useable goods then chose twenty of the slaves on board to resell.  Pascal however, was chosen for other reasons.  His immense size and obvious strength impressed the French pirates so he was forced into service.

Pascal, as he was dubbed by the pirates since they could not pronounce his native name, quickly proved to be very useful and, unexpectedly, quite intelligent.  As one would expect, Pascal was devastating in action and just the sight of him brought fear to the unfortunate crews that happened upon the path of the Courbet.  However, despite his fearsome countenance, Pascal was rarely overly violent and provided just enough force to subdue his opponents with minimal bloodshed.  Indeed, the French crew began to see that just placing Pascal in a prominent position when approaching possible prizes would often times result in a successful capture without ever firing a shot.

Pascal easily learned the French language and picked up English as well from the few prisoners the pirates would hold from time to time.  One such long term prisoner, a forced surgeon from a British vessel, even taught Pascal to read and write and allowed the big man to assist him in his surgical duties.  Before long, Pascal was called upon to serve as quartermaster aboard the Courbet and often assisted the captain in matters dealing with the written word.

Pascal is an usual man in many aspects.  Perhaps his most unusual trait however is his love of animals.  Though he may appear to others as a big brute, he is anything but to the animals he encounters in his travels.  During his stay aboard the Courbet, Pascal befriended the ship's many cats and spent much of his free time caring for them.  He would forgo the looting of many captured prizes, instead spending his time searching belowdecks for books and pets.

The Courbet was eventually captured by rival pirates and the prize brought to Port Largo.  Most of the crew was given a short trial then hanged by Governor Haldane but Pascal and the ship's surgeon were spared.  The Governor, a notorious sponsor of illicit activities, had better plans for Pascal's talents.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thorin & Company Update #2

Christmas parties and social engagements have kept me from spending as much time as I would like at the painting desk, but I have been able to work on my Thorin and Co. project a bit between events.

As you can see from the photo (my apologies again....I didn't feel like messing with the Nikon so I snapped this with my phone), about half of the dwarves (and Bilbo) have seen some progress.  The work has been mostly about experimenting with colors to match the movie stills and applying basecoats.  Only Bilbo and Thorin have seen any shading or highlighting, and that has been minimal at best.

Since I'm "batch painting" the company, the figures with the most attention all have reds or dark browns as a base color in common.  As I mentioned in the last update, I'm trying to minimize paint mixing to speed the process along so on a whim, I started with reds and browns.  I decided to concentrate on just those colors to begin with then branch out as the color selection grows.  As I add lighter browns for highlighting, I'll then bring in miniatures like Bofur and Kili which can benefit from the new color additions.  As other colors are needed for belts, pouches, etc, then the rest of the miniatures will finally enter the queue.  Hopefully, when all is said and done, the entire process will have saved me some time.

Obviously Thorin does not fit the pattern.  He's in a league of his own...quite literally.  He is the only model that will utilize any amount of blue so I've been working on him separately.  His color palette is fairly simple so he may actually end up being the first miniature finished.

So that's it for now.  I'll not be working on Thorin & Co. tonight since I will be leaving soon to attend the midnight opening of The Hobbit.  Hopefully I'll get more ideas for the color schemes as I watch Mr. Baggins begin his unexpected journey.

And speaking of the movie, I just want to say this before the general premier.  To the naysayers on the internet that bemoan the fact that Peter Jackson is taking a rather short book and turning it into three movies only to "milk the cash cow" and is not remaining true to the book, I have to ask....have you ever read the book?  The Hobbit is a children's book....written for....wait for it comes....children.  If Peter Jackson were to stay "true" to the actual book, we'd have a movie that lasts a little over an hour long and have the most silly absurd dialog possible (tra-la-la-lilly anyone?).  We'd also have a Thorin Oakenshield that looks and acts like this:

instead of this:

I'm a huge Tolkien fan (and have been for over thirty years) and dare I say, amateur Tolkien scholar, yet I'm more than OK with what Peter Jackson is doing to the book.  I own the Rankin/Bass cartoon that follows the book nearly perfectly.  I certainly do not want to see a rehashed version of that.  Now I'm ready to go see what The Hobbit may have looked like if Tolkien had written The Lord of the Rings first and fully developed his legendarium before scribbling those now famous words..... "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit".

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Thorin & Company Update #1

Since I received my Hobbit starter set last week, I've been working here and there on Mr. Baggins and his dwarven companions.  So that I have them all ready at the same time to run a few scenarios from the game, I'm treating them as a batch painting project.  Though the process will not go as quickly as if painting an army with the same color schemes, I think I'll still be able to progress a bit quicker by painting similar parts and colors at the same time rather than treating each figure as an individual project.  We'll see how the plan works.

So this is where I am right now.  I've cleaned, filed, and assembled all of the "good" models from the set.  I added basing material then primed the group black with a spray since the humidity has finally fallen enough here on the island to give me a break from having to use brush on primer (Guesso).  After everything was dry, I added a deep basecoat of Reaper Intense Brown (09138) to reduce the number of flesh coats I needed to apply over black primer.  I also used what was left over of the brown to do a bit of drybrusing on a few of the bases.

 All of the eyes were then painted.  I generally start by painting the entire eye socket black to help bolster the impression of depth around the eyes.  I then fill in the majority of the eye with an off white for the sclera (the white of the eye), leaving a thin outline of black applied in the previous step.  The eyes are completed by painting the iris black using the "stripe" technique.  A friend has provided an excellent tutorial on his blog on how to paint this stripe if you're not familiar with the process.

Finally, most of the models received a coat of Reaper Tanned Shadow (09043) as the initial flesh tone.  Despite the coat of Intense Brown, I'll need to apply another coat of flesh before I begin the real process of painting faces and other flesh parts.  Then it's on to apply base colors to the garb.  This is where I hope to save lots of time since for the most part, the color palette of the dwarves seems to be fairly uniform.  I should be able to slap on paint with minimal mixing between figures and hopefully bring them to the gaming table within a week or so.

More updates to come......

Friday, December 07, 2012

Alejandra from CMON

In the weeks before the expected arrival of the new Hobbit miniatures, I spent some late nights trying to complete a few minis to make room in the queue for Mr. Baggins and the dwarves.  I felt like I was painting like a speed demon when in fact, as usual for me, I was painting the speed of a dying tortoise.  Nevertheless, I was able to finish up not one, but three figures before the box set came in last Saturday.  A pirate, a goblin, and this lovely lady have now been moved to completed status.

I purchased Alejandra from the Cool Mini or Not shop around a year ago and have been wanting to paint her since then.  I'm not sure of the sculptor, but whoever worked on her did a fantastic job.  Although her simple and clean lines suggest lack of detail, she is anything but.  Each item, no matter how small, is detailed and crisp. 

I must admit.  I'm a metal guy.  Always have been and probably will be.  However, I was impressed with this resin model.  Perhaps I'm just a bit jaded by the GW Finecast crap or the drop in quality once Black Scorpion went to resin, but I'm usually disappointed with resin miniatures.  I was pleasantly surprised with this model however.  There were no issues...ZERO....with Alejandra.  I did not have to fill any bubbles, fix missing parts, or repair brittle pieces.  Now that I think about it, I don't think I did much prep work at all on her.  Why can't GW produce such quality resin miniatures?

The only problem I had with Alejandra was with her weapon of choice.  For some reason, the sculptor chose to attach a HUGE axehead/scythe on the end of her staff.  It was quite monstrous and really detracted from the theme of the model.  You can see the original sculpt here.  So I removed the ridiculous axe thingamajiggy and replaced it with a 6mm BB.  I was shooting for (see what I did there?? ha!) a swirling orb-like structure on top of the staff.  Though my lack of painting skill probably failed to achieve the desired effect, I still think it looks better than the huge hunk of junk that was there before.

All in all, she was a great model and a fun one to paint.  Alejandra would make an excellent  wizard/sorceress model for RPG play or could be substituted for a hero model in brand XYZ skirmish wargaming.  Whatever the use, pick up one from Cool Mini or Not if you want a resin miniatures that doesn't suck!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Liebster Award Nomination and Five Awesome Blogs

How do you make a grown man blush?  Easy...have a published game author and favored blogger nominate your own little corner of the blogsphere for an award.  Yep, that would be how to do it.  Like myself, I'm sure many readers have seen this photo and accompanying award nomination pass from blog to blog around the gaming/miniature painting sections of the internet.  I had no idea however, that my blog might end up as one of those spots.  Though I certainly don't believe my blog deserves a nomination, I still can't help but be just a tad bit proud that not only does someone actually read this blog, but someone actually likes it enough to be so kind.  Huzzah!

First thing's first:  I want to thank Tim over at Cursed Treasures for the nomination.  As I alluded to above, I am so incredibly honored to even be mentioned by such a talented blogger and author.  The fact that someone like Tim visits my blog from time to time makes all the work I put into it worthwhile.  Maybe there is a reason he likes the blog...actually, he should like it since he may recognize some of himself there.  His was one of the first blogs I found when searching for LotR and LotHS content and have modeled my own blog on his excellent work.  He is a source of inspiration and a hobbyist that I try to emulate.  I visit his blog often to find out hobby news and drool over miniatures but mostly I visit in hopes of one day seeing a headline read something like this: "Legends of the High Seas Supplements Ahead".  Thank you so much Tim for your kindness.

So, after getting over the shock, I decided to read a bit more about this little Liebster thingy going around the internet.  It seems that I should pass along the torch and honor others that haven chosen to sink large chunks of their free time into this strange little pastime.  Here are the rules as I understand them:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog linking it to the blogger who has given it you.

2. Pass the award to your top 5 favourite blogs with less than 200 followers by leaving a comment on one of their posts to notify them that they have won the award and listing them on your own blog.

3. Sit back and bask in the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing you have made someones day!

4. There is no obligation to pass this onto someone else but its nice if you take the time to do so. 

Easy enough right?  Well, I did have a few questions about the rules.  First of all, is it appropriate to list the person that nominated you?  I do not see any reason not to, especially in my case when the blog in question truly is one of the five favorites.  Which leads me to the second question, is it appropriate to nominate a blog which already has a nomination?  Once again, I do not see a reason to avoid listing your favorite blogs just because a particular blog is already listed on another site.  So after a bit of pondering, I decided to list the five blogs I visit the most and hope that my choice honors the true intent of the nomination process.  Here are my five:

Cursed Treasures: See above for my comments on Tim's blog.

Scott's Wargaming: During the same period I found Cursed Treasures, I also came across this beauty of a blog.  Scott is an avid wargamer from the other side of the world to me...quite literally.  However, despite the distance and the fact that he chooses to live in the wrong hemisphere, I've found that we have quite a bit in common.  Just like Tim's blog, it was his love of LotR and LotHS that drew me in.  His painting talents are top notch and I love going back through his archive and getting inspiration on projects I am about to begin.  Beyond piracy and Middle-earth, he is also a fan of the Miami Dolphins, which I consider quite odd and rare for a displaced Brit living in NZ, yet it serves as another connection.  Most of all, Scott seems to be a pretty nice guy.  No matter the subject, he is one of the first to comment on many of the numerous blogs that he and I visit.  That trait goes a long way into making this part of the blogosphere a friendly and community oriented place.

Plastic Legions:  This was another blog that drew me in for the pirate/LotHS content.  Though I may have come for that particular game, the varied content, included LotR, is what kept me coming back for more. His outstanding painting style and terrain making ability never ceases to amaze me. 

Cianty's Tabletop Wargames Blog: A quick spin around this site should indicate why I've included it here.  There's top notch painting and great models, but mostly....there's pure piratey goodness!  For a Legends of the High Seas player, there are few sites better than this one.  I hope I'm not breaking the rules by nominating this blog.  Something as informative and well-polished as this site surely has over 200 followers, but since I could find no information stating that was the case, I felt I was justified included it.

Elhion's Tabletop Adventures:  Be prepared to make frequent use of the Google translate button on this site.  Although the blog is mainly in Greek, the old saying that a photo is worth a thousand words is true here (even if those words are in a foreign language).  This blog dabbles mostly in LotR and Warhammer 40K, but touches on Legends of the High Seas and Warhammer fantasy as well.  I visit this blog frequently mainly for the LotR content but also to see great miniature painting and interesting conversions.  

So there you have it.  These are my five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers.  I hope I was able to pass on the same great feeling upon learning of my own nomination. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Hobbit Strategy Battle Game - Unboxing and Review

I had a very expected journey this afternoon as I made the 84 mile round trip from my little island up to the closest FLGS.  Waiting for me at the store was my precious....hmmm, I mean my copy of the The Hobbit Strategy Battle Game.  Yes, I know I could have ordered it but here in the Florida Keys, getting your mail is not necessarily a guaranteed thing.  Plus Joel, the owner of my "local" gaming store offered a good discount that made the drive worthwhile.

Though I feel like I'm coming down with the plague again, I couldn't resist tearing into the box and sharing a few photos of my Hobbity goodness.  Fair warning:  I did not feel like getting the good camera out so I snapped all of the shots with my iPhone.  I apologize in advance for the terrible photography for this post.

As you can see from the view of the inside of the box, this set contains lots and lots of goodies.  There is a rule book, a starter/scenario booklet, several pamphlets with assembly instructions, a game reference card, another card with the stats for Radagast the Brown, dice, rulers, terrain, and most importantly, quite a few plastic miniatures.  Although the box is jammed full of stuff, I will not know if it was worth the money until I examine the miniatures more closely.  Everything else in the box is just bonus material for me.  The minis are what I really want and if they are not high quality (for plastic), I will be more than disappointed.

The photo below shows the starter booklet.  It covers the basic rules via a fully illustrated introductory game.  The booklet then goes on to a scenario section.  The scenarios included are:

Scenario 1: The Breakthrough
Scenario 2: Rescue the Baggage
Scenario 3: Brothers in Arms
Scenario 4: Guard the Crossing
Scenario 5: The Wizard and the Burglar

The booklet ends with profiles for all the models included in the game.  Though I'm sure posting the stats would not make the GW folks happy, I did include a photo to dispel online rumors that suggest that the stat lines were not available in the box set.  As you can see, that is completely incorrect.  I suspect that what happened is someone confused the fact that point values for the miniatures are not included (TRUE) and either misread or assumed the same to be true for the stats.

The rule book, photographed below, goes into more detail about how the game is played.  It's only 112 pages, but quite a bit of information is covered including the new monster rules, new heroic moves, and special rules such as sieges etc...  I very much enjoyed the fact that though the book is a smaller size, GW still included plenty of illustrations, both for rules clarification and general aesthetics. 

Now on to the miniatures.  Below is the Radagast sprue.  Apparently he will only be included in the special edition box set.  I would imagine that what GW really means is that this pose is only included in this set.  I have no doubt that he will appear in some other form later during the release cycle.  As for this version, he looks great.  Though the face is pointed in the wrong direction in this pic, I can assure you he is detailed very well and looks almost exactly like the movie photography suggests.

As you can see below, Thorin and company are all included on the same sprue.  It's tough to discern the quality without assembling the miniatures, but from what I can see, I'm generally impressed with the sculpts and the amount of detail for plastic.  I can't wait to get them cut out tomorrow and assembled.  December is shaping up to be all about painting The Hobbit miniatures.

Now on to the goblins.  Without having seen the movie yet, I really can't comment on the accuracy of the goblin warriors.  I do know one thing....I'm not at all moved by the lumps, sores, and misshapen limbs of this breed of goblins.  I would have been perfectly OK with Peter Jackson basing the goblins of the Misty Mountains on those of Moria.  No problem though.  If I don't like them once I paint a few, I'll just use my hordes of Moria goblins instead.

Finally, here is the Goblin King.  He is quite the brute.  I measured him at around 2-1/2 inches tall (6cm) without a base.  I could be off by just a bit since I measured the parts while still on the sprue but my numbers should be pretty close.  Either way, he is a big boy.  I can't wait to see what kind of damage he can produce on the field of battle.

Although I didn't photograph them, there are several sprues of scenery included in the game.  From what I can tell, the planks obviously will make for a great addition to Goblin Town gaming but I think they would also come in useful for something like Mordor or the pits of Isengard.

Well, there you have it.  That's what comes in the box set.  My pockets are a bit lighter after coming home with my treasure but you do get quite a lot for the money.  I feel zero buyers remorse at this point.  I just hope the feeling remains the same after assembling and painting the included miniatures.

Thanks for reading...