Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mason Thornwarden

Just finished up Mason Thornwarden (03500) from Reaper.  He's part of a group of rangers I've been working on over the last few weeks. I'll have a few more completed rangers ready to post soon.

Mason Thornwarden from Reaper Miniatures
Mason Thornwarden is a great sculpt by Bobby Jackson.  I love the action pose and the look of concentration on his face.  I would hate to be the poor orc standing down range from this archer.  For fans of intricate detail on every millimeter of a miniature, this may not be the figure for you however.  He is rather plain actually.  Only the lacing on the sides of his extremely tall boots and a bit of work on the quiver stand out on Mason's very basic kit.  For a ranger type though, I think the lack of detail is quite fitting. 

Interestingly enough, there is a previous sculpt of this miniature by Gene Van Horne (or is it a newer sculpt?) with the same name but with a different product number (02918).  This particular version depicts Mason in a similar stance but with different garb and equipment.  Instead of the soft leather tunic on the first version, he seems to be wearing some type of studded leather or brigandine armor that boasts a fair amount of detail to break up the monotony of the ranger's garb.  He is also equipped with a sword this time in addition to his bow, along with a few other tweaks.  I just purchased this version and look forward to painting him up as well to compare the two.

How odd.  After I took the photo above with my iPhone to illustrate some of the differences between the two sculpts, I noticed that this miniature definitely has some issues going on.  The bottom of the right boot seems to be missing or perhaps it was folded over during the casting process and strung out in a long line of extra metal that runs along the top of the base and ends at the start of the left boot. I did not notice this large defect when I took it out of the package.  Darn!  Gotta send this one back...

As an aside, I've always enjoyed the creative names Reaper has assigned to their miniatures.  Instead of "male ranger", it's refreshing to see all the individual names of each mini while flipping through their catalog or cruising the web.  It also makes it easier to remember the name of a particular model (or refer to it) rather than trying to recall a product number or generic descriptive tag.  And just for the record, Mason Thornwarden definitely ranks up there among my favorite names created by Reaper.  Wish I had thought of it.

I wonder if there is one person in particular at Reaper that comes up with these names or is it more of a committee affair.  Anyone know?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jon Snow - Dark Sword Miniatures

I'm a big fan of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.  I love the gritty "fantastic reality" the story portrays and his reluctance to color his world in only black and white and good and evil.  I'm also a huge fan of Dark Sword Miniatures.  Looking back through this blog, it's easy to see how true that statement is.  So I guess it's only natural that I'm a double big fan of Dark Sword Miniatures George R. R. Martin Masterworks line that came out a few years ago.  I started collecting the miniatures right away but it has taken until now for me to finally paint one.  And what better way to start than Jon Snow?

In the novels, Jon Snow is one of the characters that you absolutely love or absolutely hate.  He is one of the few that remain firmly on the "good guy" side and seems to have a strong moral compass.  Unfortunately, in Martin's extremely brutal and morally ambiguous world, those very traits are what makes him such a polarizing personality.  Detractors say he doesn't fit the theme Martin created while others cling to him as one of the only shinning points of the light in the entire series.  Though this post is not intended to start a debate about Jon Snow the character, I will say that I'm firmly on the "like" side of the argument and look forward to more of his story arc.  Thus it was natural to me to paint him first.

When I began to plan out the miniature, I was thinking how easy it would be to paint.  After all, I was choosing to paint him as he would have looked after he joined the Night's Watch.  The colors would be easy...black, black, and maybe some more black to paint his set of blacks traditionally worn by the Night's Watch, along with a bit of metallic for the maile.  Well, as I quickly learned, to get any kind of contrast with an all black miniature you have to blend several different types of "black".  So in reality, after blending several different versions of gray-blacks and brown-blacks, and choosing where to place them so as to provide some type of contrast from the black next to it, the miniature became quite difficult to paint.  In fact, it became so difficult that my plan to paint up an entire group of rangers for a bit of Night's Watch gaming is undergoing serious rethinking.  Ha!

Despite my personal difficulty with the blacks, I very much admire this miniature.  The sculpt is absolutely wonderful.  Though he may differ from the Kit Harrington version of the character, I feel Tom Meier not only truly captured the essence of Lord Snow the character, but also the very personality of Martin's version of a ranger/warrior of the Night's Watch.  The pose definitely creates a a sense of movement with the miniature that to me embodies the style and tactics of the Watch itself.  It speaks of stealthy quick movements that the Watch has had to develop over the decades of long decline just to perform their duty and to survive.

In fact, I like the sculpt so much that I plan on purchasing and painting at least two more.  For one version I'd like to paint Jon as he might have appeared when he was still at Winterfell.  I'll have to reread A Game of Thrones to see if he was ever described as wearing the livery of House Stark to paint him that way or I could just paint him in those colors anyhow and let others argue over the question of a bastard being allowed to wear the device of a noble house.  For the second version, I would like to paint up the miniature as just another fantasy-type ranger.  I think the sculpt would look wonderful with a bit of color!

By the way, I'm also a fan of the HBO series.  Even though I started with the books, and that is where my allegiance lies, I really have no qualms about the television version. For the most part, the show stays very near to the novels and only takes creative licensing when needed to adapt the extremely complex books to something even remotely viewable for television.  Casting for the show was mostly spot on for what I had in my mind for each character....except for maybe Catelyn Stark.  I pictured her as a bit younger in looks.

As for characters, I think Tyrion is wonderful and Sir Jorah (though depicted quite differently than the novels) makes a great knight.  However, it's Arrya that not only stole the show but my heart as well.  I'm definitely looking forward to Season 2!

Edit 10July2012:  Jon Snow now has his faithful companion painted up to join him.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

On The Horizon - February 2012

As you can see, I have a beautiful chaotic mess awaiting me this month. I know that it's unreasonable to expect to finish it all, or even half for that matter, but seeing the work queue all lined up before me certainly helps with motivation.  Hopefully next month's On The Horizon post will not look exactly like this one!

I have half finished miniatures and scenery projects everywhere...not to mention the ones I have not even started. I've tried to arrange the queue to move those projects most likely to see attention closer to the main work area in hopes of forcing action upon them.  The ones that are out of reach when I'm sitting tend to escape notice and sometimes drop out of thought until some random bit of inspiration strikes me and causes them to be moved up in the queue.

Farthest away, both in actual distance and in priority right now are some of my scenery projects.  You can see them precariously perched upon the high spaces of the work area. Just to the left of center on top of the filing bins sit several buildings for the Port Antigua project.  They are textured and primed on the outside and now await painting and detailing.  I've also been stuck thinking about how to add shutters that would still allow a view of the interior (and shooting from inside) while being able to close off certain access areas .  Near the far left, on top of the clear display boxes sits a watch tower for LotR Rohan and Dark Age gaming.  I still need to finish the railing and paint the tower to run a few games I have in mind.  I think both sets will have to wait a few weeks though.  Most of the workload for this month deals with painting miniatures rather than scenery work but I have not forgotten them.

Sections 2 and 3

Row upon row of minis await some type of work in sections 2 and 3.  These will see some progress this month, but continuing with my scheme of distance versus attention, I do not expect any of these to find their way to completion.  I'll cover this batch in detail a little later. 

Section 1 sits front and center to my reach, and thus my attention

The miniatures that live right in front of the GW paints are the ones likely to be completed this month.  Due to their proximity, they will receive priority during the paint sessions.  I'll review this section first.

Section 1

Section 1 miniatures.  These minis are likely to see completion this month.

Starting on the back row and moving from left to right we have The Mistress of Port Antigua.  That is my name for this mini from Reaper's Townsfolk III package (02655).  She is destined to star as the matron of a house of ill repute in both fantasy and pirate gaming.  Next is Autumn Bronzeleaf (03492), also from Reaper, who is in the process of getting a spring-like color scheme instead of the warm colors her name suggests.  Harald Hardradda (HVA03) stands next to her.  He is from the Heroes of the Viking Age range from Gripping Beast.  A pirate captain from Old Glory's Pirate Captains package keeps the viking company.  Once completed, he will play the role of a prominent merchant captain in Port Antigua, though I have not decided on which side of the law he will support.  To finish off this row is another wench for Port Antigua.  She can be found in the Fenryll Miniatures Female Villagers pack (FA151).

The front row of section 1 consists of a test mini for a Warhammer High Elf unit that I'm converting to represent Tolkien's First Age elves from The Silmarillion.  Next in line is another little miss to join the other Ladies of Port Antigua.  She is from the Hasslefree Miniatures Villagers line (Barwench HFV001).  Two models from Dark Sword Miniatures are next.  The first is a ranger (DSM7403) that may possibly become the representative for his class in the Legends of the Fall project while the next is Alfyn Crowkiller (DSM5021) from the George R. R. Martin Masterworks line.  Mason Thornwarden (03500), from Reaper is next followed by Halbarad from Games Workshop.

Section 2

Section 2 miniatures.  These will see attention this month and some may even be completed.

Once again, starting in the back row and on the left we have a pirate from the Old Glory captains package.  Next to him is Anwyn, a female bard from Reaper (03080).  I think she will be the representative of her class in the Legends of the Fall project.  Two pirates from Black Scorpion (Rogues 1 & Privateers 2 blister packs) stand next to her and a ranger/thief from Reaper called Kurff the Swift (02034) rounds out the back row.

Row two starts with Druss Darkblighter (03136) from Reaper who will be competing against Anwyn for the bard spot in Legends of the Fall.  Another Old Glory pirate is next followed by a "Crouching Female Fighter with Sword" (DSM1137) from the Larry Elmore Masterworks line by Dark Sword Miniatures. The mini is based off Elmore's painting called "Waiting for Shadamehr".   A serving wench for Port Antigua is next, from Reaper's Townsfolk I pack (02583), while the Governor's Daughter from Black Scorpion sits on the end.

Two Wildings (DSM5015 & DSM 5016) from DSM's George Martin Masterworks line start out the third row.  They are both likely to see action in the Dark Age gaming arena.  Though the photo may suggest otherwise, I'm sure the pirate from Black Scorpion (Pirates 2 blister pack) standing next to the Wildings does not truly wish to shoot the lovely miniature next to him... Jolie, a female scribe from Reaper (65051).  Two more wenches for Port Antigua finish up the row.  The first is from Hasselfree Miniatures (Strumpet HFV003) the second is from the same pack of Fenryll villagers as the one above (FA151).

Section 3

Section 3 miniatures.  Hopefully these will move forward in the queue by the end of the month.

Some of the miniatures in this rack have been sitting in the same stage of completion for many months.  I'll try to move some of these figures off during February though.  The top two rows are all figures from Black Scorpion and will represent the British authority in and around Port Antigua (Royal Navy Marines packs 2 & 3 along with a Navy Captain and Royal Naval Officer).  The only exception is the lone Brettonian sitting by himself on the far left.  He is part of my Knights of Westeros project that unfortunately got pushed to the side during the hectic pirate days of last year.  He is not forgotten however and might see some love this month.

The third row from the top starts out with the two Sarumans.  While I have done a bit of flesh work on them over the last few months, they have largely sat in the same spot.  I'm determined to start highlighting the robes and move these guys farther along in the queue.  Aragorn, from GW's The Three Hunters pack is next.  A barkeep from Reaper's Townsfolk (65086) is beside Strider.  I need to hurry him up a bit so that he'll be available for the upcoming pirate games.  John Snow (DSM5001) and a Reaper cleric (Christina the Devout 02475) sit on the end and await completion.

Finally, the last row consists of minis that are the most likely in Section 3 to see significant painting this month.  Three Cadian test models start out the row.  I could actually have these finished in a day or so but I simply can't decide which color scheme I like the best.  Perhaps I should post them here and let other decide for me since I seem to be stuck.  Cyndria Stormcaller (02956) from Reaper is fourth from the left.  She may take a bit more time than the others in this row since I will be trying to paint sheer cloth for the first time.  The Governor of Port Antigua (Black Scorpion's Governor) is next accompanied by a young Hedge Knight (DSM5026) from Dark Sword Miniatures that looks more like a ranger to me than a knight.

So there it is.  Planning ahead like this helps me visualize what I would like to accomplish and motivates me to paint.  Though I have to be honest.  While I do have a plan, it's easy for me to get sidetracked.  It doesn't take much for me to take off on some new direction and throw the best laid plans to the wind.  So don't be surprised to see some of these models in the same spot come next month.

Just out of curiosity, do any of you plan out your hobby work/tasks like this on a monthly basis or do you just wing it?   

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Thanks To CMON, She Now Has A Name!

Though it may sound like a minor issue to some, the fact that I could not identify the miniature below nor remember where I purchased her was driving me crazy.  I searched and searched, then searched some more but without even a hint of success.  I even posted her on this blog in hopes of getting a clue but I struck out there as well.  Then, at wits end, I decided to ask one of the most active miniature communities I know of for help. CMON!

Tarika, Adventuress from Guild of Harmony miniatures

I've been a lurker on CoolMiniOrNot (CMON) for quite some time and visit often.  Unfortunately, not being the greatest painter, I really never participate on the forums because quite frankly, I don't have anything to add or say beyond "good job" or "nice work".  Even though I knew somebody there could ID the mini, I was reluctant to ask for help since I haven't contributed anything to the community since joining.  However, with no other leads on my search, I gave in and posted my plea for assistance.

I hesitantly made my post and just over an hour later, I had my answer.  Wow that was both fast and easy!  All those wasted hours searching could have been saved by going to CMON first (though I must say I secretly enjoyed looking through page upon page of miniature pics).  A special thanks goes out to "Avelorn" on CMON for the quick and courteous reply.  Thank you so much!

By the way, for those that may want to know, she was sculpted by Sebastian Archer and available from Guild of Harmony.  The miniature is titled Tarika, Adventuress and can be found here

Even though the search took much longer than I anticipated, in the end, the adventure has a happy ending.  Not only do I now know who she is but I also know how I purchased her.  After getting the correct response, I decided to try to become a more productive member of CMON and wanted to check my account to make sure my personal details were correct.  It was there I noticed my shopping history and sure enough, Tarika was listed as being purchased on December 17th, 2010.  As mentioned above, I frequently visit the site to look at all the wonderful paint jobs.  It must have been on one of those visits that I saw the miniature featured on the home page or maybe in some forum post and decided to buy her for myself.  Mystery #2 solved!

Another bonus of my search is that I found yet another great company for miniatures.  Guild of Harmony has some incredible sculpts and I can see myself purchasing several minis from them over the next few months.  This time however I will not forget who they are and where I bought them.

As a final thought on the subject, if any reader is having the same issue trying to ID an unknown miniature, I highly recommend visiting the CMON forums and asking for help.  There is even a thread already set up for the very purpose of identifying miniatures and can be found here.