Friday, 8 December 2017

Oathmark Goblins Review

I recently jumped on to the pre-order offer from North Star games and was happy to receive a parcel in the post just yesterday. For the uninitiated, Osprey Games are developing a mass fantasy game system and these goblins are the second plastic set to be released. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here we go with a good number of images.

Box of toy soldiers just waiting to be opened
Lovely cover art by Ralph Horsley (I think)
Rear of the box shows exactly what you get
Box stuffed with sprues

Sprue contents - six of these in a box
I set to work on a single sprue, enough bits to make five miniatures. The sculpts are good, hardly surprising as the sculptor is Michael Anderson. Casting wise, the details are what you would expect from Renedra. Mould lines are easy to remove with a sharp knife. Glue the arms on to the body, then the head, then a shield or quiver as applicable. It's quick and simple - these figures took me 10 minutes each to clean and assemble.

Example poses
My initial idea when I bought them was to boost my Lord of the Rings Mordor orcs force. I thought I would assemble a variety of poses and then compare them with what I already have. Again, pictures speak volumes, but I think it's safe to say they are an excellent match to this scale. They will provide some useful variety to the single pose plastics. 

Moria goblin, Oathmark goblin, Mordor orc

Morannon orc, Oathmark goblin, Mordor orc

Morannon orc, Oathmark goblin, Mordor orc
Now a shot to compare the figures with some of their typical foes - men of Gondor, or stout dwarfs. Again, another good match on scale.

Gondor, Oathmark, Dwarf
Finally, a comparison with another species of fantasy goblin, very widespread. This is, of course, a Games Workshop plastic night goblin. 

Oathmark, Warhammer night goblin
To sum up, Oathmark plastic goblins are an excellent product. Well sculpted and well cast, they are very good value at £25 for a box of 30 figures. Of course, every gamer will have a different purpose in mind for his new figures, but if you are hoping to add to your Lord of the Rings collection, then these are just the ticket. Now you really can build an army worthy of Mordor.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Anvil of Doom

Skagg Hammarhand, Runepriest of Oakenhammer, with Anvil Guards Hurgin and Durgin. Most of the time, Skagg spends his time in the hold, forging weapons and armour for the thane and his warriors. But recently, incursions by wandering Undead have required more in the way of magical defences. Wielding his mighty hammer, Skagg can dissipate magical forces, with droves of skeletal warriors unmade by each strike of the anvil. 

The first of the beards for Beardecember. And what a fantastic figure to start with. I am not going to pretend that I painted it up in the past couple of days. I have been tinkering with it for months - a little session here, a half hour there. But I wanted to kick off Beardecember in style and this gave me the incentive to knuckle down and finish the job. The two guards I painted about a year ago, then I started the runesmith over the summer months. The anvil I painted mostly over the weekend. There is a banner pole (just one, the original model had two but one has gone missing) that might be added at some point with a suitable flag.

If I had to name my top ten favourite Warhammer models, this would be one of them for sure. Part of the reason is no doubt nostalgic, in that it was first released just about the time I started collecting Warhammer figures, in the early 1990's. At that time I was an Elf and Undead collector, but I remember quite clearly being blown away by the dwarf artwork of Mark Gibbons. I never quite felt that the models met up with the art, but in the case of the Anvil it came very, very close. Years later when I finally gave it to the lure of the beard, I had always had this figure in my sights. It's good to finally tick it off my list.

Incidentally, if you are a fan of this era of Warhammer figures, you might be interested to learn that there is a facebook group - the aptly named Middlehammer - the stuff between Oldhammer and the new Age of Sigmar. I suppose it's a bit like a therapy group for those of us who still cannot quite let go of the Olde World.

A couple more photos of the figure. There are multiple angles on my facebook page, for the dedicated dwarf fans out there!

Friday, 1 December 2017

It's Beardecember!

It's that time of year, when beards start to appear everywhere. No longer confined to your local hipster bar, they spring up - on store shelves, advent calendars, food packaging. Almost everything suddenly has a beard (or antlers).

And that's my rather flimsy excuse to launch Beardecember. You might have noticed that hobby activity on the blog has been a little bit sparse of late. In the past three months I have painted seven undead figures and a hobbit. That's not sparse, that's pathetic! So I hearby solemnly pledge that I will do better in this month of Beardecember and paint more than seven figures.

Anything with a beard is a potential target for my brushes. Dwarfs spring to mind, maybe some vikings, possibly even stalwart warriors of Rohan. If it sprouts hair on the chin area, it's fair game. While I ponder on which beard to tackle first, here's a rather nice selection for inspiration.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

My New Facebook Page

I have decided to start a facebook page for all my painting. It's called Nord's Painting Saga and you can visit it here if you like. It's early days as yet, there are just two photo albums loaded in and very little else - it's still at the little acorn stage.

Why are you starting a facebook page when you already have a blog (and a website)? I hear you ask. The blog was originally designed purely as a diary for my personal use. It was (and still is) a space to record my hobby activity, my gaming and my painting recipes. Rather than scribble these down on scraps of paper and Word documents, it was a handy place to have them all stored in one area that would, theoretically, never get lost/burnt/eaten by a dog. Note that many of these recipes I do not publish, especially those that are commission projects, as I never really detect much enthusiasm for such posts. Blogs are ideal for diary like activity, I can easily look back at past articles, all neatly catalogued, for example when compiling my recent ten year retrospective ramble.

Facebook is a more immediate platform. Post a picture and there is an immediate response, even if it's just a like thumb or two. It also has a very fine photo facility. I use it to hold all my holiday snaps, they are easy to load, it's easy to restrict the audience (if necessary) and the picture quality is good. Blog photos seem to compress and degrade a little in the uploading process.

In the past I would load my commission photos on to my website griffinpainting, but recently I have had problems doing this. Combined with the lack of feedback of a website, I think it's time has come. It's still there, but currently has not been updated for several months. Whether this has been noticed by any of the visitors, I have no idea!

New facebook page, yay!
The blog will continue to be the place for my hobby ramblings, gaming exploits and bad puns. If you simply need more, more, more, then Nord's Painting Saga is the place for you. There will be an overlap with the blog, the Undead project for example will appear on both as it's a personal project. If you want to get a look at my commission work, like these lovely little guys and their many mates, it's worth a visit. If you like what you see, please share with like minded friends.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

X.VI - More Undead

Hobby time has been a bit thin on the ground - thinner than a skeleton's bicep - so it's time for another scrabble through the archive. We have reached 2013, which turned out to be an excellent vintage for a variety of reasons.

This was the year in which kickstarter really took off - I painted up some of the now forgotten Sedition Wars figures. There was plenty of fantasy painting, including a tentative start on an Empire force. 2013 was also the year in which I really made a significant dent in my collection of Lord of the Rings figures, with hordes of orcs poring out - Morannon orcs, Mordor orcs and uruk hai. And finally I painted up a decent viking force for Saga gaming. Phew, that was a very good year! I was tempted to choose the orcs, but I think in the end my most prized painting of that year was more units for my Vampire Counts, including this mighty varghulf and a unit of grave guard built from Lord of the Rings plastics.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

X.V - Ghouls

It seems a fitting day to be posting another look back at my ten years of blogging. We have reached the halfway point, the year 2012. So far, the majority of my favourite work has been related to my chaos army and, true to form, I did paint a large and rather splendid unit of marauders, which almost made it to the top slot. 2012 was also notable as the year I made my first steps in playing historical games, most notably collecting a Saxon force for games of Saga. But it was this unit of ghouls painted at the end of the year that I have chosen to showcase.

There's something really nice about having the figures posed on these multi bases, they seem more alive. They are fairly flexible too, using wound counters, though not much good for skirmish games. But at the time I had no idea that massed fantasy gaming was on the way out. The ghoul hag/necromancer was a later addition, but she was always meant to be the leader of this horde. I should really repaint the edge of the base to blend in more!

These figures also reflect a continued change in my painting technique. I had for years slaved away at the old method of base coat, shade, layer, layer, layer. But after reading articles on painting armoured vehicles I had started to glaze more and more. It had always been my aim to be able to paint figures purely on glazing from white, and these figures reflect that. White primer, glazes and some stippling were all it took. The character had some more traditional layering too, but again it was nearly all simple glazing and stippling. It's a technique I use almost exclusively to this day.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Bleak Fell Guardians

The Lord of Bleak Fell is gathering his forces. Freed from his icy tomb, he wanders the dank caverns deep in the mountain, waking his legions of faithful minions. These guardians have lain quiet for centuries, sleeping, waiting for the return of their master.....

It seems like a long while since I started these figures, back in July. I have been working on them sporadically since then. My aim at the time was to paint them in an unusual (for me) palette. It would have been easy to stick to my tried and tested muted formula, but I wanted to inject a little more colour without them becoming garish. I stuck to the cool end of the spectrum - blues, purples, a little green and red. At times I hesitated and pondered, but finally they are complete. Well, these first six are done - there's another set waiting to be finished.

These are plastic Lord of the Rings Army of the Dead figures, with a few skeleton bits added here and there. They are lovely figures to work on, lots of detail but very easy to paint with a few basic techniques such as drybrushing or glazing. The shields are from various sources - some from the GW skeleton sprue, maybe a chaos shield or two in there, plus some historical. The designs are mostly inspired by my love of Norse and viking lore.

In gaming terms these figures are the elite troops of the army - the Lord's Royal Guard from days long ago, now risen once again through dark magics. They are well equipped and heavily armoured, hopefully the heavy hitters of the force - much needed to supplement the pathetic zombies and only slightly better skeletons.

I am pretty happy to have stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something a bit different. The end result I like. They are a real contrast to my previous efforts on these figures. It's good to try something new - proof that you definitely can teach an old dog new tricks.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Deep Cut Mat

Gaming mats have become very popular in recent years, from small versions for card games, to full size battlefields for the tabletop. There are plenty of designs and sizes to choose, from various companies, including Deep Cut Studio. They have recently launched a new service, to provide gamers with a bespoke design, and were kind enough to ask me to review their new product.

Print-O-Mat is an easy to use service on their website. Pick an image, upload it to the website, adjust if necessary, and done. This is exactly what I did. I grabbed a Skyrim image from the web, tweaked it a bit in Lightroom and uploaded as instructed. If you do not have image processing software, they do have suggestions on free software you can download and use. You could of course use any image you like - personal photos, a computer screen grab, digital art - the only limit is your imagination.

It took about a week for my mat to arrive, which is pretty quick for a European parcel (I am UK based). It's basically an oversized mouse mat. It rolls up for easy storage, and unfurls for a nice flat surface to use for your card games, board games or whatever. The reproduction is excellent, very detailed, as hopefully you can see here. I have plans to use this as a backdrop for my photography too, but more about that in a future post.

Here's how the mat looks in use, with a game of Lord of the Rings set up. This is a co-operative game for two players, and I reckon there's just about enough room to play here. It measures 60cm x 35cm (24 x 14 inches).

To my (admittedly limited) knowledge, Deep Cut Studio are the only providers to offer this bespoke service. It's a very nice product, the interface is easy to use and delivery is quick and efficient. Designed for use with card games, I reckon it could easily be adapted to provide a surface for small skirmish games with an appropriate image. I would be very happy to find one of these rolled up under the xmas tree!

My thanks to Deep Cut Studio for providing me with this sample.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Search For Faramir

Previously on Ambush in Anorien - "We saw him vanquish the troll, my Lord, then he charged into some orcs and we lost sight of him....."

Orc scouts fire on advancing Gondor search parties
In our last game, orcs have ambushed Boromir and Faramir and their patrol in a swampy, wooded region in the far north of Gondor. Faramir was in the thick of the action, fighting orcs and a mighty troll, while Boromir tried his best to marshal his men to safety. Back at camp, they realised Faramir had not returned, so hastily organised a search party. The Gondorians spread out to search for the fallen captain, but almost immediately were harassed by orcs scouts, shooting from the swamps. Braying horns from the woodlands sounded as more orcs appeared.

We played this game using Dragon rampant rules, with the fugutive scenario borrowed from Lion Rampant. There are six pieces of difficult terrain which the Gondorians must search. The first search is successful on a 6, the second search on a 5+, and so on. Once the fugitive (Faramir) is found, he must be escorted off the table to safety. It's one of those scenarios which can be over very quickly if an early search is successful, or drag on for hours if they have to get across the length of the table to search every last bit of terrain.

"Shoot the filthy horse riders!"
As the orc commander, I had brought plenty of light troops, which are good in terrain and fairly fast on their feet. I wanted to push forward quickly to harass the searches. There was little chance of preventing a rescue in the two swamp areas near to the Gondorian camp, so the scouts raced up to the middle of the battle field and took up positions in the shallow pool and the toppled statue, hoping their heavier armed comrades would join them at some point later. Luckily for me, the first two searches had failed and the Gondorians had to advance into the midst of the orc forces.

The disadvantage of light troops, of course, is that they are not well armed and hardly likely to stand up to a charge from heavy knights. One unit of light foot orcs routed, though the knights paid a toll and were now under half strength. This was the perfect opportunity for the heavy foot orcs, led by the general, to finish them off. Or so I thought......three dead orcs later and a double 1 roll for their courage test, they legged it too. Half of my foot troops lost to a unit of pesky knights! Obviously the battle scribe was positioned in one of these units as no more accounts of the battle survive (camera battery dead).

"The ladz will be along soon, keep shooting"
The orc scouts in the centre of the table did a good job of hampering the searches, aided by a handful of failed activations by the Gondorians. Boromir stepped forward and scattered these pesky archers, but then spent several turns cleaning the blood from his sword. In the pool area, orc scouts doggedly loosed off volley after volley, Gondorian rangers feeling the effects and hampering their search efforts (more failed activations as they flailed around on the slippery banks of the pond). Eventually, the search was successful. Faramir was found floating in the reeds of the pool, luckily face up, and was dragged to safety by his loyal rangers. Horns sounded to signal the retreat to camp, but this only attracted the orcs to join the chase.

Sadly for the orcs, their force depleted, there was only a unit of warg riders and a heavy foot left to take up the chase. The warg riders raced round to cut off escape on one flank, but the foot orcs were too slow to make up ground on the other flank. Faramir stumbled and limped his way to safety, though Boromir had fallen as a result of his many brave charges into combat and being peppered with scout arrows! A victory for the Gondorians, of sorts. The fate of Bormir we will have to determine in another encounter.

A most enjoyable game, even if technically the orcs "lost". For me, gaming is not necessarily about the end result, the score, but about the whole experience - the lovely terrain, the lovingly painted figures, the tales you tell, maybe a little banter thrown in. If you can get all that, then all of the players have won. Incidentally, if you have been admiring the terrain, it's all part of Matt's gaming dungeon. The game mat is a faux fur throw, with a couple of cans of green spray paint used to supply some colour variation. Full details here.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

X.IV - Nurgle Giant

It's my look back to the year 2011 as part of my X celebration series. This was a very busy period for the blog, as I added to three of my main armies.

The dwarfs got the bulk of my time and attention as Avatars of War released plastic dwarf berserkers. It was quite an exciting time, I struggle to remember if there were any other plastic non-GW figures around at the time. It re-ignited my interest in my long dormant beard collection and I added two units to the army, berserkers and warriors.

Towards the end of the year I also made a start on resurrecting my very first fantasy army, as I made the first faltering steps in a new Undead army. I hammered out a large regiment of zombies and a couple of characters. Looking back, I was very productive at this time, regiment after regiment painted up. If only my current stamina levels matched those glory days.

My pick of the year is this friendly looking Nurgle giant. It's not a GW model, but possibly the first resin figure I ever added to my collection - an Ilyad Games grotesque which I was lucky enough to find on ebay. The company are long gone now, one of many that produced high quality figures but never managed to find their niche in the market.

I chose this figure for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I really like it - a good enough reason to be selected. Secondly, it marks the point when my painting changed to something resembling my current style. I started to use white primer and multiple layers of thin washes and glazes, a technique I have continued with to the present day. The result can be very subtle, as this close-up hopefully demonstrates. I find it far easier than the base/shade/layer/highlight system, and far more realistic.

So, another year assessed, another chaos appearance. I did also paint up a very nice unit of chaos ogres. At the time, the chaos army was my "elite" project, the one that I was in no hurry to finish, just wanted to achieve a high level on every element of the army. Apologies if you are not a chaos fan, there will be some other factions eventually, but chaos certainly ruled at the time. If you disagree, have a word with these friendly looking chaps, I'm sure they will be very understanding.....

Friday, 22 September 2017

Bilbo Baggins

It's Bilbo Baggins' birthday! September 22nd is the date the hobbit celebrates his birthday, and as mentioned in yesterday's post he is 80 years old - in publishing terms that is. It's also the autumn equinox today, I wonder if Tolkien chose the date for this reason?

I only have one Bilbo in my miniatures collection, which I hastily painted up today! I had to mark the day somehow. For colours, I copied those from the movie. It's a very small mini, so I skipped some of the teeniest details. It's quite lacklustre if I'm honest, reflecting the way I feel today having come down with a cold :(

To properly celebrate this day, I spent some time browsing fellow painters' work on the little chap, and present a selection below. Each has a link to the original source, if any of the owners/painters object to me using their image just let me know in the comments and I will remove it.

I have also been scouring the web for other renditions of Mr Baggins. It's interesting to see how he has been portrayed down the decades. For a thorough examination of early artistic renditions, I can recommend you browse the PowerOfBabel blog, there are a number of posts showing various printed illustrations.

Of course, there are also plenty of more modern renditions too. I have deliberately excluded art based on the movies, I'm sure you all know how Martin Freeman looks by now. Again, the list below contains a link to the original source, if there are any objections to their use please let me know.

And finally, an image that does not contain Mr Baggins as such but is instantly recognisable as a scene from the book. After the multi-coloured marvels of all the previous renditions, there's something rather beautiful in these simple lines, from the Folio Society version of the book.

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