Sunday, 28 April 2013

Mordor Orcs

Here's a dozen Mordor orcs I completed in an afternoon of hobby productivity! The figures are nicely detailed and very easy to paint up. A base colour and a wash give you a decent result in a short time - about four hours in this case, so around twenty minutes per figure is achievable. Obviously at this speed they are gaming level and might not stand up to close scrutiny, but sometimes it's nice to sit down for just an afternoon and have something useable at the end of it.

I have been enjoying playing skirmish games in the past few months, games like Saga and Muskets and Tomahawks. I wanted to try something similar sized but in a fantasy vein. There are some fantasy battle boards for Saga on the web, but I thought it would be worth revisiting another ruleset before trying them. The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game (now The Hobbit SBG of course) has a good sized presence on the web and seems to be well regarded. It would be silly not to give it a try. So that's exactly what we did - Matt and I have played a couple of games and we both like it.  Matt has a huge collection of LOTR figures, pretty much every faction in various sizes. I have a more modest collection of 12 men of Gondor and 12 orcs and a little bit of terrain painted up, with plenty more in the unpainted pile. The nice thing about these figures is they are pretty cheap to pick up on ebay.

EDIT And here's the next little batch ready for priming. Fifteen more Mordor orcs to add to the growing army. I will do really well if I get these done in one afternoon, given the increased numbers and the banner, so I will probably aim for two sessions.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Orcs Art Collection Part 3

Some more orc artwork, possibly more familiar to many people as these two artists' work appear in many Tolkien calendars and books. The first is John Howe, who seems to have dedicated most of his life to illustrating scenes from Tolkien writings.

Alan Lee is probably best known of all these artists. The chances are that if you own an illustrated copy of the Lord of the Rings, it will be Alan Lee illustrations.

Both these artists were chosen by Peter Jackson to work on the film trilogy as art directors, so their interpretation of orcs should be recognisable to all gamers.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Orcs Art Collection Part 2

This image and those below are among the first I can remember seeing on orcs. They were included in a book called the Tolkien Bestiary that was first published almost thirty years ago. The artist, Ian Miller, may be familiar to GW fans, since he did some work for them in the very early days, including some illustrations in the Realm of Chaos books.

These illustrations perhaps best encapsulate for me how an orc should look, though finding a description by the author in any of the books is a hard task. They are described variously as elves corrupted by the enemy, as men twisted by cruel devices, or simply as beasts like men but with swarthy features. For those interested in this type of thing, I can recommend this detailed article on Tolkien orcs. I am not even sure if the latter two images are meant to represent orcs, which perhaps is fitting given Tolkien's ambiguity on the matter.

The images are used without permission, no infringement of copyright is intended.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

New plastic dwarfs from AOW

Avatars of War have announced a new dwarf regiment, this time in plastic, not the plastic-resin mix. Twenty of these to a box, which can be made up with great axes and/or crossbows. There's no mention of price as yet, but I guess they will be similar to the plastic berserkers. So that's dwarfs pencilled in for autumn for me.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Dark Prince Rising

Yes, I am still painting! It's been a long two months in coming, but here's the first of the models in my newly resurrected Daemons army. It feels good to have a new project underway, especially one that allows me to get to 2000 points in a short period of time. I have taken some time deciding on how to progress with the daemons, based on the materials I have to hand and a couple of test games. I am building the army according to my usual principles of including models I like, rather than optimal performers.

I have to confess that most of my troops are actually Tzeentch, but I had the old Azazel model and wanted to use it, so I will just have to manage. There were a few bits missing, notably the head and wings, so it became a wingless Prince with the head of a fiend. It's coming along nicely, I am enjoying playing with glazes, both for the shading and highlights.

As the general worships Slaanesh and because I already have the models, I have also made a start on some Seekers of Slaanesh. I'm not sure I really need fast cavalry as I already have 5 screamers fulfilling that role, but I do like the models and again wanted to experiment a little with glazing. One thing I have discovered is that the plastics take the paint much better than the metal. You would think that the primer would make them equal, but no. Perhaps it's the sculpting, the older metal models can seem quite clumsy when compared with the fine detail of the plastics.

I have a very leisurely deadline for these models, the end of the month for the Prince and the end of May for the Seekers. This is to coincide with the painting challenge over on the Warhammer forum. I will also be adding more Slaanesh units to the army, with embryonic plans to build a chariot and some fiends. The only problem then would be that would take the army to 2400 points, so I would need more core troops, with some plaguebearers being favourites to expand the army. For the short term though, it's the Dark Prince who will be feeling the stroke of my brush!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Orcses, filthy orcses! Art Collection part 1

I watched The Hobbit for the first time last week, now that it has been released on DVD. Barring a couple of very silly bits, I really enjoyed it. I particularly liked the design of the orcs, which were different to the Uruk Hai and Mordor orcs of the original trilogy. It got me thinking about the variety in orc models, not just in the film series, but in the miniatures world.

For many years, my experience of orcs has been those represented in the major fantasy game - a hairless gorilla physique with green skin and a big grin. It's a very popular design, it's even spread into the cosmos of the future. It's often cited on various forums as a break from the grim dark hobby background, a little light relief, for gamers who prefer "humour" and "fun" in their gaming, whatever they are. For a long time, it's been the only flavour available, since most independent companies have simply copied the market leader, in order to sell.

The introduction of the Lord of the Rings figures brought a new orc concept to gamers, courtesy of the designers of the film trilogy, who in turn were most likely influenced by various artists' works. The picture at the top of the page is by Angus McBride, well known among historical gamers for his many years of illustrating Osprey books, though he did also produce some stunning work on Middle Earth, as this small selection below illustrates.

All images used without permission, hopefully I am not infringing any copyright. 

Monday, 8 April 2013

Back in the Saddle, or Why Warhammer is Like the Grand National

For those who might not know, the Grand National took place this weekend at the Aintree race course, near Liverpool, in the UK. It's a steeplechase involving forty riders jumping thirty fences over a 4 miles plus course. Everybody in the UK, whether they love it or abhor the cruelty, will know about it. In fact, it's supposedly watched by about half a billion viewers on TVs in 140 countries around the world.

My experience of Warhammer eighth edition has been a little like this race, a marathon event, with plenty of runners and riders and a good few fallers along the way. It's been around for about 3 years (eighth edition, not the Grand National) and after a very slow start in releasing army books, we have been inundated in the past few months with one after another.

I own six or seven armies (depending on how big you think a force needs to be before it is classed as an army). The first of these to be released in the new eighth edition format were the Orcs and Goblins. I quite liked the changes made to animosity, was a little wary of the giant spider, found the magic to be pitched about right, and was reasonably pleased by the new models made available. I played a few games with the new book and was happy enough, but waited for the release of one of my other armies - I always consider my orcs and goblins to be a reserve army, to be used whenever I need a change from my main armies. If this was a horse in the Grand National, it would probably complete the course, but back with the also-rans.

The next release was Vampire Counts. This is one of my Big Three armies. It was the first army I collected back in the mid 1990's and I have had several variations along the way. I had waited for the book with some anticipation, but when it arrived I felt a little deflated. The background was virtually unchanged, whole swathes of the fluff were copied and pasted from previous versions. I was not keen on the move to monsters and monstrous infantry, my vision has always been of legions of skeletons and zombies. Worst of all, the flavour of previous versions of the book seemed to have drained away, like blood from a virgin's neck. I half heartedly built up a few regiments of the excellent mantic figures, but it never seemed to excite me like the books of old had. I think this horse would be pulled up by the jockey, tired and unable to complete the course.

After a considerable wait, along came two more riders. The Warriors of Chaos is another of my Big Three armies. It's the largest in terms of my collection and the one I have probably spent most time on under eighth edition. The pre-releases seemed a little lack lustre, but then when I finally saw the figures for the official release.....bang, down went my horse at the first fence. I was so disappointed with the monsters and characters, not to mention the prices, that I didn't even buy the book. I have access to my mate's copy, but I just have not felt inclined to take much more than a flick through. I was just about ready to give up altogether on the game. When I found out that Daemons of Chaos was next on the list, I felt, well, nothing really. Despite owning a decently sized fully painted force, I was neither excited not nervous. I could not care less.

Of course, I saw the pre-release pictures and was not encouraged, but I couldn't resist reading the forums to see how the book had been received. There was much gnashing and wailing from existing Daemon players. The army had become too random, it was unreliable, underpowered and destined for tournament failure. Even choosing gifts was done on the roll of a dice. Suddenly, I became interested, this sounded more like the Chaos armies of old, with randomly assigned gifts and a more chaotic force to manage. Something about this appealed to me, and I ordered the book. It's early days yet, I have only gone out for a ride on this particular horse a couple of times, but already it seems exciting. There is an element of danger as if every game is like a horse approaching a fence. You can never be quite sure if it will sail over with no mishap, or if it will crash through and just about keep going, or stumble to the ground unseating the rider.

I am still waiting for two of my horses to come out of the stable. The final of my Big Three armies, the Dwarfs, have been waiting for a new book since 2006 and were released under sixth edition. The Wood Elves, a new army for me, have been waiting even longer. I see rumours and counter claims on various forums about both these books, and given the form of my current books, I can see many reasons for not wanting a new book. But the Daemons have rekindled my interest in the game, so I can admit to being a little intrigued about future releases. Mild interest, that's got to be better than complete apathy.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Second game with Daemons

Last night I played my second game with the Daemons of Chaos, this time a 2k pointer against the Empire. In the first game I was very conscious of lacking hitting power, so this time I added some muscle in the form of a Soul Grinder and a Daemon prince of Slaanesh. The rest of my army was pretty much my existing collection of two small units of horrors, flamers, Tzeentch herald on disc, screamers, a pair of Nurgle beasts, nurglings and a Slaanesh herald leading a unit of daemonettes. I also included the unit I am currently working on, Seekers of Slaanesh. I don't really consider this setup to be balanced in any way, but I just wanted to give it a try.

The Empire forces had two cannons perched on a hill in the centre of his lines, so I knew I would have to suck up some punishment in the early part of the game. I didn't want to give away any big prizes, so my Soul Grinder headed into the nearest wood and my Prince loitered behind a building, while my screamers and seekers raced down the flanks, hoping to swoop around the rear and into the cannon battery. As it turned out, I worried too much. Neither cannon was able to inflict much damage, I think a couple of daemonettes was the paltry tally, before the screamers ripped the crews to shreds. The Nurglings did well, tying up and finally overcoming a unit of outriders, who have proved a thorn in my side many times in previous games. The herald and daemonettes made short work of a unit of greatswords, while a pair of Nurgle beasts held up a large unit (40) of spearmen. It was touch and go as one failed to make the initial charge and the lone beast had to struggle on for two turns of combat, teetering on the brink with just one wound remaining, until his buddy joined him. Another solid performance from the nurglings, screamers and beasts.

The horrors and flamers did less, as I usually find with shooting and magic. Warpflame accounted for more casualties than actual spell damage and, even better, in this game just one enemy unit gained regeneration. Two small missile units fell to the magical onslaught and, in a very lucky break for me, panicked a wizard lord from the field of battle. But that was one of those extremely unlucky rolls by my opponent. In a shock result, a unit of horrors managed to survive more than one turn of combat against a charge from demigryphs, before finally succumbing. By this time, the Empire troops had been just about fully destroyed and the game was declared over.

The debut troops did less well. The Soul Grinder was caught by flagellents and held up for a couple of turns, effectively keeping him out of the game. The Prince failed his only declared charge and so did not get to enjoy the orgy of destruction meted out to the spearmen. And the seekers whipped up the flank at great speed but were beaten to their target by the faster screamers. Still, at least none of the new troops were destroyed, as often happens.

My first victory with the Daemons. More importantly, I am enjoying playing them and have finally shaken off my painting apathy. The restoration of the daemon army is now officially started!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Foolish Rambling and a first game with Daemons

I spent a little time over the weekend rummaging through my chaos collection. I still have a good few units to add to the chaos warriors army, but it was the daemons I was looking at. I played my first game with the new army book the other night, just a 1500 point trial, and I wanted to see what unpainted options I had lurking in the lead mines. Yes, some of them really are lead, I have had them for some time!

The army I used in the first game was very light on hitty options, being mostly Tzeentch horrors, flamers and screamers. I did use a pair of big stoppers, a pair of Nurgle spawn stepped in as proxies. And I had lots of little nurglings bounding about, a unit of daemonettes, a Slaanesh herald and another of my chaos spawn proxied as a Tzeentch herald on disc.

The herald on disc rolled three sixes on his first attempt at a metal spell, took out a Khorne bloodcrusher, then was sucked back in to the Realm of Chaos for his efforts, no doubt the Blood god had a hand in this. I was a little surprised that there is not a dedicated miscast table for daemons, they have their own rules for most everything else! The remaining Tzeentch daemons did a good job at removing skirmishers and even a giant through shooting/slashing attacks, with a little help from those pesky Nurglings. But eventually the daemons had to face up to heavily armoured chaos troops. While the Beasts of nurgle were able to slow them down, there was nothing in my army that could take them down. I knew this going into the game, so despite the defeat came out of it with a renewed determination to bolster the army. Hence the searching of the lead mines.

I have already started prepping a unit of plastic Slaanesh seekers, but obviously these are light, fast troops and I am looking for something with a little more punch. I did find the remnants of Azazel the Daemon Prince, minus his head, tail and wings. So, my first build was a wingless Slaanesh daemon prince. I suppose this would be my general, though I have more Tzeentch troops than anything, so possibly not the best choice. Having said that, I am not a tournament player and the random nature of the army is one of the appealing factors to me playing it, so I see no reason why not. In any case, it's the army standard bearer who has a bigger influence on avoiding the dreaded double 6 roll (get this on a break test and the whole unit goes "pouufff").

Looking through my collection, I found plenty more devotees of the Dark Prince. There are enough bits to build some Fiends and I have enough plastic daemonettes for another unit. So it may be that Slaanesh will rise and eclipse his brothers by the time the army is finished. I think the fact that I am coming to a new army book with an army practically ready to play helps fan the flames of enthusiasm. My Vampire Counts army has started and stalled twice in the past couple of years, each time I look at a mass block of zombies or skeletons I fail my painting (terror) test and choose something a bit less voluminous. The search also revealed some very old (and very bad) attempts with green stuff to build chaos spawn. I am hoping to rescue these and practise my sculpting on a couple of Beasts of Nurgle. I do also have something in mind to use as a soul grinder, but something more in keeping with the fantasy background, not the official model.

Looking further ahead, I might be tempted to spend a bit of money on the army. So far my only expenditure has been on the book, all the other items I have had for many years. I am not particularly keen on the look of all the new models, but I think the flaming chariot has a better chance than anything else of inclusion. I quite like the idea of keeping the army mostly Tzeentch and Slaanesh, it gives a good contrast to the brute force of the chaos warriors army and requires a different approach to how I tackle my enemies. After all, if I wanted to just run up to them and smash them in the face, then I would stick with the warriors. Most tempting of all is this fine figure from Pegaso Models (on a side note, I will be looking at more alternative models in a future post). It's 54mm and so should be about the right scale to be used as a daemon prince. I have wanted to try my hand at something like this for some time, and I do have a birthday coming up, so maybe the moons have aligned and the wallet will be opened briefly, doors of Moria style. To buy, or not to buy, that is the question? Well, they do say that a fool and his money are easily parted.
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