Friday, 6 October 2017

A Tale of Middlehammer Gamers: High Elves Anonymous

Me: "Umm. Hi. Hello. My name's Paul, and I'm addicted to High Elves.

Group: "Hi Paul!"

Me: "So.... I've been keeping hold of the High Elf army I started when I was 14 and got the WFB4 Box Set, you know the one with all the chunky monopose archers and spearmen that most people hate?"

Group: "Uh huh, yeah, we do, carry on Paul. You are doing great."

Me: "Umm. Thanks everyone. Well, you see, it gets worse. I'm fixated on this concept of painting a whole host of Caledor themed High Elves, in the same shiny metallic green and primary colours as I did when I was 14! Gah! There. I said it..."

Group: *polie and supportive applause* "Well done Paul. That can't have been easy."

Me: "No. No it wasn't. So, can you guys help me kick the habbit? Can you help me get off the High Elf monopose plastic crack!?"

Group: "Hell no! We are going to enable you and facilitate even more painting of High Elves in garish primary colours!!!"

Me: "Wait... What!?"

*Chanting growing in the back ground* "One of us! One of us! One of us!"

And that, dear reader, is almost exactly how it happened.

My indoctrination into the online cult masquerading as a self help group known as High Elves Anonymous (fallen brethren welcome), came swiftly after it became clear that there were a number of us fellow Elf Nuts (sorry/not sorry) taking part in the Tale of Middlehammer Gamers monthly challenges via the Middlehammer facebook group. September's challenge was to pledge a number of minis towards whatever force you are currently (or, rather should be!) working on, and I pledged 4 Archers (to 'complete' a unit of 26), a Silver Helm Standard Bearer (to 'complete' a unit of 10), and Prince Tyrion on his war pony Malhandir- following on from August's Procrastinators Challenge this seemed an apt choice seeing as I have owned Tyrion for just over 20 years, but have always been too scared to paint him!

Here we can see my September pledges at the start of the month
I must confess that I had some help with this project from Son #1, although he did think they should be more worried about the Snotling invasion on the other side of the table!

As I mentioned, I'm commited to completing the 4th Edition (blurring into 5th edition) High Elf Army I dreamed of and indeed started all the way back when I was 14. The thing is that means working with a pretty bold colour scheme, and incorporating paint jobs like this...

Why do you look so alarmed Mr Spearman? Is it your lack of ink wash making you feel naked and unfinished? No....?
Oh, it's because of the garish colour scheme on this archer! I don't know what the hell is going on here. The colours on the wings on the quiver are like the Jamaican fla.... Oh wait, yes I do.
I have two pretty large units of archers already painted, dating back to 1994, and a few rushes of productivity between then and now. They will eventually be two units of 26 inc command, but that means they need sprucing up and a more unified colour scheme as there is a lot of variation in quivers and fletchings. These four will serve as a template for the updates colour scheme.

The first model I actually finished (and for some reason this means it got missed off the solo shots in the light box - apologies) was the Silver Helm standard bearer. I have plans for a pennant banner at some stage, but I need some practice first, so that is for another time.

Even the Silver Helms in Caledor love their vintage citadel Glistening Green scale mail
I have a shield related issue to address at some point. Too many elves and not enough shields. Once I know what my plan is across the whole force then I will come back and sort out the shields, but for now they remain blank.

Here he is with his nine Horse Bros. There are more in a shoe box somewhere for another unit at some point....
Did I mention I was a bit scared of putting paint on Prince Tyrion and Malhandir, king of all Shetland ponies? The stellar job I had done on his brother Teclis (not to be shown here) had not filled me with confidence I can tell you! I needed a boost to get me started, so made sure I had a good lunch.

Well sort of good. Missing two of the five essential food groups - nuts and crisps, but what you can't see here is that I had a Cheese and Salt and Vinegar crisp sandwich first. So this was desert. I'm not an animal.
Right! That was better. Braced by sugar and later some dutch courage I summoned up the courage to go with what I wanted for this model and to paint him up in a Dragon Prince-esque style, slapping on some dark green and fading up to acid greens and yellows, and a matching red to orange-yellow fade on the head pieces of Tyrion and Malhandir.

I have to say I was pretty chuffed with that!
I knew I didn't want the cloth barding to take focus away from Tyrion, but I also knew I didn't want to leave it blank. Referring back to the original studio version I decided to locate a rune in the same front left portion, as it seemed to balance the model well (it wouldn't look right on the side with the sword imho).

High Elf Runes
Keeping with the Caledor theme I decided to go with the rune Sarathai (the World Dragon), which also appears on Tyrion's Rune Sword, Sunfang, so it seemed appropriate for hat reason too.

I added a blue trim to the bottom of the cloth, but other than that have left it as a block of white. It is a High Elf war pony after all!
I regularly put the two parts of the model together to check how the colour balance was going, especially before opting for a dark blue cloak which I knew was going to give Tyrion a much darker aspect than is traditional.
The blue cape was balanced out by a blue sword, with the flesh was given a purple wash to continue the darker look
My intention was to have the blue sword picked out with ice blue-white runes and I shared the version below with the High Elves Anonymous group claiming it 'done' - but even as I shared the photos I realised the blue tone wash had taken a lot of the contrast out of the runes and it looked a bit flat.

Credit and many thanks then to Anna B who advised using the same red-orange fade as for the head pieces, which you can see in the finished pictures below. She was not wrong! Indeed huge thanks to all in the High Elves Anonymous (fallen brethren welcome) support group both for their encouragement and valuable Elven lore!

Tyrion and Malhandir are sporting this season's must have his and horse matching head gear...

What the hell is that thing? It's got a Dragon's head and an eagles wings. It's not a Griffin, it's not a Phoenix. What the hell is it!?

I've just realised I paint my fantasy horses without horse shoes... Huh. Might have to address that.

Group shot of the September pledges
I've often mentioned my love of monthly painting themes and challenges when blogging, especially when they can be tied in with ongoing projects that need a bit of a boost. Well, Tale of Middlehammer Gamers (ToMG) really ticks all the boxes. Not only has it spawned a new set of connections with my fellow Elf Freaks, but across the Middlehammer group more generally there has since been talk of meet ups and mini tournaments and I have thrown my hat in the ring not only with my High Elves, but potentially with my Orcs and Goblins too!

The ToMG theme for October Orctober is to work on your bases to get things battle ready. I have already confessed my sins to the group that I will be putting the Elf(s) on the Shelf for the month to focus on my Greenskins, but this challenge has really given me the gumption to get my High Elf host into battle ready shape. My 14 year old self would be proud!

Thanks for reading. Do stop back for the next instalment in this Tale of Middlehammer Gamers!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Da Great Snot Off!

Blimey! Things have been busy on the hobby front recently with painting challenges and themes coming thick and fast. Following on from the very successful Procrastinators Challenge, Russ from the Middlehammer group launched the "Tale of Middlehammer Gamers" in September which encouraged the community to pledge which models from the armies they are currently working on they would complete by the end of the month. Russ saw a fantastic response with 23 pledges met, and some real beauties among them - check out the album on the Middlehammer fb page! With Orctober now upon us the challenge for the month is to work on bases for your army, whether it be painting them all Goblin Green, or sculpting something more scenic.

As you can see below I opted for a combination of both those approaches for my entry to Middlehammer Mark's Snotling themed challenge:


Snotlings at work and play

There had been a lot of snotling related chatter on the fb page and as soon as Mark suggested the idea of a Snotling themed challenge for September I knew it would be a winner and I had the urge to do something special, so I started to plan a modular diorama (the first time I have ever attempted such a thing) where each base of Snotlings would come together to form a scene.

The main concept is that there are two gangs of Snotlings both serving the same Orc and Goblin army, but they are rivals within their own little Snotling Economy. The dominant gang (in blue/grey/purple) the toadstool patch inside the ring of stone faces in control of the valuable trade in magic mushrooms for the fanatics, doom divers and various other shamanic purposes, they can afford the scrap metal equipment needed for the lucrative but risky enterprise of spider hunting, and can even equip their best fighters in the style of mini goblin units complete with Snotling fanatics!

The second gang are lower on the Snotling totem pole, confined to the less profitable occupations of dung farming, pumpkin growing, and scavenging the scree slopes for poisonous rock urchins. They are clad in cast off scraps of tanned hides and furs, with only a few among them having metal weapons. The idea was for this social stand off to be seen if you bring all the bases together in a particular order.

I drafted a plan on some graph paper and immediately set about gathering my materials together from the bitz box, and the store of milliput bits and bobs I make whenever I have a left over blob, and finally the lead pile to get the snotlings themselves... except I discovered that I only had 9 snotlings!!!

I looked upon the posts of the hordes of snots that others were posting on the fb page with undisguised envy! Clearly some Internet purchasing was in order, and although I did acquire some old school lead snotlings from evilbay at a not too unreasonable price, it was a suggestion from fellow Middlehammerer Andrew that the Demon World 15mm Goblins make good proxies that meant I was able to turn my initial idea into a reality. Cheers for that suggestion Andrew!

Assorted Gubbinz and horrible but cheap MDF bases

I numbered the bases on the reverse so I could keep track during the various stages. I was glad I did this on more than one occassion.

Snotling scale creep!
One issue I was presented with was the obvious variation in size among the various GW snotlings. The Demon World Gobbos are smaller but I was warned of that in advance, and at least they are all the same size! The one in the middle of the pic above is not far off a Goblin Spearman!

Actually, the issue of outsized Snotlings turned out to be helpful in sorting and grouping them together on to bases. The idea became that the larger snots would be champions that other smaller snots would gather around (accepted snotling lore being that they idolise any greenskin bigger than they are!)

The next stages were to transfer the paper plan onto the wooden bases in pencil and place the snotlings where I thought they would go (this changed a number of times as ideas developed), and then to add the putty elements and spiders.

Once I was happy with placement I started sticking things down, including a pile of gravel that would form the rock pile at the back, and some humps of milliput for the Snotling Fanatic bases to give them some variation. Next came sand flocking and... lentils. For toadstools. Obvs.

I'm not normally a fan of Army Painter sprays for base coats (although do use them for scenery occassionaly) but I was certainly glad I had a can of their Greenskin on hand for this project! +1 for Cheat Spray!

Base coats for everything next. The unpainted putty elements were deliberately left off as they would have prevented access while painting, but I regularly checked to see how everything was coming together and made a few tweaks here and there as we went.

It was around this time I changed the layout of the bottom three stands of Snotling Fanatics, this was for two reasons, firstly the two duplicate sculpts didn't look good next to each other and secondly the random scattering of rocks I added to the bases to break up the green then looked a bit lop sided in the original lay out. The new layout separated the sculpts and the three bases seemed to 'fit' better together that way as the scattering of rocks looks more natural. Yes. I spent WAY too much time staring at stands of snotlings...

Once the extra pumpkins had been added and the last two stone faces stuck in and painted, the final job was to add some height to the central pumpkin patch with some putty mushrooms on cocktail stick stalks, and a few more lentils. I mean toadstools.

There are a number of little stories being played out across two or more bases, which you can see below:

Here we can see the two rival Snotling Shamans facing off against each other, the dominant gang guarding the precious mushroom patch from the encroaching mob coming in from the dung pools (one of which can be seen on the left side)

The scree slopes are the hunting grounds for those unfortunate snots sent in search of poisonous rock urchins (the purple things!) which they normally sell to the Orc and Goblin Shamans, but can also be employed as rather dangerous missiles at short range.

Over near the pumpkin patch some unfortunate spider hunters are having the tables turned on them. If they fall backwards over the pumpkins into the rival gang's territory they are going to get beaten up... if the spider doesn't eat them first!

Down at the front you can see more successful spider hunting taking place. The Demon World Goblin troop types give some really lovely opportunities to have snotling proxies of classic WFB Goblin units like Netters and Clubbers, and I can see myself going back for some spider riders to continue this theme in the future. Some shield bearing Snotling Warriors also help blend the main scene into the three 'extra' Fanatic stands.

Sorry the photo is rubbish!

I had initially thought of these as a separate add on, showing what the Snotling tribe might look like on the battle field, but actually once you put them all together they do all make sense as a block of 12 bases, with one of the spiders seemingly stalking up behind the Snotling ranks at the front 😀

The finished mob
Apologies again for the blurry photos
I'm really chuffed with how these turned out, and how I was able to turn my initial vision into a reality of lead, putty and gravel. There are definitely some rough edges that would need smartening up, but if I'm honest I have had enough of snotlings for a while, so any touch ups will have to wait!

Thanks as always to Mark for coming up with the idea for the challenge, and to the Middlehammer group for providing inspiration. This project simply would never have existed otherwise!

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Procrastinators Painting Challenge! - Dwarven Troll Slayers

Procrastination is a funny thing isn't it?

A few months back I decided to finally get round to painting the sizable unit of WFB4 era Dwarf Troll Slayers I acquired as one of my first major purchases when getting involved in the Oldhammer community a few years back. They were models that I remembered fondly from my teenage years reading White Dwarf, and I had always thought that if I ever embarked on a Dwarf army I would love to have a big unit of slayers with ALL THE CHAMPIONS!!

I finished one both as a test piece and to play Lothar Axefiend, a Dwarven fanatic, in my D&D campaign (learning that I needed to go WAY brighter with the orange hair in the process), and the way Lothar's involvement played out in game gave me new impetus to have a large body of suicidal Dwarven nut jobs at my disposal in the near future...

Lothar Axefiend is a Bad Ass Mother Fucker in D&D 3E. Trust me, I'm a DM ;)
The thing is once I started painting the rest I fell out of love with them pretty quickly and they then languished part painted on my table for a couple of months.

To give some variation between duplicates of the same sculpt, and maybe signify followers of different Slayer Champions, I opted for blue and purple in addition to the traditional Troll Slayer Orange hair

Part of the problem was that I had lost my painting mojo while ill, but I had plenty of time sat at my desk when I could have been painting them, but instead I read hobby blogs, watched Critical Role, or occupied myself with on line groups and forums. Every time I looked at the Slayers half finished on the table I felt a pang of guilt, like my teenage self knowing I had homework to do but deciding to watch another episode of Star Trek: TNG instead.

The other part of the problem was that I was finding them very fiddly as they were already based up and undercoated well when I bought them and I had decided to leave them as they were. That made it a bit tricky getting underneath their ample Dwarven bellies, not to mention hair and beards so voluminous they would clog the workings of the cameras at a shoot for a Pantenne Pro V commercial.

But then came Russ T Painting's Middlehammer Procrastinators Painting Challenge! The idea was to dig out the mini that you had been putting off painting for the longest and get it finished (or as far as long as you could get) within a week. It was just what we all needed to fill the seemingly endless void of a whole week before the start of the VERY EXCITING Snotling themed painting challenge for September (Da Great Snot Off) which had got the community fired up, and it was great to see so many people get involved. Some people unearthed minis that they had been meaning to paint for ooh... a good 20-30 years now! Not uncommon in the hobby by any means, but really nice to see so many of them finally get some paint 😀

"And!" I thought to myself "it's the perfect motivation for me to get these bloody Slayers finished!" So I signed up with the promise of at least one Slayer, and the intention of having the whole lot finished by the end of August!

There was about a month between this shot and the last one, and all that had been added was the highlights to the hair...
Yeah.... Well... I did get one done, a purple haired champion no less, but even then I had to cajole myself along, spending more time planning for my Snotling project (i.e. playing with Snotlings and tiny mushrooms) than I should have done on painting. Was this a challenge as to how much you could procrastinate? If so, I was probably winning!

So now September is here and Da Great Snot Off has begun! Much excite! What have I been up to you ask? Stripping snotlings of their old paint?* Prepping all those scenic bases with milliput and flock? Undercoating the green tide? No. I have been procrastinating by painting Dwarf Slayers.

Still experimenting with my new light box :)

The thing is, I have fallen back in love with them. It happened when I applied the main flesh highlight to a whole batch of them and I could see the character come out of a range of the different sculpts all at once. Now rather than treating them much as I would a unit of plastic infantry (as I had told myself I should in order to get the unit finished) I started to treat them more as individuals again, and that has definitely paid dividends. Sadly three days behind where I should be with my Snotlings, but I'm sure I'll catch up once I get down to it.

*Note: I have now at least stripped the few that needed stripping, but only because I ran out of Dwarf slayers...

So, my question to you is this: Have you ever acquired a miniature you really wanted, only to fall out of love with it when you started to paint it? What happened? Was it a messy divorce or did you fall back in love with it in the end? I'd love to hear your thoughts :)

Now, I really need to crack on with these Snotli... Ooh! Look! Squirrel!