11 December 2013

Really old-school art

I've been having real trouble with Blogger behaving over the last few weeks which has (along with an absurd workload) utterly quashed any posting. Sorry. To make up for it, and hopefully to get me back on track with regular posting, here are some really old school fantasy illustrations. In this case, when I say old school I don't mean 1984, but seventy years before that. In 1914 there was a book published called "Modern book illustrators and their work" which has two hundred and twenty images with widely varying styles and subject matter. You can leaf through it yourself digitally, here, at Cornell University Library's Internet Archive.

There is plenty of inspiring stuff in there, but the illustrator that stood out for me on a first scan through was Beatrice Elvery, an Irish artist who mostly worked in stained glass. I think you can see an echo of the lead that separates the coloured glass in the heavy lines that she uses for outlines, which gives it an almost woodcut feel. I can't help but immediately be filled with anticipation for what slice of celtic-Arthuriana will befall the characters immediately after this frozen, captured moment.

tl;dr - look at the pretty pictures:

OSR bestiary illustration, anyone?

As for my creative output? A bit more work on tweaking GoblinQuest v1.1 and a spot of painting for my little tzeentch-themed warband for (hopefully) some festive gaming. The beastman models I've chosen are quite varied: a Bob Olley ram-head sculpt from 1989/90, an old AD&D bugbear (I think produced by Citadel under license), an early Citadel boar-headed figure with beetle-like armour, a Grenadier orc which has hairy arms and legs, a pre-slotta Citadel half orc which looks fairly beastly to me and an unidentified were-boar which I shall probably arm with a plastic sword from a Mantic sprue I have kicking around.

Happy geeking,

24 November 2013

High art

Well, maybe that should be "Hi, I did some art" and even then, the "art" bit might be stretching things!

To celebrate this blog getting its fiftieth follower (Hi Steve, I love your blog; it's a big part of what drew me into the Oldhammer "movement") I thought I'd share with you some drawing I've been enjoying doing with my kids. There's a great "how to draw" book by Mark Bergin that has step-by-step instructions that are designed for children (or drawing dunces like yours truly) to create fun little knights and castle pictures that I think are full of naive charm. This is the book:

No amazon link - support your local independent bookshop!

And this is what I've art-ed:

Knight with pokey stick

Knight with spiky hitty thing
I even made up my own composition here - I'm practically Picasso
If you'd seen my previous failed attempts at stick men, you'd be impressed! I had fun coming up with different ways to shade. I could get into this drawing lark.

Happy creating,

3 November 2013

Muster project - month 01

Bertrand l'enchantier

Normally to be found at the centre of foul smelling vapours in his chambers, or atop the tallest tower on a clear night, Bertrand can always be relied upon to assist his lord Baron Gilbert de Corbin if battle should come to disturb his thaumatalurgical studies.

Level 15 wizard wearing level 2 magic ring - 255pts

This is my entry for October in the Oldhammer forum muster project and is, I guess, a bit of a cheat as it's only one miniature even if it hits the required number of points. Regardless, I really like this figure. He's from the early Citadel Fantasy Adventurers range and is code FA2-2, published in 1982. It's my first specifically 3rd edition figure I've painted and, apart from not being happy with the base (must read Orlygg's basing tutorial again) and needing to hit it with some matt varnish, I'm fairly content. I enjoyed using inks to thin paint to get a wider range of subtly differing shades in the blue (sacre bleu, of course) robe. I added a smidge of blue ink to the grey for his cloak and hat to tie it together a bit.

One figure down, about seventy to go!


19 October 2013

The quest for Branwen the Fair, part 1

After one of the most hectic weeks I can remember for a while (various family members poorly throughout, guests whose three children under five have no English, late night open evening at school...) we stayed in today and I settled down to play Goblinquest with the two little 'uns. I wanted to give them a bit more of a traditional multi-level dungeon to work their way through, partly because the attention span of the youngest (3 and a half) is good enough now, and partly because I wanted to see what the survival rate is like over multiple encounters. In the end we played through three levels in about two and a half hours!

It had all started so well. Duke Lanfaul's daughter, the fair lady Branwen, was to be wed and all the King's court had been invited. So many had come that the guests were fitted in two to a room and in every nook and cranny, others had pitched pavilions outside the castle walls; all were rejoicing for Branwen and her husband to be, Sir Lucan. The late summer evening before the wedding day had been long and filled with dancing and feasting, so none were surprised when the sun was hovering above the horizon when they awoke. Then the panic set in; the sun was in the West. It was almost night. The entire castle and all the guests had slept the whole day through in an enchanted sleep... and Branwen was gone!

I love Burne-Jones. I sometimes think I'd like to live in his Arthurian paintings.

The only clue that could be found was a small flag draped across Branwen's empty bed with the arms of the fearsome Sir Reginald the Blackhearted, a man who was so wicked he was even said to allow goblins and other monsters to live in the caves around his castle and raid his own villages in return for their support in defending him. Furious at his treachery, and concerned for Branwen, the guest knights quickly swore an oath to rescue the lady Branwen from Sir Reginald and whichever sorcerer had helped him enchant them into slumber.

Riding hard, you have reached Sir Reginald's castle before any of the other knights. The gates are locked and barred and you daren't risk alerting him to your presence, so you scout around to find another entrance and you may be in luck: a cave entrance lies just before you...

Well, that was the intro (more or less) that my wannabe chivalric heroes received before they were allowed to pick up their dice and then they went at it with gusto. MiniRab#1 liked the idea of using a secret passage ("like in Wind in the Willows") and led the way with his crossbowman retainer alongside. There was a brief discussion about having enough light ("who will carry the torch") which made the OSR enthusiast in me very proud; they'll be asking for ten foot poles next!

A fairly bloody skirmish around the entrance with the goblin guards had me worried about the outcome of the quest (both knights were two or three dice down their combat scale already) but then things picked up. MiniRab#2 did a canny room entry, bursting through the door and stepping through to give his crossbowman a clear shot, which he took at maximum range rolling a natural 20 against a defence roll of 1 - I awarded an instant kill - and the remaining goblins were quickly sliced and diced. There was even a bit more tactical play from #2 "I want to move around the back of them so I can attack them and the archer can shoot them."

And that was the cave entrance level cleared, only a narrow set of dusty stairs leading upwards remained and our heroes, bloodied but unbowed, hurried aloft in search of the fair maiden...

This took them into the basement of the castle proper and their first encounter with Sir Reginald's footmen - which nearly did for MiniRab#2 who wandered off and got themselves cornered by a very lucky crossbowman that he eventually rushed and slaughtered ("Good, he was nasty"). Down several dice by now, the boys decided they should try and sneak through now to find the "princess" as they kept calling her before something dreadful happened to her - "No more fighting if we don't need to now, we've been hurt too much."

Their desire for speed meant they took the first stairs up they found, leaving half the level unexplored so they didn't find the spiral stairs up to the wizard's tower. Perhaps his foul necromantic deeds will still find a way to threaten their success...

Up through the castle they pressed only to be met by a hail of crossbow bolts which required some boldness to get close enough to get stuck in. In the aftermath of the melee which swirled between two rooms quite fluidly and naturally, the sound of hammering and shouting for help (sound effects ably provided by me) broke through the harsh metallic gasping of the knights and their retainers as they got their breath back and tied their wounds in rough bandages. "The princess!" thought MiniRab#1, "No," said MiniRab#2, "the voice was not right, it can't be a women." There then followed about five minutes of both boys doing impressions of men and women. Anyway, they finally decided to open the door to reveal a ragged man who introduced himself (a little bit of in-character stuff from yours truly) as a knight who had been imprisoned by Sir Reginald and offered his help as reward for his release. M-R#1 went straight into character without blinking and gave a persuasive argument to me ("Sir Geraith") to secure his help. Thus reinforced, the merry band smashed through a locked door to get to the next upwards leading staircase...

Playtest thoughts

  • Levelling up - accruing Hero Tokens to replace lost combat dice worked really well and smoothly
  • Instant kill - I liked this "on the fly" ruling where if you roll a natural maximum and your opponent rolls a one, they die straight out. Maybe this should only apply for baddies, perhaps for redshirts as well?
  • Retainer skill - I allowed them to pay double points to regain dice which did keep them in the game
  • Action tokens - with little people playing and multi-turn combats it's easy to lose track of the end of one turn and the start of the next. I think using a token to place on your character card at the start of each turn that you cash in so that each turn feels distinct and retainers not in combat don't get forgotten
  • It played really well! The boys loved it and wanted to play on so, when I didn't relent because they were getting tired, they ran off to the incomparably fair lady Mrs Rab to give her a blow by blow account.
  • The quest held together nicely, despite being at least semi-improvised, so I'll tidy up my rough notes and try and produce a Dyson-esque or Vulpinised map to share

I hope those of you with kids are getting to game with them,

18 October 2013

Hear Blanche roar

John Blanche did an interview and cover illustration for the free Nottingham arts journal, Leftlion, this month and in it he talks about all sorts of things to with his idea of art and illustration as well as, obviously, GW over the years. My favourite quote from it is:
Although [Warhammer 40K] is science fiction, it's more medieval fantasy in a futuristic setting
I can see that! I love the cover art he provided, full of character; Aslan gone grimdark...

Here's the link to the magazine, issue 55 is the one you want: Leftlion, issue 55

17 October 2013

Chainsaw Warrior

Fire up your chainsaw: Darkness is back and you only have 60 minutes to save New York!

I never got to play this standalone, solitaire GW boardgame first time round because I was too young, although I did always choose the Chainsaw Warrior character in later years when playing Talisman using the Timescape expansion. I had no idea he came from another game, I just thought he looked cool.

The original set looked like this:

The idea was that, as the eponymous chainsaw wielding chappy, you had to fight your way through an endless tide of zombie-like creatures and destroy Darkness who was trying to suck New York through some kind of interdimensional gateway to hell. Yup, chainsaws versus zombies. Oh, and the miniatures you could buy to go with it are brimfull of the individuality one would expect of the Citadel studio of the time (1987):

If I were ever to heed the siren call of Rogue Trader-esque gaming, I'd have to include all three of these guys!

Anyway, aside from an excuse to show some golden oldies from before Grandma Wendy became a mere shadow of her former creative self, I posted this because I spotted that Auroch Games have released a fully sanctioned digital version for just about every platform you can think of. Screenshots, you say? Feast your eyes on the unfolding horror you must defeat....

Gentlemen, start your chainsaws!


16 October 2013

Ugly duckling - WIP 1

So, I have a large carnivorous bird model that I want to make into a large swan-like bird for this Knight Project on the Oldhammer forum. I also have greenstuff (which I've used before with some success), procreate (which I've used before with some success) and milliput (which I've never used before). After careful thought, considering this is the first time I've been trying to reproduce a realistic effect... I chose the milliput. Error! Look at the mess I've made:

Fortunately, milliput responds really well to being reshaped when wet, so those horribly jagged edges might yet be salvageable without having to file bits off. I think what I'll do is switch to procreate for the surface detail: saddle shaping, buckles on the strap, nostril things in the swan beak. Oh, and that nobbly bit that mute swans have above their beak:

I'll have one more go at sorting the joints with milliput, just to get some practice.

Hopefully your sculpting is proving more successful,

15 October 2013

Autumn cleaning

Stuck at home with a rotten bug and unable to face the pile of marking that is glaring at me reproachfully from the corner of the room, I'm doing really important things like changing the layout of this blog. Useful, eh?

Actually, blogger seems to have been really struggling to keep me logged in on the previous dynamic template which meant that I'd have to refresh the page half a dozen times before all the tabs and links, even comments, were available. So I've gone for a classic, clean template. Sort of Oldblogger, if you like.

Speaking of classic, have you seen this vile thing yet? It's a demon of Malal - the fifth chaos power that GW never got around to producing, but did have some preliminary fluff for. The model is available from CP models as a Hook Horror.

At a mere four quid, I think that's a pretty good deal. Between the info from the linked article above, and the "make your own demon" section in the Realm of Chaos books, I reckon anyone who wanted to could stat that up for gaming pretty quickly.


13 October 2013

There once was an ugly duckling...

...who was the terrifying giant servant of a vengeful chaos god!

Welcome to post 150, dear readers (cue cheering, balloons, party poppers, cake and fizzy pop!), in which I once again try to persuade you that I have been doing some geeking, honest and truly. Specifically, I've been organising my workbench to undertake not one, not two, but three painting challenges. Now, you might think from recent months that the greatest challenge would be me actually picking up a paint brush (and you'd be right), but all of these tie in with my intended projects.

Challenge the first: The army muster

This is from over on the Oldhammer website and is meant to produce, by October 2014, a playable army. You are supposed to paint a tenth of your army each month, with two wild cards to allow for things like Christmas and going on holiday which rudely interrupts one's painting ambitions. This is my starting point:

There's a bunch of peasants back left, a unit of foot knights and the start of a second at the front, a cannon and crew, and, at the back, my mercenary dwarf contingent. Still in packets, or undercoated but elsewhere, I have a unit and a half of mounted knights, another cannon, more peasants etc. I plan to order more cavalry to complete the second unit of knights, crossbowmen, archers, spearmen and a third cannon. We'll see how far I get...

Challenge the second: The group Knight challenge

Another Oldhammer project, but just a single figure and one that I can shoehorn into challenge 3 to boot! Started by Asslessman on this thread, the basic idea is to choose a creature representative of your home region and to make a knight from it. Living near Bedford, the swan seemed an obvious choice, especially as I've always liked the idea of knights riding giant birds (I blame that old arcade game, Joust). This is why there was the slightly random opening to this post; behold the chaos swan!

He's behind you!

That classic chaos warrior will be the rider of the beasty
Now, obviously I need to add a putty swan beak, saddle, reins etc. but I don't think that making him/it should take more than an evening. Painting it? We'll see...

Challenge the third: Chaos narrative campaign

Up on that first picture, you might just be able to make out a chaos knight and a lovely old beastman. They are the first two members of the Tzeentch warband I rolled up for a little narrative campaign that Chris, Malc and I hope to start playing over Christmas. I have a chaos warrior and four beastmen to paint up. Surely I can manage that?

Play nicely, children.

21 September 2013

Hi again; buy my stuff!

With the dreaded OFSTED apparently due any moment (I think the Headteacher has been reading the entrails of goats or something), I've not had the calmest start to the new school year. I've been managing to scratch my geeking itch by planning what to concentrate on for the next year or so and have reduced it to three projects and a determination to actually play some games.

  1. Gladiators - Blood on the Sands is already a fantastic game and the slight playtest tweaks that are being put in place are bringing up to the level of an enduring classic. It really is that good! So, I need to paint some gladiators and finish off the arena for them to battle in.
  2. Fantasy football - I love Bloodbowl and Elfball and have two or three teams that are nearly complete. While this will really be a filler activity (I can play with what I have painted), I want to get the full set of my Chaos Allstars painted, along with associated Star Players, reroll counters etc.
  3. Oldhammer - I've always preferred the earlier style of miniatures that Citadel produced, having got interested gaming about a year or so before Fourth Ed. was released. During the holidays I picked up a nearly mint hardback copy of 3rd Ed in a charity shop for £6 - bargain! My plan is to use it as the vehicle to continue my "fantastic chivalry" project. This will be the major project by a long way over the other two.
In order to facilitate my ebay extravagances (we all know it will happen!) as I pick up classic figures, I'm selling stuff I don't use. I'll try and keep the sales page on here up to date, but I'll be concentrating on my sales thread on the LAF, so check there for updates. Anything that doesn't sell in the next few weeks will be transferred here as an ongoing thing.

Buy my stuff, you know you want to :)

7 August 2013

Holiday snaps 4

Corfe castle, ex-royal residence, slighted during the civil war... and reached by STEAM TRAIN. I think the gleeful reaction of the heir and the spare reinforced my opinion that this is pretty much the perfect boys day out. Brilliant!

5 August 2013

Holiday snaps 3

More neolithic marvels today - this time, Avebury ring. Apart from the undeniable impressiveness of the size of the stones, and the no-tech of those who built the henge and erected the stones, I was amazed at how much of the village is within the circle... and an A road goes right across it. I couldn't help thinking this might make a great scenario setting for Gareth the Grot's witchfinder escapades: what foul things, real or imagined, might creep across from faeire to torment and beguile the locals foolish enough to believe they could stamp out the old ways with a fancy new house and grazing their sheep in between the stones?

4 August 2013

Holiday snaps 2

On to Winchester, and the majestic Round Table made during the reign of Edward I. Of course, I like to believe that it really is the table around which sat those paragons of chivalry: Percival, Gawain, Bedivere, Lancelot, Bors, Gaheris, Galahad, Kay, Arthur himself...

31 July 2013

Holiday snaps 1

We're on a week's jaunt to the edge of the New Forest, and stopped off under lowering skies for a quick circuit of this beauty:

As Life Members of English Heritage (gold card, don'cha know!?) we often stop for a brisk shufti at wonderful things, knowing that the limited attention span of our three year old isn't going to waste our entry fee... and we can pop in next time we're passing :)

My five year old spent the next quarter of an hour in the car thinking up multiple ways of making a scale model of the henge. Good lad.

27 July 2013

Gladiator arena (54mm) - WIP 2

First blood in the arena! The populace and the manes will be well pleased!

Ok, so I slipped with a stanley knife and tried to take my index finger off at the first knuckle. One of those really neat cuts that doesn't bleed to begin with, you carry on thinking you've had a lucky escape, and then realise you're dripping claret onto your workpiece. What a clumsy lanista I am!

At least the plastic I was cutting was red, and none went onto the carpet...

I've also removed the unwanted entrance from another section, leaving me with two entrances and two sections needing filling. Hopefully I'll get a bit more done before we go on holiday.

I hope you're enjoying the summer so far,

25 July 2013

Gladiator arena (54mm) - WIP 1

Aaaaaaaand made it - summer holidays!!!

With great thoughtfulness, Mrs Rab took the Rablings away last night so that my first evening and morning after a crushingly long and busy term was utterly my own. I was going to start on this last night but had a couple of ales more than usual while having a very pleasant chat in my local with a good colleague and his wife - any geeking would have been a total bodge job. So this morning, with a slightly muzzy head, I got out my Stuff to put together a suitable arena for my newly arrived and very lovely (and accurate, hurrah!) Alpha Forge gladiators. They're BIG - 54mm, and by far the largest figures I've attempted. I'm hoping to get results at least a fraction as good as these fabulous examples from Carmen's Painty Fun Time:

It's because of this picture, and the others on his blog that I went for the Alpha Forge figures - lovely!
I'm still waiting on a pack of lipped bases of a suitable size to drop through my letterbox, so the arena comes first.

That chap I was drinking with? I made this on his machine. 52mm hexes with a 2mm gap between them.

After sealing the whole board with watered down pva to stop the mdf drinking all the paint, I treated each hex like a miniature's base and covered it in pva...

... then sand

Once dry, I painted the whole thing apart from where the stands will go in a mix of a "sand" craft paint and a "velvet truffle 3" tester pot from Homebase

A heavy drybrush of Foundry Base Sand (10A)

The Rablings arrived back at this stage and helped (no, really - little boys are great at random drybrushing for terrain!) with further highlights. Mini-Rab #1 even neatened up around the outermost hexes.

... then wotked up through the 10B and 10C shades, topped off with that "sand" craft paint which is almost white, and the lines between each hex redone with the background colour

Finally, a mock up of the whole thing. The stands will be painted and the box will be replaced with a scratchbuilt Editor's box. I'll also seal off the entrances of the two outermost stands and make portcullis-style gates for the other two.

And now it is late, so good night and happy geeking,

16 July 2013

Plastic pieces of potential

Evenin' all.

Some of you may have seen my thread over on LAF asking for opinions on the Marx arena for 54mm plastic gladiators and suchlike - it was part of  a larger Ben Hur related play set from quite a few years back. The whole set is likely to set you back at least £60, and will almost certainly have received more than a spot of heavy play from small children if the current ebay auctions are anything to go by...

Anyway, I found it an eight eighths set (i.e. enough for a full circle) on clearance for £12 from Plasticsoldiers.co.uk and it arrived today!

The plastic is fairly typical for children's toys - fairly flexible, so I'll need to fix it to a board before even thinking of making finishing touches.

Maybe now is as good a time as any to show you the box-file thing I've started and you can see in the top left of the photo above. We ended up with a bag of box files and I thought there had to be some geeky use for them, other than pure storage. My shoddy, wonky light-box effort got squashed when we moved house, so this is its replacement.

First step, assemble the tools - box file, cutting and sticking stuff, and some thick card.

Next, cut the card to the same width as the lid and base, respectively, firmly taping them alongside to give "wings". I've already cut some of a standard paper-backed grass mat to fit the lid and its wings in the picture below. Oh, i should also mention I removed the catch on the lid and the flappy bit that holds the papers you'd normally find in such a box in place.

Wings flapping

Box wings folded

Lid wings folded

The whole thingamajig closed up. Neat, eh?

I haven't got the back image sorted yet. I'm after a fairly soft-focus, impressionistic countryside image which will serve for my chivalric project.

Anyway, back to the gladiators' arena. Each piece comes with a gate way which can take a portcullis. As I only want a half oval to serve as a backdrop for my games (opinion seems pretty strong that a full arena is a pain to lean into to move figures around in), I'll be able to practise with impunity - I plan to cut back two of the gates from the four sections I will use to leave them plain. They also don't quite stand square so will need pinning together in some way:

You can see where the background image will sit quite nicely in this shot. 28mm Foundry peasant for scale.

Peasant again, in the ruins of a Roman arena. See what I mean about the stands not being square?

The stands are also open backed which means they can "stack", but I'll seal them over to give greater rigidity and for aesthetics.

Conga line coliseum!
All in all, I'm pleased with my purchases but it will be a bit more of a project to get them to gaming-table standard than I hoped. With luck, I'll only need four of them and then I'll be looking to offload the others.

Phew, it's hot here and that was a long post for me, image-wise!

Stay in the shade, drink plenty (you choose the beverage!), and happy geeking,

15 July 2013

Welcome to my underground lair

In between cursing my internet connection for not coping with streaming the first Ashes test (a win, hurrah, but they do need to sort the third umpire stuff out), I cleared out our cellar. Now, we've only been in since the start of April and the first thing I did when we moved in was to lay some laminate flooring over the newly installed waterproof floor treatment... and then promptly filled it with boxes, a sawhorse and tins of paint. Upstairs is now officially done so it was time to tackle the pit. My reward was to claim a corner for my geeking :)

Um, it's our cellar, but part of it is ALL MINE!!!!

Look - paints, partly painted miniatures, and not one but TWO lamps. The old coal shute that the window 'looks out' into will be getting a transparent lid at some point soon giving me more natural light - these photos were taken at about 11pm

Polystyrene packaging repurposed as a display shelf
My new lovely buildings from pmc games - don't fret, the staining on the wall is residue from the damproofing, not imminent destruction of my books and stuff from water coming in. I hope.

When I was clearing up I found we've ended up with loads of boxfiles, so I was inspired to make something - a backdrop thing for taking photos of miniatures and scenery from a box file, some card and an offcut from a GW grass mat.

Stay tuned, fellow geekers,