Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lord of the Rings terrain - Rohan house

Another little project I was inspired to try out was making a Rohan style house.

Again I found the GW source book; the Two Towers, very helpful. I have made lot of other houses before, but they have all been the medieval style; wattle and daub style construction supported by wooden beams and posts. This is the first building I have done to look fully wooden.

This is the first of at least three that I need to make to complete sufficient houses for the sourcebook scenarios. Whether I go the whole hog and make a Hall of Meduseld later, we'll have to wait and see!

The house is constructed from 3mm card purchased from stationary store. I have usually made things from simple cardboard in the past, which whilst cheap (or free if scrounged) is not as easy to work with and you always need to fill in the cut ends. So the card sheet makes a welcome and easier change, and wasn't hugely expensive.

This was then faced with 3mm balsa wood, again scored to look like wood planks. Extra beams were added at corners and along walls. Windows and doors were cut out, and shuttered windows and a door were added. A small door handle was added using a tiny piece of plasti-card for a base, a ring of 15amp fuse wire, and a blob of green-stuff putty to hold handle ring in place.

The thatch was made from teddy-bear fur. (I hasten to add no teddy-bears were harmed in the production of this model!). The fur (from a haberdashery store) was cut and glued into place with PVA glue. Once dried this was soaked down with a thinned mix of 75% PVA and water mix. An old plastic fork was used to get the fur to texture as desired. This was left to dry. Due to high water content of glue ,it took about 3 days to fully dry before painting.

Painting was with the usual Hobby/art store acrylic paints.

Quite a pleasing result and several more to make.

Aragorn leads Legolas, Gimli and a warrior of Rohan, against the vanguard of the Uruk-Hai attack.

Lord of the Rings terrain - Scaffolds

Another terrain project for LOTR SBG I have recently completed is a scaffold construction.

This was described in the Two Towers supplement, for a scenario where the Ents attack Isengard. However the scaffold will have more uses, including representing mining structures in the Mines of Moria, and also general orc structures in Mordor.

In fact, I noticed the other day, while watching the Fellowship of the Ring DVD, in the first swirling shot we see of Barad-Dur, if you look closely there are scaffolds on top of the towers to suggest they are still under construction and will be taller once finished.

The model is primarily made from 3mm balsa wood. Cut into strips for the legs and cross beams of the structure, and used as panels for the decks. These were scored with a sharp pencil to give the impression of planks.

The ladders were also balsa wood, trimmed down finer to make the ladders. I used a plastic Uruk siege ladder as a "template".

The string I got from local model store, normally used for model ship rigging. I probably could have got something cheaper from a haberdashery store, but couldn't find one locally. This was glued into place with thinned PVA glue.

A bit of gardening cane was cut for the hook rope to wind onto, on the a-frame crane structure. The hook itself was made from 15amp fuse wire, bent to shape.

The whole was painted using acrylic art-shop paints, (waterproof poster paint type stuff). I think they are called "student acrylics" by FAS and come in 500ml bottle for about $12 from warehouse stationary, and other art / hobby stores.

The base was done with sand textured paint as before (equal parts PVA / Black paint / sand) then dry brushed up once dry, with shades of gray.

The string was later painted a dark yellowy brown.

Fairly straight forward to make, although a little time consuming. The string was the most fiddly frustrating bit!

Here uruk-hai orcs defend the scaffold at Isengard against the attack of Treebeard and the ents.

Here the goblins of Moria, infest the old mine workings of the dwarfs and rain arrows down on the fellowship as they pass.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Moria Goblins Rocky cave

I decided to have a go at making some terrain for the Mines of Moria scenarios.

I have long had a pile of white polystyrene packaging material piling up under my games table, which I always thought would be useful to make into "something".

Well I hit on the idea of using it for rocky structures for the mines of Moria. It would be useful for scenarios with the fellowship making their way through the mines, but also to reflect earlier battles there between the dwarfs and the dark forces. It will also be useful for any Mordor scenarios, which will use similar dark rocky terrain.

I used a polystyrene hot wire cutter, to cut up the pieces in shapes. I decided to keep them flat topped so models can be stood on top, and also to allow ramps, rocky bridges and scaffolds and other terrain to join a series of these together. Since LOTR SBG makes use of differing height levels of terrain, this makes this kind of terrain ideal for these scenarios.

The polystyrene was PVA glued to a 3mm thick MDF wood base. The whole thing was them painted with a 50/50 mix of PVA glue and black acrylic poster paint. The PVA seals the structure and stops the black paint being water soluble once dry. It would stop the white of the polystyrene showing through the subsequent bark layers.

I then collected a load of bark chunks from the gardens bark-chip mulched borders, and broke these into various shapes and thickness, and glued them with PVA glue to the sides of the structure. Once dry, I sealed the top flat edge to the bark edges with a decorative filler using a mastic-gun. Again once dry, I then mixed up some sand-textured paint (equal parts black paint, PVA glue and coarse beach sand), and brushed this to the top of the model and base edge.

The bark was then painted with the 50/50 mix of black paint and PVA glue. Again to seal the wood and undercoat it.

Once dry, the structure was dry brushed with dark gray, then subsequently lighter shades, until finished as desired.

And there we have it. I finished this one to completion first as a test to see how it would turn out. I have a load more to finish off now. The others are all bigger, with some have differing levels, ramps and cave mouths incorporated into their structures. Should look great once all done and connected together.

I do like the nice rocky effect the bark has produced. Far better than trying to sculpt the polystyrene and then just sand tincturing it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More Adventures in Middle-Earth : Fire & Wood!

I have been working on several larger pieces recently. Not that they will cohesively form any one force, but simply that my son desired I "paint that one next"... and of course he likes the big creatures.

So I have been working on the Balrog, and recently finished it to my satisfaction.

The Balrogs, were originally Maiar, which makes them "demi-gods" for want of a better description for the lay person to grasp. They were spirits of fire who were seduced to the service of Melkor (one of the Valar who turned to evil through a desire for power of his own), the first Dark Lord, who later became known to the elves as Morgoth.

The Balrogs were also known as Valaraukar, scourges of fire.

Morgoth used these Balrogs as his most powerful servants and commanders of his vast hordes of orcs and other foul creatures. They were led by Gothmog, the lord of Balrogs. They took part in the assault on the hidden elven city of Gondolin and brought about its end.

In the final cataclysmic battle of Beleriand, when the Valar led the hosts of all good forces against the dark powers, Morgoth and his servants were defeated, and those not destroyed, fled and hid. The Balrog the Fellowship find in Moria, is a remnant of this ancient time, as Gandalf rightly knows, and fears to encounter.

Perhaps fate would have it that Gandalf would be forced to confront this beast at this time, since, if it had answered Sauron's call to battle in the forth coming War of the Ring, who knows what destruction it could have caused to the forces of Good.

Here it is:

The model is truly awesome compared to a scaled 28mm figure, and stands 9cm tall to top of flaming crest, with a wing span of 26cm and a length of 17cm. It makes the creatures in game power quite terrifying, and understandably so!

The model is all metal, except for the wings which are plastic, presumably to save weight, and reduced the chances of them breaking off, during handling.

Being a large multi-part kit it required quite extensive drilling and pinning, gluing and subsequently gap filling and hiding and sculpting by using "greenstuff" epoxy putty.

One thing I found with this, and subsequent large models I have done, is the shear size, weight and bulk of the model makes handling and painting them quite a challenge. Since I typically paint late at night via angle-poise lamp, those large wings cast seriously long and dark shadows when you are trying to see to paint the other side! Several lumps of foam sponges were used to prop and balance the model in various positions to effect the paint job.

I painted the model, pretty much by following GW's online painting advice, which I have to say I found extremely helpful. It certainly beats wading through acres of books trying to find the right colour picture of a troopers uniform to get the colours just right. Well done GW.

More than any other project, I applaud GW on their handling of the LOTR game. I accept the rules have already gone through a couple of revisions and some rulebooks and supplementary books have become out dated, and this may have frustrated earlier players of the game. I suppose I am fortunate to have found this game in its present version.

I also like they way they have not slavishly stuck to the movies, but have encompassed the scope of the story from the original books too, with characters catered for who never made it to film. The great number of extra scenarios they have proposed for game play also widen the appeal of this game.

But I am digressing...

Needless to say I look forward to trying out this behemoth on the table top.

And now to matters of a more woody nature, namely Treebeard the Mighty Ent, also known as Fangorn.

The ents were originally created by Yavanna, one the Valar, who was goddess of all living things on Middle-Earth. Fearful of what harm would befall her creatures as the races of elves and men awoke on the earth and started harvesting its resources, Yavanna created the race of ents to protect the trees and forests. In real terms, the ents are neither good nor evil, and as Treebeard answers to the hobbits, he is not on any side as nobody is on his side! Everybody, good and bad see his trees as a resource to use, and this must cause him no end on consternation. But he is certainly no friend of the orcs, and his rage at the wanton destruction of his forests by Sarumans orc forces, finally sets his mind to war, and the Ents march to their doom!

Interestingly, Tolkien often uses the word doom, though not necessarily the way we use it these days. If we say doom, we tend to think of it as something bad happening, yet Tolkien uses it more like the word fate. So if you are doomed to do something, then it will in all likelihood happen for good or evil, in the end...

As such the Ents are truly ancient beings in their own right having been on the earth since shortly after its creation. Indeed Gandalf respectfully calls Treebeard "Eldest", despite being a more ancient and powerful being himself (one of the Maiar, when in the West he was known as Olorin).

Here is Treebeard, accompanied by the hobbits Merry and Pippin riding in his topmost branches.

Again this was a challenging and interesting model to make. A multi-part kit again in metal requiring, drilling, pinning, gluing and puttying, before painting can commence. Once again GWs website provided useful help in suitable colours and techniques to use. On completion the model stands a little less than 12cm tall.

As a little extra, whilst assembling the treebeard model, I remembered I had an old treeman model from GWs Warhammer fantasy battle game from many years ago. A quick rummage in the "lead mountain" revealed an assembled but unpainted model on a square base.

After much thought and deliberation with my son (who will be commanding the forces of good) it was decided to leave the model as it was. It is the same size and height as a GW LOTR troll model, and afterall, Morgoth did first make the trolls in mockery of the ents, so its seemed quite feasible to use the model, albeit with house rules, as a "small ent" or perhaps "enting", and simply use the same stats as the troll when using it on the table top. So it was transfered to a 40mm round base (thanks to Terry Swain for the spare base!)

I had thought about converting it and lengthening its legs with wire and greenstuff to bring it up to size with Treebeard, and thus give my son a second proper ent for his army, with appropriate stats for the game. Sadly this fell on deaf ears if for no other reason than he liked the "little ent" model as it was. Sometimes there is no arguing with a 5 years olds logic!

So here is the old treeman model, now as "little ent"

Consequently since it was using the same techniques, he was painted up at the same time as the Treebeard model.

Next things on painting table were a bunch of goblins from the mines of moria set. These were plastic figures, which complimented some more metal goblin archer figures that also needed doing.

One thing I have decided to do with the goblins is give them regular "outdoors" grassy bases. I know most folks will think of the goblins as being from underground, but during the War of the Ring and previously in the Battle of the Five Armies from Bilbos time, they do venture forth from their underground lairs to battle the forces of good in the open, so a standard base option seemed sensible to me.

Finally as a quick test paint, I did one of the Rohan foot soldiers I had lying around:

Plenty more where he came from...

I have just finished the paint job on the Nazgul riding Fellbeast, but still have to varnish and base. He'll be in the next blog update... see you then!

Friday, October 24, 2008

"The Road to Mordor" - GW's Lord Of The Rings Strategy Battle Game

I guess in some ways, I have gone back to my roots, and decided to feed my soul, with my original gaming love; J.R.R.Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. I have always been a massive fan of Middle-Earth, loved the books, the movies and watched with interest as the figures started being produced by GW. However at the time I was skeptical of the skirmish level rules and ignored the game, but couldn't help buy the odd set of figures, to paint just for for enjoyment, although these were put in the back of the cupboard for when I had more time.

However, having really enjoyed the pirate gaming with Legends of the High Seas, a rules variety of the LOTR SBG, it opened my eyes to gaming Lord of the Rings. Also the fact that my young son (5 yrs old) has really got into Lord of the Rings, watching the movies and playing the games with me, that it really reinforced my decision to switch to and prioritize my painting efforts for this game and rules set for the foreseeable future. With encouragement, I will always have an opponent for games in the my own home, until he gets a girlfriend at least, that it is ;-)

One great bonus to gaming, painting the figures and modeling this genre, is the amount of support material and depth this project will have. The extended version of the movie DVD sets provide masses of amount of inspiration for painting and modeling, indeed seeing things like the city of Minas Tirith model produced just opens a hobbyists eyes wide with glee :-).

Plus the website support from GW's own and the huge fan base of websites out there can be truly inspirational.

I was working on the Balrog model over this weekend, and was left thinking what a shame such an awesome model, is only featured in one relatively small scenario as the party escape across the Bridge of Khazad-Dum. Then I was watching the Appendices of the Return of the King movie DVD, and there was discussed the siege of Gondolin, where the Elven city is attacked by Morgoths army of orcs lead by Balrogs and Dragons. Even though I had read the Silmarillion & Unfinished Tales, the full nature of these events had slipped my mind. Although these events may have taken place some ~6000 years prior to the events in the Lord of the Rings tale itself, it just shows what depth of material is available to enjoy with this game, "period" and system.

Another bonus with the prospect of gaming such an event with these rules is that although we delving into pure fantasy with demons and dragons being involved, I feel the games mechanics seem to play well enough to handle it without over powerful magic taking hold, as I often found in my time long ago playing Warhammer. Magic is clearly involved in this game, but it is not over the top in effect, which I prefer.

As another point of note, I already have the perfect accompanying music to paint to; the soundtracks to the three movies. Bliss! :-)

I think what I may also do is completely theme the games room as Middle-Earth, with suitable pictures, maps and decoration. An ongoing project, but one I feel I will not lose interest in.

I think as Bilbo put, "I think I'm going to enjoy this..." :-)

Here's what I have managed to get painted so far:-

First, the Fellowship of the Ring:

Frodo Baggins, nephew of Bilbo Baggins, and Ring-bearer in the Lord of the Rings.

Samwise Gamgee, valiant bodyguard [cough!] gardener to Mr Frodo Baggins.

Peregrin Took, known as Pippin.

Merriadoc Brandybuck, known as Merry.

Gandalf the Wizard, one of the Istari (and Maiar). Also known by many names to the folk of Middle-Earth; the Grey Pilgrim, and Mithrandir to name a couple.

Face close-up as it is hidden by his hat in above picture.

Aragorn, son of Arathorn, here in his guise as Strider the ranger of the north.

Legolas, Elf of the woodland realm of Mirkwood.

Gimli, son of Gloin, valiant dwarf warrior.

Boromir, valiant warrior of Gondor, son of Denethor the Steward of Gondor.

And some of the Evil forces arrayed against the Fellowship;

A leader of the Fighting Uruk-hai, fearsome orc warriors.

Another Uruk, leading the forces from Isenguard.

An Uruk soldier, (a plastic figure)

Another plastic Uruk.

A mounted Ringwraith, also known as the Blackriders... of the Nine Nazgul. This was a multi-part kit, with the model cast in two halves split vertically through the length of the horses body. The sword was also and extra piece.

A moria goblin archer... ( a little tricky to get this guy fully focussed as his pose is quite leaned over)

... and another.

Mighty Cave troll from the mines of Moria. A multi-part metal kit requiring, gluing and pinning, and some use of greenstuff putty to fill joins. A very imposing figure, easily twice the height of a man sized figure. My son Christopher's favourite so far, at least until I get the Balrog finished!

Close up of face detail.

Cave trolls back skin texture.

More to come; I am busy working on the Balrog!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Napoleonic War-gaming with General de Brigade - British Army of 1815

Well its been a long time coming, but I have finally started on my Napoleonic Odyssey, venturing into what some see as the pinnacle of war-gaming; 28mm Napoleonics.

It had to happen eventually, as my local gaming club, the Kapiti Fusiliers are, as you can imagine from the name, rather keen on this war-gaming era. However, for myself having come from a fantasy and ancients background it has, and still is, been quite a steep learning curve.

My initial knowledge being somewhat limited to there having been a battle at Waterloo, where the Duke of Wellington defeated the Emperor Napoleon, aided by the timely arrival of Blucher's Prussians.

So with this initial basis of understanding, and being a Brit myself, I decided to theme my army on the British army at this battle.

With this in mind, some time ago I ordered some figures from Front Rank, a favorite figure manufacturer amongst the Fusiliers. Sadly the figures languished in their box untouched for many months while other projects distracted me.

But I am pleased to say April 08, has seen the first application of paint, and the following test paint figure completed.

Please forgive the painting prop, but this was just to get an idea of how the figure would paint up. I used my usual Foundry and GW acrylics, black undercoat, then dark base tone followed my mid tone, and extra skin highlight.

What had partly delayed my getting to grips with this period, was the plethora of rule sets available, and the various basing conventions. In the end, the more popular set of rules that is played locally, at present, at this scale is "General de Brigade". However even with this choice made, basing was still a little bit of a contentious issue, in a very gentlemanly fashion.

Local players had previous adopted a local house rule whereby battalions would be set at 24 figures. This allowed conformity, but went against main guidelines in core rules. After much thought and pondering, I finally decided to try and follow rule book guidelines, in the hope that with some further gentlemanly agreement, my based units will be compatible to play against the local Kapiti Fusilier players, and yet also against players further afield who may "go by the book".

I can see this being a very lengthy project (a year at the very least I would say) before completion. If you average 30 infantry figure per battalion, 4 battalion to a brigade, and maybe 3 brigades to a division... well, as the yanks say, you can do the math..... And then of course theres the cavalry regiments and artillery batteries. OK, so to be fair, I can see this project keeping me involved off and on for many years to come!

The nice thing is there are many local players with whom I will be able to join forces and get a game with my fledgling battalions, bolstering their armies :-)

I hope maintaining this blog post will keep me focussed on completing this undertaking. Wish me luck!

Blog update (30/4/8). I have completed the first 16 (of a planned 32) foot figures of my first Battalion. Still on their painting props and yet to be varnished or based, but thats still not bad going for me; 16 figures in 19 days!
I have decided to set the battalion sizes as 32 as this seems to match quite well with typical battalion sizes for the British at this point in the campaign. Typical Battalion strengths would be roughly 600-650 according to the sources I have read. Using G de B's infantry ratio of 20:1, this fits quite comfortably with 32 figures per battalion.
This first battalion is going to be modeled on the 69th South Lincolnshire Regiment, who fought at Waterloo.
When I decide to do a Guards regiment, I may increase the battalion size, as guards regiments frequently had higher numbers of troopers as these units were maintained at full strength where possible. A full strength battalion would be ideally 1000 men, but this was rarely achieved. So again based on ratio 20:1, this would mean a battalion of up to 50 figures!

Update 9/5/8 - just a quick picture to show how first centre company based stand has come together. Only 4 more to go!

Further update note 29/5/8: Completed paint job of battalion (although still awaiting arrival of GMB flags before I can finish the two standard bearers) . Just have to varnish and base figures. Also casualty marker to paint too.
30/5/8 - painted the casualty marker. I did notice as I started to paint it that it actually has a slight miscast to the shako making it look a bit crumpled at the top. I may consider it "battle damage", or try and conceal it with a clump of foliage flocking. I also made a start on first mounted command figure to represent first Brigade General. (the Robert Craufurd model from Front Rank). I am supposed to be working in the garden today (long weekend of queens birthday), but I have been battling a slight cold recently, and its a bit of a breezy cool autumnal day outside, wonder if its a good excuse to find some time to paint instead? ;-)

12/6/8 - Still awaiting arrival of GMB flags :-( In the meantime I have been busy working through my foot artillery battery, comprising two 9 pdr guns. However the pack I got only had 7 crew for the two guns and as the rules suggest 4 crew per gun, I need another crew man! I have also decided to up the battery to three guns, so will need to place a little order to Front Rank anyway, for the extra gun and crew. I have finished the crew and will start the guns over the weekend if I get a chance. I have also finished the Robert Craufurd model and Duke Of Wellington mounted figure (although not 100% happy with the colour his overcoat has turned out, I may change it?).
13/6/8 - Just checked the mail and my GMB flags have arrived - yippee! Wow, they are indeed nice and well worth the price I would say.
21/6/8 - Finally finished to completion my first British foot battalion, despite my best attempts today to cut off my hand with an angle grinder!;-) I would have had the battalion finished a little sooner, but for the delay in the arrival of the flags from GMB. However, that delay, has allowed me to get a good start with the artillery battery with 7 crew painted and varnished to date and 2 guns undercoated. Also completing the two characters as mentioned above. I left the colour of Wellington's overcoat as it was - I have come across a few variations in the depiction of the colour and decided mine was good enough. I have ordered the 3rd gun and crew for the artillery battery, and a few more mounted officers to complete the command stands, from Front Rank. I'll post some pics of the battalion shortly.

Here follow pictures (taken 22/6/8) of my first battalion of foot; The 69th South Lincolnshires.

The battalion comprises 32 figures, which at a ratio of 20:1 represents 640 soldiers. I decided to base the command base and the two other centre companies on bases of 8 figures, with a base size of 60mm x 50mm. The Grenadiers, as defined by their all white plumes, are on a base of 4 figures, 30mm x 50mm, and positioned in the place of honour to the battalions right side. The Light company as defined by their green plumes, are individually based on 15mm x 25mm, and mounted on a magnetised "sabot" 30mm x 50mm, and positioned to the battalions left side.

The Light company can be deployed as skirmishers, by moving the individuals from their close order battalion sabot, and then transferred to their skirmish magnetised sabots 50mm x 30mm. This gives the skirmish screen a figure frontage of 25mm.

Finally the command base, which comprises the front rank with officer, the two colour bearers with the Kings colour again in place of honour to battalions right side, and regiments colour to left. The NCO with seargent's stripes and pike completes the front rank. The rear rank has two drummers in centre of rear rank behind colours, and flanked by two regular centre company troopers. The standards themselves are made from Foundry 80mm steel pikes, trimmed to size. The colours are from GMB, and glued together and onto the pole with regular "Pritt-stick" type glue, and the flags gently folded before glues dries. The white cut edges of the flags are then touched up with matching paint. The flag top finnials are again from Front Rank, and glued to pole with Araldite. I actually painted the standard bearers to completion then added poles afterwards as this made painting the figure easier. I left the insides of the hands bare metal to ensure metal to metal bond with glue, then painted the poles, varnished and added banner.

I am pleased to have this first battalion completed. I may add a little more scenic clump flock to the bases to give them a little more "glitz", when I get a moment! Now to finish off the Foot artillery battery. Garden work is rained off today, so I may get some time to paint :-).

19/7/8 Further update. I have finished the painting of the 9pdr foot artillery battery, and have gloss varnished and cut the bases. However my usual GW satin spray, has given poor results (as it does intermittently). After chatting with a fellow Kapiti Fusilier, I have been recommended Derivan Matisse Final Varnish Matt Finish (MM15). This is a brush-on matt varnish which gives a very flat finish evident from his work. I have ordered a tub from local art store and will hopefully collect it next week, after which I will get varnishing and basing completed. In the meantime, I have been working through completing the various command figures I have.
If I like the effect this matt varnish gives, I will have all my other whole armies (Medievals / ECW / Barbarians / FOW / pirates) to give a coating to as well!

Blog Update 24/10/8:-

Commander In Chief base featuring Wellington, Uxbridge, and an Officer with ADC.

Brigade General Base,...

...and another.

9pdr Foot Artillery Battery, from the side...

...and from the front.

Rules preference update - This force is now scheduled to play Black Powder by Warlord Games, rather than General de Brigade.
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