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!

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