Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lord of the Rings - Battle report

For a long time now, I have been working towards a fully painted up display game for a battle report, concerning the scenario of the Assault against the Deeping Wall.

Many moons ago now it seems, my young son had become fixated on the battle for Helms Deep, after enjoying this scenario on the computer game; "Battle for Middle-Earth".

After playing about with his wooden building blocks, I decided to have a go at building the Deeping Wall, and scenic battleboard, as directed in the Two Towers journey book. Although time consuming this project came out very well in the end. Consequently I set to; painting up all the troops I would need for the scenario.

The host of my local gaming club so enjoyed the report, he added it to their website, as a PDF; Kapiti Fusiliers
You can also see the whole battle report in PDF format here:

Since completing the figures for this scenario, I have continued with this theme assembling a growing horde for an Isengard themed army for the War of the Ring, which will be following in a subsequent blog post.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

If you go down to the woods tonight, you're in for a big surprise...!

I offer you a grateful return to the woods, dear reader...

OK to business, the new plastic Ent kit from GW. Now I have to say from the first I saw this model, I didn't like it. It looked too thin and gangly, and devoid of surface texture detail. I also especially didn't like the witchy-poo nose variety. It made it look like something from "Wizard of Oz". In short it looked "plastic". This was especially true since I have already made the excellent Treebeard model, which I could compare it to.

I had also had a look at the alternate metal ent, which I like with a view of similar surface detail of bark texture, as the Treebeard model. However I couldn't quite figure out the face of this model from the images I had seen, and wary of spending lots of money on a model I may not like, I left it.

So I was back looking at the plastic ent kit, and due to its cheaper cost, I thought I would give it a try and see what I could do with it.

I definitely avoided the long nose option and went for a more regular subdued face.

I decided to try and hide plastic-ness of the model, by filling and hiding as many of the joints I could with copious greenstuff puty. I also decided to add more surface detail of my own by adding a lot of clumps of lichen/moss again from greenstuff.

The kit has several branch options to use and several indicated notches where they can go. However I decided to go the whole hog, and use all the branches by drilling a few extra holes for them all to go on. So you can see how the whole thing turned out.

Once confession as such... after I had worked through adding all the large branches, I had one small twiggy branch to add. Since nearly all the other branches had gone on the back of the model, I had a large bare torso to the front , so I quickly drilled a little hole low down on the torso, so its addition wouldn't obscure the ent's face, and added the twig. It was only after the model was finished and painted that my wife, on viewing the model from the side, burst into giggles saying, "its got a willy!"

Oh well, I'll let you decide. See third ent picture below. (As usual you can click on the images to get a larger view.)

It will definitely be a shock for any orcs that enter Fangorn...

I would normally have finished the base with scenic flock and static grass, but my son asked if it could be left a raw earth, to reflect the orc-spoiled earth of Isengard, where this ent is having some fun, as seen by the dead orc on its base (also from the kit).

And together with a few more woodland friends.

In retrospect, and in fairess to GW, this ent model, does look at bit like the "background ents" as seen in PJ's moivie. So if you want heaps of ents cheaply, I guess these are the way to go!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Mordor forces of Cirith Ungol

Mordor. Land of shadow, and realm of the Dark Lord Sauron. He can call on many forces from the various bastions that defend that dark land.
Here I have assembled a small force themed on the forces that may issue forth from the pass of Cirith Ungol. Its just a starting point, and there are a great many more orcs to paint up to complete this army, but it gives you an idea of whats possible.

The force is led by the Witch King of Angmar, wearing the Crown of Morgul, and wielding a monstrous morning star.

An orc captain, marshals the orcs into a fighting force, leading with brute strength, fear and intimidation. Without strong leaders, the orcs are an unruly mob, as much a danger to themselves as their enemies. However, they can be a force to be reckoned with when well led.

An orc banner bearer of Cirith Ungol, bearing a banner with a stylized spider glyph. The banner acts as a focal point for the forces. In the skirmish game, orcs near the banner fight better. In the War game, a banner allows you to re-roll charge distance, and re-roll panic results from combat.

Shelob, the great spider, who defends the pass of Cirith Ungol. Roused from her dark pits, and prodded or encouraged into the fight, she can accompany a force of orcs from Cirith Ungol.

Another Nazgul riding a fell beast gives another commander for the dark forces that will combine combat ability, with leadership and spell casting abilities. Truly a fearsome prospect.
For this model I tweaked it a little by adding a set of reins between the hand of the nazgul and the bridle of the beast.

A drummer troll, made from the GW troll kit, gives booming support to the advance of the orcs, allowing all orc forces nearby to advance more quickly into the fight.

A Mordor Troll, again from the GW plastic troll kit, gives some hard hitting monstrous support to the orc rabble is accompanies into battle. A little tricky to get the sword focused at same time as the main body of the troll!

More will be added to this force as time goes by...

Another good thing about the orcs is that just by changing the banners, and monsters and heroes, you get a different force to field.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

In the Clutches of Shelob

The pass of Cirith Ungol. A way into Mordor, that is guarded by one of its most loathsome denizens. A truely monstrous spider, or perhaps some demon in spider form, a descendant of the brood of Ungoliant; an evil Maiar form the First Age, in alliance with Morgoth?

She feeds on what she can, that try to pass her way. Mostly stray or unlucky orcs, and any other poor unfortunate creatures that stumble upon her lair.

Gollum has come across her in his travels as he searched to find the Ring for himself.

Now that he is the guide of Frodo and Sam, on their way into Mordor, he hatches a cunning plan. Let Shelob deal with the hobbits, and once they are consumed, the Ring will easily be taken from their corpses.

But not everything goes Gollums way. Frodo manages to escape the trap, initially but is later taken by surprise by the foul creature Shelob. Sam manages to follow his master, having been previously dismissed by a confused, misled, and way-worn Frodo, and like a true hero, Sam comes to the rescue, and fights the beast, forcing her to back off. Sadly Sam runs out of time as Orcs from the Tower of Cirith Ungol come to investigate. He takes the sword Sting and the Ring, believing Frodo slain, and the quest now solely left to him to complete...

The model is a metal kit requiring assembly and is accompanied by a model of Frodo bound in web, and Sam holding forth the Phial of Galadriel; "May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out".

I haven't got round to painting the webbed Frodo, or Sam models yet, so I show you Shelob as she tries to pounce on Frodo as he is lost in her dark tunnels...

In the game, Shelob is quite a fearsome beast as a single monster in the skirmish game, with pounce attacks and venom. However she is limited by the fact that she is a hunter who is used to surprising her prey. If she gets into a fight and take wounds, she must take a courage test or flee!

In the War of the Ring game, she is an independent monster model, that is a foe terrible to behold!

The Nine

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for mortal men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne.
In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie,
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.

The Nine. The Nazgul. The Ringwraiths.

Led by the Witch King of Angmar. Great Kings of Men, and sorcerors, seduced to follow Sauron, the Dark Lord when he gifted to them each a ring of power, that would grant each the immortality they craved. Yet that immortalty, meant the gradual stripping of thier mortal bodies and leaving merely wraith-like shadows, under the power of the Dark Lord.

His most trusted and loyal servants, utterly faithful to his command, bound to the One Ring.

Once Sauron has learnt the whereabouts of his missing ring, having tortured the creature Gollum, and learning two words "Shire" and "Baggins", he despatches his most trusted servants North and West across Middle-Earth, to find and slay Baggins, take the Ring, and return it to their master.

Once he has the One Ring back in his possession, Middle-Earth is doomed...

As for the models, they are available as a full boxed set of nine metal figures on foot.

In know its difficult to get excited about figures that are essentially just black. So question is how to paint them black but give then subtle enough shading to make them look good, yet not to look grey.

Well, after a black base coat, I dry brushed them with Foundry 32a Slate Grey. Then picked out the edges of their robes in 32b. Once dry the whole model was washed in GW Badab Black wash. Metal areas were painted GW Tin Bitz, followed by a dry brush of Boltgun metal. Then again washed with Badab Black. Finally a light drybrush of GW graveyard grey was done to the bottom edges of their robes to give them a weathered look.

Varnished and based as normal.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Seeing Seat at Amon Hen

The Seeing Seat. A structure built by the ancient Kings of Gondor. It was built upon the summit of Amon Hen, one of three peaks at the southern end of Nen Hithoel, located on the western banks of the River Anduin. The hill was also known as the "Hill of the Eye" and also "Hill of Sight".
The Seat itself was a throne built upon a pillared structure. It was said, one who sat in the Seat of Seeing could see all the lands for hundreds of miles around. Also known as the Seat of Amon Hen.

Upon an neighboring peak; Amon Lhaw ("Hill of the Ear"), was located the Seat of Hearing.

It was at this location, in both book and movie, that the fellowship of the rings was torn apart by internal strife as Boromir sought to take the ring from Frodo, at the same time as a party of orcs and uruks converged on the party, seeking to reclaim the ring.

Boromir ultimately paid for his act, being slain defending the hobbits Merry and Pippin, having been pierced by many orc arrows. He fought on bravely non the less, and was found near death by Aragorn. Frodo and Sam head off on their own journey to Mordor, whilst Aragorn leads Gimli and Legolas after the uruks who have captured Merry and Pippin, and are taking them to Saruman at Isengard.

Here, Frodo contemplates his future, still clutching the ring, having escaped the threat from Boromir's madness.

Here we see Aragron, defending Frodo from the approaching uruks lead by Lurtz. Yes I know, the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed these are uruk warriors, not scouts. I must apologise, but I haven't got the uruk scouts painted yet!

The terrain piece was made by following the guide in the Fellowship of the Ring journey book. It is constructed from foamboard and polystyrene, with wooden dowels used for the pillars. The whole was skimmed where necessary with interior skim coat filler. Then sand textured paint was made using an equal parts mix of black paint, PVA glue and fine sand. It was then painted in successively lighter tones of grey, and finished with scenic flock.

An enjoyable interlude to painting figures, and and very nice atmospheric terrain pieces too for the Lord of the Rings battle game.

Defence of the Westfold

Rohan, land of the Horse Lords.

This land was once known as Calenardhon, and was the northern border land of the realm of Gondor. It was given to the Eorlings under Eorl, as a reward from Cirion the lord of Gondor, for Eorl leading his Eorlings to aid the plight of Cirion and his Gondor forces, locked in battle with forces from the East. The only stipulation being that it would be maintained loyal to Gondor, and that the two leaders would swear to aid each other in future need. Thus a great alliance was forged.

The Eorlings are a brave and fierce people, and masters of horses, which they use in great numbers to form huge cavalry formations called Eoreds. The vast plains of Rohan are perfect for raising the horses needed for these forces.

At the time of the War of the Ring, the traitor, Saruman has taken Isengard for own and has built an army of fierce uruks, orcs and wild dunlending men. He threatens the land of Rohan from the North West, and his forces probe across the fords of the River Isen.

The king of Rohan, Theoden, is under the sway of Saruman, in part due to the leechcraft of Grima Wormtongue. It is not until Gandalf arrives in Edoras, with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, that this control over Theoden is removed, and the King finally rises to meet the challenges of the battles to come.

The Oathsworn militia form the core infantry of its forces, fighting with light armour, round shields often adorned with horse-head imagery and wielding a variety of swords, axes and spears. Here, two companies are led by Hama, a captain of the Kings Guard.

A company of oathsworn bowmen, lend the infantry, missile support.

The core of Rohans armies; the Riders of Rohan. Expert Horsemen, able to fight from horseback with swords, spears and bows. This expert ability is reflected in the War of the Ring game by the fact that these troops are able to move, shoot their bows and charge all in the one turn sequence. Here three companies are arrayed for battle.

A close up of one of the riders, here spurring his horse into the charge.

Here is Hama to lead my forces. Hama was the Doorward of King Theoden, and captain of the Kings Guard. In the movie, Hama is slain in the warg attack scene as the refugees head to the safety of Helms Deep. In the book, this scene does not happen as shown in the movie, and Hama is finally slain during the battle of Helms Deep while defending the Gate at the Hornburg.

Here he makes a great captain to lead my forces.

I have a great deal more figures to expand this force, including banner bearer both foot and mounted, a great deal more Riders and Heroes including Theoden, Theodred, Eomer, Gamling and Eowyn. Also Merry to in Rohan garb!

I must admit, the forces of Rohan had not been my first choice as a force to paint and assemble, but a set of 6 riders came my way, and whilst a few of the horses were broken, I managed to fix them with green stuff and wire pining. The horse poses are very dynamic, but the plastic nature of the casts, means they could break if handled roughly. So don't give them you your kids to play with!

The Rohan foot soldiers again came second hand, in bits and peices from ebay and trademe. Many had broken weaponry, which again was fixed with various wire pins and putty. After stripping over-thick black undercoats, using neat SimpleGreen, they painted up quite quickly, obviously using shades of brown , grey and green. Characteristic blonde hair was done throughout the soldiery. The Dunlendings call the Eorlings, "Forgoil" in their tongue, which means "strawheads", a derogotary reference to their horse association.

This force of foot soldiery was painted up as part of the troop requirements for my forth coming presentation of the Battle for Helms Deep scenarios from the Two Towers journey book.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


A long overdue blog update, yet still a brief one.

I have grown a little frustrated at the "glossyness" of some of my most recent work, despite using a matt final finish varnish (Derivan Mattisse).

I have always used a brush on polyurethane gloss varnish from DIY stores for my first layer of varnish due to its better protection of the paintwork of the model figure. Yet I do hate the gloss effect, and have tried various matt finishes over the top.

I used to use Citadels spray Matt, but this disappeared from the shelves. What was on offer was their "Purity Seal", another spray but this was more a satin effect, with mixed results between sprayings.

I was recommended the Derivan product by a friend, and whilst this seemed to work initially, part way through the tin the matt effect seemed to disappear. And despite two coats of this matt varnish, my warg riders were as shiny as you can see in the pictures :-(

Then I got recommended another brush on varnish, this time from Vallejo (in Barcelona, Spain).
The product is their acrylic matt varnish. Available in two sizes ; 60ml code 26.518 (product bar code: 8429551265188) and a smaller 17ml size code 520 (product bar code; 8429551705202).

The larger size was a bit tricky to get hold of locally (in New Zealand) but the smaller size seems available at good hobby stores.

The product itself take a bit of nerve to use as its a bit like brushing on thinned PVA white glue! But spread evenly it dries transparent, and a further coat, 4 hours hours after the first, works excellently. I am very pleased with the results.

So much so that I subsequently spent an entire weekend re-varnishing my entire collection of painted Lord of the Rings figures.

See product image below:

I have subsequently been flat out painting more figures including ~ 30 Warriors of Rohan on foot, 6 Riders of Rohan, Gulavhar the demon of Arnor, a Mordor troll, giants spiders, bats, Shelob, Spider Queen, Orcs and Uruks, The Nine Ringwraiths on foot and several heroes. And have made the Deeping Wall for the Helms Deep Scenarios, and two scenic gaming boards...phew!

I will try and do some further blog updates with some pictures in the near future.

In the meantime time I have been thrilled to get the new War of the Ring hardback rulebook, and have enjoyed several games with this system.

I am very pleased with the game and its contrast to the skirmish game, which it compliments well, without superseding.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lord of the Rings - The Wolves of Isengard

(the above picture was added later to post, as models have been re-varnished from original post, and set on War of the Ring bases)

The wolves of Isengard.

Also known as the Warg Riders; orcs that ride monstrous wolves into battle.
And that roam in packs in the wilds of the north, known then as wild wargs.

Used by Saruman at the battles of the Fords Of Isen, where Theodred, Theoden of Rohans' son, is cut off and killed defending the crossing. A scene only hinted at in the Extended version of the DVD, but wonderfully brought to life in the movie sequence of the pursuit of the peoples of Rohan in their flight from Edoras to Helms Deep.

Sadly despite two layers of brushed on matt varnish, they still have come out somewhat shiny in the photos.

Apparently the movie design team felt that a hyena-like beast with larger front half of the body and smaller rear, would appear more scary than a simple large wolf. Works for me!

These figures were picked up second hand, and had been removed from the sprues and assembled but thankfully not glued, so they could be prepped properly. Some minor damage has been repaired; one had a missing tail which was added using a wire pin and greenstuff sculpted around it to fashion the furry tail.

These figures also required a lot of greenstuff to complete them satisfactorily to the eye. The joint line through the fur on the right side of the neck, and also covering the wargs rear end of its back in fur texture, which was for some reason completely smooth on the models. It took quite a bit of work but worth doing.

I also trimmed away the plastic grass stalks that supported the front raised foot on half the models. It just looked naff, and with three other contact points to the base, was not necessary.

In the game they give the orc forces some hard hitting cavalry, and some much needed maneuverability.

Lord of the Rings - Heroes and Villains

A selection of figures I have recently completed for the Lord of the Rings game.

First up a Barrow Wight. The Wights were ancient kings of men, who were buried in barrows in the ancient way. During the time of the Witch Kings coming to Angmar, he sent evil spirits into the tombs to awaken the long dead kings and raise them to fight in his armies of the north.

Although not in the movies, the hobbits fall prey to the wights as they traverse the south Downs (Hills to the East of the Old Forest) and get lost in the fog and mists. The are captured and taken back into the barrows, where they would have been sacrificed to the dark gods, had not Tom Bombadil come to their rescue.

It is actually here that the hobbits first get ancient swords from the barrows, to help them on their journey, and not as in the movie where Aragorn produces them at Amon Sul, Weathertop, presumably from some hidden store of weapons and provisions of the Rangers of the North?

Not technically a Lord of the Rings figure, but another GW fantasy warhammer one I had painted some time ago, and "tweaked" to bring it up to LOTR standard; switched it to a round base, and repainted the skeletal hands from a greenish hue to the blue/gray colour as the wights in GWs LOTR are depicted.

Next up, last metal Moria Goblin archer figure I found in the lead mountain.

And now on to Radagast the Brown.

Radagast was one of the Istari, the Maiar sent by the Valar, who took human form as wizards to aid the free peoples of Middle-Earth. Radagast became enamored by the living creatures; animals and plants of the world. He was part of the White council who attacked Dol Guldur, and drove Sauron, in the form of the Necromancer from Mirkwood. He was later dismissed out of hand by Saruman during his treachery, as being of little consequence.

Next up; Lurtz.

Lurtz, an Uruk-Hai and leader of the Uruk scouts as sent by Saruman to intercept the party at Amon Hen. A character not named in the books, but given life as a characterful leader of the Uruks in the movies, and after mortally wounding Boromir, is slain in a vicious fight with Aragorn. (the enhanced fight scene from the Extended version of the DVD is worth viewing!)

This model came to me second hand, and had been undercoated black. Closer inspection showed it had not been filed or trimmed first, so the model was stripped, and prep-ed properly before being painted.

And now for that treacherous creature; Gollum!

Here he is perched on a rock eating a fish he has caught from the forbidden pool near the Ithilien rangers hide-out at Henneth Annun, oblivious of the danger he is in.

Originally called Smeagol, one of the "riverfolk" and similar to a hobbit. He kills his friend Deagol, who finds the One Ring in the Great River Anduin. He is shunned by his people and goes and hides in caves in the Misty Mountains, where he lives under the influence of the ring for the next 500 years! Losing the ring which is found by Bilbo, he sets off to try and find his precious, but is found and captured by minions of the Dark Lord Sauron, and under torture, reveals two words; "Shire" & "Baggins". This leads the Black Riders to where they hope to find the Ring.

Gollum escapes (or is released?) from Mordor, and once again sets out to find the Ring for himself. Eventually catching up with the Fellowship, he dogs their trail, until finally caught and subdued by Frodo and Sam in the Emyn Muil. He leads them into Mordor via the pass of Cirth Ungol in the hopes Shelob, a demon in spider form, from the brood of Ungoliant, will catch and kill them. When this finally fails, he catches up with Frodo once more at the Sammath Naur, where in a final fight for the Ring, he takes it from Frodo by biting off his finger! But in his glee at getting the Ring back, (and in the movie, a fight on with Frodo), he stumbles and falls into the lava, and the Ring is ultimately destroyed.

As Gandalf earlier says "Even the very wise cannot see all ends". If it had not been for Gollum, Frodo would have kept the Ring for himself, and subsequently have been captured by the Ringwraiths, dooming Middle-Earth for a Dark Age under Sauron.

Such a small creature, but such a doom laden character throughout the tale!

Finally, turning to the Forces of Light, we have Elrond, Half-Elven. Son of Earendil the Mariner who led the faithful from the fall of Numenor, and Elwing an Elven Princess of Doriath, daughter of Dior and Nimloth. Bearer of one of the three Elven Rings of Power; Vilya. Fought with the elves under the forces of the Last Alliance, when Sauron was struck down, and Isildur took the One Ring. Later, leader of the White Council. Dwelt in Rivendell, also called Imladris.

This figure came to me second hand and absent its sword, which had snapped off at some time in the past. I managed to add a plastic sword taken from one of the plastic Elven warriors from the Last Alliance set. This was initially superglued on but found to be too brittle after it broke off again during routine handling. I later drilled and pinned the sword into place. Luckily both the handle and sword blade took a 1mm drill successfully. Superglue and a tiny amount of greenstuff hid the join.

I am rather pleased with its transformation from broken figure to splendid gaming piece. :-)

For those of you awiting the completion of the Nazgul riding Fellbeast, I have at the last minute decided to added a set of reins to the model using fine fuse wire, but this is going to require a tiny drill (0.5mm) which I am waiting to source from a local manufacturing jeweler.
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