Saturday, 28 March 2020

Top Ten Manufacturers Of 2019 - A "Fantorical" Viewpoint

There can be little doubt that 2019 was a wonderfully surprising year for my painting, with the sudden emergence of several new miniature ranges which somewhat shockingly overshadowed my usual mainstay manufacturers. “Lucid Eye Publications”, “Modiphius Entertainment”, “Fantasy Flight Games”, “Knight Models”, and “Kitbash Games” all arguably came out of nowhere to challenge the annual dominancy of my traditional Big Four - “Warlord Games”, “Wizkids”, “Black Tree Design” and “Games Workshop”, and as a result made this period my most productive ever.

In addition, there was a noticeable increase in the amount of Fantasy-based models I pigmented that weren’t from the Mortal Realms of “Age Of Sigmar”. Science Fiction and super-hero figures have repeatedly governed my hobby-time over the past decade, yet due in large to the characterful sculpts of the “Toon Realms” range, Skeletons, Treemen, Spiders, Knights and assorted forest-bred wildlife increasingly ‘cropped up’ on my online shopping trolley too…

No.10 - "Wizards Of The Coast" - "Star Wars Miniatures Game"
There can be absolutely no doubt that I would never have painted anything concerning either the "Star Wars Miniatures Game" or "Wizards Of The Coast" during this year if it wasn't for the generosity of Phil Curran, who along with a formidable array of other science-fiction based miniatures, kindly gifted me an enormous Commerce Guild Homing Spider Droid and four Super Battle Droids. Indeed, despite owning a significant box full of models from the collectable miniatures tabletop game, I have predominantly focused on simply re-basing the figures in the past, not re-painting them. However, I felt it was only right to put my brush-tip to these lovely sculpts as soon as possible, and score some much needed points during the Ninth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge as well.

No.9 - "Crooked Dice Games Design Studio" - "7TV"
Despite having played numerous games of "7TV" by "Crooked Dice Games Design Studio" when the "cinematic style" skirmish game first came out several years ago, it wasn't until the end of 2019, with the release of "7TV: Apocalypse", that I finally became enamoured with its second edition. As a result, except for a quartet of Gabriel Hounds, I barely picked away at the Lincolnshire-based company's range until the very end of the year, when I finally finished a partially-painted female X-Commando who had been lurking in my queue for months, as well as their excellent Protoplasmic Terrors.

No.8 - "Reaper Miniatures" - "Chronoscope"
Whilst my plans to host a campaign loosely set in James M. Ward and Gary Jaquet's mid-25th century “Gamma World” never materialised, the science fantasy world did encourage me to pigment a plethora of models from "Reaper Miniatures" Chronoscope range. These varied from some distinctly "Dungeons And Dragons" stalwarts, such as the Gelatinous Cube, Stone Golem and Mind-Eater, through to some surreal adventurers, like Sherlock Holmes and a Deep Sea Diver, as well as the formidable "Bones" sculpt of Ape-X.

No.7 - "Warlord Games" - "Doctor Who: Exterminate!"
Quite possibly the biggest disappointment of 2019 was the utter lack of new releases by "Warlord Games" for their "Doctor Who: Exterminate!" Miniatures Game. Admittedly, this absence of fresh sculpts did offer the opportunity for me to pigment my quite considerable backlog of time travelling figures, but without the persistent 'buzz' of new foes to fight I soon found my enthusiasm dwindling for what is a somewhat overly-clunky rule-set. As a result, perhaps my most notable success was completely painting the range's "Tomb Of The Cybermen" set, complete with its Cyber-Leader for the Ninth Analogue Hobbies Challenge.

No.6 - "Fantasy Flight Games" - "Star Wars: Legion"
Undoubtedly one of the biggest surprises of the year, especially considering how poorly my attempt to paint the Minnesota-based company's previous "Star Wars" game had gone, was the sheer number of figures I completed for "Star Wars: Legion" by "Fantasy Flight Games". Initially wowed by the attention to detail on the range's dynamically-posed Wookie Warriors, I soon transferred my attention over to the Dark Side of the Force, by applying my brush-tip to the likes of General Maximilian Veers, some Imperial Royal Guards, a complete squad of Imperial Death Troopers and Emperor Palpatine himself.

No.5 - "Games Workshop" - "Age Of Sigmar"
Two significant-sized projects lead to me pushing through a considerable number of "Games Workshop" models for "Age Of Sigmar". On the one hand I added enough Bloodletters and Heralds of Khorne to allow me to field a 1,000-point strong Blades Of Khorne army for the miniature game's second edition, and on the other I stubbornly forced myself to complete enough of the Nottingham-based manufacturer's overly-complicated plastic figures to deploy an Iron Golem warband for "Warcry".

No.4 - "Wizkids" - "Heroclix"
Ever a stable part of my annual output, my interest in super-hero based gaming surprisingly didn’t really ‘take off’ until somewhat late in the year, with my sudden determination in October to clear my painting queue of eight old(ish) Ultron Drone figures. Before that point I had simply been 'picking away' at the pre-painted plastic figures, momentarily fixating upon the Spaceknight Firefall's fearsome battle against a clutch of Dire Wraiths, before flitting over to the odd "HorrorClix" miniature such as the Reaper of Souls and a Carnage Bot.

No.3 - "Modiphius Entertainment" - "Star Trek Adventures"
Having become increasingly frustrated by the extraordinarily long delays affecting their Robert E. Howard’s Conan Role-Playing Game Kickstarter, which was supposedly meant to deliver in June 2016, I actually once swore I would never buy another “Modiphius Entertainment” product again. But then the London-based manufacturer released their “Star Trek Adventures” miniatures and I quickly found myself neck deep in Borg drones. Two fully-painted boxes of the Collective later, as well as a half-strength raiding party of Romulans, and even I must admit that the 32mm scale resin figures had an enormously positive impact upon my productivity during 2019.

No.2 - "Black Tree Design" - "Doctor Who"
Enthused by a lengthy series of battles using some homemade rules and my desire to potentially field numerous opposing factions, as well as an increasingly nostalgic love of classic “Doctor Who”, it was perhaps inevitable that I would continue to steadily work my way through this ageing company’s (back) catalogue. A formidable force of Sharaz Jek Androids, Silurians and Monoids all helped motivate me throughout the year, and even kept my passion going when the delivery service of “Black Tree Design” left a lot to be desired, courtesy of some incredibly poor communications and month-long delays.

No.1 - "Lucid Eye Publications" - "Toon Realms"
Perhaps my biggest success of 2019 was the completion of a small-sized Undead army for my “Lord Of The Toons” project using the “Dragon Rampant” rule-set. Produced by “Lucid Eye Publications”, a company I was initially utterly oblivious to, this force of skeletons and spiders greatly contributed to my success during the Ninth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, and maintained much of its momentum for almost the entirety of the year due to a positively frantic release schedule. A genuine surprise genre, this particular range also got me as close to doing batch-painting as I have been in almost a decade of hobbying…

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

"Officer! What The Hell --?!"

"I was just wondering why you didn't leave these late calls to your men!"
This 28mm scale pre-painted plastic model of a Gotham Policeman was produced by “Wizkids” and is miniature number 001 from their DC  “Heroclix” Hypertime range. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger for "DC Comics", the G.C.P.D is led by Commissioner Gordon, and services Gotham City. "Typically depicted in stories featuring the superhero Batman" as both an ally and opponent of the caped crusader, the department has "long been steeped in corruption, with numerous officers both high-and-low ranking, involved in bribery and even more serious offences such as drug-smuggling and murder."

Chopped from it's 'clicky' stand and permanently attached to a 25mm circular base, I carefully removed the sculpt's sergeant stripes from its left sleeve with a sharp modelling knife as I wanted the figure to simply be a generic law officer. The cop was then primed using a couple of coats of "Vallejo" Heavy Blue and shaded in "Citadel" Drakenhof Nightshade.
"Wizkids" WIPs - Another four "Heroclix" Gotham Policeman models are in the painting pipeline
The policeman's boots, holster, baton and pistol were 'picked out' with some "Citadel" Abaddon Black, whilst his firearm was later treated to a combination of Ironbreaker and (an old OOP pot of) Badab Black. I used some "Vallejo" Gold for the flatfoot's belt buckle, shoulder badge and cap badge, and subsequently washed these areas with a little Strong Tone Quickshade by "The Army Painter".

Having previously painted a few of this particular model seven years ago, and having five on the painting table currently, I thought I'd try to mix up the cops' ethnicities a little bit more than before. So decided that the skin colour of this latest recruit to my burgeoning Police Department would comprise of "Vallejo" Heavy Skintone and "Citadel" Reikland Fleshshade. As a final touch the lawman's facial features and fingers were 'highlighted' with a little (more) "Vallejo" Heavy Skintone.
"Heroclix" WIP - Dum Dum Dugan is slowly having all his white straps and pouches 'picked out'.
Not only am I planning on getting these Gotham Policemen ready to help tackle a Dire Wraith invasion of Earth campaign I have planned (using my homemade rule-set "M.I.S.S."), but they'll also hopefully prove useful as I reacquaint myself with my first true full-on wargaming love, Marvel Super Heroes: The Heroic Role-Playing Game by "TSR". This role playing game absolutely floored me when it was first released in 1984, and I still remember my excitement when I discovered the American gaming company had released an expanded edition, entitled the Marvel Superheroes Advanced Game, just a couple of years later.

The initial module "Day Of The Octopus" features Spider-Man, The Thing, Captain America and Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), so my plan is to try and own painted miniatures of all the characters involved in this game adventure. However, where I can't or haven't the time, I'll instead be using the system's card-board stand-up figures, in an effort to try and create that Eighties feel to some of our games.

Monday, 23 March 2020

"During The Spellplague Of 1385 DR, The Walking Statue Appeared..."

 "...And rampaged through the city."
This 300mm tall "quality pre-painted plastic" model of the Walking Statue of Waterdeep: The Honorable Knight is produced by “Wizkids” and is available as part of their "Dungeons & Dragons" Icons of the Realms Miniatures range. Resembling a warrior in plate armour with a sword and shield, this stone construct towered over the city of Waterdeep at 57′ 3″ in height, and eventually settled in the Crown of the North's Trades Ward.

A "premium" product comprising of a separate sword and shield, I had initially hoped the model might fit on a "Citadel" 170mm x 105mm oval stand, and ordered one from "Games Workshop" post-haste. However, upon arrival it was clear that the miniature was so tall that it needed a substantially larger base if it wasn't going to topple over all the time. As a result I reattached it to the 175mm clear plastic circular base it came with, and simply primed that with some "Citadel" Abaddon Black, having first gritted it with modeller's sand.
"When stopped, the statue bowed to those who had battled it."
Managing to resist the temptation to assemble the enormous figure prior to painting, all three of its components were given a double coat of “Vallejo” Heavy Bluegrey, and washed with “Citadel” Nuln Oil. Whilst this shading phase was reasonably straightforward for both the Walking Statue's 255mm long sword and 160mm long shield, the actual Honorable Knight himself proved a bit more difficult to evenly cover on account of all his joints and crannies.

Once completed though, each piece was heavily dry-brushded with (more) "Vallejo" Heavy Bluegrey, and then slowly treated to multiple applications of "Citadel" Biel-Tan Green and Agrax Earthshade to suggest some extreme weathering. This was a patient process, as I not only applied the washes with a brush, but also a sponge, tissue and my fingers so as to try and make the grunge look as organic as possible. In addition, a mixture of "Citadel" Abaddon Black, Nuln Oil and "The Army Painter" Strong Tone Quickshade was occasionally added to the concoction for some of the deeper crevices.
My output for the Tenth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge - 508 Points
I then applied a second (significantly lighter) dry-brush of “Vallejo” Heavy Bluegrey over the entire ensemble, before using some heavily watered-down "Vallejo" Heavy Green on some patches of moss and weeds, which clearly over time had grown on the statue. These areas were later shaded using some "Citadel" Agrax Earthshade. Finally, the Knight's bird nest was 'picked out' using a combination of "Vallejo" Heavy Sienna and "The Army Painter" Strong Tone Quickshade. This excellent little detail was later dry-brushed with (more) "Vallejo" Heavy Sienna.

With my Walking Statue completed, and 60 more points bagged, I've now passed my 500 point target tally for the Tenth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, and can finally put my paint-brushes down for a day or two. Despite the fact that I get an awful lot painted during this event, this'll probably be my last, as I find the constant need to be posting fully-pigmented miniatures quite tiring after a while. Plus, I've barely rolled a dice in anger for the majority of 2020 so far, and the year is already almost a quarter spent... 

Friday, 20 March 2020

"There’s No Hard Proof These Creatures Exist."

"There are hundreds of footprints and thousands of sightings."
This 64mm tall plastic model of an Abominable Snowman is produced by “Wizkids” and is promotional miniature number WK-005. Based upon the "folkloric ape-like creature taller than an average human, that is said to inhabit the Himalayan mountains" this exclusive figure was actually produced for the New Jersey-based company's 2015 Holiday Monthly Organised Play Kit, and was accompanied by both its character card and an instruction sheet for participating retailers that wanted to sponsor the event in their store.

Generally regarded by the scientific community "as a legend, given the lack of evidence of its existence", the model was initially primed using a couple of coats of "Vallejo" White, and later treated to a splash of Pale Grey. To be honest, although I'm a big fan of this "Vallejo" transparent acrylic wash, the Pale Grey does tend to noticeably bubble whilst drying, and can resultantly leave something of a disagreeable dusty look to a miniature.
"...Other locations may be compromised as well."
In an effort to avoid this, I therefore carefully applied the "Vallejo" Pale Grey in slow downward strokes, so as to minimise any of the aforementioned bubbling. The Yeti was then enthusiastically dry-brushed with (more) "Vallejo White, and had its face, fingers and toes layered with "Citadel" Abaddon Black.

These areas were later treated to a combination of "Vallejo" Heavy Bluegrey and (a double dose of) "Citadel" Nuln Oil, before delicately dry-brushed with (more) "Vallejo" Heavy Bluegrey. Finally, I dotted the shaggy beast's incredibly tiny eyes with a couple of dots of "Vallejo" Heavy Red, and applied some White to its teeth. These gnashers were subsequently stained with a little "Citadel" Agrax Earthshade.
"Wizkids" WIPs - Five "Heroclix" G.C.P.D. figures are at various stages of completion
With the Tenth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge finally coming to an end, and the last of my entrants sat patiently upon a shelf awaiting posting, I've had an opportunity to start planning out some of the genres and rule-sets I want to hit my tabletop with for the rest of the year. Disappointingly, I haven't yet managed to publish a single Battle Report during 2020 and therefore 'spotlight' some of the many different games I'm currently playing or learning the ropes to, such as "Warcry" by "Games Workshop" and "7TV" by "Crooked Dice Game Design Studio".

Perhaps unsurprisingly therefore, having recently finished adding to my "Heroclix" Dire Wraith invasion force, the first thing I've decided upon is to set-up a small campaign based upon the "Marvel Worldwide" extraterrestrial species attempting to conquer the Earth using my homemade rules "M.I.S.S." This should make things pretty straightforward to organise and encourage me to finally complete some more plastic "Wizkids" miniatures which have been sat patiently waiting in the aisles for ages, like some additional G.C.P.D. figures to use as generic police officers...

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

"A Black Pudding Attacks By Grabbing And Squeezing Their Prey."

"The pudding can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings..."
This 28mm scale pewter model of a Black Pudding is produced by "Otherworld Miniatures", and can be bought as Code DM7b from their range of Dungeon Monsters. Hand-sculpted by Paul Muller, the creature made its first appearance in the 1974 "Dungeons & Dragons" set and "resembles a bubbling, heaped pile of thick, black, pudding-like goo, roughly fifteen feet across and two feet thick."

As with the Hertfordshire-based manufacturer's Green Slime, I found the "nasty, oozing creature that haunts caverns and dungeons, seeking unwary denizens to prey upon" to actually overlap the edges of its accompanying "50mm round plastic slotta-base", so ended up super-gluing it to a 60mm circular base instead. I then applied a double basecoat of "Citadel" Abaddon Black over the "mindless, underground-dwelling scavenger" and heavily dry-brushed with "Vallejo" Heavy Charcoal.
"That's what we're up against... An alien beast that calls itself a Dire Wraith!"
Finally, I drowned the Black Pudding in "Citadel" Nuln Oil. I actually found this particular 'figure' rather underwhelming, as although it has some nice detail, it is incredibly flat for an underground creature which "secretes a digestive acid that dissolves organic material and metal quickly." "Wizkids" produced a far more dynamic-looking, almost swirling version as part of their Monster Menagerie Set 2, but I have been unable to source a reasonably priced one yet...

Speaking of "Wizkids" and their pre-painted plastics, I have also pigmented eight of their 31mm tall plastic Dire Wraiths. Still potentially available as number 010a from the "Marvel" Guardians Of The Galaxy "Heroclix" range, these shape-shifting aliens "are an evolutionary offshoot of the Skrulls from the Andromeda Galaxy" and were created by Bill Mantlo and Al Milgrom for the December 1979 issue of "Rom".
"Not only Earth, but the entire Cosmos will be cleansed of you -- "
Once the models were removed from their clicky-bases and super-glued onto 40mm circular bases, they were all primed with two coats of "Vallejo" Heavy Red and heavily washed with "Citadel" Agrax Earthshade. The extra-terrestrial opponents of Rom the Spaceknight were then dry-brushed with (more) "Vallejo" Heavy Red.

Each Wraith's pair of eyes were 'picked out' first with some "Citadel" Abaddon Black, and then a tiny spot of "Vallejo" Heavy Ochre. As I wanted the "Skrullian Deviants" pupils to particularly stand out, I didn't bother shading them, and instead simply tidied their edges up with some additional "Citadel" Abaddon Black and "Vallejo" Heavy Red.

Monday, 16 March 2020

"Now That I've Created The Badballs..."

"The world is ours, Snivelitch!"
These five 28mm scale resin models of some Microclopia are produced by "Precinct Omega", and can be bought as Code BM051 from their Ballmonsters! range. Designed to be used for a "mad-cap gaming experience that mixes board-game, wargame and bar billiards for an experience unlike anything you've ever played before", the miniatures also each came supplied with a clear plastic flying stand.
"Not if the Madballs can help it, Doktor!"
Having decided that my team of Ballmonsters would simply bounce towards their opponents along the ground rather than fly through the air (on easily breakable stands), I super-glued each helium-filled beachball onto a 25mm circular base, and primed them all "Vallejo" Heavy Red. I then drenched the cyclopean bonces in "Citadel" Agrax Earthshade, before dry-brushing the lot with (more) "Vallejo" Heavy Red.
"Black Tree Design" WIPs - Three Autons have been based, primed and 'boxed off'
Next I 'picked out' all the carnivorous balls' teeth using a combination of "Vallejo" White and "Citadel" Agrax Earthshade, and the majority of their eyes with "Vallejo" Heavy Ochre and a smidgen of "Citadel" Reikland Fleshshade. Finally, I applied a dot of "Citadel" Abaddon Black over a layer of pure "Vallejo" White to one of the Ballmonster's pupils so as to make it appear more like a normal eye.

With my first "Ballmonsters!" team completed, I've once again turned to "Black Tree Miniatures" and their extensive range of "Doctor Who" figures for a science fiction fix. I've a number of their sculpts on the painting table currently, including some Quarks and Sea Devil Warriors, but its a handful of classic factory floor Autons which has particularly caught my imagination; doubtless aided by repeated listenings to "Spearhead From Space".
"Otherworld Miniatures" WIPs - Two Barrow Guardians and a ('propped up') Death Worm
In addition, I am continuing to plough through my collection of "Dungeon & Dragon" models by "Otherworld Miniatures". The Hertfordshire-based manufacturer has very generously gifted me with two more of their excellent Barrow Guardians. So perhaps unsurprisingly the pair of stone custodians have gone straight to the top of my queue, and have already been assembled, pinned, based and primed.

I've also tried my hand with one of their Death Worms, but found the necrophidius to be an absolute swine to pigment. Not however, because the crisp detail is hard to reach with a brush-tip, but because the very nature of its pose seems to make it incredibly inclined to break wherever one vertebrae meets another. Having pinned the 'blessed beast' back together after one misfortune, and then had it snap to pieces again, I've super-glued it to an old plastic tombstone by "Renedra Limited".

Saturday, 14 March 2020

"Green Slime... The Deadliest Denizen Of All!"

"Don't touch it! It is certain death!"
This 28mm scale pewter model of some Green Slime is produced by "Otherworld Miniatures", and can be bought as Code DM7a from their range of Dungeon Monsters. Hand-sculpted by Paul Muller, the creature made its first appearance in the original 1974 Dungeons & Dragons set and represents "a large colony of green slime; a very unpleasant plant-based life-form that lurks on the floors, walls and ceilings of dark dungeons, ready to drop on careless low-level adventurers."

Despite being advertised as only being 45mm wide, I soon found the "bright green, sticky, wet moss" to actually overlap the edges of the "50mm round plastic slotta-base" it came supplied with. So in the end I decided to super-glue it to a 60mm circular base instead. I then applied a basecoat of "Vallejo" Russian Uniform over the deadly ooze and washed it with copious amounts of "Citadel" Biel-Tan Green.
A trio of adventurers battle a pool of Green Slime, a mound of Yellow Mould, and two Barrow Guardians 
As I wanted to use the mindless monster as a test piece for my recently acquired "Vallejo" Green Fluorescent Model Color, I first dry-brushed the miniature with some (more) "Vallejo" Russian Uniform, before individually 'picking out' each and every lethal blob with some "Citadel" Agrax Earthshade. These pustules were later repeatedly dry-brushed using an increasingly lighter combination of "Vallejo" Russian Uniform and White.

Once I felt the "horrible, fetid growth" was highlighted enough, I dabbed the entire thing with "Vallejo" Green Fluorescent and allowed it to dry. As a final touch, I went back in and reapplied more "Citadel" Agrax Earthshade to the highly corrosive creature's numerous bumps and bulbous stalks.
"Wizkids" WIP - The Walking Statue of Waterdeep: The Honorable Knight has had all its shading finished
Due to being firmly in the "Dungeons & Dragons" zone currently, I have also made some quite appreciable progress on my 300mm tall Walking Statue of Waterdeep: The Honorable Knight by "Wizkids". Considering that this plastic stone construct actually came pre-painted and cost in excess of forty quid, I have definitely had to push through a phase in its pigmentation where I strongly questioned why I had stupidly decided to re-do the huge figure in the first place.

However, having now finished both the model's initial dry-brush of "Vallejo" Heavy Bluegrey, and its subsequent weathering using copious amounts of "Citadel" Agrax Earthshade and Biel-Tan Green, I'm rather pleased I've invested all the energy and time on it. In addition, having managed to get the walking statue's enormous sword and shield shaded too, I now just need to spend a few hours patiently dry-brushing Waterdeep's guardian before the entire project is almost finished...