Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dark Elves Lot 1

This post was written in early October. Asterixes are expanded on in comments.


My current big project is a dark elf army using as many old minis as I can lay my grubby little paws on. I'm painting in lots of 14 or so*, a process that makes it maneagable** and is not overwhelming*** when I pause and look at what I have to do.

This lot is the first batch. I'm keeping the palette fairly simple: bronze and brass metallics; white hair, gloves and boots, pastel colours for clothing.

I decided that since dark elves, at least the earlier versions, are egalitarian I'd try and have as many male and female miniatures across the army as possible. I also decided for similar reasons to have a range of skin tones. Being a dark elf isn't so much a racial thing, more a philosophical/theological split.

The photos have made the colours far lighter than they appear in the flesh. I like the miniatures here and I'm thinking I may have to reference the photos to add more highlights to the miniatures.

Two Mengil's troopers and the wonderflly sculpted Ean Hawkbane.
The three miniatures above came from a set called Mengil Manhide's Manflayers, a gruesome group of elves that skin their enemies and wear them as cloaks. The minis demonstrate what I really like about the dark elves as a whole: they look fairly normal, yet when you look closer there is something off about them . The body language and the facial expressions are slightly out of the realm of normal. You turn the miniature over and are confronted by the slack screams of their victim's faces on their cloaks. It's unnerving.

I have yet to decide on how to base these miniatures, nor have I decided what shields to use. I'm torn between having a uniform round shield or having individually shaped shields. I may go with individual, simply because it breaks the uniformity of the mengil troopers up a little more.

(For non-citadel enthusiasts: the older minis have a peg (seen on the left wrist of the troopers and the left hip of Ean Hawkbane above) where you would slot a plastic shield. These shields come in a variety of shapes.)

I have to make some shields at this point as I do not have enough to go around, and I don't know if I want to use some of the shields that I have.

Two sorceresses from a decade a part. One from before Citadel changed their scale.

A cold one and a sorcerer.

The mengils at that point: musician, troopers and standard.

The thoroughly gruesome standard.

A close up of the sorceress.
The sculpting on the sorceress is very chunky with her free arm is like a tree branch. I have grown to like her a lot and I'm continually charmed by the older miniatures' details and character.

Close up of Ean Hawkbane.
This is my favourite miniature of the lot. From the awkward sword arm to the face to the owl there's so much character. This was a miniature that painted itself and I adore how it turned out.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Naghammahd, Chill Plains of Ruins and Silence

Beautiful Naghammahd used to be a city of shining spires and vaulted halls set among the ancient forests of the north. A site of learning and the learned, a place of powerful magics and knowledge. A city now forgotten and lost, swallowed up by slate and sand, peat and bogs, time and memory.

Naghammahd is my little sandbox in the Warhammer world. It's a land of gray and black, windswept and cold. Central is a Dark Elf Watchtower with a commander fascinated by the ruins and libraries hidden within them.

The idea came when I was looking at my Cold One Knights. I have enough sorcerous riders to field a unit of 8 and I was trying to think up a reason for why I would have cold one knights that looked like wizards. I called them the Knights of the Scroll, and decided that as a modelling project I would festoon the cold ones with gear and baggage of scrolls and books. Their banner would be pages ripped from a codex, much like the Dead Sea Scrolls and the jars buried at Nag Hamadi...

Say, that sounds positively Dark Elvish.

I love coinkidinks.

Naghammahd is Nag Hamadi enlarged. Knowledge buried under the sands, and all of the factions there for reasons related to it. The Knights of the Scroll are followers of the obsessed commander. There would be factions within the dark elf army. An assassin sent to keep tabs on the commander. That sorcerer I have could become a necromancer in charge of allied undead...

After brainstorming a while, I realised with a little deflating of my brilliant idea, that I had dumped Mordheim in my super clean  and repainted it with old tomes instead of warpstone and the ravages of time instead of a meteor. Then, I thought, screw it this is what interests me.

It gives me plenty of projects to do. I find myself with some orcs, skaven and lizard men that I could create small forces out of. There's scenery and small tokens and things I can make. I definitely want to make a game board.

Naghammahd also allows me to hang stories off of everything. It allows me to play with ideas and the game. Why are my darkelves facing off against lizardmen? Lizardmen raft raiders, up from Lustria? A reverse viking raid? Hmm.

The kicker is that I hate game stories and I hate flavour text. I tend to glaze over when it comes to chunks of fiction/fluff in any game; it has no meaning to me to how the game is played and quite often serves as a limiter on my imagination. The best flavour comes from the least. The photos of miniatures and art. The captions. The boxed quotes in RT. The brief reports of strange rat like things under the city.  All of these little things that accrete in the head, the stuff that hints rather than flat out tells.

Expect flavour sentences and background paragraphs, right?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Painting attention deficit disorder.

I wrote the body of this post in early October and then hit exactly what I'd described: the second I got into the tedium of bulk modelling, the less I wanted to do it. I got to the point where all I seemed to be doing was cleaning, sorting, black undercoats, gluing to bases and gluing sand. On lots and lots of miniatures.

How to deal with it? I think I need to take a break from the dark elves and start another small project before going back. I'm thinking that switching it up will help, so if I get tired of the prep, I can go to a painting project, go from units to individuals, armour to flesh, predominantly black to green, and so on and so forth.


The first decade of the 21st century was a decade of false starts when it came to painting. It was a decade of false starts for so many things in my life, from career to personal to interests. But let's stick with painting.

I want to say that the last time I painted miniatures was a decade ago. Though it was, in reality, 2006. This was the disastrous year that I was unemployed and depressed and wanted to do something. I found a Tyranid army going for $100 in a local pawn shop and I had 2 or 3 boxes of tyranids already and I thought rather than dig out my Skaven army that I had last touched in 2001, I would paint Tyranids. I repainted about 12, and then stopped. I liked the minis, I enjoyed the painting, and I liked how they looked at the end. I just wasn't into it.

The Tyranids ended up next to the years worth of the Deagostini Lord of the Rings fortnightly magazine and minis which was next door to my largely unpainted skaven army. Which was next to the gray knights. Which was next to the Plague Marines. Which was next to the dark angels. Which was next to an accumulated 20 odd years of miscellaneous plastic and metal miniatures. All for the most part either badly painted or badly unpainted.

These all hid the largely painted Eldar army. This was the one army I had finished and played with. All infantry. Three jet bikes. I didn't do vehicles.  All helmets. I didn't do flesh. Most of the army wasn't even undercoated. I just leapt straight into painting base colours onto the metal and plastic. I don't think I removed flash. Some of them I glazed with inks. Some of them I base coated and drybrushed. Some I simply base coated. The bases were painted black and then flocked.

Viola, my most complete set of painted miniatures.

I realise now, after a long time of soul searching in many areas of my life, that my biggest stumbling block with becoming a better miniature painter was stickability. It's obvious, right? But, like so many things in my life, when you're stuck in the rut all you can see is rut.  I was only able to concentrate on painting for very short bursts, and I quickly became discouraged. Whether by the sheer magnitude of paintng a unit of 20, and knowing that there were 80 more to be done or by the way miniatures look like crap almost all the way up to the very end or by the fiddliness of plastic kits or by the amount of detail on metal. There are all kinds of things that frustrate, and it's only now I realise just how blind I was to them.

Dipping my toe back into the painting water... with Ptolus and Pathfinder.

Right, here are the first three miniatures I have painted to almost completeion since 2001. I've painted bits and bobs and odds and sods in the 12 years since, just nothing that I could call finished, or as good as finished.

From left to right: two Ptolus minis and Kyra, a pathfinder iconic cleric.

So I bought the Ptolus minis because I needed a mini for my Dungeons & Dragons character. And the only reason I bought these particular minis was that they were within my unemployed, newly immigrated tightly restricted budget. The unpainted red knight was my character for about a half dozen ghastly games of 4th ed D&D, and the sword maiden was going to be my new character for another season of what I assumed would have been more ghastly games of D&D.

I decided one day that I wanted to paint the miniatures that I had. I purchased the Army Painter beginner box using a christmas gift and then I bought Kyra, simply because I wanted to paint a miniature. And I really like this miniature.

It took me almost three weeks to paint these three miniatures. It was painful going. I hadn't thought through what I was doing. I did short-cutty things like use cellotape to keep Kyra in her base (once I've varnished her I'll rebase her) and the paint job looked patchy and messy, and nothing seemed to click.

Until I used the army painter quickshade which broke the interminable drought that I'd developed for myself and I finshed all three minis in a couple of evenings.

I really like how they turned out. They are streets ahead of any paintjob I've done previously.

Sheva Callister, of the Ptolus miniatures line (Ptolus).

Urthon Aedar, from the Ptolus miniatures line (Paizo)

Kyra, from Reaper Miniatures.

Obligatory "why this blog" post.

Because I want to.

Because my current obsession is painting fantasy wargames miniatures and I need to have a place to share that obsession.

Because I need to get back into some kind of writing practice and why not write about my current obsession? And since I can't really paint at my job, or play with clippers, or files, or lead, I might as well write.

It's also a spiritual successor to my previous, now dormant, Alien Playwright blog.