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Saturday, 31 December 2016

On the last day of Deadcember...

The dawn of a new year is just around the corner and it seems extremely likely that once again I have overestimated how many hours there are in the holiday season! Since there's no chance I'll get this lot finished today (especially with the Oakbound New Year mini to paint up for tomorrow) I thought I'd gather the undead together for a photo shoot of the army so far. These guys should get finished by end of play on Monday, a bit late for Deadcember but before work starts again.

These four terrain boards are also pretty much done. Just got to pour the resin and effects for the water (which might have to wait as there is nowhere big enough, dry enough and suitable for pouring resin and allowing it to cure for 48 hours at home at the moment). Four more boards to go which I'll slowly work on over the next couple of weeks. Sadly leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark isn't conducive to getting much done, hence the holiday splurge. Roll on light evenings! On the subject of which... please excuse the terrible photos, even at midday today there's not really enough light for photography! Perhaps I should hope we get snowed in over the next couple of weeks... well, we can dream.

A quick roundup of what's to be done still then:
Screaming Skull Catapults- need basing.
Heroquest Skeletons- needs bases cutting to 20mm square (using my new razor saw) and basing.
Zombie Dragon- done, hussah!
20 Skeleton Cavalry- need highlighting, leatherwork, decoration on barding/shields, glazing, metalwork and basing.
Monks of La Maisontaal- need basing and some details picking out.
Blue Blooded Bandits (in green)- need basing.
Krell's Krellingtons- done, hussah!
Spear Skellies- need shields finishing and basing.
Archers- need leatherwork, glazing, metalwork and basing.
Former residents of Frugelhofen, Grimbrin's Mine etc. ..........

Mainly basing then, which I wanted to hold off on until I was doing the scenery anyway. Cavalry and archers have been my thing this week, hence their lack of completion. Should be done by end of Monday. And in case you're thinking 'doesn't seem like much for two weeks' work (quite a few of these guys were done in November) I didn't take the skeletons visiting to my relatives over Christmas, I took a band of outlaws instead!

A dozen familiar bandits from Foundry, ready for a demo game of The Woods I'm running next week.

Happy New Year all!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Draggin' out the dragon

I remember when first I saw the John Blanche painting of the Zombie Dragon...

It was about 1991 and at the time there were no Fames Workshop stores anywhere near where I lived. It wasn't until three years later I would visit an official GW and by then the Flying Cabbage had been releasedso I never knew there was an earlier model for the dragon... one bearing a stronger resemblance to the art... one sculpted by the legendary Tom Meier.

When I discovered (after the rise of the internet) that the beast existed my heart was set on owning one. But I didn't have my undead army any more and older minis were getting expensive so the though went out of my mind. Then, recently, I began to think of reviving (re-animating?) my first undead army and was delighted to discover that Ral Partha Europe still stock the original Meier Zombie Dragon! I had to have one, my army would have had one when I was younger if I'd had the cash to splash, and it had to be painted as per the Blanche illustration. So last week I set to work.

I haven't based him yet as I will be making some terrain to go with the Lichemaster stuff and will base everything at the same time so they everything matches. I also bashed out a not-Mikael-Jacsen to lead one of the units, following in the footsteps of Nico and Pil and green stuffing some flames onto the head of a skeleton. He's not as definitely a character as some interpretations of Jacsen but of all the skeletons I surveyed he seemed the most appropriate to me. I painted the sword so it is heating to an orange glow in the heat of his fiery hair, the better to smite his foes. His shield colours draw some inspiration from a certain cultural reference I'm sure you won't miss...


Monday, 28 November 2016

The Reign of the Lichemaster has commenced!

It's been a while since I last posted but I have not been idle, oh no! On the contrary I have been allocating myself a nice lot of hobby time and am working on getting all my skelly army to a basic tabletop level so that I can make good use of my time off over Christmas adding nice little details.

I've got four units to that point now, so time to do a bit of a round-up and look at how some of the miniatures choices turned out. Bear in mind these guys are not finished, but they're not too far away.

First up, the monks and masters of La Maisontaal. Resurrected by Kemler to do his bidding, the inhabitants of this large abbey still wear the robes of their order. The unit distribution above represents kinds what I'm thinking in terms of split between the masters and the monks. WFRP Lichemaster says there are 14 stone sarcophagi of previous masters of La Maisontaal under the abbey, and Dintrans himself joins them after his failed attempt to kill Kemler. In the original Revenge of the Lichemaster scenario it is Bagrian who assumes control of the defences of the abbey and is himself slain. This unit therefore consists of 16 masters including Bagrian. The rest of the robed figures are the monks and novices. I haven't settled yet on just which are which, I keep finding new models I like to add to the masters unit, so some of the previous masters are now lowly initiates! When I eventually settle the masters will have more ornate robes like in Blanche's ROTL painting, the other monks will have a few ornaments but generally more plain robes. The idea is that as they progress on the journey with Taal they add more symbols to their habits to denote their standing. The monks are joined by a small group of retainers, those employed to do odd jobs around the abbey, tend to the animals etc. Many of them now wear the skulls and other bones of creatures they once looked after.

The retainers will be familiar as largely C17 series skeletons. There are some nice models in amongst the monks and masters though, many of which are currently in production and very reasonable value:

These are Alternative Armies Wraiths (most of the units are wraiths, robes and all that!). They're pretty fun, I've not picked out all the armoured bits yet but the robe details are nice. Very soft metal though, their weapons bend really easily and the axe guy is going to need some weighting in his base to keep his balance.

Zealot Miniatures had this skeleton in their Twisting Catacombs Kickstarter, I'm sure he'll be available in their shop soon. He is resin... but we'll forgive him because the details are really nice, the pose is great and the skull is very finely sculpted.

These Wraiths are from Ral Partha Europe, and they're a bit disappointing. After all the other great undead I picked up from RPE these guys are quite primitive, very small and not wonderfully posed. The middle guy isn't actually from these units, he's from the Blue-Blooded Bandits (see below) and is the better of the three with all his scale armour. Still on the small side though.

From my least to my most favourite. These are Black Tree (formerly Harlequin) and are wonderful sculpts. The skulls are well-defined and the robes hang convincingly off the skeletal frames. They are pretty chunky, but that means they match the Citadel skeletons very nicely. I love the poses of the Wraiths especially. Suitably Grim Reapers!

Lastly, three that are very definitely masters. On the left is a RAFM undead bishop from the Death Command blister. In the middle is RPE's Bishop of Doom and on the right a Chronopia Necromancer. The RAFM model is a little smaller than the others, but that makes him seem suitably frail. He's doing a fun Pope wave as well. I'm looking forward to doing glowing eyes, censers etc. on them. You might also spot some of the LOTR Ringwraiths hiding amongst the Wraiths which work pretty nicely. The only figures I don't recognise are these which I got in a bulk lot. If anyone knows what they are let me know:

The next unit are former Men At Arms from the Duc de Quenelles' doomed legion which attempted to halt the Lichemaster's ransacking of La Maisontaal. Tancred's knights are still to come (they may be my main Deadcember project) but I thought I'd try a few things out on this unit of spearmen. Principally I wanted to see whether a few blue rags were enough to give a sense of previous uniform whist still keeping the aesthetic of the army and to try out the effect of painting all the metal with a rust effect paint. The rust effect I am very happy with, although it dries very opaque and the semi-translucency of when it is about half dry would be optimal. I may try a couple of glazes (orange or sepia) to 'wet' it down a bit. It also dries fast, so it's essential to shake the pot and rinse the brush every three or four miniatures. Also pleased with the blue. The more 'fully clothed' Mantic skeletons help with the idea of uniform, whilst the more 'naked' skeletons display the bone technique which is holding the look of the army together. I don't think it would be so effective with all Mantic or no Mantic skeletons, but this balance seems fine to me. There are also shields to come.

The bulk of this unit are Celtos Fir Bolg skeletons, still available from Brigade Models. Their spear unit is very good value and I just added the axe champion as the champion from the set isn't very distinctive from the rank and file. These are good, solid sculpts. Nicely posed and flexible enough to be bent slightly to create the impression of more poses than there are. The bones are well-defined and the bits of armour nicely conceived.

These are more Black Tree miniatures. Just look at their happy, grinning faces. They're obviously rank and file and were a little over a pound each. They scale well with the Celtos and Citadel miniatures.

Then there's Mantic. Now I will admit to not being a fan of Mantic generally. The skeletons do ok to add a splash of colour (not much fabric on the others) and indicate their previous life as soldiers of Bretonnia. Their skulls are nice and granny but they're much smaller than the others and don't have that Jason and the Argonauts look that I want in a skeleton warrior. I've dotted some of the bits from the box about (at least they're cheap and flexible) for variation but I wouldn't want a whole unit of them.

There are also a few skeleton spearmen from Northstar's skeleton horde. I took a gamble on these because they're cheap. You get 10 randomly assorted models, and honestly I was hoping for some more scythes. Never mind, good to bulk out the spears anyhow. They're hit and miss, the sculpting isn't very sharp and the skulls are all a bit deformed, but as rank and file on the tabletop you can't fault the price.

And then there are the Blue-Blooded Bandits, Zwemmer's cronies from the bad old days on the Frugelhorn. I imagine them as disenfranchised nobles booted from the family seat for unsavoury practices. Zwemmer was also a champion of Nurgle (although secretly) so I wanted a heavily and finely armoured look with a nod to decay, hence the small patches of rust and the green tinge to their weapons. Although they died long before the unfortunate Men at Arms in the previous unit their equipment began as significantly higher quality and perhaps their ice-burial has helped preserve the shine of their blades. The red cloaks, plumes and accents help to tie them in with the monk units. See if you can spot the interloper into their ranks...


The majority of this unit are from Ral Partha Europe, collected together from across their various ranges. I'm sure RPE need no introduction so I will just say that their skeletons are excellent.

There are also a couple of Chronopia miniatures in this unit which I mentioned in a previous blog post. They aren't strictly undead miniatures but I had them in my first undead army (long gone now) so I was excited to buy them again for this one. I think my second attempt at painting them is better.

The Lich Lord from Grenadier was my reason for placing an order with them in the first place. Shipping was too expensive for just one miniature, so I had a look round and just about gathered enough I liked to pick up this chap. He's a nice model, shame the rest of the Grenadier range is a bit inconsistent. There are a few nice ones (I think ex-Ral Partha actually) but I'm not a big fan of most of their undead. Did you spot the interloper? Here he is, on the left. He's actually a Goblin Knight, but I thought his armour and concealed face would allow him to blend in just fine.

Ok, that's it for now. Another three units got primed at the weekend so I'll try and get at least another one done this week then it'll be into deadcember!


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Reign of the Lichemaster: Kemler, Zwemmer and Krell

Stories of the return of Heinrich Kemler from the depths of his madness are as confused and shrouded as the man himself, or what is left of him. Indeed it is unlikely that Kemler ever did (or ever shall) return to sanity, for what sanity is it to call the dead from their graves and pledge allegiance to the fickle powers of Chaos?

The peaks of the Grey Mountains has been a hideout and a refuge for heretics and bandits since the earliest days of the Empire. Those cast from the towns and villages make their way to the desolate, snow-capped heights and eke out a barbarous existence preying on isolated hamlets and vulnerable travellers. Most are simply victims of circumstance and the heavy hand of justice but amongst the hidden valleys lie some darker powers which draw the outcasts into their midst. The Frugelkluft valley below the Frugelhorn is one such place. These days a small hamlet by the name of Frugelhofen clings to the wide end of the valley and there are a few farms dotted around but only the dwarves dare to go far into the Frugelkluft, and then only because of the gold seam to be found at Grimbrin's mine. The seam is dwindling and those dwarves still there continue to tap it for family pride. Back in the time of Sigmar, however, there was no settlement in the valley and the glacier which crowns its upper end reached far further down and filled the valley with a shimmering mirror lake.


It was at this site that Sigmar's forces defeated Krell, one of the nine lords of Nagash. That battle went down in history as the Battle of Glacier Lake and the treacherous ice claimed as many victims as the great chaos champion's undead horde. Nevertheless, Krell was defeated and interred within a great, magical tomb high up in the glacier so that none should ever find it again. Perhaps it was by design that the records of the battle disappeared so that none even remembered the place where the battle had been fought, many suspecting it lay further south towards Tilea in the region of the Vaults.

Time marched on and the Empire grew. The glaciers and lakes began to recede. Settlers pushed their hamlets up into the foothills and bandits and miscreants were drawn up into the mountains. It was almost as if some power was pulling them towards the Frugelkluft.

At one time the most notorious bandit crew working the passes were the Blue-Blooded Bandits, a pack of disinherited aristocrats lead by the tyrannous and warlike former-duke Adolphus Zwemmer. Zwemmer had made a pact with a daemon of Nurgle which, when discovered, lead to him being exiled, sentenced to death and chased across the land by witch hunters. When Zwemmer was finally brought down a few of his most fervent supporters carried his body away into the mountains and buried it in the Frugelkluft valley, not far from the magical tomb of Krell. Zwemmer's daemon patron, robbed of his champion and already a low thing in the eyes of his pantheon, clung to every chance of growing in power. When Heinrich Kemler appeared, wandering in the mountains delirious and insane, the daemon saw how it could secure another mortal servant.

In return for strength, life, the service of Zwemmer with his bandit host and the use of the daemon weapon Heinrich Kemler swore to kill and commit the souls of those slain to the service of the daemon. If it thought it had secured the devotion of the necromancer, however, it was much mistaken. Kemler's wanderings were not as aimless as even the Lichemaster believed them to be. He was being guided by another purpose to the foot of this ancient glacier...

Clarity of mind restored, Kemler remembered what he had been seeking in this desolate region, what his delirium had whispered to him and what secrets he had learnt. Having dispatched Zwemmer and his small army of skeletons to raise the nearest settlements to the ground that he might, in turn, raise their inhabitants, Kemler turned his attentions and footsteps towards the glacier. Zwemmer's band fell upon the dwarves of Gimbrin's mine and Wernicke's farm, adding their former occupants to the legion of the damned.

Kemler, meanwhile, had made his way through the crevasses and ice tunnels of the glacier and arrived at the concealed entrance to the tomb of Krell. The evil power that had drawn so many black-hearted bandits to the region had called to him and shown him the way. With his newly-acquired strength he was able to break the seals and release the former lieutenant of Nagash from his prison. There and then Kemler struck his second dark pact and acquired as an ally the lord of the undead and his foul henchmen. The Lichemaster and his new champions fell upon the vulnerable Bogel's farm and massacred the Kassenbrincks. Then, merging with the Blue-Blooded Bandits, they turned upon the village of Frugelhofen...

At least, that's my attempt at reconciling the twin narratives of Terror of the Lichemaster, the Undead Armies Book and WFRP Lichemaster. And here's my attempt at the protagonists:

Kemler- on foot and on horseback. The models are Bob Olley Essex (the riding figure is actually called a lichemaster) and look suitably mad to my mind! The splendid horse is from Reaper and courtesy of Mr Harry. I'd imagine this is Kemler's much-abused pack animal, sacrificed in the ritual of releasing Krell and then pressed into service once more. I used some silicone putty and resin to replicate Kemler's owl familiar for the back of the horse.

Adolphus Zwemmer- I've been after this Chaz Elliott "Undead Lord" from Ral Partha (formerly Heartbreaker) for some time. In my head he was most likely modelled on this chap from the D&D adventure 'Haunted Tower':

But now I track down the image and actually compare them that doesn't seem likely. Nevertheless, that's where the inspiration for the colour scheme came from, that and the BBBs are described in Lichemaster as wearing green armour. They are warriors of Nurgle after all.  The BBBs themselves will all be wearing armour of a heavy, chaos-kind. This mini is pretty massive, probably more impressive than a minor champion like Zwemmer ought to be, but maybe Nurgle blessed him with a grotesquely rotund girth to match his height?

And Krell- This is a figure I used to have in my original undead army (along with the 4th Ed Kemmler) and in my eyes a preferable sculpt to the original TotL one (which I think was just a re-appropriated skeleton hero). However, when I first read of Krell in the 4th Ed Undead Armies Book I did not have the model and there was no picture of it in the book. I didn't have a GW anywhere near me and my local hobby shop had a very limited supply of blisters which did not include the lord of the undead. I did, however, have WFB3 and so the yellow-armoured champion in John Blanche's diorama:

forever became the image of Krell in my mind. He has, after all, got a large, black axe! So my Krell is painted after this chap. He will be getting a chariot to ride in to elevate him in status above Zwemmer (hence the lack of basing). I'd imagine there's quite a hefty rivalry between these two former champions of Chaos. Krell is the more powerful by a long shot, but Zwemmer's daemon patron holds the secret to Kemler's longevity and whilst it cares no longer for Zwemmer himself it is uneasy about Krell's allegiance to other Chaotic powers.
More to come as I move on to the units!


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Hero Questing over on Scale Creep

I was honoured to be asked to contribute a figure for the Heroquest Hero Quest project over on Scale Creep. Given my impending skellibob army I made an entirely appropriate choice...

Find out more over at Scale Creep

Friday, 14 October 2016

Winter is coming...

Whilst I've been building up the stock of undead models I have also been completely absorbed in spookiness of a not-unrelated kind! I've just finished writing Barrow Ring Burning, the first narrative campaign book set in the celtic fantasy world of The Woods. The book will be available for pre-order next week through Oakbound's webstore and will be released at the start of December, so let's see what's in it shall we?

The book is a GM's guide to the village of Marbhanam and the surrounding countryside, it's traditions and customs and the unravelling of a dastardly plot to unleash forces of darkness into the Mortal Realm. It has rules and scenarios for using the SystemMech game system, but can easily be used as a sourcebook for any other RPG or tabletop skirmish game.

Barrow Ring Burning is split into six chapters, each one moving the story towards its climax. Played through just as written the adventure is designed to take 2-3 hours per chapter and so splits up nicely into six sessions with opportunities for character advancement and development between each. Of course, there's so much extra material and ideas for expansion within the text that an experienced GM can extend the adventure for as long as they wish!

The narrative begins on the eve of Samhain (or Halloween if you prefer) when the death of its chieftain throws the village of Marbhanam into confusion. Add to this the mysterious crowned minstrel who staggers into the midst of the wake and the terrifying masked figures lurking out on the downs and the signs don't look good for a peaceful winter season... The narrative reaches its climax at Modraniht with the veil between the land of the living and the realm of the dead at its thinnest, will anything stop the pale kings? Will spring ever return?

Each section has a mixture of classic pen-and-paper roleplay and tabletop skirmish scenarios. There is a strong lean towards investigation but the characters also find themselves frequently facing situations where they will have to gauge whether to take on their foes or try to out-manoeuvre them.

Because this is a perfect campaign to begin at Halloween we will be emailing everyone who pre-orders a PDF copy of the first two chapters so you can throw your players into the midst of the Samhain rituals whilst the printers get on with putting together these lovely books. As always your comments, suggestions and shares are much appreciated. Happy Autumn!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Stripping the bonies... oo er!

Well, the horde have had their nice Dettol bath. Not quite got everything off, but if there's any army ragged strips of paint hanging from the models isn't a bad thing it's with the undead! Not that many additions to the horde, 15 more plastic citadel skellies (more modern ones but they'll fit in ok), 3 cool 80s citadel skeletons, 2 4th ed undead cavalry, a 4th ed skelly command group and the black knight/mounted wight lord from Circle of Blood. The wight lord I've wanted since he came out, he's brilliant. Does anyone know if his horse is a recasting of a previous Citadel one?

The astute among you may also spot a black coach in there. Not sure what I was thinking, the black coach is possibly the worst kit GW have ever made. I mean, really? A coffin-shaped hearse? It's not even well-executed. It re-uses the yolk from Arkhan the black, plastic cart/cannon wheels and the back of the coach is just open with no details whatsoever. Utterly crap. So I guess I have set myself a challenge to actually make it look half-decent. Since I have no vampires in the army and am not planning to I will also need to find a new use for it...

Added extras to the previous tally,
Budget spent so far: £144.33
Price per model so far (cavalry counts as 2 models, chariot as 3): £1.20- not including the Black Coach.

I also got a nice surprise on Friday as my Twisting Catacombs furniture finally turned up. I forgot I'd ordered a revenant/wraith with a scythe so he's going into the army, gonna look great. I've also found my Attack at Weathertop Ringwraiths which will make beautiful wraith figures. None of these are included in the above.

The guys below I would still like to add to the army. Iron Claw horses, Citadel skellies, skelly horses and a liche. If anyone can help let me know. :)


Thursday, 22 September 2016

Into The Woods par t3: The Fiddler King


Following on from the last instalment, the adventurers are heading for a sheltered village in the hill country where they hope to return the children they rescued from the woods to their parents. I thought I'd use this opportunity to test out the beginning of the new The Woods campaign book I'm writing, Barrow-Ring Burning, which should be out in December. This shouldn't give too much away...

The adventurers arrive at Marbhanam, a village at the foot of the chalk downlands. They enter the settlement to discover that a wake is in progress, the Toisech passed away a few days previously and the village is both grieving and concerned since he left no successor and the important rites of Samhain are approaching.

The children are reunited with their parents and our gallant band are invited to stay and enjoy the village's hospitality. Midway through the evening though a sinister figure lurches through the crowd. A stick-thin individual with a harrowed and confused expression and a tall iron crown on his head. Asking around the adventurers discover he is a wandering bard who hasn't been seen for over a year.

As the night draws on and the villagers begin to drift to their homes only the adventurers and a small group clustered around the musician are left by the fire. Suddenly a pair of stocky figures with evil-looking masks jump from the darkness, grab the bard and drag him into the blackness between the houses. The group panic and spread out in search of the beings who have abducted their colleague. The game is afoot!

Dashing around in the dark nobody knows where the beings are... except the GM. Three of the villagers are actually these kidnappers but will only be uncovered if the characters can perceive them- that means they're going to need some light. One of the band has a lantern and another is a Geomancer and casts Illuminate to turn himself into a beacon. The band splits into two groups to try and close the two gates to the village, cutting off the abductors' escape.

After sounding out most of the villagers (and discovering them to be just that) one group spots a creature moving round by the sheep pen. The other figure is just out of sight, could it be the second kidnapper?

It is, but these beings are deadly when cornered and easily dispatch two of the characters (don't worry, they aren't dead just in a deep sleep). The gate now stands undefended and the kidnappers manage to flee out onto the downs with their victim. As the remaining adventurers scour the nearby countryside for signs one of them recovers the iron crown which was dropped during their flight. Hopefully this will give them some clue where to look next...

Overall very happy with how the scenario panned out. Distances and numbers of figures worked well but I think I need to downgrade the creatures' profiles a little. They're just a bit too strong at the moment, although it should be hard for the adventurers to win this one. Where the group failed was not making enough use of the villagers dashing around. Any of them could have been ordered to attack the abductors, allowing the characters time to get themselves in a position to take the creatures out. The group did use the Ordering and Coercing rules to good effect to get the other gate closed and guarded but in the panic of uncovering the creatures opted for a knee-jerk charge into combat instead which proved their undoing.

Stay tuned for the next episode!

Fimm McCool's

Fimm McCool's