Saturday, April 30, 2011

A to Z: Zaius

Dr. Zaius.

A classic villain without being a villain-cliche.
What I mean is he isn't the type of villain that wakes up in the morning and says "I'm evil and I know it and I love it: now who can I hurt today?"  That seems to be the approach to villains far too often.
But Dr. Zaius is a different sort of villain.

Dr. Zaius is a Machiavellian in the classic sense. He desires to do good: for his people and the world.
The fact that he must inflict suffering upon the humans doesn't bring him joy, but he feels it is necessary in order to prevent far greater suffering to his own people, and in fact to prevent the humans from causing suffering to themselves as well, though admittedly the later isn't his primary concern.

Dr. Zaius is a pragmatist navigating the best course he can see to avoid the future holding the same mistakes as the past.  He hides truth to maintain his power, not for the sake of power itself, but to be able to have the power to protect his people.

If only more villains were as compelling and complex.  This is the kind of background that makes for good gaming.

A friend of mine asked me recently "are there any simian teams?" referring to Blood Bowl.  No, and when I thought about it, I realized simians are severely under-represented in miniatures.  It seems a shame since I think there is some real potential in sci-fi skirmish gaming with a Planet of the Apes theme.

There is the Simian Empire range from Black Orc Games
Centurian - Click Image to Close'Want to lick my ice cream cone? It's pistachio!'  
If you want classical historical fantasy ape miniatures: they are quite fun, but won't really fit the bill for a Planet of the Apes setting.  With some conversion though they might fit in with the Tim Burton vision of the apes.

And now that the sequel is on its way, interest could generate a market for more Simian Miniatures.

There are then only a few individual minis currently that I know of that fits the concept of sentient ape:
 Reaper Chronoscope Orangutan

 Games Workshop Jokaero.
  Image property of Games Workshop. 

I'd love to see some apes in 15mm!  How about it Khurusan? GZG? CMG? Rebel Minis?

Bring on the Apes!

In the meantime, enjoy the movie!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A to Z: Yellow

Yellow is one of those colors that a lot of people do not like to paint.
I've often seen on forums questions like 'How do I highlight yellow?" or "How do you paint yellow if you have black primer?"

The secret to yellow is white.

Black Primer? I almost never use it.  While I know many swear by the citadel foundation Ilyaden Yellow, etc it is usually too much of a dijon mustard color for a lot of yellows: they won't work, so just re-primer the area white.

Highlight yellow? The final highlight can be pure white, or an off-white like P3 Menoth white highlight.

Color reflects its hue around it, and something like white picks that up. A thin white highlight is going to look yellow if it is on yellow.

Now, that doesn't mean it is easy.  It is still one of the trickier colors to work with, but it can be very rewarding and look nice, so it's worth it.  I actually used to hate the color yellow, and still would never even consider having it for say, walls painted yellow.. sorry, I was a kid in the 70's and it's still a bad memory.  But after using it in minis I am a big fan of yellow (in minis).

Note: Yellow gives me problems in photographing it, especially bold primary style yellow. Sunlight seems best, but it's not always an option for photos.

Here is some bold primary yellow:
(unfortunately, the red appears far more 'neon' than it truly is to the eye)
Yellow is great for Blood Bowl: bright & eye catching.

More primary yellow:

Here is more yellow, but a mellower, less primary tone:

Here is yellow as 'pastel', with very little color saturation:

The rustic yellow, with earthy shadow tones used as a skin tone:

Here is the full big Orc team in Red & Yellow,heading out to Germany tomorrow:

What are your favorite, or least favorite colors to paint? 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A to Z: X-Ray

Miniatures painting has really come a long way in the last few years.  When I was a kid, playing D&D, wishing I could afford minis and paints there wasn't 10% of the clever aids there are now.

The painter today has: inks, washes, powder pigment, rust effects, extender, 'dip', interference paints, and now, the science of washes has created X-ray washes!

With a simple wash application you can have the most amazing effect!

Just look at these historical Egyptian Infantry after one coat of X-Ray wash:



Just brush on X-ray wash on any human miniature and the flesh becomes invisible to the eye, revealing the skeleton underneath!

Now, some call this cheating.. saying it takes skill to paint on the skeleton over the flesh to create the illusion of no flesh, like the Halloween costumes, but as good as that can be, it still looks off at certain angles no matter how talented the painter is.  But you never have that problem with X-Ray wash!

Maybe X-Ray Spex aren't so far away afterall!

Speaking of X-Ray Spex, sadly, Poly Styrene died this week. A foundational talent.
Time really does march too fast.

Enjoy the movie & music!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A to Z: World of Twilight

The World Of Twilight
Have you heard of The World of Twlight ?

If you haven't it is high time that was corrected!

First of all it has nothing to do with sparkling vampires. The sooner that nonsense fades from world culture's memory the better.

But it also has nothing to do with vampires of any sort.  Yet it is a fantasy setting.  For that matter you won't even find elves, or orcs, or goblins, or dragons, or demons, or dwarves... and as much as I love dwarves, it is o.k.: it really is.  There are an abundance of good games & settings for those things.

This is something else.  Something highly original.  Unique.  Inspired.  Addictive.

The World of Twilight is a setting of a terrestrial world populated by several egg-laying races that have a look about them that makes me suspect that Jim Henson & Brian Froud are a couple of gods in an alternate dimension overseeing their dinosaurish chosen peoples.

High praise well deserved.  Creator Mike Thorpe has created not just a game and some appealing sketches, but fleshed out an entire world with histories and cultures, and more in store than has been revealed yet.

So what is it about?

The setting:

There are three main factions currently, with a couple more (at least) planned.

The Fubarnii are small in stature, bipedal, and let's face it: cute.
They are the protagonists of the setting, though to be fair, the others see themselves this way too.
They have a culture and technology reminiscent of Medieval Europe. In the past, they were slaves of the Devanu, but they secured their freedom and have built an empire of their own.  They rely on well trained troops, and coordinated attacks to prevail in battle.

The Devanu are the villains. Larger and physically much more powerful than the Fubarnii, they are fast and fierce. The Devanu have a social structure that reminds me of lions: dominated by an alpha male, with several capable female hunters and youth that are still quite dangerous.  They also use Grishak hunting beasts, as well as flying beasts and surely more to come.

The Delgon are a rival civilization, of the same species as the Fubarnii of the Enpire. Their culture is dominated by shadowy priests and an even greater reliance on the devices of the engineers.

The Game:
The game is a fantasy skirmish game that is scenario-driven.
The rules are free as pdf on the World of Twilight website: so you have nothing to lose in checking them out!

I quite like this game.
Not to sound too much like the D6G, but it has an Innovative Mechanic. Several actually.

For one thing, players 'alternate' activation.. but not truely alternating, because activation is determined by drawing activation stones from a bag: if your color is drawn, then you may activate a model, or selection of models if able to command more than one with the one you select.  Then another stone is drawn.  Likely there will be some back and forth, but it does allow for the unexpected, and any game that makes you plan for the unexpected is a good thing!

Combat is determined by casting rune stones. In simplest terms, unit types have a certain amount of stones they may cast and can chose either defensive or offensive stones which when cast will either come up successful or not.  Both sides do this in combat, and as you might expect, successful defenses and offences cancel each other out. If there are more successful attacks than defenses then damage is done, toughness checks are made and results are determined.

But that isn't all.  Model types have various skills they can chose to use, some of which require using a limited resource this model has.   This makes for even more tactical choices.  But not in the way of some games with 'one trick pony' overpowering/game changing skills. On the other hand, many games feel like a pretty dice game, where it's more about how many high numbers you can roll than your strategy and tactics, but not this game.  There is a real depth: if you enjoy tactical challenges you will be pleased. This game has the perfect balance between chance and tactical selection of skills.

The game is also based around scenarios, so it has a lot more behind it than 'line up and see how many get killed the fastest'.

The Miniatures

I'm a minis-junky, so this is important to me.  It isn't hyperbole when I say it doesn't get any better than this.
The miniatures are quality in every way: in design, sculpting & casting.  The only drawback issue I found was the original Fubarnii knights have spears that are thin to the point that I've had trouble with them bending.  But looking on the forum I see that is being addressed and newer ones will have thicker spear options if you prefer.

It's hard to evaluate style objectively.  Actually it's probably impossible by definition.  So all I can say is that I love these miniatures.  From the first sight of them on TGN a couple years ago I knew I was going to buy them.

They're sold by Hasslefree Miniatures and currently there is no distributor in North America.  But the folks at Hasslefree are really good people and shipping has always been fast for me.  Plus they often throw in little bags of candy!

The price point is high, but that's to be expected for a boutique miniatures line.  But considering the quality and highly original look, they're easily worth the cost, and it is comparable to some of the other metal miniatures for popular skirmish games, so you shouldn't have any sticker-shock.  Besides, you don't need many miniatures to play the game.  The large introduction set Hasslefree offers is more than enough for many good games, and includes two factions.

The other important concern many have is "Is it an active product?" The answer is Yes.  They've had several new releases this past year and looks like they have even more coming soon.  They'll be adding light cavalry for the Fubarnii, shock troops for the Delgon, a new juvenile for the Devanu and an entire new faction is in the works too.   I get the impression that the creator loves this project so much, that it isn't going away, one way or another, it is going to go forward and expand.

There is also Brandlin's terrain specially designed for Twilight.  If you weren't following his amazing terrain board he was making for Salute this year, get over to his site to check it out and his products.  I have my eye on some of those: they're on my list.

Here are some of my Devanu:

You will also find an entry for these under the 'Twilight' tag, here on my blog.

I still have to paint my Fubarnii... work has been keeping me too busy:

And I have a plan for a Delgon force too, they are also great miniatures (painted picture from WoT site):

To wrap it up:

Would I recommend this game?  Yes. 10 out of 10.

If you enjoy fantasy skirmish games and find tactical challenges rewarding, then this is a good game for you.
If you want to try something different than yet another Tolkienesque setting, then this could be the refreshing change you're looking for.

If you like games like Songs of Blades and Heroes, Mordheim or Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, then this will stretch your field command skills but still be light and enjoyable.  If you enjoy games like Malifaux or Warmachine, you'll be comfortable with the type of decisions you are called upon to make, yet can relax from some of the micro accounting required and be rewarded by being fast on your feet with the unexpected activation orders.

Aesthetics and Quality of the Miniatures: Excellent.  10 out of 10. 

They are highly original.  I am not overly fond of miniatures that are covered in detail for the sake of detail.
These miniatures are very well done, without superfluous detail and are a joy to paint.

If you haven't tried the game, download it, run it with some proxies to get a feel for it.
Check out the World of Twilight sight, forum & Hasslefree.
I hope this game & range grows in awareness and catches on.  Quality & Talent should be rewarded.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A to Z: Vork


What can I say?  This guy is hilarious.  I love the web series 'The Guild', and Vork is my favorite character.

Sure, V could have been Venus, or Vampires, or Vohzik. But it had to be Vork.

If you've never seen 'The Guild' finish reading this quickly, then shut out the world for awhile, and start watching this show from episode 1.  You'll thank yourself. Well, and me.  ;)

The Guild is a web series that does for MMO's what 'Knights of the Dinner Table' as a comic does for RPGs. And it's just as vital and classic.  They're clearly spoofing 'World of Warcraft'.  You don't have to have played WOW- I never have- You don't have to play MMO's to enjoy it- I have: Everquest II many years ago, and Lord of the Rings Online since it started, but only a casual player- not steeped in the subculture... but this show is so funny and general-gamer accessible that you're sure to love it no matter if you play MMOs all the time or if you never have.

Found this at : quite a talented artist!
I'm sure this is exactly how Vork sees himself!

Vork is a hilarious character: deadpan dry & serious - a master of straight-man comedy.

My favorite Vork moment starts about 2:28 in on this episode: Enjoy the movie!
But CAUTION: not the safest for work or small children: adult language.

And see them all at:

Monday, April 25, 2011

A to Z: Underworld


Could be a Dantean realm of demons, the damned and determination.  But not this time.
Could be a realm of caverns filled with dwarves and dragons in the dark.  But not this time.

This time, Underworld is for an under-powered team of mutations and silly fun.

Our local Blood Bowl league started up, and I started a new team.  Not just a new team of miniatures but a brand new team for me: I've never played an Underworld team before.

If you aren't familiar with Blood Bowl, it's a board game using miniatures to represent a fantasy race team playing a game not unlike american football or rugby.  Players range in size from the diminutive snotlings, goblins & hobbits up to the hulking trolls, ogres & treemen. Players range in skill from the hopeless hobgoblin to the wondrous wardancer.   You start your team, play games & hope to see your team advance in skills and cash as you try to win as many games as you can.  It's a nice mix of board game, wargame & RPG.

The Underworld team is an alliance of goblins & skaven and they may have 1 warpstone troll.
The real (and only) advantage they have is mutation skills are common skills for them.  Other than that, they lack the 2 trolls & special weapons that goblin teams can have and lack the fast gutter runners that skaven teams can have, plus they're saddled with 'animosity' on their skaven, so they're less likely to give the ball to goblins if they have it.   So they are more fragile than a skaven team, and lack the damage output that goblin teams can have.

So why play them?
Because I haven't ever played them before!  Plus the mutations could be fun... if they survive long enough to get any. And because I thought of some conversion possibilities that could make them similar to the creatures of one of my favorite fantasy artists: Brian Froud, who was behind Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and books like Goblins, Faeries, etc. And he reminds me of Bosch, which is always a good thing.

My team is named "The Chernobyl Knights". 

I'm afraid I've been too busy with work to paint more than one so far, but you can see the conversions:

These are my underworld rats: 2 Throwers & 2 Linerats

My Stormrats.

Goblins. They have stubby tails!

More goblins. The one with horns has an extra arm, which can't be seen at this angle.
3 exhibit mutations, 3 don't: I wanted some to look more 'rookie'.

My Warpstone Troll, mutating into a Hippo... what's scarier than a sewer crocodile? a sewer hippo!

I plan for the goblins to be painted in a similar way as Henri Zhorik here.  The Rats likely Albino.

Here is the Coach and tokens.

Star Players: I converted the stars I'll likely induce, so that they'd match the team in style:

Bomba Dribblesnot. Bombs? No, clearly the Chernobyl Knights should use Molotov Cocktails!

I wanted my chainsaw to be a radial saw blade instead!

And you've probably seen my Fezglitch already.

I've played one game already, and no one was more shocked than I that I won!
Score was 2-1 against Lizardmen, and was very nearly 3-1, but since I had to make 2 go-for-its to score on turn 8 of the 2nd half, I of course fell down in the end zone.  Long ago I did something to offend an old Gypsy woman and she laid a curse upon me: I will always roll a 1 when trying to score by making a go-for-it. It is a cross I have to bear, but considering other possible curses I suppose I got off easy.

The Troll is sculpted by Warploque Miniatures.  It's just recently open for business, so currently has a small collection but he's got many more incredible miniatures coming.
This guy is an amazing talent.  Visit his webstore, buy his minis & support this great artist!
I am confident he's going to become one of the most well known and loved miniatures sculptors.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A to Z: Troll-Glade Terrain

This past fall I made a small terrain piece. One of my favorite parts of the Hobbit was the scene with the Three Hungry Trolls: William, Bert & Tom, and how later in the Fellowship of the Rings these trolls were discovered again, or their statue-remains at any rate.

So I made my own Troll-turned-to-Stone terrain.

The story behind it is a troll from the Misty Mountains had come down with a goblin raiding party that got intercepted by a dwarven patrol. The fighting raged on until morning, where the troll was caught in the sunlight and turned to stone.  You can see the remains & shield from one of the dwarves still in the pool.

It's about 6 inches across. It'd be a fun item to put down on any fantasy table, but clearly Lord of the Rings setting would be ideal.  I enjoyed the Strategy Battle Game.  It's a great game that I think if people approach it designing their armies for theme and story, instead of dialing it up for optimum power, can be a lot of fun. I have a few themed armies for it, that are in various stages of completion: from on sprue to partially painted. Hopefully I'll get a chance to play this game again someday.

Enjoy the Movie (about 2 minutes in)

Friday, April 22, 2011

A to Z: Spanish Hanging Moss : Tutorial

One of my favorite unfinished projects is my Bayou Elf army.  Someday I may get back to it.
I wanted the bases to be very atmospheric, with swamp water & vegetation.
One of the ideas I had was making trees with hanging Spanish Moss. Problem was, I had no idea how to make it, and in searching, found no tutorials on the subject either.

So this is the results of my solution.

It's a year and a half ago now from when I posted the results and guide on TWF, and I'm sure that group-month's thread is long buried now, so 'S' gives me reason to post it here, where it's likely to be easier to find again in the future... so here goes:

Here's the basics of what you need:
Fine grade sponge-turf
PVA Glue
A couple shades of muted mossy green paint
Cotton (I got mine from the top of an Advil bottle)
Minis with trees that you'll be wanting to have be mossy.

Here's the three, with the first test subject having been done already.

Start by mixing some paint on Aluminum Foil, making the paint darker than you'd like it to look

Next add PVA glue to this. About twice as much as the paint.

Mix it with an old junk-brush.

See? It's a lighter color now.  should still be a bit darker than you'd like your moss to be.

Next start adding in the turf flock. it should get thick & lumpy.

Add a touch of water if you need to, so it will still move about and be wet.

Pull some cotton, about this much here, though you'll want to vary the amount, more or less now & then.

Lay it on the mixture, pressing it with your finger to have it soak up the mix.  Then pull it through the mix, which thins the strand some.

It will look like this.  No doubt, this is messy work.  Enjoy the flashbacks from kindergarten finger-painting!

Have a bowl of water handy, because your fingers will get gunky, and you'll need to rinse them periodically so you can handle new clump-strands of cotton.

Begin draping your hanging moss on your branches. Sprinkle more foam turf on any spots that look too smooth. Separate & pull bits here & there.

Let it dry for a good day and you're set!  You now have a mossy swamp!
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