Thursday, 12 December 2019

CCXLV. Arkbald the Accursed and Ghouls

My brother wanted a Wight King model for Icorax the Insomniac's undead warband, and here it finally is. 

Arkbald the Accursed
Arkbald was a king whose reign was marked by disaster. Crops failed, war ravaged his kingdom, and a plague decimated the population. Arkbald only exacerbated these problems by being a particularly cruel and selfish ruler. The histories do not remember how he died, but the turmoil left by his reign almost toppled his kingdom. Ichorax the Insomniac, a lich and collector of famous remains, couldn't resist adding the ill-fated king to his collection of morbid curiosities. Now animated by powerful necromancies, Arkbald has retained much of his vile personality in death, including his tendency to bring misery and ill fortune to all who cross his path.




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I received my package from Bad Squiddo Games this morning, and immediately got to work on the two minis that came inside. They're here to expand my Flesh-eater Courts pool of minis. Slightly converted to better blend in with the rest... These are rather disturbing, I gotta say. I don't think I'd ever painted dead infants before.




Friday, 6 December 2019

CCXLIV. AoS28: Arcanist, and Basing Explained

Another Arcanist figure for my Order warband. Unarmoured and armed with only a hand weapon, this specialist is an expert in ancient lore and languages.






The mini was built using the new plastic female wizards kit from North Star. It's the first plastic Frostgrave kit I've bought, and it's pretty good. The bodies will be useful for all kinds of robed figures, there are dozens of female heads, a whole bunch of empty hands, and some other nice bits.

The sprue.

The box contains two identical sprues, and a sprue of plastic bases.
Since I preordered the kit through a Nickstarter, I got a few metal extras - including a new metal wizard. She's good material for another Conjuror. I love the little hooded familiar.


The plastic wizards can be mixed with Perry bits, which is very important to me right now. They lean a bit more towards heroic scale, but when combined with Perry parts they fit well in my collection of AoS28 humans.




BASING

I've been asked quite a few times about my current basing method, and now I'm at last delivering the tutorial I promised. 

I've changed my basing several times over the years. For quite a while I used to put my fantasy minis on grassland bases that matched my Wilderness board and scenery collection. You can find the step-by-step here: CXXVI. I'm still fond of this method, but its drawbacks became apparent when I started planning other scenery environments. When you put a grassy-based mini on a stone tile board, it sticks out and works against overall coherence of the tabletop. 

There were several solutions to this problem I could think of. First, there are transparent acrylic bases. That looks really good on scenic shots. However, I see the base as the background and frame of a miniature, and when photographed in a non-scenic context I would totally miss a "proper" base. Another solution is to make swappable bases for the minis, but I did not consider that very long due to all the extra effort and cost. 
I came to the conclusion that I would have to come up with basing that is subtle enough to fit more than one type of terrain, as well as being more detailed than a simple sand texture in order to offset the minimalistic paintjob.

After some testing I ended up with a recipe that is quick and easy to reproduce each time.


Step one: I apply PVA glue to the base, and then a layer of DAS air-drying clay. I use the pictured tool to work the clay. The glue enhances durability.

While the clay is still wet, I brush on a layer of watered-down PVA. Using tweezers, I place shards of miniature bricks on the base. I sink them partly into the clay. Additional texture is achieved by selectively sprinkling a little bit of rough basing sand. I use the tool from the first step to push the sand grains into the clay.

The paintjob is truly quick. I mix ochre with matt black to get this dark, poorly saturated, greenish tone. I daub that thick on the entire base.   

Highlights are produced by adding a light grey into the mix from the previous step and stippling it on while still wet. As it's wet on wet, I can do a bit of painterly blending and texture this way. As the final step, I use thinned black to darken the area beneath the model and around its feet. 

This is the sort of brush I employ for the task.
 
That is all. When I have a pre-sculpted base, I simply apply this painting formula over the entire base, disregarding the "natural" colour of the details: like you can see in this example: Dathalus.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

CCXLIII. The Bronze Bulls Warcry Warband

In my second take on the Iron Golems I did more conversion work, and gave them an alternative background. 

Ogor Breacher

The Bronze Bulls wear horned helmets, in honour of ther sigil. I sculpted the horns out of Magic-sculpt, which has the best properties for the task. I doesn't bend when cured, and was easily shaped, bent and installed on the helmets at different stages of curing.

Signifer

The symbol on the signum is the symbol for theZodiac sign Taurus. I sculpted it with Magic-sculpt.

Dominar

The minis were primed using my usual method of white over black spray, and then painted using very thin paint.

Drillmaster

The abundance of details that makes the models busy is toned down by not accentuating certain details of the sculpts, and by keeping them rather flat and murky.

Armator
This monotony is broken by the individual armour scales, one per model, picked out in vivid red. This is a trick used by this warband to gain advantage in combat. The tiny spot of red instinctively attracts the eye - distracting the enemy, if only for a split second. Sometimes that moment is enough.


Legionaries

Another way of confusing the foe by employing colour is through one of the Legionary models. In contrast to the other warband members, her armour is painted red. It screams for attention, potentially making the foe focus on the lowly Legionary while the more powerful warriors use that confusion to their advantage. These Red Legionaries are highly regarded by their peers for their valour, as they tend to have a high mortality rate.



The Bronze Bulls' gimmicky use of red was inspired by this bracelet designed to protect against the evil eye, which I found in a book about folk medicine:




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In other news, I bought a model from the amazing @ingrimmson. It was love at first sight and I simply had to add it to my collection. Luckily, he agreed to part with it. The plan is to paint it and use it in my AoS28 games. :)


Sunday, 10 November 2019

CCXLII. The Vampire's Phylactery

Two weeks ago I hosted another game set in the Age of Sigmar universe, as my friend Vladimir came from Belgrade for a visit. We finally managed to put together a report of the event. Thanks to everyone who participated, and thanks for reading!


 
Vraana remembers that she used to be human once. And she remembers how her mortal life came to an end. How her dark master found her, beaten and torn, laying upon a tomb in unquenching despair.

"What is it that you seek?" he had asked of her.

"Death."

"You wish to die?"

"I wish them all to die, those who did this to me, and those who knew and did nothing, and those who didn't want to know. All of them. And I wish them to suffer, to hear them beg for death's release."

"And yourself?"

"I just cannot... Death won't take me and I'm done with living..."

"Then you are ready to receive my embrace."

But she remembers not what came after that, nor how long ago it was. Decades, centuries? Some memories just aren’t there... It seems like her existence could stretch out indefinitely, and she wouldn’t notice. It always feels the same. Like a part of her is missing.

Was it this city, that now lies in ruins before her? What it this graveyard where she came, in deepest despair, wishing for the world to end but too feeble to take even her own life?

What is it that beckons her to this place? That made her gather her deathly servants and come here?

She remembers a tale of The Deathless One, his life’s essence kept safe in an egg hidden inside of a bird inside of a rabbit inside of a fox, but she can't figure out if it's something she heard as a child, or it's what her dark master told her? Or what he did to her? Maybe that is the missing piece that she's looking for? Maybe if she finds it... But she can't be made whole. Never again. But maybe recovering a piece would be worth it. Or, if it is something of hers, it would certainly be worth preventing it from falling in the wrong hands. Vraana can suddenly imagine her existence becoming much worse.



*

 

 THE WARBANDS



This warband was both created and played by Vladimir. He also brought a piece of scenery to help fill the table (it's the gazebo in the background of this pic). Warband members, left to right: Alain de Crevaux, Weeping Steel, Vraana, Sister Kasia, Sheesh, Tonga, Schrklytz.

Vraana is an amnesiac vampire that haunts the land, harassing the living and searching for answers about her past. But she’s afraid of actually finding them. 
She was hidden away in a tomb somewhere during the Chaos invasion, and now that the grand armies have passed on she once again feels it’s safe to venture forth and satisfy the thirst for human blood.

Her companions are a bizarre collection of corrupted mortals and ghoulish creatures, bound together in serving the grand forces of death - Alain de Crevaux, a poet that was once tempted by the Ruinous Powers but gave himself to worshiping the purity of death instead; Weeping Steel, a headless ghost bound to a suit of armour; Sister Kasia, a former mortician that fell in love with the perfection of Vraana’s lifeless body; Tonga, a ghoul that compensates his tiny stature with enormous bloodthirst and voraciousness, rumored to be a pygmy Ogor; Sheesh, a mutant winged ghoul and finally Schrklytz, a lethargic Skaven sniper that nobody wants to check if he’s actually living or undead.

Stormcast Sequitor Avananta Stormsight and her retinue: a pair of Celestial Gheists, a pair of Crossbowmen, a Swordsman, a Knight and a Templar. This warband was created and played by me.

Avananta Stormsight is a Sequitor, armed with a mace imbued with Sigmar's lightning. Her weapon is particularly dangerous to the two powerful undead fiends she encountered in this skirmish; once killed with it, they may never rise again. She also has the power to call down a destructive ligtning strike from the sky. Avananta is accompanied by her mortal companions: soldiers of the Free Peoples. Additional assistance comes from a pair of Celestial Gheists: non-combatant reforged spirits from Azyr that serve as messengers and helpers to the Stormcast. When Ivan and I designed their rules profile, the idea was to make them purely utility units, which drain their own health to heal others and can sacrifice themselves to protect another from an attack. They served that role perfectly.

Avananta's mission was to dispatch with the vampire and the lich. Permanently.


Lich Ichorax the Insomniac with his undead puppets: two Skeleton Warriors, two Chainrasps, a Wight and a Revenant. This warband was drafted from my collection and played by my brother Ivan. He did most of the work on custom profiles for the characters and was a huge help in hosting the game.







Ichorax the Insomniac is a lich who fancies himself a collector. His lair houses a vast hoard of items, ranging from sentimental trinkets to artifacts of significant power and importance. His idea of a collection also includes the reanimated remains of historical figures, never missing an opportunity to raid the resting places of kings and sorcerers. Rapacious and spiteful in nature, Ichorax draws great pleasure from denying treasures to others. After learning the location of a Vraana's phylactery, he was determined to get his bony hands on the vampire's prize. As luck would have it, the ruins holding the phylactery also housed the remains of an ancient warrior princess and an honored general, making this opportunity too good to pass up...


Stormcast Liberator Orren Gloryhammer and his mortal retinue: a pair of Barbarians, a pair of Men-at-Arms, a Guardsman and a Conjuror. This warband was drafted from my collection and played by my friend Goran.

Orren came to the city accompanying a mage, on a mission to loot the ruins and study the ancient landmarks. Learning of an undead presence he immediately commanded his men to the scene. Destroying the unholy abominations was a great opportunity for more glory, which he craves above all else. He wouldn't let Stormsight grab everything for herself.

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THE GAME


A shot of the table during the game.

We played the four player game using our Malifaux 2E mod. The table was 2'x4', decked mostly with Warcry plastic scenery. As is my usual procedure, the game was played first, and the photoshoot done afterwards. This enables better photos as well as no interruptions in the game. This time the photographer was Vladimir, who brought his own camera and equipment.





The story takes place in a ruined city. Peasants from the surrounding countryside start finding their chicken coops ransacked. A local hunter tracks down a particularly vicious fox to the ruins, where it apparently has its den. Accompanied by a villager, he ventures to end the cunning beast. However, it is no ordinary fox. The hunter fills her with arrows, yet still she will not die. So the two club it until it moves no more. When they open her gut with a knife, they are even more surprised. A white hare, drenched in blood and ichor, leaps at the hunter! In a heartbeat, the man is disembowelled, and the peasant flees the scene screaming in terror...

The story of the murder-hare reached the forces of Order. Suspecting involvement of dark magic, Avananta Stormsight arrives in the ruins. She is not the only one. When the hare is spotted by her trackers and she arrives at the scene, three more parties are already there.

The vampire Vraana, whose soul is inside the egg inside the bird inside the hare inside the fox, is there. And the lich Ichorax the Insomniac, who came to steal it. Orren Gloryhammer, Stormcast Liberator, is there, too. Finding herself between two enemy forces, Avananta proceeds carefully, protecting both flanks as she moves towards the hare.
Orren quickly launches an assault at the lich's minions, trying to get through to their master.

But he is bogged down. Meanwhile, the mage takes a part of his forces and engages the vampire's minions on the other end.

Feeling safe as his footsoldiers kept the Stormcast at bay, Ichorax raises an ancient general from his crypt. Another body to add to his collection.

The hare is hunted by Avananta's soldiers and Ichorax's dead, while Sheesh stalks from high ground.

The fight for and with the hare begins, as Avananta scans the battlefield for the enemy leaders, looking for an opportunity to slay them with her Stormsmite mace.
The Templar joins the fight, allowing for the Swordsman to disengage and head towards where he is needed more.

The undead are relentless.

Finally, Orren Gloryhammer succumbs to overwhelming attacks of Ichorax's minions.

Gloryhammer's retinue lose their resolve and flee the battlefield.

One of Avananta's Crossbowmen falls to a precise hit from Schrklytz's rifle.
The Knight and the Templar finally succeed in slaying the hare despite the skeletons. But as the hare dies, a small, red bird crawls out of its mouth and takes flight!

Avananta chooses to go after the vampire, and reaches Vraana's back ranks. Chooses Schrklytz as her first target.


Rushing to Avananta's aid, the Swordsman engages Weeping Steel. Tonga and Sheesh join the fray as well.


The phylactery is gone, but the skeleton warriors still stand angainst the Knight and the Templar. The Revenant joins in to keep the soldiers from pursuing the bird.

Avananta reaches the rat-man.

She slays him with ease, but the Skaven's vampire mistress finally turns her attention towards the Sequitor.

The fleeing bird is being chased through the ruins by a Chainrasp. The remaining Crossbowman fires at the phylactery.

The Swordsman miraculously cuts down all three of his opponents. His resilience is formidable, and with aid from a Celestial Gheist he survives the tough fight.

Fatigued and bleeding, the Swordsman resumes his trajectory towards Avananta. She is now battling the vampire Vraana herself.

The Swordsman's help is welcome, as Alain de Crevaux and Sister Kasia are joining the skirmish as backup for their own mistress.

The red bird dies from a crossbow bolt, and from it emerges a small, black egg. The Chainrasp fights the Templar for it. The Templar had used an opportune moment to get away from the skeletons and the Revenant, abandoning the Knight to hold them off alone.

Sensing that her phylactery is in enemy hands, and with Avananta temporarily paralyzed by Sister Kasia's concoctions, Vraana disengages and speeds towards what is hers.

The Chainrasp grabs the egg and flies into the labyrinthine ruins, impossible to pursue.

The Swordsman finally falls to Alain's blade, and Sister Kasia meets her doom under Stormsight's mace.

Left on his own, the poet hastily withdraws. When Avananta looks around she finds that Ichorax and his minions are all gone, too. She and her remaining soldiers stand alone in the ruins. They have failed...



*



VLADIMIR'S COMMENTARY:

In multiplayer games the main threat is being caught in fights between two different opponents, and the best tactic is to wait for other forces to start fighting and then attack a weakened enemy and take the spoils. That’s why I was in no rush to get to the center, and instead jumped at the opportunity to mop up half of Gloryhammer’s followers while he himself was engaged fighting Ichorax.

Unfortunately all my tactical prowess backfired, because it took just two fighters to take down almost the entirety of my warband - Avananta and her faithful swordsman. Avananta turned out to be too formidable of a fighter even for Vraana to handle personally, and she chose to run away after a few rounds of combat, sacrificing Sister Kasia to enable her retreat. From a player standpoint this was a hard decision to make, but I feel that it made the most sense for the story - not everyone is willing to fight to the death.

What I learned about Vraana as a character is that she’s a bit passive and hesitant in pursuing her goals. The hidden truth that she is unaware of and that we players know, is that her phylactery does contain her memories, but it is she herself that cut them out and hid them away. She had indeed killed the people who wronged her in life, but it brought her no satisfaction and no end to her anguish, so she made herself even more of an unwitting pawn in others’ games of power. We’ll see what the future holds for her, now that the Lich Ichorax holds leverage over her.


IVAN'S COMMENTARY:

Ichorax did not have very strong motivation to fight in this encounter as it was not his phylactery that was on the line. Still, he wanted to get as much out of it as he could: looting treasure chests, reanimating powerful undead from their crypts, and swiping the vampire's phylactery. At the beginning, it seemed as though he would be caught between two Stormcasts; not a good place to be. Instead, he was drawn into an early fight with Orren Gloryhammer, who proved no match for the lich's minions. Seeing a mighty stormcast die at the hands of a Wight instilled the fear of death in the human forces, allowing Ichorax the freedom to achieve his objectives.

Never one to be overconfident, Ichorax proceeded cautiously, sending out the weaker undead to hold chokepoints and prevent enemies from reaching the lich. Meanwhile, the remaining Chainrasp made good use of its incorporeal nature in the crowded ruins, passing through walls and ceilings before finally snagging the phylactery and fleeing into the dark. After this, staying on the battlefield was no longer worth the (albeit tiny) risk of dying to Avananta’s Stormsmite mace, so he melted away into the shadows. In his eyes, he was the victor as he held the phylactery, killed one Stormcast, and had so few casualties that he ended the encounter with more troops than he started with.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Ichorax. Hopefully, he will be able to capitalize on his winnings and use his leverage over Vraana to make her do his dirty work.


GORAN'S COMMENTARY:

As a somewhat impromptu, not to mention late arrival, I asked to play in the game, which caused a slight change of plans in Ana, Ivan and Vladimir's scenario for the game. I opted to play Orren, a mighty Sigmarine warrior equipped with a bludgeoning heavy warhammer, accompanied by a duo of hearty and formidable barbarians, a conjurer tasked with inspecting artifacts in the city ruins, a pair of shielded men-at-arms and a guardsman with a polearm axe. 

Since I'm not particularly adept with math-heavy games, my entire warband died off relatively quickly, leaving me with no models on the table at the end of turn 3, my barbarians having fled the field of battle despite their reputation, and my leader dying to Ivan's wight, as I spent all my fate tokens defending him from relatively harmless ghosts. Despite my lacklustre performance, it was an enjoyable affair, as well as an interesting introduction into Malifaux-like mechanics. Ana's art style, as well as Vladimir's, is inspirational, albeit gloomy.