Monday, 29 May 2017


It feels like a little while since I last posted here - at least eight days! - but rest assured, I have not defected to the real world and have continued to work on little plastic people instead.

Little plastic aliens, to be more precise. Ages ago, I made a sort of four-legged tyranid based on a picture of a Hive Guard, before GW had brought out its models for them. The picture looked like this:

My own version was half tyranid warrior, half cold one (a sort of riding dinosaur that looked like a fat velociraptor). What with Shadow War Armageddon being out, and tyranids being a playable race (although surely a rubbish one, given their last few sets of rules) I thought it would be good to improve my slightly half-arsed conversion.

So, I added armour, bulked up the plates on its back, lengthened the front legs (made from genestealer claws) and added some extra ribbing from a necron to make the model look more biomechanical and to link the front half and the back half together more.

The gun is actually from the ancient - and dreadful - genestealer hybrid models from the Space Hulk Deathwing supplement.The head came from some kind of large-scale robot-person from the old Inquisitor game, back when you could order individual bits.

Anyhow, here are some pictures of the gunbeast painted up. Unlike most tyranids, he can open his mouth without his tongue flopping out like some sort of gormless space-labrador.

I think I might do a vehicle next. I've finally got the parts to finish the Immolator I've had knocking around for ages, and I recently bought the crane-and-tractor scenery pack from GW. So, mobile church or red rural ride?

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Return of the Space Jockey (and Radio Boy)

Last week I watched Alien: Covenant, which was an entertaining and completely pointless film. It had some excellent scenes (especially the one in the sick bay) and a lot of pretentious waffle in between them. It seems that no explanation of the question "Where does the Alien come from?" can be as awe-inspiring at the question itself. I ended up with the sneaking suspicion that Ridley Scott had really wanted to make A.I.

But anyhow, the film inspired me to go back to the space jockey model I made ages ago out of half a tyranid, half a cap gun and a broken mouse. It was looking a bit worse-for-wear and rather unfinished. On closer examination of the Giger artwork, the jockey isn't just black/grey, as I'd thought: the pilot itself is a faded bone colour, while the rest of the machine looks grey/brown in places, as if bleached.

I had also left part of the "targeter" on the jockey: while my model is nowhere near an exact copy of the original, it was quite a large part of the Alien model, so I added one of my own. The end result (so far) looks like this:

Here is a tour guide/genestealer magus for scale.

The pilot is a bit too brown, and I'll have to blend him down with some grey washes. But it's definitely an improvement. It does look as if he's grown out of the chair - which, in space jockey circles, is quite a compliment.

In other news, I've finished the sixth member of the ork commando squad. This guy is exceptionally dangerous, because he has the radio set and can order in airstrikes. Unfortunately, there is always the risk that either he or mission control will get excited and mix up the present position for the one they want bombed, but such is the price of success. Or stupidity.

I ended up removing his spindly aerial, and replacing it for a suitably wonky-looking gun left over from a Skitarri kit. I think it worked quite well.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Rebasing the Blimp (2)

I wonder sometimes if I update this blog too often. I don't know how frequently you're supposed to add to a blog to "maximise traffic" or whatever the phrase is. But the way I see it, I might as well add things as I make them (and when I'm pleased with them), as most of this blog is for my own entertainment. Besides, multiple shorter posts are easier to read than a few very long ones, I think.

Anyhow, I've finished mucking around with the bottom of the blimp so that it slots into the stand and now "hovers" above the scenic base.

The mechanism by which the stand connects to the blimp itself is slightly crude, but it's hidden by the adverts and actually doesn't look too out of place with the slightly cobbled-together look of the blimp.

Here are some rules for the blimp:

Advertising Blimp

It is not uncommon to see automated blimps drifting above the city, even in some of the warzones of the Scorched Earth. Some are leftovers from an earlier age, advertising all sorts of luxuries that have not been available for decades: others have been refitted to sell products, offer services and spread propaganda to the citizens below.

The advertising blimp is treated as a piece of terrain. It cannot harm other models or be harmed by them. Every turn, the blimp moves 2 d.6 inches in a random direction. If its base comes into contact with a structure or model, it immediately stops. Roll a d.6 to see what effect the blimp has each turn.

1-3: A new life awaits us in the off-world colonies! The sight of rampant commercialism fills the combatants with hope for a better life. All models within 6" of the blimp gain +1 leadership.

4-6: Look at the shiny pictures... Distracted by images of soft drinks, sushi or scantily-clad humanoid females, all models within 6" of the blimp suffer a -1 penalty to their leadership.

All such bonuses and penalties cease to have effect if the blimp moves more than 6" from an affected model.

"Oceania? That sounds like a nice place to live."

As an added bonus, I was tempted to direct you to the song "The Blimp" from Captain Beefheart's album "Trout Mask Replica", on the grounds that it's sort of appropriate, but really, you'll manage without it. Of course, you could just listen to Zeppelin instead.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Get Me The Choppa!

As the Armageddon campaign wore on, the Big Boss realised that it would be just as effective to break the will of the human defenders as to kill them all. So, he gave the order to his commando squads: the officers leading the Imperial Guard's resistance were to be assassinated.

One such officer was Lord Commissar Heinrich von Eefilmann, a pupil of Yarrick himself, whose ruthless efficiency put the ruthless efficiency of less ruthlessly efficient commissars to shame. A crack team of ork commandos sharpened their knives, gathered large backpacks and big coils of rope, and set out to achieve the impossible.

Sentries were throttled, throats cut, vehicles sabotaged, supplies blown up and even cable cars surfed in the course of that deadly, if rather anachronistic, mission. Finally, the death-blow was struck by Burk "Slasher" Gutrip, a veteran commando with a bionic leg and a collection of sharp implements that would shame an operating theatre (albeit a rather rusty one).

Burk stole von Eefilmann's head and brought it back to his superiors in triumph. But the mission was ultimately a failure: now that their commissar was dead, the morale of the Imperial Guard improved significantly, since there was nobody left to execute them every time they sneezed.

 I've got to say, I'm rather pleased with this guy. Most of him is a metal doc figure, which came without a right arm or head. I used a Spellcrow head and a plastic right arm. His left leg was just a peg, which stuck me as a bit primitive. So I made him a new leg out of odds and ends, and I think it looks much better.

There really are some terrific metal ork models out there. The Space Marines might be covered in skulls and rosettes, but the orks look mean, as if they've had a try at fighting everything and come back for a second go. Next up in the unit is this guy, who will be the radio operator and comms genius just as soon as I've attached his head and painted him. I think he will be Plunk Teksmash.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Rebasing The Blimp

Last year, I made an advertising blimp to hover over the futuristic battlefield, distracting the combatants with promises of a better life in a different game system. It looked like this:

Unfortunately, the base I made for it just wasn't strong enough. The blimp is based on about a kilogramme of solid resin (I hope the DEA isn't reading this) and the puny 40k flying base I'd used wobbled for a bit, and then snapped. The blimp was brought back down to earth very quickly. The humanity!

I got a replacement flying base very cheaply off the internet and got to work decorating it. Given the Blade Runnery feel of it, the base needed some high-tech bits and a lot of decaying, grubby stuff.

Like that. I always thought it was a good idea to keep those random bits of zoid. It then received some paint:

The transparent stand for the blimp slots into the cross in the middle. Now I've just got to work out how to fix it on there!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Cars and Lights

This week, I have been mostly painting cars. I decided to get the cars from the Mantic terrain pack painted to a reasonable standard. They're from the Walking Dead game, and are pretty decent, really, especially since they're one-piece vaccuum-formed things you could probably use as a jelly mould. They're all sculpted as damaged, although I reckon the pickup trucks could still wobble along. I did briefly consider converting one into a "technical", as used across the world's more budget warzones, but eventually I couldn't be bothered. Besides, they look fine as it is.

Der-der-der-der - Cars

Der-der-der-der - Cars

I also thought I'd have a go at some lighting effects. For £2 I bought a small torch at Tescos and glued it to a base so it would stand on end. I then painted it grey. For the light itself, I used the ball and cap from a deoderant. This came as translucent white plastic, and so would let the light through. I painted the sides of the cap but not the top, to allow the torchlight to flood out.

Here's the light when not turned on. It looks quite futuristic and maybe vaguely fantastical, too.

 And here it is in its weird, blurry glory:

My eyes, my eyes! It's a bit crude, but as an idea I think it's got promise.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Making Boring Models Interesting

Over the last few months, I discovered the alchemical secret of getting paint off miniatures.That means that I now have a large number of stripped miniatures, some of which are old and a bit ropey. Here is everything I've found out about making boring and weirdly-cast models more dynamic.

1. Head swap.

On humanoid figures, attention is naturally drawn to the face, which if exposed is often a different colour to the area around it, and which conveys the emotion of the model. Older figures may have dull expressions or may lack the sharpness of casting in modern models. Swapping heads will change this, and will make a better focal point for the model. In GW models, the Genestealer acolyte and Dark Eldar wytch boxed sets are worth a look, as you get a lot of spare, crisply-cast heads. But there are many other examples. It is also worth pointing out that with models in thick clothing or armour, it is often only necessary to swap the head to convincingly turn the model from male to female, which can introduce some variety into an otherwise dull group of figures.

Old body, new head.

2. Neck and waist twist.

Owing to older casting methods and (in fantasy) the need to rank the figures up in a unit, many models have a static, soldier-on-guard pose: feet slightly apart, body and head facing directly forward, weapon either held upwards, spear-style, or across the body (guns, especially). This is a very two-dimensional pose, as the model has width and height, but very little depth.

The easiest way to remedy this is to turn the waist, which gives the impression of the model twisting around to react to something from the side, immediately giving the model extra dynamism and motion. Turning the head is also very effective, especially if the head is turned to look the same way that the model’s weapon is pointed. Even if the model is standing with a lowered gun, it will look more as if it is expecting an attack rather than just standing around.

The head and shield are pointing a different way to the legs, as if he's twisting to strike.

3. Selective paintjob

On some older miniatures, especially lead ones, the casting is so soft that details are lost or blurry to the point where you don’t quite know what you’re looking at. Take the plastic Fire Warriors. What’s going on at the end of their trousers? Some kind of hooves, maybe, with a sort of strap like a sandal? It’s hard to be sure. Only recently, with the release of similar, crisper models, has it become clear to me where the paint’s meant to go. I would suggest just painting the whole thing black or some similar undistracting colour, washing and highlighting and putting the more dramatic colours somewhere more central and eye-catching on the model. Or chop the offending bit off and replace it. Which, if you’ve got 100 Tau in your army, is not practical.

Or just put them in a cornfield.

 4. Basing.

This is more than just the usual flocking and basing of the model. If a model is standing in a very flat, symbol-on-the-toilet-door pose, putting objects on the base that go off at an angle may lead the observer's eye towards the model and do something to counter the 2-dimensional pose.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Very Exciting Update (Allegedly)

There have been several exciting developments in miniature painting this week, at least for me.

1) I worked out how to activate the "follow" option! Now there is a button in the top right corner of this blog you can press to follow it. Pretty exciting, eh?

2) I bought the rulebook and a few miniatures from the Carnevale range, by Vesper-On Games. This is a skirmish game set in 1750 or so, in a fantasy Venice where the canals are full of Deep Ones and there are an awful lot of homicidal maniacs in party masks. The models look great, and the concept is really cool.

Little Mooning Dudes were common in Venice

The only problem is that the translation in the rulebook (from Italian, I think) is a bit awkward in places. Of course, there have been some dreadful manuals written by native English speakers: the quality of GW Codexes ranges from pretty good to awful, and if you've ever tried to play Sedition Wars - well, you won't have succeeded. But it does rather spoil things when there are loads of small mistakes getting in the way of what would otherwise be a really entertaining read. That said, it's still pretty decent, and I got it cheaply, so I can't complain (although that's exactly what I'm doing).

3) I've got some painting done. Ages ago, I signed up for the Mantic "Crazy Box" Christmas deal, and got a bizarre and extensive selection of random models. Among them was a big tortoise monster. As with a lot of Mantic's stuff, it was a nice idea cursed by mold lines and a slightly-too-cartoony style. I replaced the head with a spare one left over from the Massallan Phallhounds (I still don't know where they came from) and painted him a bit like a creature from the computer game Mass Effect. Again, I tried using the zenith technique, spraying white paint from above onto him to simulate sunlight.

He's not the world's best miniature, and he still needs a little bit of extra detail, but I rather like him. I've learned that one way to improve a slightly uninspiring model is to replace the head with a more detailed or exciting sculpt. Now he's no longer gathering dust - well, now he can gather dust on top of his paint.