Saturday 29 December 2018

A Cavalcade of Carnivale

It's been a bit of a while since I posted here: the real world reared its ugly head and I had to eat a ton of mince pies and drink several gallons of mulled stuff. Anyway, I've been trying to make a dent in the huge number of lead Carnivale models I've got to paint before I can start on the huge number of resin Carnivale models I've got to paint.

Frankly, I've got more chance of photographing Nessie than I have of getting a decent picture of a Carnivale model, but I've tried my best.

Here are the nobles, which I painted a while ago:

And here is a Deep One:

And here are two peasants. I painted them to match the nobles that I did a while ago, so that they could function as a gang. In the rules, the Patrician faction can take maids and butlers, and I think these two would fit that role.

And finally, here's one I'm really proud of. He's called "The creature" in Carnivale, but he's clearly Frankenstein's monster. He was a really nice model to put together and paint. I put him on another Wyrd scenic base.

That's my Carnivale people for now. I've still got a fair heap of lead to work through, but I fancy a bit of a change for now.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Back To The Post-Apocalyptic Future

I couldn't stay away from conversions for long. I've spent a while painting old fantasy models, and it made a change to make something new for the science-fiction setting.

First up, an old robot from a game (or maybe a company) called Cryomek. I pinned his arms and bent the body somewhat, but otherwise he's as per "usual".

HX421 lumbers across the wasteland, hungry for battle - which is ironic, given that he doesn't have a stomach. His primary objective is to build himself a midriff out of washing-machine parts.

 Next is a more complex model. I bought some damaged Catachan soldiers on ebay recently. I ought to have a Catachan army, what with Straken and all, but the models are very old and the arms, in particular, are rather cartoony. Anyway, one Catachan I've always liked is a sergeant with a bolter. I ended up with about a third of this model - the head, arm and body - to which I added legs from a genestealer hybrid and an arm from a space marine to work as a prosthetic.

There was half a knife strapped to this chap's back, so with the help of some green stuff and wire, I turned it into some electronic gubbins to power his arm.

And now for paint...

Dirk Bunsen is a tough guy for hire, currently in the pay of Inquisitor Scaramanga. Dirk's usual practice of shooting first and asking questions later hasn't gone down well with the inquisition, who like to ask questions to people who aren't dead yet.

Finally, I dug out an ancient Blood Bowl miniature that I've probably had for 25 years. It got a new paint job. I noticed that not many skulls had been involved this week, so I attempted to remedy this by writing "SKUHL" on the chainsaw blade. One of all you chainsaw fans out there.

Sefton Throbb is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, which is handy given that he has a very large chainsaw. Equipped with armour and a Nike T-shirt, he has taken to the streets to just do it - whatever "it" is.

So, by the time of the next update, I will have self-published my first book and it will probably be Christmas. In which case, have a great Christmas and buy many copies on Kindle!

Tuesday 11 December 2018

My New Book - out on 18th December!

So, this is just a heads-up that I'll be publishing a new book on Kindle in a week's time. That's right - it'll be live on 18/12/18, and hopefully available for pre-order before then.

What is it?

It's a dark fantasy novel set in a magically-enhanced Renaissance. Vendetta and intrigue guaranteed, along with flying machines, assassinations, weird undead monsters, magical stone people and a drunken knight.

Where can I get it?

Amazon Kindle!

Why should I read it?

It's fantasy, but dark and complex - if you like Scott Lynch's books, Mordheim, the Witcher novels or the Dishonored games, it's your kind of thing.

And there will be sequels.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Dragons, then and now

Recently, at the Warfare event in Reading, I was challenged to assemble a model out of the box and not convert it. I thought I'd have a go at an old metal dragon. Even though it hasn't come from a box, I've not changed anything.

The model is old - mid-90s, I'd have thought - and the design is rather strange: if stretched out, the dragon would be extremely long and thin, more like a snake with limbs that the usual flying dinosaur. For a while, GW used this odd concept as the basis for almost all its dragons: the others had different details, but the same weird S-shaped bodies.

Anyway, what this means is that I can compare the dragon I've just done with another version of the same model I made at least 20 years ago. Let's see if I've got any better.

Here's the dragon from 1998:

And here's the equivalent from 2018:

And from another angle:


Well, I'm not sure what to make of that! The red one is more jolly and exciting, although I don't think the blending is quite as good and the base is terrible (and way too small). I seem to have been better at colouring in back then, though, as I didn't leave any black bits showing. Clearly my eyes are failing me in my old age.

The blue one seems more downbeat and moody to me, which obvious reflects my developments as a painter and my adoption of a more sombre palette (or just that I'd run out of red at the time). To be honest, I like them both!

Saturday 1 December 2018

Ghouls Gone Wild

Once again, it's been a bit of a quiet week. I spent quite a lot of it being ill, propped in front of the TV. After two days of strong medication, Father Ted and the Godfather, you start to have a rather skewed view of the world. However, I was able to finish off another ghoul and the last dwarf explorer.

The ghoul is another Rackham model and a very strange one too. His pose looks less as if he's just leaped out of a tomb than he's just taken to the stage with a feather boa, and is about to belt out some musical numbers. On the other hand, the sculpting and detail are excellent. He came without a head, so I added a shrivelled trophy I found on a chaos warrior shield. The banner/warning sign behind him was added to give him a bit more stability.

I'm pleased with the shading on his robe. Here is the whole ghastly chorus line of them, doing whatever sordid things ghouls do, in a row.

And now for the last dwarf. This guy is basically a really stumpy knight. I thought he looked ace and painted him to match the others. The teams are nearly finished!

Tuesday 27 November 2018


Bit of a small update here. Owing to my very exciting life getting in the way (which, frankly, makes a change) I was only able to do a couple more models this week. They're both "Ghouls of Acheron" by Rackham, so they'll fit in well with the undead soldiers that I've already done. They have a suitably shriveled and nasty look, and are far better miniatures than GW has ever produced for its ghouls.

Unfortunately, they're also very spindly. The standing ghoul broke just above the ankles, so I used a pillar and a metal spike as bits that he could lean against and which would hold him up. I then used green stuff to rebuild his lower legs to connect them to the feet. I think it's turned out alright.`

The painting was just bleached bone washed with strong tone (where would I be without strong tone? Well, here, to be honest, but less well equipped) and highlighted back up with white. The faces are so small, and so lined, that it made sense just to emphasise the lines and creases.

What's next? Well, I've been challenged to make a model out of the box, without converting it at all. My robot rickshaw has become something of a legend, and this is at the opposite end of the scale. So, I've got an ancient GW dragon that I'm going to put together without any conversions. Will I fight the urge to make "improvements"? Wish me luck!

Monday 19 November 2018

Necromancer and Dwarf Wizard

Time for another couple of characters, as work on the dwarf and undead warbands draws to a close.

First up is a necromancer for the undead. I found the body of a chaos sorcerer, missing arms and a head. He was wearing an interesting stitched-together robe, presumably fashioned from rival necromancers or really large hankies. I gave him some arms from an Empire wizard (the big book) and a soldier (the rod), and put a skull with slightly ridiculous horns on top of the stick to make a wand.

The head also came from the Empire wizard set: it seemed to be a hand holding up a flaming skull. I just used some green stuff to cover the fingers and it made a decent head.

Strangely, when I put the bits together, it all looked a bit wonky and awkward. However, the paint worked well and once he was finished I was really pleased with the (slightly silly) result. I see his robe has a hood. I wonder how that works?

Our second guy is a dwarf, who will be the wizard for the group. He was originally a rune-priest who rode around on a massive metal anvil back in the old days. His staff needed a new top, and his hammer had gone missing, but otherwise he was fine. He's from a period of dwarf sculpting that I don't really like, but his beard and cloak hide the worst of the stumpyness. Clearly overuse of magic turns your beard blue.

So, how about some group shots? Here is the undead crew, about to click their fingers to the theme music.

 And here are the dwarves!

Sunday 11 November 2018

Frostgrave Undead

Deep in their lair at the rotten heart of the city, soulless revenants drop the trappings of humanity and yearn to bleed the common folk. As a few brave souls stand against the tide of evil, a legion of ghouls dreams of conquering the world...

But enough about the midterms. A few posts back, I painted a vampire lady, who would be either a wandering monster or the leader of a rival warband. I dug out two Rackham undead chaps - I'm not sure if they're skeletons or zombies - to act as her minions and gave them some paint.

I love these models: the clumsy poses, the way the armour is hanging off their bodies, the sheer level of detail. Rackham made some strange and variable stuff, but with these, I think they got it just right.

The taller of these guys is from the same set of Rackham models. I also like the way that they've not gone for the crude gross-out option: these things might be skeletons or zombies, but whatever they are, they're withered rather than bloated. It's a really good take on the undead.

The shorter guy is a Mantic model. He's a zombie dwarf, from (I think) their game Dungeon Saga. He came free with a Kickstarter. I've probably mentioned that I think that Mantic have made some great models in the past, and some very ropey ones, as well as some excellent scenery. I like this little dwarf guy. The proportions are better than a lot of Warhammer dwarves, and it's an interesting concept.

Sunday 4 November 2018


A while ago, I bought a starter set for Age of Sigmar - and then regretted it, as I don't play Age of Sigmar and I'm not sold on Sigmarines. On the other hand, it had a very nice dog with the head of an eagle and some ghosts.

The ghosts, which have another name I can't be arsed to look up, are really good models. The concept - hunched ghosts with polearms and horses' skulls for heads - is impressively odd, but the design is exceptional. The models fit together in a really clever way that simply wouldn't be possible with lead or weaker plastics.

Anyhow, what with new Sisters of Battle rules on the way, I needed to make some arco-flagellants. The existing models are pretty weak: they come from a slightly ropey period, they're not fantastic sculpts and the concept (maniac executioner/slave types with crude bionics and hidden faces) isn't terribly exciting.

So, I chopped up the ghosts. I gave them spare heads from Skitarri soldiers and some blades left over from some Necron models (thanks James). I've said before that I prefer the armour-and-stonework aspects of the Sisters to the half-naked fanatic types. I could imagine the various relics kept in the vaults of the Sisters' citadel spontaneously generating these things.

A couple of washes and some highlighting later. Apart from the spectral green, the colours match with the Sisters army. Although the Sisters are less rusty.

Obviously, these pictures were blank until I developed them...

Sunday 28 October 2018

Beards and Old Timers

More dwarves for Frostgrave this week. I'm coming to the conclusion that the alleged lightbox has no function at all.

First up, an adventurer from the old days. He's from before the Red Period in the mid-90s, where GW inexplicably tried to paint everything bright red, and maybe even be (confusingly) from the red catalogue that came before that. Anyway, I suspect he came out around the same time as the thief from last week's post and, like the thief, he's an excellent sculpt full of character.

 The second model is full-on Red Period. He's a Longbeard, which is an old, elite dwarf. He's got the cartoony, stumpy look that came in with the Dwarf army book, together with dumpy legs and huge feet. How the hell he runs is anyone's guess. But I like the model despite that. The way that he's basically a beard with a sword amuses me.

The next plan is to paint a couple of marksmen and a wizard for the crew. And then it's on to the undead...

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Of Lead and Plastic - an article I wrote on wargaming

I almost forgot to post this.

My main hobby isn't miniatures: it's writing. One of the things I do is write articles for the website Fantasy Faction. They predominantly cover science fiction and fantasy novels, but they review a lot of other geeky things.

I did a short overview of tabletop wargaming for them. No doubt there are loads of things I've got wrong and left out (although I hold to my view that the Age of Sigmar setting is nowhere near as good as the old one), so feel free to let me know. Anyhow, here it is.

Of Lead And Plastic: Tabletop Wargaming in 2018

Saturday 20 October 2018

Dwarfs in a Lightbox

I've often read that the easiest way to get decent pictures of miniatures is to photograph them in a lightbox.In keeping with this, I bought an extremely cheap collapsible lightbox from Singapore. I opened the box and followed the assembly instructions, which looked like this:

Easy, once I'd looked at the captain demonstration. Now to give this origami masterpiece a test run. But would the lightbox turn out to be a shitebox? Or - wait for it - would the lightbox actually be lightbollox?

The answer is "dunno". I took a picture of one of my Mordheim/Frostgrave characters that I'd just finished with the lightbox. He's an old metal troll slayer. I tried to paint him in fairly subdued colours, but the lure of stripy trousers proved too much for me.

I also painted this guy. He's a dwarf adventurer, from the older range of models. There was a point in the 90s (during what's known as the Red Period) when the dwarfs became very dumpy and caricatured. I think the models from just before then are the best. This chap is full of cool details: he's got a spoon and a clay pipe in his hat, and he's putting some treasure into a sack. Just the kind of guy you'd need to help explore the ancient ruins!

Sunday 14 October 2018

People from a Hammer film

A very long time ago, my friend Owen gave me a very heavy box containing a load of miniatures. In the box was a plastic bag full of odd little villagers. They were obviously pretty old, and each model had a job title written on the metal tab.

I did a bit of internet research and discovered that they are GW figures for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay from 1985. No wonder they look a bit wonky. Actually, they're well-sculpted in terms of conveying the characters that they're meant to be, and some of them are impressively detailed. The thing is, they're very old-fashioned and the overall proportions leave a bit to be desired.

Anyway, I painted a few of them. I think the differences in scale can be put down to inbreeding.

Here is a witch (labelled "witch" on the tab) and an old woman (rather unkindly labelled "hag").

They're not really bad models - the detailing is pretty decent. Here are (from left to right) a druid (who looks like a drunken monk to me), a herdman (who looks like the naive and weirdly wholesome young hero of a bad fantasy novel) and a poacher.

I also made a village pond. The village pond is a vital part of medieval life, supplying the visitors with "drinking" water, mud and a place to meet the locals whilst drowning suspected witches. This pond was a simple resin cast made by Magnetic Displays, which I picked up for £3 at a show. I added some grass and a couple of ducks from the Warlord farm animals set. Delightful.

"Will I float or will I just drown?"

And now for something slightly different. A while ago, I got a couple of Avatars of War miniatures in a sale. One of them was a vampire, who I painted up this weekend. She's a very good model, and in terms of style completely different to the villagers. Getting a decent picture of her was really difficult, but here she is.

Sunday 7 October 2018

Space Precinct

Back to our usual (vaguely) regular schedule of (possibly) informative articles about modelmaking. This week, I had a go at the vehicle and headquarters of the security team that I made a couple of weeks ago.

The vehicle is a hummer, which I bought at an event and which came as a large single lump of resin. The detailing was actually pretty good, although there were some odd bits around the wheels which I just painted black. It was strange trying to paint a vehicle in a roughly realistic fashion. I even used a bit of weathering powder (if that's the stuff) around the wheels.

I think it looks suitably battered. I didn't go over the top with detail or shading because, oddly, that looked rather unrealistic. Anyway, it should make a reasonable addition to the vehicle pool an a good transport for the security guys if ever they need one.

The second item (which pretty much finishes the unit off) is a building for the security guys to hide in. It was from Troll Trader, and cost about £4. As with a lot of Troll Trader stuff, it was made from MDF slightly thicker than that used by other companies and, while slightly basic, it looks like what it claims to be.

I added a few details to the model: some posters from a sheet of 40k designs for the walls, wire mesh on the windows (I bought a sheet of mesh at the local craft shop), a small box on the roof and a bit of machinery that provides power or something inside. This year's entirely random scenery purchase was a box of resin air-conditioning units, and I stuck one of them on the front. After all, if you're going to be guarding a dangerous border town in some ramshackle post-apocalyptic future, you might as well do it at a reasonable temperature.

I did contemplate adding chairs or a table, but they would get in the way of putting models inside. That does always seem to be a problem with the more complex terrain features: either they really don't let you move models very well, or they take up so much space that any game would have to centre around them.

Here's a shot of the interior, looking rather primitive. A space policeman's lot is not a happy one!

Tune in next time for medieval peasants (possibly)!

Sunday 30 September 2018

My Big Dark Fantasy Novel

So, slightly different post here.

Both of you who read this blog will already know that I write books. More particularly, I wrote the Warhammer 40,000 novel Straken, about Colonel Straken of the Imperial Guard killing a lot of space orks, and the six Space Captain Smith books, about Captain Isambard Smith of the British Space Empire killing a lot of space ants.

Now I've got something else planned. In December 2018, I'll be releasing a new book onto Kindle. It's called Up To The Throne, and it looks like this:

Giulia returns to her birthplace to kill the man who scarred her and left her for dead - only to find that he is no longer a gangster but a powerful politician, and may be the only person who can save Pagalia from its enemies. As she carves her way closer to vengeance, it becomes clear that her revenge may destroy the entire city.

It's a dark fantasy story, a sort of revenge thriller set in a magically-supercharged Renaissance, full of clockwork tanks, haunted ruins, flying machines and a lot of menace and intrigue. I'm not that keen on the term, but if you want to call it Grimdark, feel free.

This is a first expedition into the world of self-publishing, and I'll update you guys as I go along. It's pretty daunting, to be honest, but I'm looking forward to it too!

Thursday 27 September 2018


Last week, I tidied my desk. Most of this involved clipping parts out of sprues and putting them into little plastic pots from Ikea: tedious, but strangely satisfying. Under the heap of parts, I found my old set of modelling tools in their sinister little roll.

Is it safe? Is it safe?

I got to work on a conversion that I'd had in mind for ages. A while ago, I'd purchased a box of broken Privateer Press models, which included a headless thing which I think was originally a bison with a saddle. Armoured legs were sculpted onto the saddle.

I used the head of an ancient (and not very good) orc boar, and blended it to the body with quite a lot of green stuff. I used a chaos knight's arms and torso, and added a Brettonian head for a suitably enormous helmet.

A few other bits were added, a base sculpted from a lump of clay, and then it was time to paint this chap. It took ages - every time I'd finished, I found something new. But I have to say that the result is decent. The bright colours and weird concept go together quite well, I think: he could work in either Mordheim or Frostgrave.

The mysterious knights of the ancient Order Of The Pork Rampant are known for riding enormous mutant pigs instead of steeds. While they are regarded as eccentric by their comrades, and are often the butt of sausage-related jokes, there can be no doubting their prowess in battle. Many a hungry orc, thinking himself about to get a cheap luncheon, has been horribly gored by the grunting warpigs of the Order. Here we see the bold knight Sir Plusse de Requirements, looking for glory while his steed looks for truffles.

Thursday 20 September 2018

Welcome to the Guard

While the effectiveness of the Imperial Guard has varied from time to time, it has always been an inescapable truth that the individual guardsman is crap. That's the point of the army, really: the Guard are (or is?) a horde army, using loads of little people to wear down the enemy by force of numbers. What this adds up to is that the average unit of guardsmen makes the cast of Dad's Army look like the Special Operations Executive.

Of course, in a smaller-scale setting, one man can make more of a difference. I found a few old Guard models, added weapons where necessary from the ever-excellent Genestealer Acolytes set, and painted them up to look like a second-rate security team, rather like the not-very-fearsome riot police in the 1970s Dawn of the Dead. I think the lack of uniform gear rather helps.

The other reason why they're in blue is that they don't clash too much with my genestealer cultists ("they don't clash" - what is this, a fashion show?), and so could pass as recruits if needed to bulk out the numbers. They've got similar (ie rubbish) stats to low-level cultists, and so could easily join the ranks with the rest of the cannon fodder.

I'm expecting a Beastie Boys cover out of these guys

These aren't the best-painted models I've ever done, but they'll be fine (probably). The face on the middle chap was either a bit miscast or not a great sculpt: I've done what I can, really.

The sunglasses are a feeble attempt to look tough and competent

These two look a bit more professional. They're still really old sculpts (they both appear in the ancient blue Citadel catalogue) but I added new plastic arms, which fitted remarkably well.

Last weekend I went to Colours at Newbury Racecourse. It wasn't quite as good for random broken stuff as last year, but I did manage to pick up a few decent things. One of them was this whopping great lump of resin in the shape of a Hummer armoured car. Ideal for the security forces, or the genestealer cult.