Monday, 21 January 2019

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Space monkeys!

We've been playing quite a bit of Mutants and Death Ray Guns recently - largely on the basis that organising a session takes minutes rather than hours. I suspect our Whitehack campaign won't resume until the halfway break in the Six Nations.

Yesterday, I had an idea for a warband: space monkeys! I kitbashed five of them from GW skaven bodies and Mantic orc heads, with Wehrmacht arms from Warlord Games. The leader got a pair of Frostgrave gnoll arms. I started painting them last night and finished this morning, in time for this afternoon's game. They won't win any painting prizes (but they did win the game).

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Red goblins!

The first edition of Warhammer (before my time, but I acquired a copy at some point when I was a kid) featured several types of goblins: great goblins, night goblins and red goblins. I think there were generic goblins in the rulebook too, though they were soon dropped. Of the three main types, only the night goblins survived into later editions of Warhammer; they still seem to be going strong.

The great goblins - formerly gnolls - were very nice models, as were the night goblins. The red goblins, though, suffered from coming first. They were some of the first Citadel models, originally featuring in the Fiend Factory range, and weren't up to the same standards as the other two varieties, which were produced slightly later. They'd earlier been sold as "red orcs" and, I think, merely as "orcs" and "half-orcs" too.

An original Citadel red goblin (with cybernetic simian friend)

They did, however, get a nice John Blanche illustration in the Forces of Fantasy supplement:

I always liked the phrase "red goblins". So I decided to paint some up. I've got countless orcish odds and ends scattered around the lead pile: old plastics, ones of a kind, duplicates of miniatures that I've already painted up. I thought that red hide and black uniforms might provide a way of uniting those into a biologically diverse tribe - and getting miniatures out of boxes and onto the table.

So, here are my first two red goblins: an old Warhammer Armies orc with a night-goblin head; and a Battlemasters orc I got on eBay a few years ago. Joining them soon will be an AD&D hobgoblin, an AD&D goblin, a C15 armoured orc and even a skaven conversion (who's to say goblins can't look like beast people?).

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

An alien

Requiring some mutants and aliens for a big game of Mutants and Death Ray Guns this weekend, I tried to get this fellow done in exactly an hour. I see from the podcast I was listening to that he took about an hour and a quarter.

I used a very simple recipe: base colours, a quick drybrush in silver-grey, then a wash over each area.

I might give him some more attention tomorrow, but I suspect that a good dollop of gloss varnish will obscure his shortcomings sufficiently.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Some speed-painted orcs

Fast 'n' dirty!

I've been meaning to finish off a few skirmish warbands for the children of some of our friends - a project I started far too long ago. So getting a few more finished quickly was the key thing. Here's how I did them.

The first step was to undercoat the orcs in black gesso. After that, I drybrushed them in mid-grey:

I then drybrushed them in white. The two layers of drybrushing create a rough gradient that provides highlights and shading through thin coats of colour.

I painted in the metals next. Metallic paints are the worst for polluting other areas of the miniature, so I wanted them in before the colours.

The colours for other areas are heavily diluted with water, so that the greyscale gradient shows through:

Then come the washes (Citadel washes in this case). If I'd been particularly pressed for time, I'd have used a single wash of sepia over everything. But as it was, I went with brown over metals, leather, hair, fur and weapon hafts; yellow over yellow cloth; red over red cloth; sepia over the green skin; and watered-down Blood for the Blood God over the pinkish areas of skin.

I then painted the tusks in buff, then highlighted them quickly in white. I used the same dab of white to pick out the eyes and brush lightly over the hair.

Next came a very few highlights in Vallejo silver-grey (which is the same as GW's Wych Elf Flesh). It's a nice 'universal' highlight as a kind of non-descript off-white that works on almost any colour. I highlighted only the pinkish flesh and the odd bit of the yellow clothing and fur, where raised areas had become too dark.

After that, I painted the eyes red and then added a dot of yellow, washed the shields in watery black, which I also used to black-line any messy delineations between colours, and roughed out a shield design in buff. I also used a bit of silver to roughly highlight the metal (an obvious stage to skip if time were short).

A few last touches finished them off, and then it was time for the bases.

The paintwork is pretty rough, but it is (I hope!) roughly pretty too. The advantage of this approach, apart from speed, is that you need take very little care. Most areas are painted by simply washing first a paint and then a purpose-made wash over the greyscale effect created by drybrushing. Only the faces and the shields get any real attention.

It occurs to me that this colour scheme - the same that I used on my pig-faced orcs - is very close to the Monster Manual's description:
Orcs appear particularly disgusting because their coloration — brown or brownish green with a bluish sheen — highlights their pinkish snouts and ears.
As Gygax said that he conceived of his orcs as less porcine than Sutherland's illustration, these fellows may come fairly close to the original conception of the D&D orc. Whatever - at least they're done now!

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Brazen giants - Taluses of Typhon?

I've been re-reading Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun recently and listening to the marvellous Alzabo Soup podcast. And yesterday I finished Nightside the Long Sun. It's the first book in The Book of the Long Sun, which has sat on my shelf for a few years. The Book of the Short Sun is still probably a year or two off, unless Long Sun leaves me slavering for more.

One of the themes in Wolfe's Solar Cycle is the difference in human forms created by genetic engineering, cybernetics and eugenics. The soldier and aristocratic classes, for example, are easily identifiable by their height. That made me think about these outsized space marines, which I'd picked up for two quid in the local newsagent, with a promotional issue of some GW magazine for kids.

I don't find the current GW take on space marines particularly interesting; somehow, it seems less than the sum of its parts (Herbert's Sardaukar, Heinlein's starship troopers, warrior orders of the Crusades, etc). And I preferred the original rulebook's illustration of renegade humans in power armour just hanging out in some low dive to the monastic conception of the later books, in which maverick marines seemed impossible - unless they were chaos renegades. But I do like the idea of Wolfean super-soldiers. That combined with Wolfe's concepts of 'taluses' (war robots named after the brazen giant of Greek myth) and long-forgotten, dimly understood technology to give me a quick scheme for the painting of these fellows.

I like the idea that they've been in their armour for a very long time - and possibly immobile for decades or centuries until springing into life when a distant communication from their emperor (Wolfe's Pas/Typhon?) reaches them.

This method was very quick. Before I added the GW oxide paint to effect the verdigris, I painted them bronze, washed them in brown and drybrushed them in gold. They looked pretty good at that stage, so I almost held off 'ruining' them with the oxide. But I'm pleased with how they turned out. And, by sheer chance, I came across a box of 10 more for a third of the standard price in a most unlikely shop while performing Christmas-related drudgery today.

The qhal and the Slann. Or: did CJ Cherryh invent the Old World?

The qual?
The other day, I was in an second-hand bookshop and picked up Gate of Ivrel, a novel by CJ Cherryh, published in 1977. I've read nothing by her, but have heard a fair bit of praise of her work. So I bought it. It appears to be a sort of science-fantasy: a medieval setting with an sf backstory.

On opening it, I was struck by familiar elements in the prologue:

The gates were the ruin of the qhal. They were everywhere, on every world, had been a fact of life for millennia, and had linked the whole net of qhal civilisation - an empire of both Space and Time, for the Gates led into elsewhen as well as elsewhere ... except at the end.
It continues, later on the same page:

So the qhal migrated through future time, gathering in greater and greater numbers in the most distant ages. They migrated in space too, and thrust themselves insolently into the affairs of other beings, ripping loose a segment of their time also. ... They simply used the lesser races as they were useful, and seeded the worlds they colonized with the gatherings of whatever compatible worlds they pleased. ... The qhal in the end had little need left, and little ambition but for luxury and novelty and the consuming lust for other, ever-farther Gates.
Until someone, somewhen, backtimed and tampered - perhaps ever so minutely. 
The whole of reality warped and shredded. 
Ring any bells?  Here's second-edition Warhammer on the Slann:
The Slann are a unique race in the Known World. Their origins are uncertain, but they appear to be descended from the ancient race of Old Slann. The Old Slann possessed a civilisation far beyond anything we have even today. Science and philosophy were as one to them, they were the lords of time and space. There was nowhere they could not go and nothing they could not do, it is said that the High Age of the Slann was a golden era for all sentient creatures. It is probably that the Old Slann came from the stars, as Slann legend recalls. The Slann of today are a race fallen from power, they have turned their backs on the past and have grown to hate and fear the old technology. What brought about the decline of the Slann is not known. However, Slann legend connects the fall of the Old Slann with galactic catastrophy and the creation of theIncursions of Chaos. 
[Emphasis mine]
Then, in the third edition, we get this (p. 231, under Slann):

The Slann are an ancient race whose past and origin stretches beyond the horizons of this world. Once they roamed the stuff of Chaos, moving between planets in their marvellous silver spaceships, seeding the universe with their genetic experiments.
 Earlier (p.189), there's this:

One of their greatest achievements was the creation of spacial gateways between worlds, facilitating rapid travel over vast distances of space. Spatial gateways, or warp-gates, were constructed near habitable planets, looking very much like huge black holes over the firmament. ... On many worlds the Slann discovered living creatures. Some of these creatures became the subjects of genetic experiments. Newly created worlds became home to the offspring of these engineered creatures. Other worlds were found to have evolved life-forms which were dangerous and displeasing, creatures which were subsequently destroyed or altered to make them more useful. By this means the Slann created many of the galaxy's habitable worlds and seeded the galaxy with the ancestors of men and other humanoid creatures. 
But as with the qhal, it all goes wrong:

The mechanism controlling the warp-gates failed, the polar gates collapsed and the world was cut off from the rest of the galaxy.
All of this (and there's lots more of it) reads very much like an expansion of Cherryh's concept of the qhal and their gates. Note that in second-edition Warhammer, the Slann were more qhal-like in that they were lords of time and space. By the third edition, however, their domain was spatial rather than temporal.

Now, there's nothing in the slightest bit wrong with this homage. Genius steals and all that. But I was surprised to find that I can't get a single Google result for "qhal" and "Slann". I can't be the first person to have noticed this, can I?

It's odd because the Warhammer creators have been very open about their influences: Moorcock, Tolkien, Vance, Clark Ashton Smith, Frazetta, Pape, etc. I'm speculating, but could the Cherryh influence have come via Richard Halliwell, who has apparently been in poor health and hasn't been interviewed about Warhammer's origins in the way that Bryan Ansell and Rick Priestly have? According to Zhu Bajiee (sic: not Zhu Baijie, or Pigsy, as many of us remember him from Monkey), Halliwell was the creator of the Slann. So maybe that's it.

Or could this be a case of parallel evolution? I don't think so, given the similarity of the concepts (lords of time and space, gates, interference with other species, catastrophe when the gates fail).

I reckon the Slann are one of the best of the Warhammer creations, but they've been sadly underserved by Games Workshop since their second-edition heyday. So I'm pleased to have discovered this indication of their origins. It gives me a little more impetus to accelerate my Slann-painting efforts into the end of the year!