Thursday, August 29, 2013

No one knows who they were, or what they were doing...

Painted: Druids of Orboros

Manufacturer: Privateer Press
Line: Hordes
Faction: Circle Orboros
Set: 72015 Druids of Orboros
Release date: 2006
Date painted: 2008

More of my Circle Orboros force to share with you today. I think these guys are pretty cool overall and they were an obvious choice for inclusion.


I just really didn't care for the heads, which are way too round and way, way too large. That and PP couldn't even be arsed to foot the bill for six different ones. The heads are separate except for the leader, which is convenient in a way as you don't have to saw off the old ones, on the flip side the head pieces also include a fair bit of neck and even part of the cloak, so I had to fill in a fair bit and sculpt a few details. Below you can see the conversions. The black mist is because I was in a rush to prime these in the fading afternoon after getting home, and remembered just a second too late that I had wanted to get pics first. In addition to hoods and facial hair I also gave the old guy a bit of a paunch to set him apart from the skinny guy with the busted lip, and this meant redoing his oversized belt-buckle-armor-thing. I gave the leader a beard that juts out a bit like Leonidas is portrayed in the 300 graphic novel. The yelling guy turned out even better than I hoped, I really get the sense he drawing down the power from the heavens and eyes rolling back in his head he barely has it contained. Overall I'm really pleased with these, especially how they each have their own personality now—very unlike the originals!


I've already said some things about how I approached the painting of this force and these were done in the same way. When it comes to black, I recommend thinking about what material is represented and how it reflects light in real life. A rough black cloak is reflects a fair degree of light and appears fairly dull and light under the sun. I made the highlights fairly neutral but a bit on the warm side, giving them a more natural feel than the comic-book blue-for-black style Privateer made popular. The armor was meant to look burnished in a way similar to Celtic charms and trinkets I've seen in real life, and was done with the P3 Blighted Gold as a base, which is a dark green-gold and a unique color you'd be hard-pressed to get another way. The weapons and flesh were given a number of very thin glazes of brown ink with matte medium to really saturate/enrich the color.

Also I just want to throw this in somewhere that I much prefer the way the armor detail was sculpted on these figures than what became the set way later on in the range. Also, these are about as layered and encumbered as anyone can be expected to believe, but the later range kept weighing the druids down with silly stone things, glass baubles and weighty garb. Oh well.

For those interested there are many more individual shots in the flickr.

P.s. pardon me for the Spinal Tap reference, I couldn't help it, and anyway he did it first.

Magnetic, low-profile miniatures basing

Every miniature its base

I don't think there's a single perfect basing method you can apply to all varieties of figures, but for any particular variety I have to believe there's a good solution out there. Sometimes, and it's the case with the D&D collection and my choice of low-profile, magnetized ellipse bases I want to focus on today, there is a clear winner when I weigh the pros and cons of the options in light of any particular variety. Then for other collections, say my Oldhammer collection or my dark age fantasy collection that has some Red Box games figures, any solution I consider seems to have cons and there's no clear winner. For those, because it's usually a fairly big commitment to go one basing method or another, I find myself avoiding painting any of it and leaving the figures to lie in boxes un-based.

But you have to live in the imperfect world and for me that means making up my mind on a basing method every now and then and carrying through with it. This topic has literally kept me up at night often enough to warrant an infrequent series of posts to come whenever I make up my mind and have something to show for it.

That out of the way, this first post, about the low-profile ellipse (and sometimes round) bases I do for my D&D figures, has a happy ending with no lingering regrets. While I spent quite a long time researching options and trying them out, once I made the decision I rested easy until I came to the next collection I needed to base.

First up, here are a few examples of the figures I've shared already:

Why go with these ellipse bases that conform to the basic footprint of the figure itself, rather than the more trendy method of putting the figures on a few standard sizes of round bases, often much larger than the figures footprint? In contemporary D&D a figure includes a base size in it's stats but this base size could could better be described as an area of control, as something the creature may, if it wishes, enforce during combat. In my view, even if you want to enforce area of control rules there's no reason to impair the overall utility of the figure by putting the figure on a base that's much too large for it. You can simply eyeball it or use a template when it becomes relevant. Meanwhile, those figures on large round bases become extremely unwieldy when you try to negotiate them in a 3D dungeon, one like mine made of Dwarven Forge pieces, or in buildings. In a roleplaying game anything can happen, or anything should be able to happen, and thinking about overall utility when considering things like bases can help make that anything happen. Why can't an ogre mage share a pipe with the characters in a tavern? Your basing choice may make that awkward or even impossible to represent the activity with miniatures.

Moreover, even if you're strictly interested in tactical combat having your figure's base match it's area of control doesn't make sense, as the creature should be able to selectively enforce area of control to it's advantage. Take, for example, the bugbears above, which are a little too large for 25mm bases, but if I'd have gone for 30mm bases they wouldn't have been able to fight side-by-side in a dungeon corridor, and thus they'd be that much more easy to kill if the party had only to face them one at a time. And with larger figures you come to situations where if you put the figure on round base with a diameter equal to it's widest dimension you'd have a base that wouldn't fit in the 48mm across Dwarven Forge hallways, when it's clear when you look at he model that it should be able to fit if it wants. Common sense is my underpinning philosophy when DMing, that characters and creatures should get to do what they want when it makes sense.

Some few other pros to toss out. The low profile means the figures don't look out of place next to furniture, and they more closely look a part of the environment, especially painted as I've done them in a subdued, nothing-jumping-out-of-you style in colors that match their most common environment, again the Dwarven Forge. I've also decided to magnetize the larger ones to vastly save on efficiency when it comes to storage (though I don't magnetize the 25mm human-sized ones as I'm concerned about their lead ankles over the long run).

Now the cons. I think the main con is that every now and then I'd like to do big battles with the D&D collection and for battles square bases make ranking up units easier. Or, if the figures were on round bases one could make use of pre-made laser-cut movement trays that have a round cutout for each figure. It's not a big deal overall, as I can model movement trays that have foam turf over the whole surface and I can put however many figures on each one, but I thought I'd toss this out as it's really the only con I've come up with beyond that final, inescapable fact of all miniatures, that you have to model them on a single style of terrain, and unless they are historical figures fighting only in green fields their live long days (I envy them sometimes!) one day your figures will be fighting outside their element. Those battles outdoors will suffer slightly for it I guess, if and when I come to that, but as these figures spend the vast majority of thier time underground what could I possibly have done better than I did on this point?

So that's why, and here's what. I get my ellipse bases from Fenris and Ian there is really fantastic to work with, I couldn't be happier. Below you see my first big order from a few years ago and in the meantime I've gone back several times for more.

I spent several hours going through my collection and determining a number of core sizes I needed and in what quantities, and then I did a reality check by printing off test ellipses, often a number of variations of each size increment, and doing a test fit of the miniature on the paper template.


For large figures, magnetizing them is a no brainer in my opinion. In fact, I don't think I could store my collection in my apartment otherwise, and it's not a small apartment. What you need to drill a clean hole in a base is a moto-tool and brad point bits that fit it. The brad point bits are essential and I'm grateful to a TMP member or two for pointing (sorry, that was unintentional) me in the right direction.

I even lucked out in that the diameter of the various bits match the magnets I had already bought absolutely perfectly. You might want to buy your magnets with the brad points diameters in mind, however, and not chance it.

And then you'll need some kind of rig for drilling. Here you can see what I came up with after some trial and error. Arrived at this setup through trial and error. Needed to get the drilling platform up high enough that I wasn't killing my neck. Those boxes are a good counterweight as they store my Dwarven Forge collection. I figure anything I put them to use for is helping me get my money's worth!

Now, above was a few years ago. Since then I managed to score a Dremel drill press for very little at an estate sale, and this is really drilling the way God intended, this thing gets my endorsement:

Ok, now for the slightly fiddly bit. The bases are drilled but before you glue you'll want to give a passing thought to aligning your magnets. You see if two disc magnets are placed side-by-side with their poles aligned the same way, they repel each other. This can mean you go to glue two magnets in a base and the magnets leap out of the sockets. The second thing you should be aware of is that if you glue a magnet directly into the hole, even if you glue on a very even surface there is a likely chance that once the glue has tried your base doesn't lie perfectly flat and the magnet is sticking very slightly out the bottom. I don't know why this happens, but it does.

To resolve these two issues I one, divide up the magnets on a two sides of a piece of scrap metal, one pole on side and the other pole on the other, and when I go to glue I glue one hole on all the bases first and then go to glue the other pole magnets in the other holes, and two, I glue a tiny piece of paper to the bottom of each base, so when the base is glued it's a tiny bit off the surface I'm gluing on, and when dry I can scrape off the paper. Honestly the polarity issue you could ignore if you really wanted to. But the paper step I don't recommend you skip.

This will probably explain a little better:

One note about gluing. I found it's better to set the magnet in the whole and put a couple tiny dabs of glue, and in fact I use white glue for this step, and then once that's dry go around again, picking up each base and applying super glue on both sides with a toothpick and blowing into the cracks, and then setting each down sideways leaning against something for a minute. If you start out with superglue from the start, especially if you use enough to really hold the magnet in there, it will run out the bottom and glue the whole base to the paper or whatever you have beneath.

And in that last pic you can see that each base I drilled is intended for a particular figure. My plan is that one day, literally, every miniature its base.

And here are some results! A number of figures here able to stand up on their own now!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stone Beasts

Painted: Woldwarden and Woldwyrds

Immoren is a dangerous place and my boy Baldur doesn't go far outside the neighborhood exept under the protective gaze of these golem-like constructions of wood and stone.

Manufacturer: Privateer Press
Line: Hordes
Faction: Circle Orboros
Figure: Woldwarden
Release date: 2006
Sculptor: ?
Date painted: 2008

Manufacturer: Privateer Press
Line: Hordes
Faction: Circle Orboros
Set: 72023 Woldwyrd
Release date: 2007
Sculptor: ?
Date painted: 2008

Let me know if you know the sculptor of these.

The paintjobs are canonical and the main area mine differ from the studio paint jobs is mine are a lot warmer, with richer tones as if under a summer sun. In a wicker object wicker is naturally going to be very dull, but I wanted the wicker parts here to seem supple and vigorously alive, and I also wanted them to contrast nicely with the green tones. So I made them very red, starting with Vallejo Back Red as a base, under the logic the beast creation recipe called for a special red plant, whether it was a kind of rattan or reed or what have you, and that further the life giving creation magic imbues this plant with an even greater luster, as if, giving it's life for the stone beast it dies in a way but nonetheless becomes more alive than ever. You know, that Lacanian thing, the death drive.

The ropes, meanwhile, were done greenish to represent hemp.

I also glazed the woldwarden with mossy green tones starting at the feet and fading upwards to make him more an element of the environment. He spends most of his day standing silent and watchful, and it should show as weathering.

The woldwyrds are easy to paint but that orb in the center is a clear focal point and needs a bit of care to get it right. A plain sphere is not the easiest thing to create forced highlights on so I recommend photo reference in cases like this. I spent a little extra time on these hoping have it look like they were focusing their energy to a single point from which a laser blast was about to be released. That's the whole point of these guys, after all, they fly around and shoot lasers.

At first I wanted to have one or both woldwyrds flying on flight stands, but thee thin and fiddly nature of the bottom of the figure made this a challenge, and I just wanted to get them painted as these were the last ones to get me to a finished force at the recommended mid-range points value. What was that at the time, 500 points?

The woldwyrds are stock but I did tweak the head of the woldwarden. The stock head is longer and has less depth. This was just an aesthetic choice. I cut down the chin and built out the back of the "skull," and then I had to dremel out neck cavity it rests in considerably, which took some time.

This is also a good chance to call out the bases. These guys are from the wood and more than most factions I see these guys fighting on their home turf, so forest bases are particularly fitting. I wanted the forest to be lush and dark, like you're under the canopy just at that window of time in the year when the ferns and mosses are their greenest, like the redwood forests surrounding my mother's house which I feel a particular affinity for. What I see as the success of the bases is due to a few factors. One, the temptation when painting ground is to drybrush it, to highlight all the little rocks etc. In the forest, however, the soil is moist and draws in the light. So first of all I used mostly concrete patch (which has a fine gritty texture) and fine sands. I then liberally put in patches of larger rocks (Woodland Scenics talus and course ballast) and debris (little bits of sage brush from Sweetwater Scenery Products, which sadly looks to have closed it's doors). The ground bits were painted a dark, rich brown (Folk Art Burnt Umber, and then brought up only to a slightly brighter hue, a really intense, warm mix of Folk Art Burnt Umber and Raw Sienna. This gave a good match for a redwood forest bed. The branches were picked out in a duller brown and some with greenish highlights as they were new-fallen, and the stones were done with Ceramcoat Hippo Grey (one of my favorite terrain colors) and then highlighted, probably with Ceramcoat Mudstone (another must-have terrain-grade paint). Next up, foliage, done with Noch static grass and AMSI foams of different shades. Many of the little bushes were then given rich green brushovers ("wet-brushing") with mixes including the awesome and electric p3 Necrotite Green (which also figures predominantly in the greens of the beasts themselves).

You'll also see I put faint stripes on the bases to mark the 180° field of vision, which is important in the game. Some folks like to draw attention to this on the bases and quite frankly I think it looks terrible most of the time. Instead, I like to use a dark color you can see easily when you're looking for it, but only when you're looking for it. In this case it was P3 Thornwood green, which is a highly recommended dark, warm, neutral.

As always, these and all my figures are on flickr.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Out for blood

Painted: Tharn Bloodtrackers

I mentioned the Ilyad War Wolf was the #1 reason I started a Circle Orboros Hordes warband. These savage ladies are reason #2. These hottie barbarian girls by Kev White are some of the best figures made for the game and they got the seal of approval from the GF, who favors Hordes generally above the other figures I paint but ones by Kev White over all comers.

I'll try not to overdo it with too many pics here, but I did take individual pics of all the girls which you can see in this flickr set if you're curious. Here are a few selections:


At the time (2008) I was painting commissions and really giving my all to each piece. With this personal project I was trying to be a little less demanding on myself and just go with the flow. That attitude kind of broke down painting these girls, though, as I had an extremely particular vision in my mind of how they should look, and in the end I exceeded even my hopes for them, but it took several times over the time I had hoped to spend on them and nowhere was I "going with the flow."

In a perfect world it would often be nice to be able to do a mockup of an idea one has before committing to it on a unit of figures. But that's not a luxury I can afford. Thankfully however, there is so much great art and so many photos that can be used as reference that I can often find a picture that matches what I have in my mind's eye—or exceeds it—and that was the case here. Here's a picture from Ashley wood I used as the inspiration for my flesh tones palette:

There was another picture I used for the overall palette, the greens and browns, and while I have my Circle Orboros inspiration gallery intact in Picasa with ~150 pics in it, that particular picture has gone missing.

At the time I always used a black undercoat, but because I wanted the flesh to really glow I went with white for these. I think that decision was one reason it took me so long to finish these. I would see these French painters come up with a beautiful result over white and I would balk when they said how short a time it took them. For me starting white has always meant more time and less predictability. At any rate, I couldn't be more pleased with these and it just goes to show that despite wanting to make it easier on myself for the personal projects, sometimes oneself is the toughest critic of all, and the hardest to please!

Some brief notes about the paints. The flesh was GW Elf Flesh first and then shading down through Bronzed Flesh to Dwarf Flesh and I believe P3 Khardic Flesh. Then a number of glazes of GW Flesh Wash (these are ~2005 era GW paints) with matte medium, and back up through Elf Flesh to P3 Menoth White Base and Menoth White Highlight, more glazes, more highlights etc. until they really glowed. Glazes made with GW Bestial Brown and GW Snakebite Leather (which is really yellow, and particularly great for glazes) figure predominantly all over the figure (including in the glazes for the flesh, come to think about it), and I also used some of the great P3 browns like Battlefield Brown and Bootstrap Leather (which is much more a subdued middle brown as compared with GW Snakebite leather).

As always, the collection can be viewed in its entirety at flickr.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Circle Orboros Warpwolf / Ilyad Warwolf

Converted and painted: Ilyad Warwolf to Circle Orboros Warpwolf

Next up is one of my favorite figures from my collection and the reason I started a Hordes Circle Orboros warband. As I was getting into the game when it first game out I went for Skorne first, but after getting bogged down in painting scheme, helmet swap and decal printing quandaries I decided to a smaller force that I would have fewer hangups about. Reading up on the Circle I liked quite a bit but didn't care for the Warpwolf model. However, I was immediately reminded of the awesome War Wolf figure by Ilyad, and Ilyad was on my brain already as they were going under and this would be my last chance to get the awesome "Vorag" barbarians and minotaurs. I lucked out and got pretty much everything I wanted on sale shipped from France (though despite the sale they wound up being more than I typically paid for figures of any kind).

But man, Ilyad figures beautiful, and the resin castings a joy for the most part. And by today's standards what I paid was pretty modest for any store-bought figures. Resin is one of those mediums that can be second-to-none in the hands of professionals like the original Armorcast team or Ilyad, or be a disaster like in the hands of Forge World, GW or the new Armorcast team. The detail on the Ilyad figs can't be beat. Gluing the arm of this beast on with no pin, no greenstuff, just CA glue alone, was a first for me. After gluing I could hardly see the join at all. Mold lines were virtually non-existent, and the gritty resin material files and sands down so much easier than any other medium. The Ilyad resin is light weight but sanding exposes some trace glints. I don't know about resin to tell if that is some kind of mixing agent like metal. There was one significant bubble area beneath one of the knees that I had to fill with greenstuff. Having looked over my other figures my thought is that a figure might pass QA if the bubble was in an easy to fill area on a larger figure. I haven't found any problems with detail areas. Faces, and armor, etc, the detail is simply better than metal, especially with regard to the pressure used to fill the mold. The volumes of the figures are fully fleshed out and don't have the squashed look that metal figures often have. And when you have a flat surface there is no concave surface like you have for Forge World, etc. All in all, superior to metal for this particular figure.

The finished figure:

Pardon the fuzzy focus on the head in some shots. Even with the f-stop as high it would go the heads juts a bit too far forward to get the whole thing in focus. Should have made sure I was focused on the head.

I was painting a lot of commission pieces around the time and in a commission piece I tend to want to make a crowd-pleaser, and I'm thinking about balancing the colors, creating a clear focal point, and giving it something a little extra to grab some attention. This one was just for me, and so I could make it just how I wanted without worrying about the critics (and as a side note in some ways when it's just for me I'm a tougher critic, but in other ways I'm a gentler one, it's a funny shift that way).

When it comes to wolves I've always liked black ones ever since I had recurring dreams of them invading my dream winter manor as a young child (courtesy of the book the Wolves of Willoughby Chase, but the wolves are sadly all but forgotten mid-way through the book, whereas in my dreams they would come time and time again).

Anyhow, painting nearly all black is a fair challenge in and of itself and I went with a warm neutral tone in the highlights. As usual I used photo reference which was crucial to get how the hair on the back can be brown and the chin white, and the color of the gums. The pale green eyes are also after a particular wolf. And despite the finished product being more subtle and minimal and not having the bells and whistles I decided to see how it would fare at Kublacon (2008 I believe) and I was really pleased to come home with a Best Conversion and Bronze Master Kubla.

Here are some WIP shots of the conversion. I don't have any protips for doing armored detail. I just kind of muddled through and am pretty pleased with them though think I could do better given another chance as I've honed my sculpting craft a bit since then. I also made shin guards but decided the concept of shin guards on a wolf was a little goofy. You can also see how nice the Ilyad resin is, along with how I filled a bit of a hole under the left knee.

As always, the collection can be viewed in its entirety at flickr.