Tag Archives: Warhammer

The Year of the Rat – May

With May drawing to a close it’s time for our by now familiar look back at the progress of my Skaven collection this month. For those who’re new to this the aim of the exercise is to add something, even if it’s only a single rat – although preferably more than that – to my Skaven every month of 2017.  For me the Skaven were the very beginning of my exploration of this hobby, the first miniature I ever owned was a ‘ratman’ given me by another boy at school, and for a long time I’ve planned the army of my dreams, a vast host of scabrous fur and rusty weapons. The enormity of the task tended to put me off however and for a long time my rats have been forced to wait, imprisoned on their plastic frames, plotting the moment that a coat of paint would be theirs. The thought of trying to paint all those models froze me with a force equal to the avarice that had driven me to collect them all in the first place. Then, over New Year 2016, it occurred to me that whilst painting the whole collection was a Herculean task painting a few rats each month was easy!

So far my instinct to tackle the project this way has been proven correct. Breaking it down into smaller chunks has made for a more achievable task, whilst the constant sense of progression has helped to maintain my enthusiasm. With that in mind let’s take a look at what I’ve managed to finish off this month.

First up we have a command unit for my second squad of clanrats (for those who’re keeping track these are the ones armed with close-combat weapons rather than spears).

Skaven Clanrats Convert Or Die (1)

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Adding all the sigils to the banner was an adrenalin fuelled bout of heart-in-mouth freehand but I got there in the end.

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Here’s the whole squad so far, bolstered by the arrival of their new leaders.

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Skaven Clanrats Convert Or Die (8)

A couple of months ago the legendary Duncan Rhodes demonstrated how to paint an albino clanrat and, whilst re-watching the video, it struck me mixing up the fur and skin colours of my own rats would add to the ragtag appearance of the units.

Skaven Clanrats Convert Or Die (5)

Skaven Clanrats Convert Or Die (4)

I’ve also finally finished off a warpfire thrower, the first weapon team to join the collection.

Warpfire Thrower Convert Or Die (1)

Warpfire Thrower Convert Or Die (2)

Last, but not least, we have this plague priest, ready to spread the Great Horned Rat’s foulest infections. At the moment he’s forced to scurry corpulently around unaided but, as soon as I get it finished, he’ll be able to ride in style atop a maddeningly toxic plague furnace.Plague Priest Convert Or Die (1)

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Out For The Count

On Friday night I finally finished off the long awaited final models for my Vampire Counts army (not the most rock and roll start to the weekend but even I stop once in a while). On Saturday I uploaded them to this blog with, I’ll admit, very little fanfare. However, all things considered, that’s rather unfair. With one notable exception these are models I bought back in 2010(-ish, my memory isn’t so good) when I harboured plans for a massive undead army of the sort that might pour forth from Sylvania, spread eternal night across the land and so on. Instead they lurked in boxes (not even crypts – the shame of it!) as the years passed. Some of them were painted, to varying standards, many suffered through in nothing but bare plastic. Then, around New Year 2016 I resolved to resurrect them. Cue maniacal laughter and the distant howls of corpse-wolves!

Fast forward a few months and here we have them, a shambling band of wights, ghasts and revenants, ready to trouble the living once more. And all without needing to move into a castle, hire an assistant named Igor or even buy a shovel. How, then, could I let the moment pass without a few glamour shots and a group shot or two?

Let’s start with the finished squad of dire wolves, a kit which is (perhaps rightly) much maligned and yet for which I have a deep affection, in spite of its flaws.

Vampire Counts Convert Or Die (1)

And how about some suitably creepy mood shots as my corpse army advances through the dark-magic saturated gravelands of their Sylvanian homeland.

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And of course no project of this sort can come to a close without a group shot.

Vampire Counts Convert Or Die (3)

Of course, no army is ever finished and so it should come as no surprise that I’m already planning to return to these. Hopefully it won’t be another seven years before they’re reinforced. Hang some garlic by your window, bury me at a crossroads and watch this space!


Hounds At Your Back – Part 4

Well, in spite of my doubts, here’s the last two dire wolves painted, which rounds out my Vampire Counts army for now. Fans of the undead fear not though, everyone knows that Vampires always come back eventually…

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Hounds At Your Back – Part 3

Beneath the light of a desolate moon two more dire wolves join the hunt…

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With a new edition of 40k coming soon, and new Death Guard apparently just behind, it’s time to make a dent in all the models currently loitering on my painting desk; to finish off the old in anticipation of the arrival of the new. Of course I’m well aware that I won’t be able to shift even a fraction of my unpainted models in time but at least I can make a start! First off I’m keen to wrap up my Vampire Counts, at least for a little while. I bought most of these models almost a decade ago and they lingered in part-painted shame for a long time, so it’ll be nice to see them all completed soon. I even hoped to get them all finished this week but, by this point, it’s starting to look unlikely. Still, here’s a couple more dire wolves done, which only leaves two more to paint over the weekend, an achievable goal I reckon.

Dire Wolves Convert Or Die (1)

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The Year of the Rat – April

It’s the end of April and time once again to look back at the progress my Skaven army has made over the last month. For those who’re new to this the premise is simple – back at New Year I promised to add something, no matter how small, to my Skaven army every month of 2017. Think of it as A Tale of Four Gamers, but without the other three, no actual games and significantly less progress.

This month I’ve focussed on the Stormvermin. I planned to get enough finished for a full unit but, although I fell short of that, I’m still pleased with how many I did manage to complete. After finding the first two (painted last month) a bit of a struggle I’ve managed to pick up the pace a little so hopefully more will come scurrying off the painting desk soon enough.

Convert Or Die Stormvermin (1)

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Convert Or Die Stormvermin (4)

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And because I know you all love a group shot here the whole squad so far ready to go and bother any dwarves they can find.

Convert Or Die Stormvermin (8)

Oh and for anyone thinking “but this isn’t the year of the rat, it’s the year of the rooster” I know, but it is a Skaven’s job to spread disorder and confusion ahead of our diabolical rise. That and I’m not waiting until 2020 to get these little vermin painted!


What Is Best In Life?

With so many projects on the go I’m trying to keep my focus and avoid veering off into any more new territory, at least until I’ve cleared my desk a little. However I couldn’t resist painting up at least one of the models from the Greenskin Wars kickstarter, the barbarian hero. Something about him reminds me of Hirad Coldheart from the Chronicles of the Raven (well worth a read if you’re in need of some old-school cheese) more than Conan.Then again, when it comes to recognisable blog titles Hirad just isn’t as wonderfully quotable.

Greenskin Wars Barbarian Convert or Die (1)

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I went for a dark, tanned skin tone – I figured a man who lives almost exclusively outdoors and fears nothing except wearing a shirt wouldn’t be particularly pasty or pale.

Greenskin Wars Barbarian Convert or Die (2)

Fan’s of old-school greenskins take note; Greenskin Wars is currently having another kickstarter. There’s still a few days to go before it runs out and in the meantime there’s the chance to pick up several of the models from the last round alongside new stuff like the hobgoblins and bugbears. Speaking from my own experience the service I’ve received has been excellent and the quality of the models is outstanding so if you were on the fence about this one I really do recommend it.


Empire of the Clouds

We all, I’m sure, have one or two “dream armies” lurking in the backs of our heads, the races we’ve never got around to buying but always said we will, someday. For me there’s the forces of the Imperium ready to counter my Chaos hosts; massed ranks of ragged Imperial Guardsmen, a few true-scaled Space Marines and the weird and inhuman agents of the Cult Mechanicus. Then there’s my elven Wild Hunt, mixing Wood Elves, Dark Elves and Sylvaneth together into a bloodthirsty cavalcade, racing from the depths of the forest upon a stormy winter’s night to feast upon the terrified villagers cowering beyond.

The big one for me though remains the dwarves. It’s the great white whale army, forever just around the corner but never quite started. In the past I always imagined it as the last defenders of Karak Drak, the great hold in the far north of the Warhammer World, believed – but never confirmed – to be overrun by Chaos.  I loved the idea of those tenacious little dwarves sealing themselves off under their mountain whilst gibbering daemons and bloated spawn roamed the halls of their ancestors.

Dwarves vs Skaven Convert Or Die

Furthermore, as I’m already a big fan of both Skaven and Goblins the Dwarves always seemed like a natural addition to the tryumvate. The war in the underway was for me one of the most compelling ideas in the Warhammer story and the time will come when I want to explore the good alongside the bad and the ugly. When I do finally get around to painting some Dwarves however, GW models may not be the first onto my desk. Both Avatars of War and MOMintituras have turned out some excellent models whereas GW’s record on the race is distinctly shaky. Part of the trouble is they don’t seem able to settle on an aesthetic for more than an edition or so, do they want tough little Vikings, iron-clad steam warriors or jolly little Santas with candles on their hats? The result is a jumble of styles that misses the mark of all-things-to-all-men and instead plunges into the abyss of not-quite-any-of-them.

With Age of Sigmar however GW have been offered a fresh start. No longer do they have to conform to the expectations of a wider marketplace which is already offering them stiff competition. They are free once more to innovate and explore. Rather than pursuing their competitors, constantly struggling to undermine and outdo them, they can lead, spinning off novel ideas without fear and bounding on to the next before the wider industry has woken up.

In some ways it seems odd then that, until now, they’ve been so conservative. Khorne Bloodbound, Disciples of Tzeentch, Ironjaws and Sylvaneth could all have fitted comfortably into the old Warhammer world. Stormcast Eternals may seem a little more unusual at first glance but they’re essentially just Space Marines ported from one setting to another, regardless of what pedants will tell you. Only GW’s other post-end times Dwarf release, the Fyreslayers, has dared to go break the mould. Without seeing some sales figures I’ve no idea if a silent majority are out there lovingly painting the angry sons of Grimnir but there’s no denying that the torrent of criticism aimed at them would be enough to turn even the hardiest Hearthguard’s beard white. I’ll admit that, until I got a good look at them at Warhammer World, I wasn’t too sold on them myself.

Fyreslayers Convert or Die

It’s a shame that the Fyreslayers came in for such a bum deal (I couldn’t help myself) as some of the models are excellent – for my money the Runemaster and Battlesmith remain some of the best models GW has released in recent years (and if it wasn’t for the fact that my wallet makes painful whimpering sounds every time I look at them I’d have painted them long ago).

The majority of people I suspect were still holding out for plastic Slayers that they could use in old-Warhammer, which – so long as one doesn’t mind a few aesthetic differences – one still could. Others were just upset with the aesthetic break from the dwarves they were familiar with and a few were just good, old-fashioned homophobes bleating pitifully about painting near-naked dudes. They at least have nothing to fear from the Kharadrons as there isn’t a scrap of flesh on them. It seems that, in whatever divorce settlement followed the breakup of the Dwarven peoples, the Kharadrons got all the clothes and the Fyreslayers were left hammering bits of metal into their own flesh for protection and growing their beards long enough to cover their goolies.

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At the time of the Fyreslayer’s release Age of Sigmar was yet to bed in. Most people were still looking at it as Warhammer plus Space Marines, rather than as a universe in its own right. When we heard that new, slayer-esque dwarves were being released many of us jumped to the conclusion that we would be seeing plastic slayers at last, perhaps with a few new units mixed in. Nothing that we couldn’t add to our existing armies safe in the knowledge that we could still use them in Warhammer 9th Edition when Games Workshop recognised that it had all been a huge mistake and resurrected the Old World. What a surprise when instead it was bum flashers as far as the eye could see.

Time has knocked that idea out of us. Orruk brutes may pass for Orc Big ‘uns and Kurnoth Hunters may be the basis of for tree-kin conversions, but overall the cold light of Sigmar has cut through our Warhammer hangover.  This can only be a good thing because these releases deserve to be seen on their own merits rather than on how well they fit into a world they weren’t designed for.

Endrinmaster

Like the Fyreslayers the Kharadron Overlords may prove to be an acquired taste for some, although they’ve certainly escaped the torrent of wrath that was poured upon their pert-buttocked brothers. Another reason for this may be that GW made the shrewd move of previewing them what now seems like months ago and any potential negativity towards the idea of sky-dwarves was drowned out by the outpouring of positivity towards the company’s more open and fan-focussed attitudes.

Brokk Grungsson

Some, like the Arkanaut Company, will already look fairly familiar, taking design cues from the Irondrakes of old. Others, like the great Lord-Magnate Brokk Grungsson, might take a little more getting used to. Ultimately the top hat and curly moustache combo may be somewhat like marmite – some will love it, others will hate it – although speaking for myself I’m still on the fence (unlike on the subject of marmite which is foul death-paste).

Then there’s the balloons which have proved to be equally divisive. In some quarters the idea of heavily armoured floatation devises has gone down like, well, a lead balloon. However I have to admit I rather like them, they’re chunky and powerful, just as you would expect from Dwarven equipment, with none of the fancy sails or fabrics that you’d expect from the likes of the elves (material which would only melt and fray in the harsh chemical clouds anyway).

Kharadron Overlords Skyship

The result is a heady mix of Jules Verne and Jack Sparrow, less Tolkien, more Tolkien-bout a revolution (industrial of course). They’re a steampunk race for those who don’t like the body horror of Skaven (or who’re just afraid of rats). As necessitated by their lifestyle among the corrosive clouds of the upper atmosphere the Kharadron Overlords are entirely clad in armour, although they manage to do so with more personality than the clone wars Stormcasts.

They also have a bit of a pirate theme, emphasised by the leader of the Grundstok Thunderers who has a peg leg and a mechanical parrot. Luckily they stopped short of a hook for a hand – possibly because nowadays that reads more as “radical preacher” than “Peter Pan villain”.

Of course many people will decide to take this further and convert these into pirates, perhaps even taking advantage of the freeform nature of AoS to mix in Orcs and Dark Elves. Personally though I’m looking forward to the first person who recreates scenes from the movie Titanic (a film I’ve never actually seen all the way through, though judging from the bits I have caught would have been immeasurably improved by the addition of some steampunk dwarves).

Squats

The idea of using them to convert Squats has often been mooted and, although the rank and file are likely to be a little on the large side (supposition but scale creep has definitely had its part to play since the Space Dwarves went extinct all those editions ago), there’s certainly plenty of potential to be explored there.

Arkanaut Frigate

Of course no discussion of the Kharadron Overlords is complete without mentioning the skyships. Ranging from the massive Ironclad down to the nippy Gunhauler these airborne vessels fill the role of heavy-hitting centrepiece traditionally given over to giant monsters in other armies. Unlike many of those monsters however, which serve as something half-way between useful backup and outsized pet, the skyvessels are the cornerstone of the faction. Without them they couldn’t travel between their aerial cities, mine the clouds or build their empire among the clouds.

Each ship also comes with its own crew of models built in, or hanging on. Each is a character in their own right and, in spite of GW’s early previews, we’re only now starting the see the vessels close up enough to get a proper look at them.ArkanautFrigateCrew

Even bigger ships are described in the background and the more advanced scratchbuilders will already be breaking out the plasticard ready to work wonders. In April’s White Dwarf designer Oliver Norman noted “The ships were city-sized warships in John (Blanche)’s first sketches… We had to scale it back, as brilliant as a six-foot long flying model battleship would be”. As usual when I get an idea that I know I have neither the time, money or space to realise, I’ll attempt to use the reach of this blog to plant the idea in someone else’s head instead. Picture a model of one of these mighty sky-ships, big enough to serve as both display shelf for a Kharadron collection, and terrain board for them to battle over. It would be a mighty undertaking of course but it’s creator would rightly be the envy of their friends. Why battle over a green table cloth ever again when your army could instead be racing across the decks of a bespoke titan of the skies or scrambling across narrow walkways to reach the smaller vessels anchored above?

Gromthi-a-Grund

The Kharadron Overlords have broken away from their dwarven forebears, but they’ve done so far more elegantly than the Fyreslayers. Many of the new units, even the skyships, could be added to an old school dwarf army and blend in nicely – sometimes with a little conversion – a regard in which the Fyreslayers are always going to struggle. Put them all together however and they have a character all their own.

At this point its seeming more and more that Dwarves who live in mountain holds are a thing of the past for GW, a sideline but hardly a priority. If you want to march out of your mines to drive off the grobi scum you’d better do it in the company of another manufacturer. GW have left their hidebound competitors trudging in the dust, employing a degree of innovation which, ironically, none of their Old World Dwarves would ever have approved of.Arkanaut Admiral

Whilst the other races were subjugated by Chaos, or hid behind the walls of Sigmarland, the Kharadron got down to the business of building an empire in the clouds, presumably because none of those winged chaos daemons ever thought to look up. The source of their power comes from the (presumably magical) aether-gold they found there. To quote Oliver Norman again “The Kharadron Overlords are a race of duardin that don’t mine the earth like Dwarfs of old, but engage in something like gas mining in the clouds high above the realms”. Doesn’t that sound fantastic – a race of dwarves in their skyships, drawing rare metals from the clouds high above the realms, gathering a precious resource far out of the reach of their competitors through a combining of newfangled technology and old-fashioned gumption? And then they overegg it by making everything about aether-gold.

To write good fantasy or science fiction one has to keep a close eye on how many wacky ideas one includes. Naturally one wants one’s setting to be distinct from reality and alive with creativity. What one should avoid however is making it so “out there” that the readers feel disconnected from it, without any solid ground to stand upon. When it comes to convincing people of the fantastic, less is always more.

Thus the introduction of aether-gold as a kind of dwarven midichlorians does more to shake me out of my sense of immersion in the setting than it does to draw me in. In terms of ridiculous plot tokens it’s not quite as grating as the ur-gold of the fyreslayers (really, text-speaking dwarves, what will they think of next – ghost dinosaurs?) but it’s still enough to jar with me. Then again I never had any issue with warpstone, the Skaven’s preferred chemical, so perhaps I’m just a big hypocrite?

Arkanaut Company Captain

Not everything has changed though, the dwarves may live in the sky and have done away with gods and kings alike, but they’re still dwarves at heart. Craftsmanship and grudges (so long as they don’t impact profits) are still important, and I doubt that a single one of them is clean-shaven under those suits. Meanwhile the keeps and holds of the Old World have becomes the Skyports of the new. The Karak’s (that’s “hold” for those who don’t speak Khazalid) have become Baraks (ports, think of Barak Varr, the huge dwarven seaport in the Old World). A host of these Baraks have been built, with six main ones controlling the empire; Barak-Nar,  Barak-Zilfin, Barak-Zon, Barak-Urbaz, Barak-Mhornar and Barak-Thryng. No mention of Barak Obama though…

Aethermatic Volley Gun

Of course, some people are naturally cheesed off at the arrival of a high-tech race in flying ships waving gatling guns around whilst their chosen faction is still stuck with axes and bows. On the tabletop however this is apparently countered by a lack of powerful wizards and giant magical monsters whilst in the background fiction the balancing factor is this faction’s lack of military aspiration. We’re used to the idea of Warhammer as being about large-scale organised violence all-day every-day, it’s not called “peace-hammer” after all, so they idea of a race that’s more mercantile in nature tends to catch us off guard. It’s fair to say that if the Kharadron Overlords combined their technological might with the social attitudes of Khorne worshippers the Mortal Realms would be a very different, and markedly less populated, place. Of course what happens when the Stormcasts buy themselves some aether-gold weaponry remains to be seen. Hopefully GW have another plot device up their sleeves, otherwise the rise of a particularly powerful world police becomes inevitable. In the meantime however these dwarves don’t necessarily want to exterminate the other races they encounter, they want to trade with them if they can.Arkanaut Frigate 2

The Kharadron Overlords are a demonstration of what Age of Sigmar is capable of if allowed to stretch its wings a little. More and more the setting steps out of Warhammer’s shadow and becomes a creature in its own right. I for one welcome our new Kharadron Overlords.

All artwork and images belong to Games Workshop and are used without permission. Grobi scum will be shot on sight!