A Brief Interlude…

A slight break from Forgotten Heroes to vent a bit.

I drop by Carrion Crow’s Buffet every couple of days to see what Jeremy is up to, which is usually something I find interesting. Today I discovered a post that irked me, and I was partway through leaving a comment when I realized my comment was long enough for a blog post. Not wanting to hijack his post (DO NOT hijack the Crow!), I decided to air my discontent here.

A few regular contributors to Jeremy’s blog have decided to retire from the blogging community entirely. As posted on the Buffet:

The reason for this is their utter dismay in the trend for a large majority of supposed ‘gamers’ to use their blogs as organs for their own self-aggrandisement, this desperate need to seek praise or have the most followers or likes or comments on their blogs, rather than actually playing games which, after all, is the purpose of buying these little men in the first place.

Ouch. Like many others, when I first read this, I felt personally targeted. Then I realized I’m not that important and I calmed down.

I don’t know these folks, other than reading the comments they have posted over at Carrion Crow’s blog, so I have no reason to believe that any decision they made was in any way related to my blog or anything I have ever done. (In fact, to think so would be somewhat paranoid and narcissistic of me, as for all I know they’ve never even been to Dead Dick’s Tavern. If they have, they’ve never left a comment, which, if the site traffic can be believed, can be said about many visitors here.) But I guess I’m guilty of the “self-aggrandizement” mentioned in that most of my posts nowadays are about stuff I’ve painted.

I don’t do this because I think I’m a painting virtuoso. I do it because I don’t get to play games very often at all, and this is my way of continuing to participate in my hobby. However limited gaming opportunities may be for me, I still have a massive lead pile that I can work on to relieve my stress and have fun. After 30+ years of painting and gaming, I still hope to improve; and I take much of my inspiration from blogs and forums where I can see and appreciate the efforts and ideas of others, give and receive encouragement and ask advice. I don’t know if anything I have ever posted here has ever inspired anyone, but if so then I am over-the-moon happy.

Why don’t I play more often? The simple truth is that I guess I’m just not motivated to anymore.

I’ll be as brief as possible: Most of my miniatures gaming was done in the mid-90’s to around 2003 or so, and it was based at my (then) Friendly Local Game Store. All of my wargaming was either Warhammer 40K or Warhammer Fantasy Battle. I knew of nothing else, and the store did not promote any other miniatures gaming. That place is gone, and my wargaming “buddies” have long since moved on. I have no idea where they are now.

I have a group of longtime close friends who I have played tabletop RPGs with over the years, but none of them are wargamers. We can’t even commit to a regular schedule to play RPGs anymore; it just became way too much effort to wrangle everyone’s schedule so that we could all meet and do something we supposedly enjoy.  Finding a date to play, even once a month, turned into a chore. Put simply, it shouldn’t be that hard for 5 adult men with similar work schedules, 3 of whom do not have any children, to get together and play a fucking game every once in a while without it being a huge dog and pony show every time. (My friends read this blog, and from time to time they may even leave a comment. They know this to be the truth, no matter how hard it is to read.)

A few years ago I bought a home. I am extremely fortunate in that in this home, I have a dedicated hobby space in my basement. With the help of my brother, who does not play any games at all, we built a gaming table. (Actually, he built it for me; I just bought the beer.) I thought for sure I would be gaming up a storm with my friends in no time. Sure, they came by a few times. But, not being wargamers, it fell to me to provide the miniatures, terrain, scenarios and rules. I did this, but there’s only so much time in the day. If I was in a wargaming group, for example, everyone would (presumably) have their own armies, and perhaps we could share terrain. When everything becomes one person’s responsibility, it gets expensive and feels more like an obligation than a hobby. If you’re the only one excited about a gaming project, then your excitement sours quickly.

I thought of skirmish gaming, or games where cash investment was relatively small, like War Rocket or Dreadball. Neither one really took root among my friends. Not being wargamers, they didn’t really want to spend the money on miniatures. The latest idea I’ve had is Gaslands, and I hope to be able to play that with some friends soon, although once again, the cars, terrain and table will be my responsibility.

Our last game we tried to play as a group was Imperial Assault. I bought the game and painted the miniatures. We had a great space to play. I figured even if we all couldn’t make it on a specific night, we could still manage to play a scenario or two and keep a campaign going. It fell apart 3 nights in, when it just became clear that it was too much hassle to get together. (To be fair, two of my friends live over an hour away from the rest of us. I can’t blame them if they didn’t feel it was worth the drive, especially if there was a noticeable lack of commitment among the group.)

I have posted After Action Reports on this blog, and will continue to do so. However, the sad truth is that I rarely game with others nowadays, so my AARs are solo games. I still have fun, but not as much as I would if my friends shared my wargaming interests. And I guess you may ask, why not find another FLGS? I could. But all of them around me are solely devoted in 40K or Age of Sigmar, neither of which I have the slightest interest in playing.

OK, I guess it wasn’t all that brief. Whatever.

Back to Dead Dick’s Tavern and Temporary Lodging: the name of my blog comes from one of the aforementioned RPGs that my group used to play. It was coined by one of the aforementioned friends, who graciously allowed me to use it when I decided to start a blog based on my miniatures hobby. I’m not promoting any product for my own profit or benefit on this blog, such as a rule set or line of miniatures (although I will certainly trumpet praises for anything I like). I do not participate in social media, either as The Angry Piper or as the real me. I do not have a “desperate need to seek praise,” either online or in the real world, whether for my hobby efforts or for anything else. I’m not trying to get likes or clicks, and most of the comments I receive about this blog are posted by people on other forums. I guess you could still make the argument that by posting pictures of my work on this blog I’m promoting myself, but I’m really trying to promote the hobby and interact with others who share my interests. It’s kind of like if I was hanging out at a pub and talking about football with the other guys at the bar, if only I gave a shit at all about football.

Like I said, I don’t know any of these folks that are bailing on all the miniatures blogs. But I’m saddened that they feel this way, as I enjoyed their comments (even if they were made elsewhere), and I feel like any loss of contributing voices in our hobby is a bad thing. This blog, and the blogs and forums I frequent, has introduced me to many gamers, painters and collectors from all over the world.

It’s hard for me to see that as a bad thing.

Forgotten Heroes 2018 Submission 2: The Plant Man!

I’m trying to get three submissions in for the Forgotten Heroes challenge this month, and here is number two. If you found Water Wizard to be a bit of a tool, well, congratulations. You’re a great judge of character. But Water Wizard lives life like a boss compared to this guy:

Behold! The Plant Man!

Samuel Smithers was a gardener who wanted to invent a way to talk to plants, so naturally he built himself a ray gun. It didn’t work until one day it was struck by lightning, which somehow charged it with the ability to control and animate plants (I’m not making this up). His boss fired him for working on his ray gun instead of pruning the bushes (which was his job), so Smithers put on a costume, called himself the Plant Man, and vowed revenge. Unfortunately, he met the Human Torch, who quickly put an end to Plant Man’s scheme and destroyed his ray gun.

Months later, he built a better ray gun, which was also presumably struck by lightning and imbued with (better) plant-controlling power. He tried to kill the Human Torch, but failed and went to the slammer, where he was recruited by Count Nefaria; along with the Porcupine, the Eel, and the Scarecrow. (This Scarecrow is not to be confused with the cool Batman villain with the fear gas, and certainly not to be confused with the coolest crow of them all… Carrion Crow.  This is Marvel’s Scarecrow. A significantly less-cool crow.)

Any one of these jokers would be prime fodder for Forgotten Heroes, as they’re all remarkably bad at their chosen criminal profession. But I digress.

Plant Man eventually ran afoul of the Avengers and SHIELD, after he took over a SHIELD base with a 100′ tall plant monster and a bunch of plant copies of himself. That’s about where I lost track of him.

To make this conversion, I used two Heroclix figures: Jack O’Lantern and an Intergang Medic. I needed the Medic’s head on Jack’s body. I also removed Jack from his hover disk and rebased him on some plain old MDF.

Then I set about adding the green stuff. I said it before and I’ll admit it again, sculpting is not my strong suit. Many thanks to Roger, a.k.a. Dick Garrison, for taking the time to give me some advice on how to work with this hellish substance.

Lucky for me, all I really needed to do was sculpt Plant Man’s ridiculous headdress and some plant fringes around his collar, shoulders and legs. (I forgot his gloves, but whatever.) Since Plant Man’s powers all come from his ray gun, I attached a Rogue Trader-era bolt pistol (minus clip) to his thigh.

I posed him next to some killer plants, last seen in my Poison Ivy post.

Tremble in fear, for the Plant Man cometh!

I must confess I have an ulterior motive for converting Plant Man. He actually appears as a villain in an old TSR Marvel Super Heroes module, The Last Resort, which I plan on tinkering with for Super Mission Force. Originally, I was just going to replace him with another sucky bad guy, but Forgotten Heroes has given me the excuse to put some effort into making an actual Plant Man miniature!

Hopefully I can get my third submission in by the end of the month, but it will require more precise sculpting with the dreaded green stuff. I’ll do my best!

Forgotten Heroes 2018, Submission 1: The Water Wizard!

It’s June, which means it’s time for Forgotten Heroes!

Last year my fellow miniatures enthusiast Carrion Crow invited me to take part in the Forgotten Heroes challenge. I played hard to get at first, but then when I saw how much fun it was going to be, I begged him to let me take part. He graciously agreed. I converted and/or repainted the entire Liberty Legion, along with special guests Spirit of ’76, Patriot, Union Jack and Bucky! This year, I’m hoping to submit three Forgotten Heroes, not a whole team. So, without further ado, here’s the first:

 

The Water Wizard is a really lame Marvel villain with water powers. In fact, it turns out he can control almost any liquid, not just water. You would think this would make him pretty powerful, but Water Wizard is an idiot. In 1977, he made his debut in the Ghost Rider comic book and promptly got his clock cleaned by Ghost Rider, both in his initial appearance and pretty much every time they met after that.

He actually fought some other Marvel good guys, like Captain America, with predictable results (he lost). He was recruited by criminal financier and Hugh Hefner lookalike, Justin Hammer, but ran away when he had to fight Iron Man.

After a while, Water Wizard changed his name to Aqueduct, which is an even dumber name than Water Wizard, and tried to continue his criminal ambitions. Instead he joined the Thunderbolts and that’s about when I lost track of him.

To make this conversion, I used three figures. Because I never throw anything out, I had a headless Quicksilver left over from when I made Jack Frost in my first Forgotten Heroes challenge last year. . He’s been grotesquely hanging around in a corner of my hobby space since then. I thought that the head of the Weather Wizard (similar name, different publisher, equally lame bad guy) would look pretty good on the body. His  hair is already blowing around, so it would match pretty well with the running pose. For added effect, I thought I would use this water spume on the Aquaman figure for something…

An idea took shape. I re-headed and rebased the miniature, and sculpted his fashionable hip waders out of green stuff. (A side note: I suck at sculpting anything. This is problematic, as my next Forgotten Heroes submissions will require much more sculpting. Thus I have sought the aid and advice of a sculptor extraordinaire to guide my efforts henceforth…)

I removed the cumbersome Aquaman model from the water spout and attached it to a base of green stuff sculpted to look like water (I can handle that much). Now it looks like the water is moving with him. Then I painted the model to resemble Water Wizard.

Hi running pose actually looks pretty accurate. I only have to face him away from any hero model since Water Wizard often flees. I don’t have a Daredevil-like sense of touch, so I couldn’t tell if the diagonal slash on Quicksilver’s costume was raised or if it was just a painted on until I painted over it. Turns out it’s actually part of the sculpt, which is unfortunate, as you can still barely see it through my paint. Also, I now have a headless Weather Wizard where my headless Quicksilver used to be.

Forgotten Heroes 2018 submission 1: complete!

 

 

Monster Month Holdouts: Displacer Beasts and Classic Balrog

There’s always a someone who’s late for the train. My orc warlord on wyvern took a bit longer than I anticipated, so these miniatures weren’t done in time to make it into Monster Month.

First up, some iconic AD&D monsters: Displacer Beasts!

(Every time I speak the name of this monster out loud, I say it as Sylvester the Cat would. It makes it much more fun. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.)

 

A Displacer Beast resembles a six-legged, emaciated puma with two toothy tentacles sprouting from its back. They are stealthy carnivores that often hunt in pairs, which is why I bought two. Displacer Beasts are surrounded by a light-bending camouflage effect, which makes it difficult to determine the monster’s exact location at any given time (like when you’re about to get eaten).  These Displacer Beasts are from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, and although they’re technically the same miniature, it’s easy to get some variation in the tentacles and tail simply by doing the old “hot water bath/reposition/cold water bath” method. (I’m not sure what’s up with the lighting in these pictures, but the focus is a tad blurry. Same thing happened last time. I need to investigate this further.)

In the video game Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II, you get attacked by a ton of Displacer Beasts in an ice cave. I guess that’s why I based these on snowy bases. I used Citadel’s Mourn Mountain Snow, a texture paint kind of like Stirland Mud. I like Stirland Mud a lot, because it looks like mud. Unfortunately, Mourn Mountain Snow doesn’t look like snow, it looks like white mud; so I also added some snowy flock and tundra tufts to the bases.

The other latecomer is a classic Grenadier Balrog. This miniature came out in the late 1970’s. I once painted him with the dreaded Testor’s gloss enamel, but I stripped the miniature years ago to repaint him. I finally did! There have been several variations of this figure over the years; one has a wavy sword rather than the flaming sword mine has. I think this miniature holds up quite well, considering its age.

It does seem a bit small for a Balrog, as you can see from the picture above.  If you say the word “Balrog” most fantasy fans have an image in their heads that roughly corresponds to this one, i.e. the Balrog of Moria, “Durin’s Bane”. But Tolkien is often vague, even contradictory at times when describing what a Balrog actually looks like. At times he describes them as gigantic; other times he says they are twice the size of a man. Whether they have actual wings or not is apparently up for debate among Tolkien-philes. Whatever the case, looking at the mniature now, it’s a bit too red. I probably should have painted either his body or wings black for some variation. The hair on the Balrog’s body was drybrushed with a Vallejo Cavalry Brown, but it looks close enough to red so that the effect is somewhat lost.

It looks a hell of a lot better than it did when coated in Testor’s gloss enamel, and it can certainly do a fair job of representing a greater demon, nonetheless. I made the lava base out of pieces of irregular craft foam scraps I had from my Gaslands projects a few months back. I’m somewhat ambivalent about how it came out and I’ve since found a much better method for making lava bases that I’m keen to try soon.

That’s REALLY it for Monster Month. Up next: a return to Forgotten Heroes!

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 10

Miniatures Purchased: 0

Total: +10

 

Varg Bonebreaka: Orc Warlord on War Wyvern

To finish off Monster Month, I present a  monster miniature that is finally seeing paint after almost THIRTY YEARS in my “to-do pile”!

It’s an old Warhammer Orc Shaman on War Wyvern, circa 1990 or thereabouts. I got him on the secondary market sometime in the mid-nineties. Originally, he was to be for use with my Warhammer Fantasy Orc & Goblin Army, but I wanted to use the wyvern as a mount for an army general, Varg Bonebreaka,  rather than a shaman (more on this later). Before I could do more than buy the bitz and start the conversion, though, several things happened.

  1. Mounting characters on monsters fell out of favor, if not with the entire WFB community, then certainly with my WFB gaming group. The focus of WFB became more about troops than super, unit-killing characters. A positive change, I would say.
  2. I stopped playing “special characters” in my army, for the same reason as above.
  3. I got distracted by something else. I don’t know what. It could have been a bright spot of reflected light shining onto the wall, for all I know. More likely it was my 40K Mordian Iron Guard.

Eventually, around 2003 or thereabouts, I ceased playing Warhammer and Warhammer 40K altogether. This miniature, along with all my others, languished in storage until around 2010 or so, when I started painting miniatures again.

The mounted shaman miniature is perfectly acceptable, in a “I’m holding two weapons parallel to my body within my frontal plane” kind of way (typical of GW of the time). He just wasn’t all that exciting. For my general, Varg,  I decided to use the original Morglum Necksnapper model as the base of the conversion.  You can see in the picture below how the original model looked way back when. I intended to mount the shaman on Morglum’s boar, since he wouldn’t be using it. I still haven’t got around to that yet, either.

I purchased all the bitz I needed for the conversion from a GW rep who came by my FLGS in the “Bitz Wagon”. I bought a dwarf casualty for the base, as my Orcs & Goblins often faced off against my friend’s Dwarfs. (Yes, I wanted to irritate him.) I got rid of Morglum’s axes, as I hated how they looked, and replaced one with a double-edged Chaos axe. I decided I was going to give him a long spear in his other hand, as he would be pretty high up on that wyvern and wouldn’t be able to reach his opponents with anything else. For that, I used a lance from an old Skeleton Horsemen box. Finally, I ditched Morglum’s banner poles and replaced them with the back banner from an old Skaven model, Queek Head-Taker.

Then I let him sit there in the Insanity Pile, untouched, for almost 30 years. When Monster Month rolled around, he wasn’t hard to find.

Here are the results. Because of the large amount of conversion on the orc, I needed to paint them separately prior to assembly. This is actually the first time I mounted a model on something to handle it while painting (I usually just hold it between my fingers). The wooden “plant pot” was intended to provide some stability, but it didn’t do much as the model kept falling over whenever I accidentally hit it (which was often). After the third time fixing the spear, I got wise and glued it to this coffee can lid for added stability.

I don’t go in for the double banners on the wyvern’s back, because I think it looks stupid. Also, I suck at making banners. I opted to add some severed heads from an old GW zombie sprue instead.

I couldn’t find the “back end” of the lance pole. It disappeared some time in the last 25+ years or so. Instead I used a piece of plastic rod. I thought it looked kind of boring, so I added this scythe blade from a GW zombie sprue to the end, turning it into a nasty, unique-looking pole-arm.

I drilled a couple of holes in the wyvern’s flank and added some arrows. Monsters, and the generals on them, tend to attract missile fire.

My friend’s Dwarfs, IIRC, were painted in a green color scheme. I decided to paint this dwarf blue to make him really stand out against the grass and under the wyvern’s claw. The broken barrel is from an Army Painter basing kit.

At last, some final pictures of the complete wyvern with the rider. I give you Varg Bonebreaka, a name inscribed forever in the Book of Grudges many times over! WAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!!!!!!

Makes me wish I still played Warhammer.

This model took me longer than I thought to complete, so I’m glad I started when I did. Unfortunately, I still have a few monsters that aren’t quite finished, and the end of Monster Month is nigh! Oh well. Perhaps I will finish them up soon, and post them as an intermission during next month’s Forgotten Heroes challenge!

 

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 8

Miniatures Purchased: 0

Total: +8

Griffon and Land Shark

My latest two “monster month” projects have arrived! Presenting: the Griffon and the Bulette (Land Shark).

(Astute observers may notice that the model in the middle of these two monsters has changed since the last post. That’s because I couldn’t seem to find that human fighter who found himself between an Umber Hulk and a Purple Worm, and then between a hungry Troll and a Basilisk. Perhaps his luck finally ran out…)

The Bulette, also known as a land shark, is a terrifying predator that lives only to eat (much like a regular shark). It burrows beneath the ground and bursts to the surface whenever it detects the vibrations of movement. A bulette has a territory of about 30 square miles, and will attack anything it comes across, completely consuming its prey (clothing, armor, weapons, etc.). When it has eaten everything in its territory, it will move on to another area.

Bulettes are not usually smart; however there is a famous case of one land shark ringing the doorbells of unsuspecting victims, fooling them into opening the door by pretending to have a delivery of something (flowers, candy, etc.). Once the victim opened the door, the land shark would strike!

This bulette is a Reaper Bones “land shark” (appropriate, no?).

A griffon, as everyone knows, is a majestic beast with the body of a lion and the head, wings and front legs of a great eagle. Griffons are fierce predators and enjoy eating horses most of all. Griffons are semi-intelligent and are much prized as mounts for heroic characters, as they are capable of being trained by those with enough daring and skill.

This griffon is yet another of Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures.  I used the hot water/cold water bath method to reshape its wings somewhat, but that’s about it. In all my years of painting, I have never painted a griffon before. I really like this miniature (score another for Nolzur’s); therefore I have named him Merv.

You see what I did there?

 

 

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 6

Miniatures Purchased: 0

Total: +6

Basilisk and Troll

Monster Month continues with a couple more beasties: the dreaded basilisk and the AD&D version of  a classic monster: the troll!

The troll is from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, and I am hard-pressed to recall seeing a finer version of the classic AD&D troll. I absolutely love this sculpt. If I have one criticism, it’s that he’s a bit too big; most trolls are 9 feet tall or so; this guy looks like he’s twice the size of the fighter next to him. In addition, his built-on base is somewhat problematic if you plan on mounting him on the included 50mm circular base, as it overlaps the circle somewhat due to his wide stance. I chose to use a bigger (60mm) base, but that meant I had a lot of space to fill. I used some cut-up pieces of craft foam to simulate dungeon flagstones and here is the finished result.

Everyone knows what a troll is, but the AD&D version of a troll is particularly nasty, as they regenerate all damage—including severed limbs—given enough time. The only way to put a troll down for good is with fire or acid. Other than that, run. The AD&D troll has a somewhat unique look to them as well; the long arms ending in ragged claws, the rubbery body, socketed eyes and wiry hair. They’re pretty horrific. And they’re always hungry. Thankfully, they’re not that bright, so it’s somewhat easy to outthink them.

A basilisk is an eight-legged reptile that petrifies victims with its gaze, much like Medusa. A significant difference between the two, however, is that Medusa decorates her lair with the statues she creates, while the basilisk just eats them. Yes, a basilisk is fully capable of eating the stone bodies of its victims. Basilisks are about as smart as your average reptile. In other words, not very.

This basilisk is a Reaper Bones version. This was a miniature that I was unhappy with throughout the entire painting process. I felt like I chose the wrong colors and I everything I did just seemed to make the miniature look worse. Finally, I applied a wash of GW’s Fuegan Orange to his spine and the tips of his scales, and everything looked a million times better. Now I’m pretty happy with how he came out.

 

Insanity Pile Progress

Painted Miniatures Thus Far: 4

Purchased Miniatures: 0

Progress +4

 

Umber Hulk and Purple Worm

Monster Month kicks off with two classic AD&D monsters straight from the Monster Manual: the Umber Hulk and the Purple Worm—two very good reasons not to adventure underground.

The Umber Hulk is from the Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures line, which is a new-ish Wizkids line of computer sculpted miniatures that are both inexpensive and impressive. Wizkids has the rights to produce all the “official” AD&D monsters like the Umber Hulk, which is why you’ll see them called by their true names and not by a knockoff (i.e. Reaper’s  rust monster, the “oxidation beast”). I have to imagine that Wizkids is taking their cue from the massive success of Reaper Bones, because the Umber Hulk cost a mere $3.99. He’s a pretty decent size, too, as you can see from the (very nervous-looking) 28mm Reaper fighter standing between him and the worm. The Purple Worm is a Reaper Bones version of their “Great Wyrm” sculpt. I believe it also retailed at $3.99. Again, great price, decent size, great sculpt.

These Nolzur’s miniatures are, like Bones, supposed to be ready to paint without priming; in the case of Nolzur’s, they are supposedly primed already. Regardless, I choose to prime both Nolzur’s and Bones miniatures with Vallejo surface primer, because the paint rubs off if you don’t (no matter what they say). The Umber Hulk miniature required a little additional preparation prior to painting. Like Bones, many of the Nolzur’s miniatures set in weird positions after the casting process and need to be repositioned, which is actually pretty easy to do. Initially, this Umber Hulk’s mandible hung lower than its base, which would have made standing him up impossible. A quick dip of the miniature in some hot (but not boiling) water allowed me to bend it into a more upright posture, then a quick bath in some cold water made sure it re-set that way and wouldn’t go back. This method also works with Bones and even Heroclix, depending on the thickness of the plastic you’re trying to reshape.

Once he could stand up without stepping on his own jaw, I got to work:

According to the Monster Manual (3.5 edition in case anyone cares), an Umber Hulk resembles a cross between an ape and a beetle. It dwells deep within the earth, and can rip through solid stone like it was paper. AD&D player characters fear the Umber Hulk for several reasons. It’s covered in armored plates, it’s strong and can dish out a lot of damage, and it can hypnotize you with its eyes. But perhaps the scariest thing about an Umber Hulk is that it’s smart; often, it’s smarter than the PCs. The average human ability score (including Intelligence) is a 9. An Umber Hulk has an average Intelligence of 13!

The Purple Worm is another well-known AD&D monster. It’s a massive scavenger worm, covered in purple chitinous armor. A mature Purple Worm has a 6′ diameter mouth and is about 80′ long. (This one must be a baby.) It can easily swallow prey whole, including humanoids. To top it off, it has a poisonous stinger in its tail.

Being a Reaper Bones miniature, it’s not an “official” Purple Worm. I just painted it up that way.

Unlike Umber Hulks, Purple Worms aren’t smart. They’re just huge and mean and very tough to kill.

Insanity Pile Progress

Off to a good start, even though it’s only the first week. I’ve painted more than I’ve purchased. Good on me.

Painted Miniatures: 2

Purchased Miniatures: 0

Progress +2

Monster Month (and Getting My Shit Together)

First up, the good news: May is Monster Month! Now that my Gaslands project is (somewhat) complete, I’ve decided to get back to my first love: fantasy miniatures. And to that end, I have decided it’s high time I got around to painting some good old-fashioned monsters!

With the arrival of Reaper Bones and other inexpensive miniatures like Nolzur’s Marvelous Minis, it’s easier than ever to get your hands on some large beasties for not a lot of cash. And for the most part, the sculpting is top-notch on these miniatures, whether sculpted by hand (Bones) or 3d designed (Nolzur’s). Some of the monsters I’ll be painting this month have been in my insanity pile for years, whereas some are relatively recent purchases. Some are metal, some are plastic or resin. Old school, new school; the point is, they’re all monsters, and they’re all getting painted this month!

Now, the less-fun news. A couple of months back, I reminisced about the early Grenadier miniatures that were my first steps into what would eventually become my wargaming hobby. If you missed that post, you can read it here (if so inclined). One thing  I wrote in that post has been on my mind ever since.

Here’s what I said: “…even if I were to (paint) one miniature every day for the rest of my life, I would likely never finish what I already own, never mind any future tempting purchases. A somewhat sobering and morbid thought, but true nonetheless.”

Guess what? It is true. And it is sure as hell sobering.

(Actually, what I wrote was about stripping and repainting old miniatures, not painting new ones, but that changes nothing. Between what I have that I would like to strip and repaint, and what I have that has never yet seen paint, the reality remains the same. It ain’t gonna happen in my lifetime.)

Like many gamers nowadays, I am of a certain age. I am not the oldest grognard wearing a “Keep Calm and Cthulhu Fhtagn” T shirt, but neither am I a youngster any more. I’m in my mid 40’s, and I’ve been gaming since I was 12, collecting and painting miniatures since I was 13 or so. While mid-40’s is hardly old, especially considering the well-known and often-discussed “greying of the hobby”;  and although I’m reasonably healthy at the moment (knock wood), I have no illusions about my life.  In addition to other vices (like indolence), I really like scotch and gin, and I’ve liked them for many a long year now. The sad truth is that I have a lot of lead, both painted and unpainted; and a lot of half-started and wish-list projects I’m simply not going to ever complete.

As I’ve stated elsewhere in this blog, the last big gaming convention I attended was Gen Con in 2012. In addition to a comprehensive review of the convention, that post includes a list of all the stuff I bought when I was there. I knew buying most of that crap was a mistake as soon as I got back home. Most of it is still sitting right here in the original packages. I haven’t painted or used most of it, and it doesn’t look like I ever will.

Herein lies a problem faced by many wargamers: Let’s say you drop dead. What happens to your stuff? Many wargamers would naturally pass their armies on to the next generation, assuming their children had any interest in such things. I don’t have kids, and likely (and hopefully) never will. So what then?

It goes without saying that it becomes a problem for those we leave behind. Someone (or, if you’re lucky, several someones) who probably doesn’t need any more to deal with while grieving your death, as it may make them reach the “anger” stage of grief much faster. In my case, it’s not just my painted miniatures and the insanity pile that would be left behind. (That link leads to a description of my insanity pile that is outdated by several years. Like Scrooge, I have labored on it since.) It’s also the thousands of books and comics that I have amassed in almost four decades of collecting. All this stuff is going to land squarely in the lap of people who may love me, but may not necessarily love my hobbies and want to deal with 30 plus years of accumulated academia, esoterica, and plain-old geekery after my death.

It’s time to get real, and prioritize what I can realistically keep and what I should just bid a fond farewell to. And like many gamers, I need to STOP BUYING NEW STUFF. Not just new stuff, but old “new-to-me” stuff too, no matter how great a deal it is. I have to start saying no.

To this end, I’ve come up with an action plan.

Part 1: As a way to motivate myself to shrink the lead pile, I’m stealing an idea I saw on fellow TMPer Oiler72’s blog: the lead mountain progress total. With every post, Oiler keeps track of the number of miniatures he’s painted vs. the number of new miniatures he’s purchased, for a plus or minus overall progress total. I’m doing that, starting with my next post. I’m not about to count what I already have (that would make me mental). But whatever the starting point number may be, it should be easy to track whether I’m up or down relative to it if I keep logging painted vs. purchased.

(Note: this is for miniatures only. I do not consider terrain projects or things like Gaslands conversions, which are technically not miniatures, to be any progress towards adding to or shrinking the lead mountain.)

Part 2: I need to narrow my interests. I need to decide what games I’m going to focus on and what projects I can realistically complete. I need to look at the stuff I already have, and decide, once and for all, whether to keep it or get rid of something I know I’m never going to paint and/or play with. Is it worth the investment in time and/or money? If not: adios, muchacho. When deciding what to keep, I should consider whether it can be used in multiple games or whether it will only be used in one system; for example, unpainted police miniatures can be used for zombie, pulp, supers or any other modern game, whereas pirates can pretty much only be used as pirates.

Example: Wow, those Firestorm Armada ships look really fucking cool! Should I keep them? Let’s see:

  1. I’m never going to find anyone else near me who plays Firestorm Armada,
  2. Spartan Games went out of business, which means the game is no longer supported,
  3. While I could conceivably use the ships for other games, I don’t have any other space games except for War Rocket and X-Wing, neither of which match the theme or scale,
  4. I don’t want to buy any more space games,
  5. I have way too much other stuff to paint.

So should I keep them? Sounds like a big fat NO.

Firestorm Armada was easy. I have many other games/miniatures to consider, and many miles to go before I sleep.

 

Gaslands 6: Grond: Going Big with the WAR RIG!

Well, the end of April brings me to the end of my Gaslands posts, at least for now. I’ve saved the best for last: ladies and gentlemen of the wasteland, I present Grond, the war rig! (The Tolkien-philes among you may recognize the name Grond: it’s the name of the huge battering ram the forces of Sauron used to sunder the gates at the siege of Minas Tirith. I feel it is an appropriate name for my rolling death machine.)

From the moment I first read the Gaslands rulebook, I knew I needed to make a war rig: a big, diesel-burning armored machine of death to crush my enemies, see them driven before me and hear the lamentation of the women. Originally, I wanted my armored bus Marstorius to be a war rig, but there’s one small problem with that: although Marstorius is certainly big enough for a war rig, it is not articulated; meaning it has no separate cab and trailer. It’s all one piece. Whether or not a war rig is articulated is a pretty big deal in the game, as it affects such things as hazard tokens and vehicle orientation.

 

I started with this Hot Wheels truck. It was the most money I spent on a Gaslands car thus far: almost $7.00 brand new. In my haste to get started, I neglected to take a picture of it before I started work. So here’s a YouTube video review of it by a somewhat enthusiastic Hot Wheels aficionado. You may notice it comes with a another car (Maybe it could be a performance car, see below), so I guess for seven bucks it wasn’t a bad deal.

I wanted to use a flatbed-style truck because I wanted to have a turret-mounted flamethrower, and I didn’t like the look of it on top of a full-sized trailer. It just looked too high up.  The flatbed seems pretty unprotected, however, so I started armoring up the sides. Before I got started, I built my flamethrower turret and made sure it fit inside the bed.

The side rails are coffee stirrers. The flamethrower turret was made from a couple of rubber faucet gaskets, a fender washer, a lock washer and an axle nut, much the same as the turret on my monster truck, Rock-n-rolla. The flamethrower itself came from a Imperial Guard Sentinel sprue (I think). I decided to use a GW oil can as a fuel source and clipped some old speaker wire to use as hoses. I cut slots in the rubber gasket to accommodate the wires; that way it would look like the barrel was supplying oil to the turret through the hoses.

I applied some wire mesh, craft foam and plasticard as armor plating, mounted a GW heavy bolter to the cab roof, and a plow blade from a Tonka bulldozer I got at a flea market. A war rig has the most build slots of any vehicle in Gaslands, a whopping 5. The flamethrower took up 2, the machine gun and the plow took up one each. That left me with one more build slot. I could just use the extra armor, but a war rig doesn’t really need any more armor. As you can see, I have a lot of room left in the bed of the truck, so I started thinking about a mine dropper.

Instead of traditional mines, I thought it would be cool if Grond dropped explosive barrels off of his tailgate whenever any pursuers got too close for comfort. I had some of these old barrels around and they fit the bed of the truck perfectly, so I painted them in the ubiquitous “explosive barrel” color scheme familiar to anyone who plays first-person shooter video games.

One may question the wisdom of having a 360° flamethrower operating in close proximity to volatile, explosives-filled barrels; but I can assure you not one crewmember aboard Grond ever thought twice about it. Not for a second. What could go wrong?

Here’s a close-up of the bed of the truck. I’m quite happy with the way the flamethrower turret and the barrels came out.

Here’s the back. The bars were made with coffee stirrers (a different kind), the sign from a piece of craft foam. If you take an explosive barrel to the face, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

And a close-up of the front. I considered writing some pithy statement on the blade, like “Here I Come!”, but decided against it, as it would have to be written backwards in order to be read in a rear-view mirror. If you were actually facing Grond, you wouldn’t need to be told as you would see it coming, thus rendering any warning somewhat superfluous. So I drew this dead smiley face instead.

The finished product: Grond, the war rig!!

Painting for all my Gaslands vehicles is pretty much the same. I used a mix of Cote D’Arms, Games Workshop, Reaper and Vallejo paints. Grond’s body is based with The Fang (GW), with a highlight of Shadow Grey (CD), then given a wash of Nuln Oil (GW). The armor plating was painted with either Gunmetal Grey (V), Gun Metal (CD) or Tin Bitz (GW) before being washed with Armor Wash (CD). The machine gun and the plow were painted Adamantite Black (R) and dry-brushed with Necron Compound (GW) and Tin Bitz (GW) before given a wash of  Nuln Oil (GW). I used some Typhus Corrosion (GW) and Stirland Mud (GW) on the tires, wheel wells and the plow. Lastly, I used some MIG rust pigment on the armor, wheels and body.

Well, that about does it for Gaslands for now. I want to focus on some other projects and perhaps get some actual games in before I start on any new cars and/or terrain. One thing I didn’t build were any performance cars, which are a separate type of vehicle that is really good at evading collisions. They can reach the highest gear, which allows them to activate more often than most other vehicle types. They tend to be more elegant and less rusty and Mad Max-y then the other cars; more finesse than brawn. Perhaps in the future I’ll convert some performance cars, but other than that, I think I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got so far: seven cars, two buggies, a monster truck, an armored bus and a war rig.

Next post: May is Monster Month!

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