For April’s Character of the Month, I decided to do a Bard. Naturally, being me, I chose a piper. I’ve had this particular miniature for at least ten years, sitting quietly in a box with far too many other miniatures that I may or may not ever get to. We only have so many heartbeats, after all…
This miniature is Rhupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord; a Warmachine miniature from Privateer Press. His bagpipes are truly legendary…they look more like a portable calliope or pipe organ than a traditional bagpipe set. In other words, they’re fucking awesome; so I needed a cool backstory. This is what I came up with:
Doval Lakatos was a man of celebration; a minstrel and dancer who could lift even the lowest spirits with just a few notes from his flute or thumps of his drum. As a troubadour, he travelled the roads and byways of Volskad with his people; singing, dancing, and selling the instruments of music he created as only a master craftsman could; often throwing in free lessons for pretty girls. In time, one of these girls, Karin, became his wife; and in time, she bore him a daughter, Mahala, who was his truest joy.
Many winters passed, as, sadly, did Karin; leaving Doval and Mahala to go on together. Mahala grew to be a lovely young woman; blessed with a voice like the sweetest birdsong and a laugh that could chase away storms. It was no surprise when she began to attract the attentions of men. Tragically, one of these men was Baron Drammen Stahl.
Doval Lakatos’s people knew that Stahlmark was a place to be traversed quickly, or better yet, avoided altogether. The people there did not laugh. They had no use for travelers and songs and music; as these were things for other places, places where the Baron did not rule. The Baron was not one to countenance joy in his subjects, only obedience and tribute. He took this tribute in the form of maiden girls, one each year; supposedly to be his brides, yet none were ever seen again. Although Doval Lakatos tried to attract as little attention as possible while travelling through Stahlmark, Mahala was seen by the Baron’s men, and she was taken to him.
Doval Lakatos tried to resist, but how could an old man fight so many of the Baron’s soldiers? Frantic, he cast about for men of courage, anyone who would go with him to bring Mahala back from the Baron. But men of courage were in short supply, especially where Baron Drammen Stahl was concerned. Doval Lakatos raged. He begged and pleaded. And finally, he despaired.
Only a fool or one with nothing to live for would willingly venture into the dark woods to seek The Baba Yaga; but that is what Doval Lakatos did. He found her easily. Why should she make it difficult? The hag always welcomed visitors. And so it was that in a dark clearing lit only by a weak fire, under the watchful, glittering eyes of The Baba Yaga, Doval Lakatos told the hag his story and made his plea. The hag listened while the flickering shadows cast by her obscene, dancing hut played across her hideous visage. The Baba Yaga listened, and she smiled. At the sight of those terrible iron fangs, Doval Lakatos knew real fear.
The Baba Yaga told him that Baron Drammen Stahl was more than a man; that he was a vorvalaka; one of the undead who reveled in cruelty and fed upon the blood of innocents. As such, Mahala was already dead; there was nothing to be done. The Baba Yaga laughed, then; her fetid breath stinking of decayed things and enveloping him like a wet blanket. She told him that she had eaten already this night; but that didn’t mean she was sated. She advised Doval Lakatos should leave her clearing while he still could, and turned her back on him.
But he did not leave. Mahala was all he cared for; all he would ever care for. He told the hag what she wanted to hear: that he would give anything to ensure Mahala lived and the Baron died. The Baba Yaga slowly turned. If he was willing to give that which he loved dearly, then the hag could help him. Doval said he loved nothing more than Mahala; the hag could have anything else. She smiled again, and agreed. And then she told him what he must do.
Doval Lakatos constructed a set of bagpipes according to The Baba Yaga’s instructions, using the finger bones of dead men that she gave him. Instead of dry cane, these hollow bones would serve as bagpipe reeds. She warned him not to play the pipes once they were complete. There could be no testing and tuning of this instrument. These pipes could be played only once, and only in the presence of the Baron. If done correctly, they would provide Doval Lakatos with the opportunity he would need to free Mahala from the Baron’s bondage. Once his daughter was freed, though, Doval Lakatos must present himself to The Baba Yaga so that she could collect payment for her services.
On the night he finished the bagpipes, Doval Lakatos took a pony and rode to the gates of the Baron’s castle in the rain. The Baron’s men mocked him and made to turn him away; until one of them recognized him as the father of the Baron’s newest plaything. Doval Lakatos begged the men to be allowed to perform for the Baron; to see his daughter one last time. Although they knew the Baron had no interest in music, these men were cruel; and thought the Baron would enjoy tormenting the old man for a while before killing him. They let Doval Lakatos into the main ballroom where a feast was laid in front of a roaring fire. The Baron sat upon his throne, and Mahala sat next to him, eyes wide with fear; for she knew that by coming here her father had sealed his own fate.
The Baron Drammen Stahl fixed his gaze upon him and demanded to know his business. Doval Lakatos returned the Baron’s stare without flinching, and asked if he could play his pipes for him and for his daughter one last time, before she ceased to be his daughter and became instead the Baron’s wife. The Baron agreed with a laugh. After all, he said, it would most certainly be the last time. At this, his men laughed, too; anticipating Doval Lakatos’s imminent imprisonment, torture and death.
Doval Lakatos placed the chanter to his lips and blew air into the bellows. It inflated slowly, and the drones began to hum. When all three were in unison, everyone in the Baron’s hall began to feel uneasy. Smiles vanished. Laughter died. Heads began to swim. Bones began to vibrate. Then Doval Lakatos began to play, and the screaming started.
The Baron could feel the power of the pipes. He realized too late that he made a huge mistake. He tried to move, but was powerless to lift even a finger. He could only stare in dawning horror at the old minstrel, the man whose hair was turning white before the Baron’s eyes as he continued to play his deadly tune. Everyone in the hall save Mahala and Doval Lakatos clapped their hands to their ears, desperately trying to drown out the sound. Like the Baron, they stood transfixed, rooted to the spot as blood began to seep from their ruined ears through their fingers and down their cheeks.
Beneath the discordant melody of the pipes other sounds could be heard: screaming, bestial snarls and mad laughter coming from deep below the castle, from the catacombs, where the Baron’s previous wives were interred; a fate surely intended for Mahala, once the Baron tired of her. They burst into the room a short time later; undead things, haggard, filthy and hungry for blood and vengeance. They fell upon the guards and the Baron’s guests, shrieking and tearing into them with ragged claws and broken teeth. The room was soon awash with blood. But they ignored Doval Lakatos and his daughter, who shut her eyes tightly and cowered beneath her chair.
When there were none but he and Mahala left alive in the room, Doval Lakatos finished his tune. He unhooked the pipes from their harness and let the instrument fall to the ground. Then he calmly picked up a fallen sword and approached the Baron, still rooted to his chair, unable to move. With a deft stroke, he cut the Baron’s head from his shoulders and tossed it into the roaring fireplace. Then, he took his daughter by the hand and led her from the castle, through the carnage and the cackling, feasting ghouls, to the pony that waited outside the gates. He kissed and embraced her, then sent her on her way with a heavy heart; for he had a meeting with The Baba Yaga he had to keep, and he did not think he would return.
Once again, the hag was not difficult to find. She was stirring her great mortar and pestle in the shadows of her dancing hut. At the sight of Doval Lakatos, she smiled her terrible grin and beckoned him close. She had felt the passing of the Baron and knew that her evil magic had worked. As such she had the right to claim payment, and claim it she would.
Briefly, The Baba Yaga considered simply swallowing Doval Lakatos whole, as she was hungry again; and he no doubt expected nothing less. But that was not the bargain that was made. No, Doval Lakatos had to lose that which he loved dearly. If not his precious daughter, it could be only one thing.
The Baba Yaga’s curse was powerful, and final. No more would Doval Lakatos compose melodies. No more would he perform with pipe, string or drum. No more could he dance or lift his voice in song; for the price of Mahala’s freedom was Doval Lakatos’s love of music. From that day until the day he died a bitter, miserable man, Doval Lakatos could no longer bear to hear music; every tune, reel, jig or dirge was torture to his ears. He could be a man of celebration no longer; the zils on his tambourine would be forever silent.
Doval Lakatos never regretted the bargain he made to save Mahala, for she was his truest joy; but there were many times he wished that The Baba Yaga had simply swallowed him whole.
Monster Month starts in five days, and there’s still time to get in on the fun! Just drop me a comment here or email me at email@example.com and let me know you want to participate! As of now, we have some of the usual suspects as well as some new faces! Check them out below:
Today, I thought I’d try to get things back to whatever passes for normal around here.
Usually I would do a post like Mark A. Morin and many others did; where I first rate my performance against last year’s resolutions before making new ones. I did that last year, but when I went back and looked, it doesn’t seem like I actually made any resolutions for 2020. I think I forgot to; but somewhere along the way, I must have silently resolved to finish all my Star Trek miniatures, because that was one thing I did manage to do!
Mostly, anyway. I would have succeeded completely, if it weren’t for that meddling Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop, who just had to make some awesome Trek-themed computer consoles and bridge chairs which of course I just had to buy. They’re not done yet. Bummer.
Anyway, this year, I’ve decided not to focus on too much. That’s because every year I resolve to start a new project and/or army, and that never gets done. (I’ve been saying I would start my Old West scenery for years now.) I think in 2021 I will keep it manageable and realistic. I’m going to paint whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want…with some minor guidelines. With that in mind, here are my plans for Dead Dick’s Tavern in 2021:
1: More Roleplaying Stuff. The response to my RPG write-ups has been pretty positive, both on and off Dead Dick’s Tavern. I have some Instagram followers who particularly seem to enjoy them. They correspond with me about my blog, but never leave comments here. (You can do that, guys. Really!) Anyway, expect to see more exploits of the USS Adventure, as well as some other games I run. Expect to see something new soon.
2. One character a month. I came to miniature gaming through roleplaying games, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. With this in mind, I’m going to set a fun challenge for myself: each month, I’m going to paint one model based on a classic character class from Dungeons & Dragons. So, I may do a cleric in January, a fighter in February, etc… I’m not going to officially limit myself by assigning classes to months (whatever I feel like painting, I will paint, remember?); but by the end of the year I should have 12 different characters painted. This will give me an excuse to paint some of my Reaper miniatures that have been sitting around for years in their blisters. Watch for the first one soon!
3. Painting challenges. I like them. In May, I’ll be hosting Monster May(hem) again (blame Roger for the name); so get your monsters ready by then if you want to take part. I will most certainly be participating in Forgotten Heroes again in June, because it’s so much fun. (I expect to see Big Wheel, Jeremy.) If Dave hosts the Summer of Scenery again, I’m in; I never would have got my sludge pool done last year if it weren’t for him. I’d also like to do Fem-bruary for the first time this year, after learning of it by listening to the Imperial Rebel Ork podast. I gather it involves painting at least one female miniature in February; I’ll go one better and paint ALL female miniatures in February (I have a lot of them to paint).
4. More After Action Reports. I love playing games, and I love blogging about them. Expect to see more; a pulp game that’s been set up for months (but sadly unplayed as of yet); and likely more Star Trek games down the road (which should please Dave).
Santa brought me this stuff, and I just wanted to share it with you all. First, some 5/64″ wire, perfect for pinning pesky models that don’t want to cooperate. I was running low, and it’s amazing how St. Nick just seemed to know what I needed. Second, some Gorilla Glue gel; a perfect stocking stuffer for any miniatures enthusiast. Lastly: this magnifying visor that has CHANGED MY LIFE.
I’ve been using reading glasses to paint for a few years now, as I can’t seem to see shit anymore. This visor is so much better. First, it has a selection of magnifying lenses you can swap out or flip up, which is quite helpful. Second, it has a two-setting LED light right on the front, which illuminates areas on the miniature like the face, which can be problematic to paint when you can’t see shit. Third, it doesn’t take batteries: it’s rechargeable with a USB port. Last and most important, it’s comfortable. It fits snugly around my head, and doesn’t annoy me. I love this thing. I recently used it to help me assemble some Cruel Seas ships (I hate assembling plastic models).
Although I don’t ask Santa how much she pays for stuff (that would be gauche), I found these on Amazon for $30. (Worth it!)
That’s about it for now. I’m off to choose my first character class for my new challenge!
Four posts with no miniatures? This will not stand! Let me fix that…
In December, I usually focus my attention on my “side pile”, i.e. those unfinished and partially-painted miniatures that have accumulated off to the side of my workspace over the course of the year. Some have been primed, others basecoated; some have just a dab or two of color on them from when I squeezed out a bit too much paint and didn’t want to waste it. There they indefinitely sat, clogging my workspace and staring at me accusatorily; until finally, a few years ago, I made the conscious choice to clear the workspace. It’s worked out great.
Yeah, well…I didn’t do that last month.
I painted a LOT of Star Trek miniatures in 2020; both Modiphius miniatures and Heroclix repaints. Since I started playing Days Gone last month, I simply haven’t had the motivation to paint as much (funny how most of my hobby dry spells coincide with periods of video game obsession). But I only had a few Star Trek miniatures left, and I was bound and determined to get them all done by the end of the year.
I have succeeded. First up: the Heroclix repaints.
I picked up these Heroclix to supplement my Modiphius Romulans. They’re not perfect, because I didn’t remember what paints I used way back when; but they’ll do.
Next, I did the same with these Klingons. Everyone can use more Klingons, and I have plans for these guys…
Sadly, I only managed to get my hands on two Heroclix Cardassian soldiers. I repainted the TNG-era brownish uniform to DS9 black, since I like it much better.
Next, some Ferengi salvage crew, and Daimon Bok. These miniatures are obviously based on the early TNG costuming, which was…well, pretty fucking awful. Don’t believe me? Here’s what the Ferengi uniform was on TNG:
Yikes. I’m guessing most of the show’s first-season budget was blown on special effects, because that looks like medical scrubs and cheap carpet. Dig those fur booties.
Finally, the last of the Heroclix: I did a couple of TNG character repaints: Geordi, Worf and Lt. Barclay; as well as a couple of generic TNG-era Starfleet crew.
I repainted Mugato and some Talosians, as well as a whole bunch of generic Starfleet crew for the TOS era.
Moving on, I finally finished the last Modiphius set: the Iconic Villains. I have a lot of opinions about this set, and let’s start by saying I would never have bought it if I didn’t find it on Amazon for an obscenely low price (like $18 or so). The truth is, I didn’t need or want most of these miniatures, and I think there were a lot of better choices available for the “iconic” Trek villains. Let’s go through them, best to worst. These are my opinions, of course…your mileage may vary.
First: Locutus, Lore, and the Borg Queen. All of these are solid choices for iconic villains. What’s more, Modiphius made a Borg Collective miniature set and the Next Generation Bridge crew and TNG Away team, which makes them easy to use in a miniature wargame or for their Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game. I have no issue with any of these. Love them.
Next: Gul Dukat. He’s a great sculpt, and my personal favorite villain in all of Star Trek; so of course I’m happy to have him. The problem is that Modiphius hasn’t done the Deep Space Nine station crew yet, and also hasn’t done any Cardassians (both of which I’m DYING for); so, he’s of limited gaming utility at the moment. Still, he’s Gul Fucking Dukat, and he’s holding Sisko’s baseball, so I can’t complain too much; although it would be really nice if Modiphius made those other sets soon. In the meantime, I think they could have included a villain that would better compliment the sets they have already released.
Next: Q, in his judge’s robes. As far as iconic villains go, Modiphius would have been remiss not to include Q. BUT: why would you need a Q miniature? Q can do anything and is pretty much invulnerable and omnipotent. I get I’m nitpicking here. Star Trek Adventures is a roleplaying game, and anyone using miniatures for that purpose may have need of a Q miniature simply to show where he’s standing at any given time. But it’s not like Q needs to worry about things like difficult terrain or line-of-sight. He doesn’t need to worry about cover saves. He’s Q. Like I said, Modiphius kinda needed to include him, but the miniature is of limited use in a game setting, particularly a wargame. Also, although the judge’s robes are cool, I would have liked to see him in a Command uniform. But that’s me.
Next: the Gorn Captain. Calling him an iconic villain is a bit of a stretch to me. Also, since he’s the only Gorn miniature made by Modiphius (kinda like Gul Dukat is the only Cardassian), unless you want to replay the classic TOS episode Arena, there’s no point in gaming with him. Meh.
Finally, for some inexplicable reason, Modiphius decided to include two Star Trek movie-era villains: General Chang, and KHAAAAAAAAN!!!!. Why they did this when they haven’t released the movie-era TOS crew is frankly baffling to me.
As for General Chang, he’s my least favorite miniature in the set; not because he’s a bad sculpt, but because I’m at a loss as to why he’s here. Sure, he was the bad guy in Star Trek VI, and he was ably played by Christopher Plummer, and he’s a Klingon. And…I got nothing else. Who the hell was asking for a General Chang miniature? Again, the fact that he’s from the movie era and Modiphius hasn’t released any movie-era miniatures makes his inclusion perplexing.
Finally, arguably the MOST iconic Star Trek villain, Khan definitely deserves to be here. His sculpt is pretty good overall, although I don’t think he needed to be clutching a Ceti eel (it looks kind of silly). While Khan should definitely be included, they should have made the younger version of him from “Space Seed” to work with the current TOS Enterprise crew and landing party sets. (Heroclix made a young Khan, but he’s a rare miniature that fetches about $50 on the secondary market; or, as I like to call it: “fuck that expensive”.)
So, aside from replacing old Khan with young Khan, who do I think should have made it into the set instead of Chang, the Gorn Captain, and (even though I love him) Gul Dukat?
Gowron. Played by “Crazy Eyes” Robert O’Reilly in 11 episodes of Star Trek: TNG and DS9, Gowron is definitely an iconic villain who should be here. I am personally offended that he is not, because how can you not love Gowron?
Lursa and B’etor: The Duras Sisters are also recurring antagonists in TNG and DS9 before finally meeting their end in Generations (spoiler alert). Both of them would be welcome.
Sela: The Half-Romulan daughter of Tasha Yar would be a welcome addition, too; although Modiphius seems to have had her in mind when designing the Romulan set. The commander is female, and can easily be painted as Sela. (In fact, I did just that, as you know because you followed my link to the Romulans above.)
Harry Mudd: One of the only recurring characters on TOS, Harry Mudd would be an awesome addition to the set. I love both Mudd episodes (Mudd’s Women and I, Mudd“) and would love it if someone made a miniature of him!
These are my choices for iconic villains that compliment sets already released by Modiphius. Assuming they release DS9 and Voyager crews down the road; who should make it into Iconic Villains 2? (I’m not including Enterprise because I’ve only seen the first season and honestly don’t know if there are any iconic villains to include.)
From Deep Space Nine: Kai Wynn (of course), Weyoun, Damar, the Female Changeling, Enabran Tain, Minister Jaro, Liquidator Brunt and Michael Eddington; from Voyager: Seska. (She’s the only one I can think of, and the only recurring villain other than the Borg Queen, and she’s already been done.)
I actually completed a project! I’m happy to say I’m done with Star Trek for now. I have no more Trek miniatures to paint, although I do have a couple of bridge scenics to get to, courtesy of Wargames Terrain Workshop.
Last time I lamented that two years ago, my friend Owen decided with finality that he was done with painting miniatures and gave me his sizable collection, amassed over the span of decades, to do with as I see fit. Up until now, all I have done is hold them in safekeeping for the last couple of years in the vain hope that he would leap headlong back into the hobby, eager and excited, his passion rekindled for all things paint and lead themed.
That has not happened.
So, I decided to start painting some of his unpainted lead, the hope being that my efforts will reignite in him that which lies dormant. Then, he will graciously thank me for keeping his miniatures and politely ask for their return, which I, of course, will expeditiously grant. Then we will rule the galaxy together as father and son (figuratively speaking, pardon the pun), gleefully painting miniatures until our fingers bleed.
That’s my hope, anyway.
Over the years, I have created many characters for role-playing games, many of which I have never actually played. I don’t consider that wasted time, as creating characters is by far my favorite part of gaming. I thought it would be fun to come up with some fluff for these guys, so while painting them up, I thought about a backstory for each one.
Karl Rost, master-at-arms, served Baron Graf of Zondergeld as military advisor, as his own father had served the Baron’s father before him. But this Baron was a fool. Baron Graf was obsessed with games, and to him, Karl Rost was merely another pawn to be used–or sacrificed. Thus when the Baron lost a wager to Duke Danius of neighboring Cyndar, a wager he could not cover, he paid his debt with Karl Rost. Baron Graf sent his master-at-arms to work like a common tradesman for a rival kingdom without a second thought, oblivious to the man’s true worth.
The term of Rost’s service was to be a year and one day, after which he would return to the service of Baron Graf. Humiliated and betrayed, Rost performed his assigned duties for Duke Danius as he was bound. With Rost’s guidance, the forces of Cyndar easily swept through the Baron’s defenses and subjugated Zondergeld within two months. The Baron was beheaded and his line ended; thus when Rost’s term of service was up, he had no place to return. He rejected Duke Danius’s offer of position and wealth in his new realm, and instead now wanders the land as a masterless adventurer and sellsword, making his way as he can.
Rost is Reaper’s Damian Helthorne, Bandit; sculpted by Tre Manor. I was aware of this miniature through my frequent browsing of Reaper’s site, but until Owen gave it to me (along with all his other miniatures) I had never seen it “in the flesh”, so to speak. It’s a terrific miniature (albeit a bit heavily-armed for a “bandit”), and I quickly fell in love with it. I think he’s a perfect representation of a lawless mercenary like Karl Rost. I’m not thrilled by my freehand shield design, but I’m also not motivated enough to fix it for what would be the third time, so this is what he’s stuck with.
The Red Wolf of Thord was born in that frozen wasteland as Lorm Einarsson, the youngest of four. Before he was twenty he had killed his three older brothers, none of them quickly, for motives unknown. Some say they bullied him as a youth, others claim he just didn’t like them very much. He usurped his eldest brother as cyng upon his death and took over his band of thegns, sailing with them southward into the fertile lands of Mornellorn and Evaleaux. There his cruel path of destruction, pillage and rapine quickly tore those kingdoms asunder. Centuries later, his name is still whispered to children to encourage compliance and good behavior, lest the Red Wolf appear.
In the frozen lands of Thord, there are only white wolves. During one of Einarsson’s prolonged “stays” in Evaleaux, he hunted and slew a huge red wolf that had been attacking cattle he had pillaged from nearby villages, splitting its head with his great axe, Skuffe. From that day on he wore its pelt as a cloak, and thus the legend of the “Red Wolf of Thord” was born.
Another Reaper Tre Manor sculpt, the Red Wolf is represented by the hirsute Olaf, Viking Chieftain. Unlike the previous model, I likely never would have purchased this guy. Not because the sculpt is bad (I don’t think Tre Manor is capable of bad sculpting), but because I hate double-bladed axes. I just think they look really stupid. Coming from a guy who loves dwarfs and has many dwarf miniatures, you can assume I have to deal with them more often than I would like, and you would be right. Typically, I remove one of the axe blades, and the model usually looks a lot better. But because of the way Olaf here is holding his axe, it wouldn’t look right if I modified it. (Besides, this is Owen’s miniature. I’m just working with what I have.) I should probably fix his eyes a little bit, as they look too wide.
I have made Owen aware of this post and the previous one, so hopefully my effrontery will work: he’ll demand all his miniatures back and start painting them again. (Fingers crossed.) If not, I will continue to do so myself in the hopes he will one day return to the dark side…
I first met my friend Owen when we were in college, almost 30 years ago (Christ, that’s depressing as hell.) We quickly found we had much in common. Some examples: we both had a brother with the same name. We both played role-playing games. We both worked at a (now) defunct electronics retailer, albeit at different stores (at first). We both took the same hellish philosophy class taught by a crazed Jesuit who was banned from practicing mass because…well, because he was batshit crazy, among other things. We had a mutual friend that neither of us knew about until the first time I joined Owen for a gaming session and found him at the table.
Most significantly, we discovered that we both collected and painted miniatures. Prior to meeting Owen, I didn’t know anyone else who was the slightest bit interested in miniatures at all. Neither of us played wargames; we collected and painted miniatures purely because of our interest in rpgs. We bought mostly Ral Partha and Grenadier miniatures, as these were the ones commonly available at the time. We even bought them at the same store, but we didn’t know that until later.
I got into Warhammer in the mid-90’s, but Owen never did. Eventually, we both stopped painting for a while here and there over the years. I took a hiatus for about 5-6 years between 2002-2008, and I think he may have done the same, only sooner. I jumped right back into the hobby, whereas Owen never really did.
Two years ago or so, Owen gave me all his miniatures; hundreds of them, possibly more. Most of them are in various stages of paint; many complete, many primed or dabbed with color here and there, all stored in Plano tackle boxes. As I remembered, they’re mostly Ral Partha and Grenadier. In fact, I already own many of them already. But Owen’s miniatures also include many Reaper miniatures purchased in the early years of that company, as well as some impulse buys over time (as is any miniatures enthusiast’s wont). Owen told me he just doesn’t have the interest to paint them any more, and he would rather have the space than hold onto the lead. He knew I would give them a good home (and I have).
It broke my fucking heart.
This may surprise readers of this blog for several reasons. First, that I have a heart at all may come as a shock. Second, it may be surprising to some that I would be sad at the gift of so much lead. But both are true.
I offered to pay him for them. We have yet to discuss this in any meaningful way. This is because he’s not in a hurry to get paid, and also because I’m not in any hurry to pay him. In fact, I have been hoping very much that he would come to his senses and take them back. But that hasn’t happened.
I have a problem assigning value to any miniatures I have painted, as to me their value goes far beyond money. If I were to ever sell my miniatures (I can’t see how), I would likely overvalue them. Even though I may never again play the games they were designed for or use them for what was intended, the fact remains that I spent time, effort and money (obviously), on them; and I can’t easily part with them for those reasons.
I suspect many gamers feel the same way, although I know a significant number do not. (Our mutual friend, for example, had no problem painting and playing any number of Warhammer armies, only to sell them off at a significant loss whenever he got bored. He would then buy another army and repeat the process, only to eventually end up back where he started, with his original army that he needed to repurchase and repaint.)
Which is why, as I look at Owen’s miniatures, many of which he affixed to cardboard hexes that he lovingly cut out by hand (the better to fit on a combat map; unlike me, Owen actually USED his miniatures when he ran a game), I feel defeated. I want him to want his miniatures back. I want him to want to paint them again. I want him to be a miniatures nut like me, looking at painting tutorials online, geeking out over new releases, and planning and playing games. But it seems unlikely.
So, after a couple of years of ignoring his boxes, hoping he’ll ask for them back, I have decided to take a new strategy. I’m gonna start painting some of them. I don’t have the heart to strip his paint jobs and repaint any of his miniatures, but Owen was kind enough to supply me with some primed figures he never got around to. I’m hoping he will look at my work (on HIS miniatures) and get inspired.
Up next: the first two “Owen” miniatures, painted by yours truly.
Or perhaps, “Some Side Action”. Either “double entendre” title would work.
For my last post of 2018, I thought I’d share what I did in December, which is clean up “the side pile”: that group of partially-painted/assembled miniatures that collects in the corner of my workspace over time; things I plan on getting to, but for whatever reason shunt them aside in favor of other projects. These sad miniatures collect dust and stare at me in silent accusation, wondering why they are neglected. Not having any other project slated for December, I decided to devote my entire month’s efforts to these orphaned miniatures.
A couple of these miniatures were supposed to be painted for my failed AD&D campaign, which ended back in 2012. Some of them have languished in the side pile for longer than that!
First, an old-school fantasy ogre, made by RAFM. I’ve had this guy for decades. RAFM still makes a variation of this miniature, but this particular guy is out-of-production. He was originally supposed to return as a member of the Cudgel Gang, that group of highwaymen that plagued my gaming group throughout the campaign. Length of time in side pile: 8+ years.
Another miniature intended for the AD&D campaign, this is Finari, from Reaper. This is the metal version; she’s since been reissued as a Bones miniature. Length of time in side pile: 10 years or so. Yes, 10 years. Easily.
Next is Kjell Bloodbear, another metal Reaper miniature. I really had no idea how I was going to paint him, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the end result. It was a long time coming, but he’s finally done. Length of time in the side pile: 7 years or so.
This is Duke Gerard, yet another Reaper miniature, this time a Bones version I got from a guy who bought into the Kickstarter. Apparently, he has a weird back banner-thingy that I didn’t get, which is ok, as I like him better without it. Length of time in side pile: 4+ years.
This is Herryk Aesir, a dwarf that has a back banner-thingy I actually like. He’s another metal Reaper miniature (they make a Bones version, too). He’s been in the side pile the least amount of time; I intended to paint him for Dwarvember two years ago, but didn’t get around to it. Length in side pile: 2+years.
These snipers are from Demonblade Games for their Shockforce post-apocalyptic skirmish game. I didn’t play the game, but I liked the snipers. They’ve been primed and ready for a long time. Length of time in side pile: 7+ years.
Last but not least, some Reaper Toolbots, from their Chronoscope line. I don’t remember why I bought these guys. I think I wanted to use them for some Retro sci-fi gaming I never really pursued. They’ve been primed and based with a gunmetal silver for years. Once I decided to change them to this yellow color, I painted them in no time at all. I just couldn’t get motivated to paint them until I made that switch…strange how our minds work. Length of time in side pile: 6+ years.
That’s closes out the year. I thought I’d have one more side pile miniature done before the ball drops, but it’s not happening. As it is, I cleared out a fair bit of space and put paint on some figures that have been waiting far too long for it, so all’s well that ends well.
Some time ago I got my hands on a couple of boxes of Wargames Factory Shock Troopers. I had planned to make a proxy Imperial Guard army different from my Mordian Iron Guard, but having two Imperial Guard armies is just stupid, especially when I no longer play 40K. I decided I could use them for scenarios outside of the GW universe, or possibly as henchmen for pulp or supers gaming.
Originally, I planned on basing them on snow, inspired by an old friend’s 90’s era Valhallan Ice Warriors army. I scrapped that idea. I then thought I would paint them in dark colors reminiscent of the Injustice Superman’s security force, but I couldn’t find a color scheme I liked. My Mordians are already predominantly black, so I wanted a different color scheme.
As you can see, I tried several. I like none of these.
Then, by chance, I stumbled across an old blog post by Atom Smasher of Tabletop Minions fame. I really liked his color scheme, so I contacted him to ask him how he did it. Sadly, he was unable to remember. (Side note: this is why I’m glad I started writing down my paint recipes in a notebook.) This left me back at square one.
This month was to be the month in which I finally painted this “army”, as well as all the vehicles and support units I have collected over the years. It was to be called “Shocktober.” Brilliant, I know. But I still have yet to decide on a color scheme for my Shock Troopers, so it’s once again getting pushed off.
Which leaves me with the question: what am I going to do for this month?
I’ll certainly finish the Dwarf King’s Quest, since I only have a few miniatures left to paint. Also, I’ve heard tell that there’s a Zombtober event being hosted on Brummie’s Wargaming Blog, and I could easily supply a zombie or two that has long awaited paint if I can wrangle an invitation. But I want to do something else…something on which I can say I’ve made significant progress by month’s end. I have several choices:
I could bite the bullet and clear out the side pile, which has grown since last I labored on it. That would basically free up some desk space while I complete a diverse set of miniatures that have been in various stages of paint and/or assembly for a long time (in some cases, years).
I could paint another old-school Grenadier box, those are always fun. I really enjoy revisiting these boxed sets, and I have quite a few.
No matter my current focus, I am always repainting Heroclix miniatures for use in my supers gaming. I could dedicate the whole month to that alone and clean out my freezer bin (where I keep my ‘clix that I need to rebase; the cold makes snapping them off the dials easy).
I could do another big project, like my Orc Warlord on Wyvern…something large-scale that will take up a lot of time and effort.
I could start work on another miniatures board game. Currently the only one I have unpainted is 3rd edition Space Hulk…pretty low on my priority list, to be honest.
Finally, I could always do some more work for Gaslands. I have plenty more cars to convert, and I need to get started on some scenery. I will most likely do this in addition to any miniatures painting this month. Also, I need to work on terrain more often, so this may give me the kick in the ass I need.
I guess we’ll see what happens. Suggestions are of course welcomed!
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:
I’m never going to find anyone else near me who plays Firestorm Armada,
Spartan Games went out of business, which means the game is no longer supported,
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,
I don’t want to buy any more space games,
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.
It seems I took the month of January off from blogging, quite accidentally. For Christmas I was gifted with Mass Effect: Andromeda for PS4. It was released back in March of last year, but I’m not the kind of (video) gamer that needs to get a game as soon as it’s released. Thus I tend to spend less money on video games overall, as I can wait until the price drops. I am a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, and although this latest game was (unfairly, IMO) derided, at least in comparison to the previous trilogy, it has accounted for my free time throughout January.
Anyway, it’s nice to be back.
I rarely pick up Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine these days. Although it’s a fine publication, it’s not for me, as it is primarily geared towards the historical wargamer, and even casual visitors to this site will know I don’t fall into that category. The other day I found myself at my newsagent (see what I did there? I used a British term) by complete happenstance ( I was purchasing coffee and donuts for a work meeting at the Dunkin’ Donuts next door), and, since the latest issue of Miniature Wargames magazine hadn’t arrived yet, I gave in to whimsy and purchased WS&S #92. As expected, it had little to interest me as far as gaming goes. I am unfamiliar with most of the historical periods and battles covered throughout the issue. But what issue #92 did have was a worthy article by the great Rick Priestly, entitled “Time, Tide and Yesterday’s Lead.”
You might think Mr. Priestly waxes nostalgic for the early days of Citadel and Warhammer miniatures, but he quickly sets the record straight. Despite his involvement in Warhammer’s development, his particular enthusiasm is the Minifigs line of the 70’s, as those are what led him down the garden path to wargaming.
I must confess that since I live in the United States and I was born a good decade or so after Mr. Priestly, I am unfamiliar with Minifigs. Like so many others, I started gaming through Dungeons & Dragons, circa 1983 or so. I’m pretty sure I got the red box for my 10th birthday and it took me a year or two to start running “The Keep on the Borderlands.” I never played a miniature wargame until I was in college in the early 90’s. Predictably, my first introduction came through Warhammer 40K, then quickly moved to WFB. But I had already been collecting and painting miniatures before then. Despite all my failed attempts to introduce them into my roleplaying games, I found them really cool (an obviously still do). I certainly share nostalgic feelings for the miniatures that got me started down my own path, some 35 years ago. And those miniatures, primarily, are Grenadier and Ral Partha fantasy figures.
The first set of miniatures I ever bought was the often-reissued Grenadier Tomb of Spells set. It’s the second one down in the left column. Starting from the top left and continuing clockwise, we have Specialists, Hobgoblins, a Dragon Lords set that once included paints, Thieves, Denizens of the Swamp, Orc’s Lair, and Wizards. The Wizards set was the second set of miniatures I ever bought, and I repainted the set a couple of years ago. You can see the results here, if so inclined.
With the arrival of AD&D 2nd Edition, TSR started packaging miniatures under their own name. The above sets are examples of this era. I bought the Marvel Super Heroes and Dragonlance sets when they came out, and a friend gave me the Magic-Users set long ago. The remaining sets were all recent eBay acquisitions.
I probably paid too much for the Indiana Jones set (it’s rare). I paid less than I thought I would for the Star Frontiers and other AD&D sets, but again, probably more than I should have considering the quality. I’ve said this elsewhere: this era of miniature manufacture leaves a lot to be desired. The sculpting is pretty sub-par across the board. Scale is pretty much an afterthought, even between models within the same set (Star Frontiers is by far the WORST for this). I have been painting some of the Marvel miniatures for use in my supers gaming alongside Heroclix models, which should give you a idea of how random the scale is. Some are compatible with Clix models while some are on the small side of 25mm. To top it off, I have no idea what metal was used to cast this line of miniatures, but for some reason, they do not take paint well. Prior to sealing them, even casual handling can cause the paint to rub off, which is kind of a pain during the painting process.
The last of my old sets are above. The Grenadier Secret Agents set is really good, containing lots of mercs and soldiers for use with Top Secret or any other skirmish wargame. Grenadier released two sets of these. I know I had both at one time, but I can’t remember what happened to the other set. (As an aside, the box art above was painted by famous Grimjack artist Flint Henry!) Below them is an exceptional set of ninja by Ral Partha. I recently bought a second set, because as everyone knows, you can never have enough ninja. The bottom row contains dragon models; a Ral Partha T’Char (one of the best dragons produced, IMO) and a couple of Julie Guthrie Grenadier Dragons. I painted up her Red Dragon a while back. You can see it here.
Nostalgia, as Mr. Priestly aptly observes, exerts a powerful force that drives one from affection for times gone by to collector’s obsession. All of the above boxed sets were purchased either on eBay or at a flea market over the last couple of years. With the exception of the Skeleton King’s chariot (top right), all these sets are complete and pristine. (I even managed to replace the 54mm Batman set with one that included a Joker this time.) The DC Heroes sets were a real find at $10 apiece, all bare metal! I painted up the 54mm Batman a few years ago, and recently painted the Grenadier Halfling set above. Batman is here; the Halflings are here.
Which brings me to painting, or rather, repainting. In his article, Mr. Priestly mentions that most Minifigs of the time were likely “favored with a hefty coat of Humbrol Enamel…and then gloss varnished to within an inch of their little metal lives.” Again, I can relate. Here in the States, Testors enamels were the model paints of choice, and I laquered many a miniature in them before “discovering” acrylics right around the time I started playing 40K. Prior to that, every miniature I painted, including many from the sets above, were done with Testors enamels and gloss coat. I shudder to look at them now, but if you’d like to see some before and after shots, look no further than here.
The question then becomes “To strip and repaint, or not to strip and repaint? I am a big advocate of repainting. I’m not the best painter in the world (not even close), but I am exponentially better than I was 35 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the old miniatures I have repainted recently, and I think they are the better for it. But, if even if I were to strip and repaint 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.
What do you think? Do you get dewey-eyed for a certain manufacturer or era of miniatures? Do you advocate repainting, or are you content with (and perhaps comforted by) viewing your early efforts for what they are?