The triumph of death, again

I’ve always like the Bruegel painting “The triumph of death.” I was pretty happy to find some miniatures clearly based on the design there, and relatively cheaply. Getting them gave me the impetus to also paint a handful of skeletons from the Valley of the Four Winds line, made by Minifgs in the 1970s. All the images can be clicked to enlarge, but unfortunately that will also make some of the defects of my painting more evident.

First up though, some Skull and Crown skeletons. The majority are armed with “war darts” rather like the fellows in the lower left of Bruegel’s painting, including the coffin-lid shields.

I got my Skull & Crown figures second hand, and had to supply some different weapons for the marching pose.

There were also some “command” figures — musicians with a horn and two hurdy-gurdies, a pair of champions with laurel crowns, swords, and hourglasses, and three torch-bearers.

These were not the first figures to be inspired by Bruegel. The Minifigs “Valley of the four winds” line had a whole army of skeletons mostly based on Breugel (along with other monstrosities from Bosch, but I don’t have any of those).

My Minifigs skeletons also came second hand, and had to have a few repairs made.

Unfortunately they are “true” 25mm scale, perhaps closer to 1/72 scale, while the newer skeletons are in the modern “heroic” 28mm scale.

I also painted a few more ornate Games Workshop skeletons I bought a couple of years ago.

 

Great detail, especially considering they are plastic.

One last skeleton, not so triumphant — a Ral Partha “wounded skeleton”.

And as long as the dead are walking about seasonally, here are a few mummies. The center one is an old Citadel figure, flanked by two Grenadier mummies. On the right, the original sculpt for the “Wizzards & Warriors” line, and on the left the resculpt of the figure for the AD&D “Solid Gold” line.

Published in: on October 17, 2019 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Beastmen and goatkin

No telling if I’ll be able to follow through with this, but my master plan is to start getting the vast backlog of unpainted miniatures painted by tackling one type at a time. Here is the result of trying to get all my “beastmen” finished. (I do have a bunch of other animal/human hybrids yet to do, but the beastmen are all vaguely goat- or bull- headed humanoids.)

All images are clickable to enlarge.

 

First up: some beastmen from the Battle Masters game (jointly produced by Milton Bradley and Games Workshop back in the early 1990s). The guy on the far left was one I painted years ago. The others were languishing unpainted until I got more inspired and swapped out some of their weapons.

I used a variety of thinned down paints, including some GW “contrast” paints. The idea was to just prime everything white and paint in thinned colors using the old Heritage Models idea of “stain painting.” The GW Contrast paints are simply paints thinned down with some kind of flow enhancer added to help the pigment pool in the recesses of a sculpture and form “shadows” of more intense color, so that you don’t need to shade or highlight. It really speeds things up. Mixing my own cheap craft paints with some water and a couple of drops of Liquitex flow aid gets similar results. I used the stickers that came with the Battle Masters game for their shields.

The next group are Grenadier “goatkin warriors”. They were sculpted by John Dennett, who did some of the best monsters Grenadier produced in my opinion. The white ones were painted at least twenty years ago, so I touched them up a bit to cover spots where the paint had worn off, and also to correct some sloppiness.

The last group are a random collection: a figure from the Descent board game, a satyr (a WizKids recast, for MageKnight, of a Ral Partha design), and a Citadel “ogre.” The citadel model was another I’d painted many years ago, and touched up. I bought him through Wargames West, an mail-order service from the pre-internet days that published huge newsprint catalogs. I bought several figures through them, even though they did not have illustrations, so it was a bit of a surprise.

Finally, another Citadel figure, meant to represent a beastman champion. He came out a little better than this blurry photo suggests.

And here’s the whole set (including a figure I did not photograph separately because he was done a long time ago and needed no work).

I used a lot of beastmen in the D&D campaign I ran a while back, because I wanted something a little different from the usual orcs. More recently they have been standing in for gnolls in a game I play in. I do have a box of gnolls to paint some day too…

Bonus: another Dennett sculpt, the Vi-Perdon!
I like the animation in this one.

Published in: on October 6, 2019 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Fimir

Games Workshop’s unique and problematic Warhammer monster the Fimir has been pretty thoroughly documented here, so I don’t have much to add. I occasionally wish I’d picked up a few more of the metal ones, and when I bought some Viking Forge recasts of some Asgard stuff, I decided the Many-Armed Skulker would be a passable addition to their ranks. I painted the metal one (a noble/hero) many years ago and he’s seen little or no use on the table, but this week I decided to finally paint the three plastic ones I got in the HeroQuest game, and the Skulker, to finally complete a squad. At some point I might make some conversions to the three plastics for variety but they look OK. Point of trivia, the Skulker is actually the first Asgard sculpt I’ve painted. I had a few barbarians long ago that someone else painted well enough I never considered stripping them to repaint, and then lost them with a bunch of others that friend’s wife accidentally tossed in the trash. Not that I hold a grudge. 😉

Anyway here are some pics:

Lots of bronze, since they’re swamp dwellers and iron would rust.

The noble has some iron though. Probly makes the plebes polish it.

 

Published in: on October 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Dwarf pirates

The last batch of dwarves I painted for an upcoming pirates themed game are these troops from a Warhammer boxed set (dwarves vs goblins, circa 2005).

These dwarves don’t have puffy shirts, or rapiers, or patches and peglegs, but the long coats are somewhat suggestive of the rain coats you might see on fishermen in the north Atlantic, and the horned helmets of course evoke fantasy Vikings, so with the guns they seem plausible as dwarf marines.

The cannon that came in the boxed set looks like a naval gun, from the shape of the carriage. The cannon crew includes one guy with a somewhat steampunk get up and a huge wrench/linstock gizmo. The cannon itself has what might be a gunlock in the form of a dragon head, but the whole thing is extremely ornate in the Warhammer style. I painted it as entirely bronze, as there was no wood grain on the carriage.

For the sake of completeness here are all the dwarfs for this project, now sequestered to their own case:

Apart from the MageKnight figure with the mortat on his back, and the two Grenadier sword & daggermen, these are all Citadel/Games Workshop. Actually the two on pink foam in the upper right I think were produced by Marauder, which was founded by Citadel alumni and possibly was a subsidiary of GW since they appeared in White Dwarf magazine long after GW stopped advertising anything but its own products.

Published in: on June 5, 2017 at 5:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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The skeleton crew

Still anticipating a swashbuckling game some time in the future, I painted all the undead pirates I picked up on clearance a few years ago and a couple of ghosts someone sent me gratis (Thanks Scottsz!). I spent a little less time than usual painting these, knowing that they would not see a ton of use and having so many to get through. A nice dark wash cures many sins and makes the undead look suitably grotty, though I regret some of the hamfisted highlighting I added on the bones which came out too heavy and covered too much of the shading.

 

Mostly Reaper, except for one stray Citadel plastic skeleton from the 1990s. The one in the red coat was painted some time ago but I added a little detailing on his coat now that I have a better sense of how the cuffs and lining can contrast with the rest. The two zombies and the plastic skeleton got a rust effect on their weapons (orange and brown mixed into the silver) but I wasn’t completely happy with it and did not do this to the others.

These guys were a lot of fun. The violinist was a musician for some fantasy army but makes perfect sense to me for a ghost ship. The jolly spirits are Rafm. The skeletons, Reaper.

Last yet more Reapers. The one on the far left has no jawbone, which makes skeletons so much more creepy IMO. The guy in the blue coat behind him is not shown at a very flattering angle but he has a crow perched on his shoulder and his face came out pretty good, honest.

Some day all the pirates and swashbucklers will get better basing — maybe sand or if I get ambitious, wooden planking to suggest a deck. I also thought about adding seaweed draped over some of them but haven’t thought of a good way to accomplish that.

Published in: on April 6, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Busy, busy, busy (2) — Swashbucklers

So my brother mentioned he might run a swashbuckler type campaign once the current Boot Hill of Cthulhu campaign is over. We have some time before that seems too likely and that gives me time to start working on the pile of unpainted pirates and swashbucklers that have been sitting unattended.

First up, the inevitable Three Musketeers. (D’Artangnon was already painted long ago.) These three are fairly late Ral Partha — the sculpting is not up to their old standards when Tom Meier, Julie Guthrie, etc. were there. I would have guess they were by Rafm. But they have nice clean designs and were fun to paint.

Next, a pair of conquistador types, also by Ral Partha. Shorty on the left is a Tom Meier sculpt. Honestly he’s a weird mix of elements — Landesknecht trousers, morion helmet, gladiator-style partial armor, and sawed-off poleaxe. On the right, another later Ral Partha sculpt, perhaps from the AD&D license years. Because of the morion helmets, I think of them as conquistadors, though in reality the conquistadors did not have morions.

See for example this contemporary illustration of consquitadors at work:

Image result for codex spaniards

Anyway the guy on the right reminds me of Klaus Kinski in Aguirre: wrath of God so I gave him bugging eyes for that crazed look.

Next up, some dwarf pirates. Left, a Mage Knight figure I touched up a little, with a mortar on his back. Center, the classic Grenadier dwarf thief. I have another of these I gave white beard and black cloak. Last, a Citadel dward sapper. My brother painted this one years ago, and he needed some touching up where the paint had worn off the edges. I mostly touched him up, adding some darker lines on borders between colors and giving him more distinct eyes, highlights, and so on.

Elven swashbucklers were surprisingly rare when I started collecting pirates and swashbucklers in the mid 1990s. These Rafm miniatures were for their Flintloque (fantasy Napoleonic) game. I’d painted a couple of other figures from this set who were in less formal attire.

And if there are dwarves and elves, there must be at least one half-orc pirate. This bruiser is by Reaper.

And here are two lady pirates. The first is very, very early Ral Partha miniature. True 25mm scale, perhaps small even for 25mm, she might pass for an elf or even a halfling now. On the right, another Mage Knight figure I touched up.

The last swashbuckler today was a civilian from a set by, I think either Wargames Foundry or The Foundry. He looks like a middle-aged gentlemen and I can’t help but associate him with Peter Laughton’s Captain Bly (the jowls I guess) or maybe Stede Bonnet.

For context, here are few of the above lined up to show the “scale creep.”

Really the Ral Partha lady is the odd one here. I consider the half-orc a little oversized too, but they are the extremes. I’m actually pleased with how well all the different manufacturers compare.

More to come…

Published in: on March 11, 2017 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Clerics

Last weekend I painted four clerics in between chores and doing a ton of preparation on other figures. One thing I’m trying out is putting grout in the bottoms of the plastic bases of some hard plastic miniatures to make them more stable. I’ve used modelling clay  for this before but it eventually exudes oils and I wanted a more permanent fix, as many were skeletons. I hope to start working on my remaining undead figures next, but after all the demons some clerics are needed for balance!

The first is a monk from the Ral Partha “1200 AD” line. (These are back in production, in fact!) It’s a nice sculpt and was pretty easy to paint.

partha-monk

Useless trivia: The 1200 AD line was originally called the 1100 AD line in early Ral Partha catalogs. By the time this guy was produced in 1983 or so, it was called 1200 AD. Sadly, he’s one of the figures that got pretty badly messed up by my cheap matte varnish. I’m glad I got a photo before sealing him.

Next up another Ral Partha figure. This one is cleric from a boxed set sold some time around 1981. The box had other adventurers, all very nicely done, and pre-size creep, so they are true 25mm like the monk above.

Ral Partha cleric

He suffered a bit but not as much from sealing. His face detail was always shallow and the sealer obscures it further; again I snapped this photo before the sealing. I’m not completely satisfied with the hood color but I wanted him to be a little more colorful and thought it might contrast well with his darker skin tone. Unfortunately his sidelong glance is not very clear any more under the sealer. He’s based on a 20mm mosaic tile rather than a 1″ piece of matte board like the others. A similar variant is still being made by the revived Ral Partha, with a snake for a staff (!).

Next a Heritage “Dungeon Dwellers” cleric.

heritage-cleric

This one came in the Caverns of Doom boxed set, and I had to replace both his hands. The replacements are a little big (most figures have wacky proportion anyway) and this is especially noticeable with his tiny feet, but I think he looks ok. The original had an ankh in his right hand and an open left hand, but I gave him a cross and a vial of holy water! He’s got glossy sealer only in this photo too.

Lastly, a Citadel dwarf.

dwarf-cleric

He’s not really necessarily a cleric (he’s from the DC line of warriors) but he’s armed with a big hammer in his hand and a smaller hammer tucked into his belt on his back. He’s got some glossy sealer but no matte in this photo. He was one of the of lucky ones who did not get all frosty looking from the matte varnish.

Published in: on January 11, 2017 at 12:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Repost: Old school figures part two: Minis on the web!

A longer version of this post originally appeared in 2010 but was in need of updating. I’m not completely done but here’s a start. Thanks to Anthony Emmel for bringing just how out of date this was to my attention!

A lot of miniatures people turn their noses up at old Grenadier and Heritage and Minifigs figures. I will grant that many modern figures, which take advantage of sculpting and molding techniques unavailable to the original manufacturers (and an aesthetic sharpened by the intervening years of fantasy illustration, comics, etc.) are often quite impressive. The level of animation, and the overall quality are amazing. The crisp detail, and the fact the pieces fit perfectly make them a joy to assemble and paint. But I still love the old school minis too. They often have a gritty realism modern figures just lack.

Heritage Models has a number of sites and yahoo groups devoted to it. There’s Dungeon Dwellers info, a great site for all things Dungeon Dwellers. If you didn’t know, this line would have been their “Dungeons & Dragons” line, but the license agreement never got signed and instead Grenadier would get the license for AD&D miniatures. There are several Heritage Yahoo groups, devoted to collecting the figures, providing documentation, and so on. Disciples of Heritage and the Heritage Models Reference groups are worth checking out. The collectors Yahoo groups for Ral Partha and Grenadier are great too.

I love and hate Games Workshop/Citadel figures. They are certainly nice looking. The only things not to like are the scale creep and cost. Citadel minis, back in the late 1980s, were the first figures I had that just didn’t quite fit with my Grenadier, Ral Partha, and Heritage stuff. Ral Partha was always a slight bit smaller than the others, but with Citadel I could tell the scale was actually shifting. Of course nowadays, almost all modern figures are a little bigger than before. “28mm”, “30mm”, “heroic 28mm scale”, even “32mm” are bandied about, whereas in the olden days everyone claimed to be making 25mm figures, whether that 25mm was toes-to-eyes, toes-to-tip of head, or just 25mm=6′. Some of my newer Reaper and Kenzer Co. figures absolutely tower over my old figures. And that is too bad, because no-one chooses a Ral Partha figure any more for their PC in the games I’ve been playing. They just look too runty. In fact we’ve been using a Ral Partha mounted fighter as a Dwarf on a pony, and I’m probably the only one who realizes the figure was “meant” to be a human! Still, when Citadel was making RPG minis instead of exclusively Warhammer/Warhammer 40k/other branded IP minis, they made some seriously awesome figures. And they made so many that there is a whole wiki just for Citadel, which rivals the Lost Minis Wiki! But readers of this blog may be more interested in another site that just focuses on Citadel’s old AD&D/D&D lines.

The Lost Minis Wiki was created last year with the explicit intention of covering all the out-of-production lines and models, and I can kill hours there. Update: The wiki is now also awash in newer and current lines. Mission creep, I guess. But you can still find lots of old stuff. The Lost Minis Wiki has vast amounts of unpainted lead, but we really want to see the painted stuff, right?

Stuff of Legends hasn’t been updated much lately, but as far as I know it was the first site devoted to classic minis. Another great site is the Blue Mule, which showcases well-loved and well-painted old figures. Silverblade’s Suitcase has a collection of very nice looking figures too, many of them very old. There is even one site devoted just to dwarves!

Anyway I found a legal copy of the Armory’s Buying Guide to Fantasy Miniatures at the Mega Minis Magazine site. There is a stunning array of old catalogs there to drool over, with images of miniatures that you can only hope to scrounge up at a convention or eBay. But if you love classic minis, the good news is that there are both new lines that are inspired by older lines, and a few companies still casting the classic figures. Update: although Mega Minis is out of business, the first link still works. The second is now a link to the Wayback Machine’s backup.

Center Stage is still getting off the ground but I have high hopes for their Swords & Wizardry line. Update: Center Stage had a disastrous and possibly fraudulent Kick Starter campaign that did the company in, but good news, the minis are being cast be Pacesetter Games.

You’d have to be living under a rock not to know about Otherworld Miniatures, which is creating minis directly inspired by the classic illustrations of Sutherland, Trampier, etc. Update: But they are in 28mm scale, not classic 25mm. 

Classic Miniatures is recasting many Heritage models, and also has a number of interesting things in the pipeline, including “Unreleased figures by Dave Sutherland III.” Update: Link broken; some classic Heritage and Archive recasts are available; check out the Disciples of Heritage yahoo group for info.

Games Figures Inc. is producing some Minifigs, some Heritage Models not owned by Classic Miniatures, and a few other ranges. Update: link broken; GFI apparently out of business. 😦

Ironwind Metals, which rose from the ashes of Ral Partha, is producing some of the old RP lines. Update: Ral Partha is more or less resurrected here.

Thunderbolt Mountain, Tom Meier’s company, is producing figures similar to his Ral Partha classics, but in a more “modern” 28mm scale. Update: also 30mm scale Arthurian stuff, and some true 25mm.

McEwan Miniatures, some of which were sold as part of the Masterpiece Miniatures line, are still being produced in part here: McEwan Miniatures.

Mirliton, an Italian company, is producing some of the latest Grenadier lines, but sadly not the old Wizzards & Warriors/AD&D lines. Update: Some older Fantasy Lords and earlier models are in fact available. However, Mirliton is not giving royalties to the original sculptors, some of whom still claim a copyright over their work (i.e. did not surrender their copyrights to Grenadier), Therefore I would not buy these.  

Mega Minis produces original figures as well as an extensive array of older lines. They are providing a great service but I wish they didn’t cancel lines after short runs. Update: Mega Minis, sadly, is out of business. Their molds may have been picked up by other companies. Their original stuff is now at Johnnyborg Castings. These seem to be Kick Starters so caveat emptor.

Viking Forge is producing classic Asgard minis … the ones illustrated in the Armory ads in old Dragon Magazines!

Next time, maybe some more revived  or old-school style lines? I wanted to add Barony Miniatures, Max Carr’s company which republished the Warlord rules and had a new line of medievals similar to his Heritage sculpts but the site is offline since the spring of 2016. 😦

Published in: on January 4, 2017 at 9:23 am  Comments (3)  
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Miscellaneous dungeon dressing

At some point I really will finish painting up all the furniture and whatnot that I have for D&D. Most recently I did a weapons rack from the Heroquest boardgame and a small nautilus shell (or ram’s horn?) on a stand, which I am not sure the origins of — I think I got it from someone discarding their collection of lead? It is probably something that came in a Grenadier boxed set.  They often threw in interesting accessories like that.

weaponsrack-1

Nest to the Heroquest elf for scale — those are BIG weapons!

weaponsrack-2

A close-up of the horn or nautilus shell.  The stand is decorated with frog feet on the “legs” and clam shells holding the horn/shell in place.

magic-horn

Again for scale, here it is next to a Heritage knight.

magic-horn-2

Lastly here’s a bigger piece of scenery from a Warhammer Fantasy Battles boxed set.  It had a ton of goblins and dwarves, and some other nice scenery, so although I haven’t played WFB in years and years, it seemed like a good buy.  This is apparently some kind of fence or boundary marker made by dwarves.

 

dwarf-fence-1

One of the nice little touches is that someone left their stuff leaning against it, probably a sentry.  There is a pipe & pouch, stein, and an axe and shield — the last suggesting the sentry either left in haste or was killed unawares.

 

dwarf-fence-2

 

The same set came with a troll who is throwing a section of this boundary.  I should paint him some time too.

Published in: on September 29, 2014 at 8:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Tables and chairs

tables-benches-chairsThese are some items from Citadel’s old “Fantasy Specials” line (which included townspeople, a large collection of torture/bondage stuff, and various bits of furniture and dungeon dressing).  I haven’t found all that many situations where I needed to put such things on a battlemat, but you never know.  FWIW, chairs were extremely rare in actual medieval times, as were proper tables.  It would be much more usual for everyone to sit at benches, and for the table to consist of a series of boards laid across the laps of the diners.  A really important or wealthy person might have an actual permanent table.  Chairs would be rare and prized possessions reserved for the head of a household and the nobility.

I picked them up a long time ago at a convention from a guy who was selling loose miniatures of all kinds — I am pretty sure it was a “Neovention” (in Akron, Ohio).  He had all sorts of cool stuff.  I also got this bed there:

bedThis too is a Citadel “Fantasy Special”.  Beds were pretty unusual in the middle ages as well, and remained symbols of status well into the early “modern” era.  In fact I understand that even in Shakespeare’s time, a bed was a status symbol and most people kept their “best” bed on the ground floor of their home, where visitors could see it, and used a second-best bed to sleep on.  (This makes the Bard’s oft-commented upon will, which left his “second-best bed” to his wife, more understandable — the second-best bed would have been the actual matrimonial bed.)

Lastly here are some chests, which might hold treasure, or just ordinary junk, or be mimics:

chestsThe two at the ends are plastic treasure chests from a “Weapons and Warriors” pirate playset.  The one in the middle is a Grenadier model, from the AD&D “Thieves” set.  It was originally open, but a long time ago I thought it made more sense to have a model of a closed chest (also, it tended to topple very easily).  In hindsight I wish I’d left it alone, and just scratch built some closed chests, but for whatever reason I did not trust myself to do much of that even while I was converting away like mad, altering existing figures.  As it is, I filed off the “treasure” and closed the lid.

The above trivia about furniture was gleaned from Bill Bryson’s At home, a book I can’t recommend too highly.

Published in: on February 18, 2014 at 8:42 am  Comments (7)  
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