New recruits for the Army of Darkness

The very first miniature I remember buying was a skeleton. A hobby shop in town had several of the Grenadier large boxed sets open under the counter, and you could buy a loosey for $1. I picked the skeleton with a sword raised over his head — a very simple sculpt, and, it turned out, very fragile. But I had loved skeleton decorations at Halloween, and was kind of obsessed with drawing them and so on to the extent that my parents briefly thought I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. Anyway I have slowly been working getting all my undead figures painted, and earlier this year I hacked away at the cavalry and a few other larger pieces. Photo dump!

These ghostly riders are a pair of Prince August undead riders I cast from a mold and a Heritage undead rider from the Knights & Magick range.

Since I have the mold and lots of metal, I made a handful of riders to fill out the ranks. These are painted more like traditional skeletonmen. The shield for the rider is, unfortunately, where they decided to place the main sprue opening (where you pour in the molten metal) so so several of them I just added a plastic shield rather than try to reconstruct the demon face that is supposed to be on the small heater shield.

 

I also decided to repair and touch up some skeleton cavalry I painted in the early 1990s. These are all Grenadier — the first two from boxed sets and the others from Fantasy Lords blister packs.

This big fellow I painted for Ral Partha Legacy. They sent me another as payment, but I haven’t decided if I want to use undead crew or not. Since this one has skeletons crewing it, I tried to make the mammoth look like he’d been revived from the dead too — hence the bluish skin on the trunk and eyelids and blood seeping from the ear. I probably should have added some gore or ribs poking through the coat, but I didn’t want to aler the model in case they use it in their catalog rather than just for convention games.

These next ones are all Grenadier — two zombie riders and good old Napoleon Boneyparts on the litter. I have a second Napoleon with a bunch of other skeletons added to a large base for use in wargames, but I when I chanced to get this copy I decided to try to leave leave him as cast. Like the Prince August riders above, I went for “speed painting” on these.

The rest of these are conversions and kitbashes. First up, a Dragontooth figure, called “Rictus, the zombie king.” Mine was lacking his sword and head. I gave him a Citadel plastic head and left his hand empty, as if he’s waving his troops onward.

I have very, very few Dragontooth minis in my collection. I never saw them in stores and the company folded in the 1980s. The few I have turned up in assorted job lots. They are certainly crude, but have a ton of personality. Tom Loback, who did most of the sculpts, was a serious artist and worked on all kinds of things after he got out of miniatures, including building driftwood statues that he left, unsigned, along the river near his home.

Next up is a kit bash using a Grenadier horse, Rafm shield, Maurauder rider, and an arm supplied by figure from the Lionheart game. He was also speed-painted and the photos show a lot of imperfections, but at least he’s not a pile of loose bits any more.

The last was a very long term project. The cart driver is a Citadel figure I chanced to pick up in a bag of bits at an Origins convention in 2003 or 2004. I’d been planning to build my own version of the plague cart since I first saw it in a white dwarf in the 80s or 90s, but the kit was so expensive. A year or two ago I realized I finally had all the bits I’d need.

The horse is a Eureka mini from their Chaos Army line. The bottom of the cart was a partial wagon from a Heritage kit for an orc war-drum. I scratch-built the yoke and poles, rather crudely. The sides of the wagon are from a skeletal dragon. I had just the tail, neck, and ribs from a job lot I  bought online.

The banner is from a Reaper kit — it was to be carried by a wraith, who I instead armed with a sword. The additional bits (skulls, heads, etc.) are from Games Workshop and Zvedza plastic kits.

The cargo is a coffin from a Minifigs kit — I built mine using the pile of bones instead, so I had this loose coffin.

I did eventually finish the bases on these with flocking and grass tufts, not pictured.

Published in: on September 23, 2022 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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More orc & goblin cavalry

Still terrible photos from my phone but here are the rest of the orc & goblin cavalry I’ve finished.

First up: some boar riders. These are some Citadel figures — an orc and a goblin.

The next two are from a company I have found very little about. They were called Enigma, naturally. They had a short run in late 1990s, making figures that were chunky knock-offs of Citadel’s Warhammer Fantasy and 40k lines. They always came with solid metal bases that were separate from the figure, but with no slots or points to attach them. These two are a leader/boss type and a shaman.

Net up various conversions. The first two are Milton Bradley/Games Workshop BattleMasters figures mounted on toys — in this case a chicken and a rat. They were pretty fun to do.

The next two are Ral Partha hobgoblins which were meant to ride boars as well. I used one boar to draw my Grenadier orc beer wagon, and the other I use without the rider, so these two needed mounts. I used some home-cast horses from Prince August molds for them, and I think they look pretty good.

 

This next figure was really beast, both to assemble and to paint. It’s a very old Grenadier war mammoth. The mahout is original (I think it’s an orc or hobgoblin?) but the two crew are from the AD&D Orcs Lair set. The axe-man in that set breaks easily and mine has a pike to replace it.

Here’s a look at the crew before I glued them into the howda.

Lastly, an orc riding a dragon from the Grenadier Fantasy Lords line. I repainted this one as the paint was worn off in several spots.

Published in: on September 22, 2022 at 5:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Compleat Orc’s Lair

At long last, I’ve finished painting my collection of Grenadier AD&D orcs! I got the original “Orc’s Lair” way back in the 1980s when it first came out, and as I recall the shaman was broken, but it had an extra axeman in the box, so no complaints. An “Action Art” set acquired some time later had another orc captain (which for some reason I remember having a more ostentatious name in the painting guide). Since then, I acquired a few more of each pose secondhand in game shops, in large “job lots” I bought online, in trades, and a few outright gifts from people who didn’t want them any more.  My original crew were painted back in the 80s, and mostly in the bright green used in the box art. For the rest, I decided to paint them in a more muted olive tone, but kept the dominant black and reds used for the originals so they look more uniform.

These orcs are all more ape-like (as drawn by Jeff Dee in modules at the time) than pig-faced (like the Monster Manual illustration), which is also more in line with Tolkien style orcs. They are also considerably less bulky than most orc miniatures. I like the mish-mash of weapon and armor styles, suggesting it is all looted gear.

The crouching short swords men were never my favorite pose. These came in both the boxed Orc’s Lair and separate blister pack of five figures, which may explain why I have so many. They are simply more common than some of the others.

The archers only appeared in the boxed set. I actually have one more who will serve as a crewman on an even older Grenadier war mammoth. 

The two axemen broke fairly quickly after I got them — the axe handle was somewhat thin. The thirc I acquired later was already broken. So all have new weapons grafted on: a plastic axe head, a plastic sword blade, and a broken bit from a later Grenadier goblin figure. The axeman, like the short sword, was both in the box and the blister, so they should be fairly common as well. I have a fourth (also broken, of course) who is also serving as a mammoth crew with a pike.

The swordsmen were in both boxes and blisters, so they ought to be common. It’s a decent pose and would good for wargame stands.

The “captain” should be the most common by far, as he was in the box, the blister, and a large “Action Art” box set of monsters. The one in the center had his axe replaced but the rest are intact. I always liked this pose, and the crested helmet.

The war-club orcs were only in the small box, so it’s surprising that I have four of them. I like the vaguely Aztec theme. One had a broken club and I replaced with a plain, rather than obsidian-studded, club.

The last trooper with a mace appeared only in the blister pack, and is the only one I have just one of. Presumably he’s the rarest of the AD&D orcs. 

The “Command” types are all pretty nice too. The shaman has a skull and some kind of spike club or rattle made from a bone. This club was also break-prone so one has a replacement (on the left) and for the other (on the right), I carved the back of the handle into a a curved knife which you can’t see from this angle. The center shaman is intact.

The standard bearers are both lightly converted. (I was very confused, as a kid, that this fellow was labelled “standard” on the box, since I thought they were saying this what a “standard/tpyical” orc would look. Only a bit later did I learn that a standard was a banner or unit insignia. On the left, I converted the club to a sword for reasons I no longer remember. The club certainly didn’t break off on its own. The other has a standard from a Heritage kit (the Middle Earth orcs with a drum on a cart). I was missing his standard, and this one was superfluous so it was a luck meeting.

Lastly the “leader” types (or in some boxes, he’s labeled the “captain” and the captain above is an “axeman,” and the axeman is a “w/waraxe”). His axe broke on both models as well, so one got a replacement from a Prince August mold and the other has a warhammer from a Ral Partha dwarf (who in turn was converted to hold an axe to match a player’s character in some long ago game). Another very menacing pose despite the relatively small stature of these orcs.

And here’s how they all go into storage in a small bead organizer.

 

 

 

Published in: on August 4, 2021 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Mounted adventurers

Here are a few mounted characters I painted recently, all plastic. It’s been slow going but I hope to get all the figures I have which are suitable for mounted PCs done next. Of course there are way too many knights, they’ll mostly wait.

Left to right, a cleric, “prince,” and barbarian.

The cleric is just a knight from the BattleMasters game, his lance swapped out for a flail. The shield is (obviously) my crude free-hand of a lion rampant. I need to look into transfers.

The “prince” is from a set of castle-building blocks I got for my birthday one year. He seemed way too big for use with minis when I got it, long before scale creep.  Back in the 80s he would have been a hill giant or something, but now he’s pretty average. The details were pretty crude and I wasn’t sure if primer would adhere to the soft, glossy plastic, but a coat of gesso seems to have done the trick. He could be a bard, magic-user, or fancy thief. I have a handful of mounted  demihumans, but first I’ll focus on the remaining humans that don’t look like fighters. more to come.

The barbarian is cobbled together from the body and legs of a Lionheart “mercenary,” arms and head from the spare parts that came with a box of GW chaos marauders, and a horse of unknown origins that I got in a bag of spare parts at a convention. The horse is extremely barrel-chested and I had to break the mercenary’s already very bowlegged pose to fit. I tried to give him some Appaloosa type markings (dark spots on the hindquarters that only really show when the horse’s fur is wet). I’m surprised I didn’t have any mounted barbarians in my collection, though I have a dozen Rohirrim that usually serve. The problem with them is that they’re all quite similar, since they were for the LOTR wargame.

Anyway back to the castle blocks. The set was called “Exin Castillos” and had instructions in a number of languages. The box was a hexagonal cylinder. It seemed very exotic at the time and I wish I’d managed to keep together some of the parts that came in it. A few bits survive in my terrain: the portcullis found its way onto a castle, and some low wall sections I glued together for wargames, and that’s pretty much it. The princess (who, if I thought of it at the time, would have made a good giantess) was dismembered to make a prow for a Man’o’War ship. I believe there was also a ghost in the set, and I remember seeing a guard with a halberd on the box art but there wasn’t one inside the box.  A little googling turned up this excellent collector’s site (in Spanish).

 

Published in: on February 25, 2018 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Makin’ bacon : Pig-faced orcs

Pig-faced orcs (“Porcs,” as they prefer not to be called) have been having a minor renaissance lately.

OSR bloggers were talking about them for while; the most compelling look at the origins of the pig-faced orc for my money is here, but I’ve also read that there was some sort of miscommunication between writer Gary Gygax and illustrator David Sutherland which led the best know example in the Monster Manual.  Not sure where I first heard that either. Another theory holds that the Tolkien calendar for 1977 by the brothers Hildebrandt introduced pig-faced orcs, but honestly the orcs in that calendar don’t look very pig-like to me for the most part. I think Zhu is on the right track with the Disney goons (See also Telecanter’s Receding Rules;  Sword & Shield; Realm of Zhu 1 and 2 ; TOTFF; Greyhawk Grognard; Grognardia).

For a long time the only ones available would be the old Minifigs AD&D line.

But several manufacturers put them back into production — Otherworld starting the trend in 2010, which inspired several of the blog posts already linked above  (Casting Room; Otherworld; Splintered Light; and yes Minifigs has them mostly back in production too!).

I was not really a fan of pig-faced orcs back in the day, since I came to D&D after being exposed to Tolkien. But more recently they’ve grown on me, and while I couldn’t justify buying any more orc figures (I have scores unpainted and literally an army of them painted) I thought about doing some conversions on my own. But then I saw the incredible workmanship over at Belched from the Depths and got cold feet. No way am I sculpting anything near that standard. More recently I saw a simple conversion on a Facebook page (and who can ever find something again in that Book of Sand?) and I could at least copy that. So I took some plastic orcs that were unlikely to be painted any time soon and tried making snoots from epoxy putty. They are just tiny balls pressed onto the nose, with the tip flattened and nostrils made by poking the end with bit of florist wire. The only thing I forgot to do was make one an obvious leader. I have a plastic GW “black orc” that should fit the bill though. For reference here’s the basic plastic orc as I painted one some time ago:

A small, somewhat ape-like nose typical of GW.

And here are the pig-faced versions (I also did some weapon swaps from other kits for variety, and gave some shield bosses).

The yellow and purple shields will likely get decals from the BattleMasters game on their shields.

Finally some Grenadier UK plastic orcs:

For reference, here are some I painted in the usual manner, and with their shields.

Both the pig-faced spearmen had their weapons modified; a third is below:

This guy could be the shaman of the tribe, and will be the leader for now.

Lastly a couple of metal orcs (Ghost Miniatures, the fantasy arm of Old Glory Miniatures) that I painted along similar lines, though I left their noses as they were. They might be half-orcs from the tribe.

Published in: on January 24, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Flagellants I

So I started painted some of those plastic flagellants. As I mentioned before, Warhammer took the very real phenomenon of flagellants (religious fanatics who scourge themselves and passersby in a religious frenzy) and made them a troop type for the Empire. Apart from the usual exaggeratedly massive weapons, these are not bad figures at all.

The first three are pretty much as intended by the kit — wielding massive flails or scourges (I wish there more of these provided). The bell-ringer also had a massive flail head attached to his weapons but I removed it. A big bell like that on a rope would be an effective, if loud and clumsy, weapon anyway. I like the blind-folded heads, which is a great idea for someone with an already hazardous weapon like a multiple-headed flail. I do wish at least one body had more tattered clothes so it would look like he’d been scourging himself, but I added a lot of blood stains to the enter guy to give that impression.

I would have preferred to have a few more poses that aren’t running, but the style of Warhammer plastics seems to be action poses.

The great thing about the kit though was the extras — way more heads, arms, and accouterments than you need to assemble the ten bodies provided. So I made nearly as many variants with bodies borrowed from another kit (Zvedza soldiers) and from Lionheart peasants, mixing in a few pieces from the Frostgrave cultist kit and so on.

The guy on the far left is one of my favorites. He’s basically a foot soldier from the Zvedza kit with a flagellant head and banner. I had in mind Lancelot as he appeared late in Excalibur, wild and fanatical. The next guy has flagellant arms and head on a man-at-arms body, and the other two are Lionheart peasants with head transplants and modified weapons.

So this is seven of the 18 or so total I’m working on. I find myself stopping a lot though, because they have so many layers of clothing and small details they are kind of a pain to work on. When I get inspired to work on them again I’ll get to them.

Published in: on January 16, 2018 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cultists

The latest batch are mostly plastics, and all meant to stand in for cultists.

Left to right, a MageKnight figure, a modified Frostgrave cultist, Grenadier’s Grima Wormtongue, and two Descent figures, a PC and a modified warlock.

The Grima figure is very small — he might be 4 foot tall, in scale, if he wasn’t hunched over. The Guy in red is from the Descent game, and is some sort of character type, maybe a monk or necromancer. Skull-face has a head from a GW skeletons kit (which will eventually be showing up) but otherwise unmodified.

The lady in black needed a little repainting and though it’s not visible here, she has a white streak in her hair, Elvira style. The cultist next to her has a head from the Zvedza soldier kit but is otherwise all Frostgrave.

Leftmost, a Frostgrave cultist. His right arm is the archer pose, but with the dagger hand swapped in. He’s holding a book from the GW Flagellants kit. Next to him is a Zvedza soldier body with a Frostgrave cultist head, flagellant scroll, and sword made from a pin and a toothpick. Third up is a Descent warlock, unmodified. The last is the same guy with a head swap.

The last four here are all Frostgrave cultist parts except for the mace-man’s arms and weapon, the scroll, and the torch — all flagellants parts.

Here’s a full container of cultists. The remaining guys are older GW chaos sorcerers, a Grenadier evil high priest, and a couple of WOTC figures. I still have some more plastic and metal to paint — including two more Grenadier priests — but this should do it for now.

Published in: on December 13, 2017 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Saurians

When I bought a bag of broken minis and assorted spare parts at a convention, among the bits were parts for five Games Workshop lizardmen (I think at one point they were called “Saurians” or “Saurus”?), and a bunch of the smaller lizardmen (“Skinks”). The skinks were mostly used as kobolds. It took me a while to get around to doing anything with most of the Saurians, though, because they were lacking arms and one had no head. When I picked up a couple of plastic GW kits, I figured out a plan. Using parts from the Chaos Marauders box (arms, standards, a shoulder pad, and a shield) and the flagellants box (another arm), as well as a spare arm from a Lionheart figure, I came up with these.

I’m not 100% happy with the feathers yet but I went ahead and sealed them knowing I am unlikely to do much more painting between now and Yule.

I think of the one with the standard as a shaman. I was quite pleased with the look of the other fellow with what is obviously part of the standard as his head/mask/helmet.

And here’s the whole set of lizard folk in my collection now.

Top row: kobolds (skinks, and Grenadier and Heritage, and a handful of plastic WOTC figures).

Second row: old Grenadier lizard men. Painted blue to be troglodytes.

Third row: later Grenadier lizardmen and the GW Saurians.

Bottom row: three WizKids recasts of a Ral Partha lizardman, a couple of WOTC plastic troglodytes, a Grenadier “Salamanewt,” and a Grenadier Champions supervillain/cobraman.

 

Published in: on November 30, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Barbarians, halflings, and some monsters

Here’s a real grab bag.

A few barbarians I hadn’t posted yet. Two from Asgard (Viking Forge recasts):

This one sort of replaces a figure I lost … not really sure when. But at one point I had this and a similar unarmored and beardless dude which is no longer in production. Both originally came with a selection of weapons (hand axes, swords, shield, bow and arrows maybe?) but I got mine second hand so I’m not positive what was originally theirs. Anyway I had to give him a different sword than the rather chunky one that he came with, because his hands are tiny, almost Trump-like.

Next up is another Asgard/VF barbarian, fairly traditional.

This guy is a MageKnight figure, and honestly not the best in terms of pose, detail, and proportions. But he’ll work as Chaos Thug or something.

TSR’s Conan the king. The axe is a replacement. He’s probably the worst figure in the set — he came with a neat Thak the Ape (which probably was the main reason my brother bought the set) and a decent Thoth-Amon, as well as an excellent  vampiress and a couple of serpent things.

 

A couple of random monsters, both Grenadier. On the left, a Vegetation Beast, from the Fragon Lords “Horrors of the Marsh” set. This was a rather odd set — it had great work by John Dennett, but for whatever reason he must have been ordered to partly replicate the original AD&D “Denizens of the Swamp”. Both sets had lizard men, a giant snake, a troll, and plant-based monster, though they diverged from there. Anyway he’s a great and unique monstrosity. The gargoyle next to him is a bit of a cheat. The wings are not original — I got the figure second-hand with no wings, but also acquired the wings separately in a trade. I think they are Reaper — I remember them making a blister of spare bird and bat wings to customize your own angels and devils or something.

FWIW here are all my fungus and plant monsters, including slimes but leaving out the treants (hah!), in their designated box.

Two more monsters — a HeroClix villian repainted as a beastman or satyr, and a hag (night hag?) from Metal Magic (a MegaMinis recast). I’m not 100% happy with the night hag. I kind of rushed the eyes and they look like bloody sockets rather than glowing red. I can’t remember anything about the superhero/villain except that he is an alien of some kind and exiled from his planet. I don’t even remember if he is a DC or Marvel character. But he makes a good beastman.

As a break from the barbarian horde, I started looking at my halflings, who have always been under-represented on my painting desk. Here are a bunch of Ral Partha halfling militia. Don’t look too close, really need to finish them up later. They unusually petite. Here’s a couple next to a Grenadier halfling. The rest of that set (barring the archer, which has been MIA for decades) will be coming soon…

Published in: on November 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Barbarians at the gate!

This Sunday I got on a bit of a painting tear and finished off a bunch of barbarians.

The oldest ones first. The two ladies on the left are the Heritage “barbarian woman” from the Cavern of Doom set. The leftmost is in better condition; the other one broke repeatedly long ago, and I had to create a new right leg and left foot, as well giving her a new sword. The new legs aren’t quite right and she ended up looking upward, maybe fighting an ogre or giant? The next guy is Ral Partha, the “barbarian hero” from the Adventurers boxed set. I thought of him as Boromir. He bears a passing resemblance to the depiction in Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings movie. Lastly, Hercules from the Grenadier Action Art “Mythological characters” set. I’m not sure the photo captures this so well but I did some effort to get the wolfs head on Boromir and the lion skin on Herc realistically colored. Before stripping these two, my original paint jobs from the 80s had all the fur light brown.

Next up, some barbarians from Viking Forge — recasts of old Asgard minis. I never saw these among the old Asgard ads in Dragon Magazine. They must date from a bit later. I understand a company in the UK also casts these Asgard minis. They were fairly fun to paint. The sculptor went on to work for Citadel and I can see some similarities in theses and older Citadel minis. The guy on the right would make a passable druid or even a shaman for later editions of D&D.

These next two are much newer, but still older. Both are from Reaper. The clansman was fun to paint; I’d never tried a tartan design before so I went very minimal. But at this scale it is recognizably plaid. The seated figure is obviously Conan. He was last one I finished, and it was pretty late, so I didn’t realize how badly I screwed up his face. I may need to fix that.

Then a few assorted figures I did at the same time. The center figure is a barbarian — in this case a plastic Celt from a kit for the wargame Hail Caesar! I am planning to use parts of them to create some Chaos Thugs, at some point. On the left, a small creature of dubious origin that was a “bonus” (not mentioned on the package or anything) for the Grenadier “Fantasy Fiends” Action Art set. No idea what he’s supposed to be. The guy on the right is a modified DreamBlade figure. He was originally faceless — nothing but turban. And had a funky but badly bent sword.  I found a photo of the original for reference. I gave him a new face (from a severed head in the versatile Zvedza Orku kit) and his sword is from an old earring of mine from junior high, when I wore various heavy metal earrings and had a killer mullet. Painted up ok.

Image result for faceless eunuch dreamblade

As I was painting these I realized that Hercules and the whatever are both sitting on the same rock!

Anyway here are all the lightly armored berserker/barbarian types in their very own container. I probably featured some of the others here in the past. A few could use some more work but that will have to wait.

Here are the armored barbarians in another box, which will probably be the next project, as there are just half a dozen to paint:

Published in: on October 30, 2017 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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