Monday, 17 July 2017

Waaagh bikes don't leak oil, they mark their territory

Following on from my previous post about the arrival of the Death Guard, I'd like to introduce the other faction that's been plaguing my little corner of the Warhammer 40,000 galaxy. Although, this time, when I say 'plaguing', I mean less in a bubonic sort of way and more biblical: masses of angry things, springing up suddenly and infesting entire regions.

This bike squad belongs to an army I first started collecting at the very birth of Warhammer 40,000 – back in 1987 when Rogue Trader was originally published and the Orks made their first appearance in the RTB02 boxset*. Although I've had lots of Orks kicking about the place since then, this little gang are probably the first unit I ever actually completed for them.

Back in the early nineties, after I saw the warring motorcycle gangs in the film Akira, I remember thinking that something similar, with a ragtag, post-apocalyptic, Mad Max Road Warrior look, would be a really great fit for Orks.**

Fast forward something like 22 years and the models shown here were finally complete. As with most of my modelling projects they use a variety of bits from various places.

The squad leader above is based on Golg the Terrible from Ramshackle Games (one of my favourite suppliers of all things Orky or post-apocalyptic). I just gave Golg a head swap, added the extra firepower to the front of the bike, and borrowed an idea I saw online*** for making the 'eyes' on the front fairing more orky.

This one was my take on an Ork version of Kaneda's iconic bike (from Akira). It was pretty much scratch built using whatever parts I had lying around. The back looks like it may once have been a Chaos Space Marine Bike, and there are several bits of the plastic Space Marine jump pack dotted around. The area where the rider is sitting was the original Space Marine Jet-Cycle from way back.

The guy above was a plastic Ork boy chopped up and repositioned to sit on a Chaos Space Marine bike (with the plasticard front fairing and a bunch of other bits added to dial up the Ork quotient).

The next three, above, are the current (and awesome) Games Workshop Warbiker Mob. It's a great kit so I only made a couple of minor changes – mainly to the riders' heads and bodies.

This is another scratch built one. The front wheel and petrol tank look like they were probably from Ramshackle Games again (I told you I liked them), while the back wheel may have been from a toy quad bike I found in a pound shop at the time.

And this final bike, with a pillion passenger, was based on the previous Ork Warbike plastic kit. I never remotely liked that kit so made as many changes as I could realistically manage.

As with the Death Guard, a lot of these models, and others from my Ork horde, started life as drawings and sketches – exploring and recording ideas far quicker than I could ever hope to achieve on the miniatures. Here are my original notes.

Some of the ideas jotted above have probably made it into other Ork models from my collection, so they'll most likely appear as I share more of that in the future.

Sadly for me, everything on this page was completed about 5 or 6 years ago, so my score in the Addiction Challenge remains unchanged. Hopefully my next post will dent it a little.


*A few other Orks were released at about the same time, but surely the first spacefaring greenskin from Citadel Miniatures must be the LE1 limited edition Space Orc, released around 1985?

**Especially as Games Workshop had already inspired the idea with another of their limited edition Orc models. This time the Sleazy Rider – a Hells Angel biker, not meant as an official Space Ork release, but later updated to these guys so as to be included in the range.
***I made my Golg the Terrible conversion quite a few years ago, and lost any record of where exactly that inspiration came from. I've just spent half an hour rooting around the internet in vain, trying to find the picture that I blatantly copied. If you've got an old conversion that looks suspiciously like mine, let me know and I'll add a credit and a link.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Here come the nasties

Auto-cast pict-capts have been received from an extraction facility on Ancora Prime. The disturbing images show the mining compound being overrun by dishevelled warriors in heavily-adapted Astartes battle plate – their disordered appearance belying their precise teamwork and accurate marksmanship. Although most likely human, many of the warriors appear to be hideously mutated. In some instances they are not so much wearing their armour as biologically fused with it.

The new WH40K boxset (along with the Addiction Challenge) has rekindled my interest in the Death Guard and their fellow Plague Marines. This is a squad leader – my first finished model for this potential new faction. I've only just finished painting him, even though I did most of the conversion work quite a few years ago. Back then I vaguely remember wanting to see if I could cram some kind of narrative on to one of the smaller 25mm bases (the newer, 32mm base he's on now came later). I was taken by the idea that a Plague Knife would inflict some real nastiness on its victims, sucking out life and causing almost instant decay. The dismembered Marine on the base has been partially modelled into the ground to represent this.*

The Death Guard's head was taken from an out-of-print metal Chaos Champion of Nurgle, while his torso started life as part of the plastic Chaos Marauders sprue. There was a fair bit of green-stuffing involved to build up the rolls of flesh, so I used the larger shoulders from the Ork Boyz sprue to match the bulk. Both the Power Fists started life somewhere in the loyalist Marine arsenal – with one of them, I think, coming from the original RTB01 box. The legs are nearly as old, originally belonging to the push-fit, static-posed Space Marines that came in the 2nd edition WH40K boxset. I chopped them up and reposed them a bit, and gave them extra detail wherever possible. As far as I can tell, the only orthodox Chaos Space Marine part is the backpack.

When starting a new army or project, especially one involving a lot of conversion work, I usually begin by sketching out a few of the ideas that interest me. It's a quick way of collecting my thoughts and means some of the experimenting can be done on paper, much faster than trying it all on the actual model.

Yet equally as shoddy

A lot of the ideas that are blurted on to paper will never see fruition. But that's no bad thing. Far better to discard a five minute sketch than a model that's sucked up hours of work.

Anyway, another complete miniature means I am officially one twentieth of the way through my painting challenge. That's pretty good going for me and my sloth-like pace as we're only about a month in. It's almost cause for celebration.

Especially if that celebration involves painting the remaining ninety-five miniatures.


*The dead Marine is painted in the colours of my old homegrown chapter, the Storm Guard, nodding to the fact that I'm thinking of retiring them now.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Worlds: you gotta break 'em down to build 'em up

The release of 8th edition Warhammer 40,000 earlier this month, brought with it a huge update to the background material. Possibly the biggest change since records began*.

In the new storyline the Imperium of Man has been torn apart by a vicious Warp Storm, the suitably ominous-sounding Cicatrix Maledictum, cutting off half the galaxy and giving traitors, heretics and the like the chance to really step up their game. As a result no Imperial planets have escaped unscathed and much of what's left is unrecognisable.

Although it's all still grim and dark

At first this seemed like a bit of a blow, similar to what Games Workshop did with Warhammer Fantasy Battle and the release of Age of Sigmar – tearing it down in order to build it back up from scratch. The kind of shocking changes that leave you slack-jawed, quietly mouthing "but, but... I liked that."

However, as with any upheaval, the trick is to see the benefits.

If you've ever tried reading this blog and following my skittish course through the hobby, you might be aware that I often have several models on the go at once. These can be in many different stages of progress, from odd-shaped bits of cut-up plastic to half-painted miniatures only a few licks of paint from completion.

Although this approach is practically useless at getting any serious armies finished, it is excellent for keeping me entertained and enthused. As soon as I get bored with a project I can put it to one side and try something else, without too much self-recrimination. At the end of the day the main reason I model and paint tiny toy soldiers is because I enjoy modelling and painting tiny toy soldiers. Maximising that enjoyment just makes sense.

With the major changes to the background story, there's a way my skittish approach can be used to my advantage. I can update my tiny corner of the WH40K universe – the Acheron Subsector – not just to keep it relevant, but to throw the spotlight on some of the unfinished factions on my desk, bringing the most fitting ones to the fore and building the unfolding story around them.

Using the background section from the new rulebook as my guide, I've put together a rough outline of what I think has been happening in Acheron, prior to the arrival of any new forces.

1) The Medean Warp Cluster has become far less stable. For a while Warp Storms flared and raged around it, and when they eventually died down it looked significantly larger and more livid. On ships travelling in nearby real-space, several astropaths and navigators were said to have inexplicably, and in some cases violently, lost their lives.

2) The Ork taint has risen in at least two systems within the subsector. Although still brutal, their behaviour has sometimes been described as erratic, like they were preoccupied, or could sense something that humans couldn't.

3) Contact was lost with some of the deep space defence platforms positioned on the major shipping routes. It was as if they simply winked out, one by one.

4) Cults of dubious nature have sprung up in the more densely-packed hive cities throughout the subsector (including Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda in the Ancora Binary System). As the cults have grown in size, civil unrest has turned to fighting in the streets. In many cities, in an effort to contain the disruption, House security forces and other pseudo-military organisations have been seconded to the Arbites. Some officers have reported seeing strange and unnatural creatures among the rioters.

5) Squads of corrupted vessels have been spotted at several locations within the subsector. It is unclear as to whether there are multiple fleets or a single, highly mobile one.

6) Imperial ships bound for, or expected from some of the fringe systems have not shown up. Astropathic contact with those same systems has gone null. At least 7 inhabited planets are currently feared lost.

7) The local Astartes garrison, belonging to the Storm Guard, is thought to have engaged an enemy on multiple fronts. In their last contact, a priority beacon, they stated they were taking heavy casualties. Nothing has been heard from them since.

I'll be trying to explore this story further as I paint and model my way through the next few evenings, attempting to fit some of my forthcoming models into the unfolding narrative. In the meantime, with no new miniatures presented here, my Addiction Challenge score hasn't changed. Hopefully I'll have painted something by the next post, otherwise this number isn't ever going away.


*Otherwise known as 1987, when Rick Priestly and Games Workshop released Rogue Trader**.
**And thousands of young kids were strangely captivated by the idea of collecting diminutive, little fighting dudes, most likely unaware that they were entering into a hobby that stood a good chance of sticking with them for the rest of their lives.

Friday, 23 June 2017

When the battle's lost and won

Following straight on from my previous post, here are another three models for my Addiction Challenge. I'm on fire!

But before I congratulate myself too heartily on this small victory, it's worth noting that, in real terms, the number of models I said I'd paint has barely even been dented.

It's also worth noting that none of these miniatures are the new Primaris Space Marines or Death Guard models that everyone else is talking about. This is because I got my copy of WH40K 8th edition last night, so at my current rate of progress it should be at least another three years before I have anything painted and ready to share.


The Necromantic Ternion of Gshtaad, otherwise known as the War-Locked, is a trio of hexmasters affiliated to the small Chaos warband I showed back hereTheir original names have long since faded into obscurity, to be replaced instead by the arcane monikers they claim were handed to them by Gshtaad himself during a series of dark and impressive rituals involving much nudity, dancing, intoxication and human sacrifice. The usual kinda thing.

It is, however, far more likely they chose the names themselves – simply because they thought they sounded mysterious, foreboding, and maybe even kinda cool.

The Thaum-Augur

The Lorn Hierophant

The Reticulator

Obviously that depends very heavily on one's definition of 'cool'.

My decision to have multiple chaos sorcerers in such a small force grew out of an unshakeable desire to see three different characters, with different posture and poses, painted in different colours, all tied together by the of use of dirt, skulls, spikes, horns and the general tone of things.

In the end this meant they were ever-so-slightly converted from their original forms, with a few additions and removals to achieve the look I was after. Here's the obligatory work-in-progress pic for anyone who's interested.

The first two characters are simple Games Workshop conversions, but the metal chap, although sporting a few Games Workshop bits, is the Apprentice Mage from Andy Foster's Heresy Miniatures.

And here's my new score:


Hopefully more to follow soon.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Addiction, despair and a Chaos Lord of Nurgle

One hundred. That's the nice, round number that I somehow ended up choosing in a fit of unprecedented optimism the other day. It's a significant number that's going to have quite an impact on my life over the next few months. Probably even years. Maybe even decades*. Damn that optimism.

It was after ordering the new WH40K boxset, and the attendant 53 miniatures that come with it. I realised that I had just added a significant number of models to the hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of miniatures I have scattered around my home.

There are unpainted miniatures sitting on shelves, on my desk, in drawers, carry cases, blister packs, boxes and still unclipped on their sprues. It's quite possible there's a lifetime of hobby work awaiting my attention. It's a ridiculous backlog of unpainted, unprepared models, and I think it points to a fairly serious element of addiction at play within my collecting habits.

I'm probably not alone in this.

So after ordering the new WH40K and getting that tinge of regret you have when you've given in to a craving and done a bad, I thought I'd try to make amends.

I decided I wouldn't allow myself to buy a single new model or component** until I had completed one hundred models from my backlog. Yes, that's right, one hundred.

That was nearly two weeks ago, and right now I've still not got much to show for it.

Not much, but something. Enter one of the (seemingly) most popular Citadel models ever released: The Lord of Plagues.

Or, as I like to call my version, The Flesh Baron of Gshtaad.

I was lucky in that he was practically finished before I even set myself this challenge; he just needed a few minutes of work to complete. Fortunately my unspoken rules still allowed his inclusion, as anything that hadn't yet left my desk (at the time I started the challenge), no matter how close to completion, is fair game.*** But photographing old miniatures, or touching them up and calling them new, is a no-no.

I'll use this blog to keep track, and I'll try to be completely honest, showing a score at the end of any relevant posts. A score that currently looks like this:


Wish me luck.

*It wouldn't be the first time one of my hobby challenges stretches over 10 years.
**Tools and paint are allowed.
***In fact with nearly 200 models in various stages of progress on my desk, the aim of this challenge is very much to put a few projects to bed and clear some much needed space.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction at the Barbican 3rd June - 1st September

"We live in a world of science fiction.

"Once considered niche, science fiction is now all around us. The genre explores the mysteries of what is still to be discovered, and the power of human ingenuity to unravel them. Whilst doing so, it has created a rich iconography within the pages of novels and comic books and on the big screen, uncovering countless worlds, and revealing the hopes and threats of what lies just beyond our reach. This ever-elusive horizon and the will to approach it lies at the core of science-fiction.

"Depending on the period, the journeys taken by science-fiction can transport us to mysterious lands, cosmic expanses, megacities, virtual universes and within ourselves. As the real world seems to become smaller, science fiction fills in the blanks of the maps, looking for the next boundary to cross, and unveiling hidden dimensions. Today, science fiction's ever-growing corpus, wide-ranging in its themes and ambition, sometimes stills wears – ironically enough – its 20th century attire: lost lands filled with dinosaurs; swashbuckling space exploits to rescue princesses; spandex costumes to disguise the perpetrator of impossible but heroic deeds.

"As we begin to recognise the long-lasting influence of science fiction upon contemporary culture, it feels to be – alongside us – on the cusp of taking a bold leap into the 21st century, encouraging us to embark on a journey that is truly into the unknown."

So says the accompanying blurb to the Barbican's current exhibition on science fiction.

Yesterday, during a rare day off, while his older brother was at school, I took my two-year-old boy to see all the robots, spaceships and terrifying space alien props that make up much of this exhibit. It's jam-packed with models, drawings, films and books from over 100 years of science fiction – much of which would be easily recognisable to even a casual fan.

Here are some of the photos I was able to take in between cuddling my son and telling him that everything was going to be okay.

Some original Ray Harryhausen maquettes

Masks from Enemy Mine, Close Encounters and Species

Harvester bio suit from Independence Day

A Harkonnen chair by H.R. Giger for Alejandro Jodorowsky's unrealised Dune project

And a close-up of the headrest (for fans of servo-skulls)

Starfighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Spock's space suit from the first Star Trek film

Twiki from Buck Rogers

Sonny from the movie iRobot and, behind him, Robot B-9 from 1960s TV show Lost in Space

Of course, these photos hardly do the exhibition justice. There were plenty of other interesting props and costumes throughout the exhibition, not to mention all the films, books and artists' installations dotted around the place. So if you're interested and you want to see it for yourself you could start by checking out the Barbican website here.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Aedes servoloader

I think there's a sweet spot that's worth aiming for when chopping up models to kit-bash. It's where the original set provides enough interesting parts to form the basis of two or more new models. It's like maximising the return on investment, where the investment is tiny bits of plastic, and the return is nerd-fuelled, children's toys.

In an earlier post (about making urban scatter terrain), I mentioned I had removed a few extraneous parts from some cheap toy cars I was turning into abandoned wrecks. One of those parts was easily interesting enough to help me reach that aforementioned sweet spot. If you've just clicked on the link it was the bright red crane section on the back of the black, police tow truck. It looked like a fairly decent component on which to base a more sci-fi-esque model crane, but add in the Turret Platform and one of the turret kits from Puppets War and the model practically built itself.

In what is fast becoming the norm with all my one-off projects, Games Workshop released their own model crane, last month, just as I was getting started on mine. Normally, seeing them whip out something amazing, just as I'm planning my B-list version, is quite demoralising. But, fortunately, on this occasion it just motivated me to plough on and get the thing finished.

So the Aedes servoloader was born. It's a mobile mini-crane which I've added to the other vehicles and scenery that represent civilian/industrial life in my Imperial Hive City, Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda.

Once it was built I decided to use it to practice both my airbrush and freehand painting skills. These two techniques seem to cause me untold problems, and I'm always a bit nervous about trying them in case they end in abject failure – especially now that I document everything with this blog.

And, although both attempts did indeed end in abject failure, I was at least able to hide most of the airbrushing mistakes by adding plenty of weathering. Alas, my kindergarten freehand was not so fortunate, and there wasn't much I was able to do to make it look any good. I'm referring mainly to the letters MMXV on the jib, although I'm sure the discerning critic will find plenty of other things to dislike.

Could MMXV be some kind of instruction to anyone having to service or operate the thing? Or is it perhaps short for Mechanised Motive eXtraction Vehicles, a competitor to a firm I've mentioned in the past, Kruenta Demolition and Construction

Or is it simply the year, in roman numerals, that my youngest child was carried forth into this world?