Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Chaos through the ages

Not just years ago, not just decades ago, not even in just the last century, but in the last millennium, when as a child I was first made aware of Games Workshop products, I became captivated by Citadel Miniature's Chaos Warriors range. I say range, but back then it was mainly comprised of a handful of different foot soldiers that had very little in common outside of being supplied with slightly larger bases than the good guys.

One of my earliest miniatures, circa 1985, can be seen below. When I repainted him (somewhere between ten and fifteen years ago) I took the opportunity to swap his weapon for something bigger, add a skull-faced shoulder pad, and sculpt some fur on his cloak.

I always preferred the warriors that had chunkier armour and scary-looking, yet relatively simple head gear, so I went about collecting as many of them as my meagre pocket money would allow. Fortunately for me, but less so for my financial situation, my preferred 'look' started to become more popular. The warrior below is from the late 80s (with the extra banner poles added by me at a later date) and was one of a handful of releases (most likely designed by Jes Goodwin) that really helped to define the range. For roughly the next ten years Chaos Warriors were represented by metal miniatures clad in heavy armour and draped in furs.

Somewhere around 1998 the first plastic Chaos Warrior boxset was released. For collectors like myself it was an exciting time. Finally we could build the warriors we wanted. Except there was a slight problem. Once constructed, the plastic miniatures in the box all ended up hunchbacked, deformed and rather awkward looking. The trick to combatting that was to reposition the head on top of the torso and try to cover the old neck join (now in the middle of the chest).  But while doing all this work I decided I may as well go a step further.

For some time I'd been wondering what the people wearing all this armour might look like underneath - their faces, skin tones etc. So with a plastic kit, that I was already committed to chopping up, mixing it with parts from other sprues seemed something of a no-brainer.

At around this time the decent metal releases pretty much dried up. Thus if you wanted some warriors that weren't simply based on the clumsy plastic boxset you had to look elsewhere. Other manufacturers were beginning to emerge, and quite a few of them had some pretty decent stand-ins for Chaos Warriors. The character below is by Heresy Miniatures. All I did was sculpt the iconic closed faceplate with a bit of greenstuff, and stick a shield on his back.

And I didn't always feel the need to look that far afield. I began raiding my own collection of unpainted Citadel Miniatures. Models that had been released as part of different ranges, that I'd never got round to painting. The guy below is a Thrud the Barbarian limited edition. I gave him a weapon swap, a head from the old plastic Chaos Warrior set, and a cloak from an elf. I reckon he makes a pretty good Marauder champion. He's quite a big fella, so he's probably been blessed by his God. Maybe he's the brother of that character I converted a few weeks back.

The next major release was the excellent Warriors of Chaos Regiment (which I'm pretty sure was predominantly designed by Brian Nelson). These guys still form the core of most Chaos armies today.

Although a bit limited in their variety of poses, there are so many spare parts in the box it's an absolute gift to a Chaos Warrior collector. And of course the beautiful basic models can always be chopped up and combined with other parts to add some variety.

Pretty much every model in my Chaos Warrior army fits in one of the above 5 categories. Very few have escaped my meddling hand completely untouched. As a result, for better or for worse, the army is now comprised almost exclusively of bespoke, and suitably disparate infantry, and includes models that stretch from the most recent releases almost all the way back to Games Workshop's roots. I'll share some of the other models in the future.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Who does all the work around here? Part two

Last summer, when I first started writing this blog, one of my earliest entries featured a handful of servitors that I'd converted and painted. They weren't meant to be auxiliaries to an Astartes force or menials in a Militarum regiment. They weren't meant to be a team of any kind of combatants. Or even a team. I just wanted to build some random servitors that would typify the kind of slaves you would find in the service of the Imperium.

Some would, therefore, be armed – the Imperium is, after all, an overwhelmingly martial place – but many would be designed for general work or more specific, non-combat duties. After I'd finished them I realised that a few may not even be servitors, but citizens sporting implants and prosthetics. Rather than work out who was what and what was who, I just called the whole bunch denizens.

In that earlier post I also mentioned there were a few other conversions that I'd finished, but hadn't yet painted. A few weeks ago I finished this guy and it gave me the taste for painting again so I decided to crack on with the next four denizens.

The first of the above characters is Druuschan Jotun #2 from Hasslefree, with a custom built weapon swap on his right arm, (based on a really old, shoulder-mounted Space Marine lascannon). The other three characters are all out-of-print Confrontation miniatures with their arms swapped for prosthetics (including part of an old metal Space Wolf Scout backpack attached to an original Necron arm, 3 Space Marine power fists and a hook from a Chaos banner). Wherever possible I also crammed in additional vents, exhausts, wires and pistons.

There are still a few more of my servitor/denizens that need finishing – these aren't the last of them yet – but with a little luck it will be less than another nine months before I get round to it.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Gshtaad The Abomination

Gshtaad The Abomination is a malevolent entity of the raw, magical dimension known as the Realm of Chaos.

Sometimes called the Warp, it is a dangerous, unpredictable and generally not very nice place. The most potent creatures residing there display godlike powers, leading mortals to refer to them collectively as the Chaos Pantheon

Exactly where Gshtaad fits into this Pantheon is a matter of some debate. To many he belongs in the lofty ranks of the lesser gods, but to others he is merely a daemon – albeit one with exceptional delusions of grandeur. Either way, most sane people agree that you wouldn't want to meet Gshtaad in a shadow-filled alleyway at night. Or, for that matter, even a brightly-lit street in the middle of the day.

Legend has it that Gshtaad is the offspring of two of the four major Chaos Powers: Khorne, the Blood God, and Nurgle, the Lord of Decay – though what unspeakable coupling that would have entailed is enough for even the stoutest warrior to bring a little bit of sick up in their mouth. Nonetheless Gshtaad represents the coming together of war and famine, the mingling of blood and disease and the aftermath of hard-fought battle.

His many enemies have been known to mockingly refer to him as the Lord of Rusty Blades, though some have pointed out there are much worse insults that could be levelled in his direction. His own devotees prefer to see Gshtaad as the herald of the inevitable, the giver of exquisite agony and the bringer of the dying gasp. Sadly for everyone else these often-brutal followers tend to enforce their opinions with a selection of sharp, pointy instruments and heavy, blunt objects.

In his name they also lay claim to tiny scuttling insects, with their clicking chitin and miniature toothed maws. Followers believe these critters to be harbingers of impending calamity, the daily manifestations of Gshtaad on the mortal plain. His will and desires made physical, silently reaching into every corner of every human settlement, biding their time, waiting to spread the hidden death they carry within. Likely as some kind of misplaced worshipful practise, many of Gshtaad's apostles have been seen with grotesquely magnified images of insects and spiders painted on their armour and shields.

Some Gshtaadic warbands have also been spotted using corrupted versions of sigils more commonly associated with Khorne and Nurgle. A disease ridden Khornate skull icon, or the Nurglish pustules wrought in blood-caked bronze. Familiar images with an unfamiliar twist. Icons that are already quite a long way from being pleasant, taken an extra few steps in the wrong direction.

Gshtaadic tribes tend to eschew any formal uniforms, instead favouring a variety of mixed garb in the colours of blood, bone, skin and decay. Their armour is equally assorted, often salvaged from vanquished foes, ranging from the most simple, utilitarian pieces, to truly ornate suits inlaid with precious materials. Occasionally armour will be exceptionally well-maintained, though it is far more common for Gshtaad's followers to allow their plate to fall to rust, verdigris and general disrepair. This could be the influence of Grandfather Nurgle, but is equally likely to be good, old-fashioned laziness.

In battle, raiding parties of Gshtaad's warriors are sometimes noted to attack in silence. Behaviour more commonly associated with assassins than the ferocious warmongers they really are. A silent tide of death flowing over their enemies. An act that, during the stress and exertions of hand-to-hand combat, requires great feats of willpower to achieve. Though likely assisted, if the rumours are true, by individual warriors sowing their own lips shut before battle. That is, if they still have lips to sow.

The silence, the scarred and closed-up faces, the dilapidated and decayed appearance of their weapons and armour, the enlarged images of insects, all are dehumanising tactics that have been seen to pay dividends time and again through the paralysing fear they can instill in an unexpectant foe. Often the only survivors of an attack by Gshtaad's disciples are deranged souls left wandering the wastes, vainly trying, in what's left of their mind, to make sense of the atrocities they've witnessed. But there is no sense to find, for what is Chaos if not its very absence?

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

An 'Eternal' doesn't have to last forever

I've painted a miniature.

That gets a line all to itself because it's such damn epic news. 

Okay, so it's only one of a handful I've painted since I started this blog, but I'd like to think I can legitimately say I write about modelling AND painting now.

The miniature in question started life as a Stormcast Eternal Liberator. I had grabbed a few off Ebay to slake my curiosity when Warhammer Age of Sigmar was released, and needed to find something to do with them that wasn't starting yet another whole new army.

With a small fantasy Chaos warband already in my collection, an obvious solution was to build another spikey fella to swell their ranks. 

In the old days spikey Chaos miniatures were kind of a running joke. If you wanted to make a character look evil you just stuck cocktail sticks all over him.

It's pretty clear from this blog that I never grew up – what worked fine for me back then was probably going to be okay today. So out came the cocktail sticks.

The rest of the conversion job was also pretty simple. I swapped out his head, weapon and shield for more appropriate ones, added a couple of skulls, and sculpted some rough baddie faces onto his armour.

I was then ready to throw down some base colour. I am a long way from being the world's greatest painter, but my miniatures are usually an okay tabletop standard. For me a finished miniature is about conveying a sense of the character more than displaying exceptional craftsmanship and skill.

Because I don't have either of those to display

Once I started with the colour I realised that I didn't really like what I'd done to the miniature. My simple conversion work wasn't enough. The miniature needed more detail.

The excellent Empire Flagellants kit can always be relied upon to get you out of a tight spot, so it wasn't long before my warrior had gained some rolled up parchment, a small leather purse and an hourglass. I also sculpted on a fur kilt as I felt this to be more appropriate for a warrior of the Northern Wastes, than the hanging leather pteruges of the Liberator. I then went on to add some extra jewellery chain to his weapon arm, and extra horns to his helm.

What with the Stormcasts' oversized physiques I figured this fella would be the kind of guy that always gets pushed to the front during a fight. Everybody knows someone like that. The guy at school who appears two years older than everyone else in the class, already shaving before he's learnt to read, and always ending up having to deal with any scraps that his smaller mates get involved in. 

In the case of the guy below he could have been born this way, he could have fallen in a vat of magic potion or, most likely, been blessed by his chosen Chaos God.

Chaos did it

And although I was much happier with him now, I really hated what I'd done with the new horns on his helmet. I mulled it over for a while before deciding to remove the existing horns altogether and reposition them along with another similar set facing the other way. Much better in my book, and a suitable, yet subtle upgrade for a champion.

It's all about subtlety

Once this was done I was ready to start the painting for real – mainly washes and dry-brushed highlights. However when he was nearly finished I gave him a liberal splattering of oil-painted rust. I didn't want him to shine too brightly, after all he's not meant to be a good guy.

Or worse, a worshipper of Slaanesh

But that begs the question as to which Chaos God he does follow. You may remember a few weeks ago I wrote this article about the Ruinous Powers and how many of them there really are. In my next post I'll tie that up by introducing the theme for my Chaos warband.