Wednesday, 17 July 2019

There and back again (or; Mordheim MMXIX and its aftermath)

Saturday just gone saw one of the largest and most impressive gatherings of 'Blanchitu' hobbyists to date. We were, of course, hunting for weirdstone in the blackened ruins of Mordheim - the infamous City of the Damned.

Unless you've been living under a massive glowing meteorite for the last six months, you'll be aware that this year marks the 20th anniversary of GW's Mordheim gaming system. Enthusiast and all round top guy echoesofimperium flexed his impressive organisational muscles and mustered close to 20 rabid hobbyists in Helsinki for a day of games. Joining us were luminaries John Blanche and Toumas Pirinen (who wrote the original rules). Skirmishes were had. Hobby juju was admired. And we ate some nice food and had some good chats.

Some impressive hobby skills were on show

I was fortunate enough to play two and a half games on three boards (things got out of hand in game three). And what boards they were! nicolasgrillet created an amazing fold-out case which revealed a vertical board stretching over two halves. His terrain was jointed and magnetised in such a way that the features could retract and collapse safely for transport. My opponent was the excellent hi5rambo who, as a result of some poor die rolls, watched his vampire slip while leaping only to land square on one of my mooks. Turns out vampires are quite tough (and heavy) and there was only one winner in that schoolyard 'bundle'. And it wasn't me.

hi5rambo's amazing converted Dire Wolves

My unit cards worked pretty well - them being on the small side meant I could lay them out on the table with ease.

I then faced off against some beautiful warbands by fgSfds and accipiternidum on a wonderfully monochrome table. There were some rowdy NPC looters causing a ruckus but when they saw the horrors we three had created they soon took flight. And were put to the sword. I think we all ended up with a lump or two of warpstone to take home and stir into our tea.

Lastly koltti drew inspiration from seminal GW artist Ian Miller to make his board. The ramparts provided an amazingly cinematic backdrop. His sculpting of ruined stonework is absolutely stunning. I started to play hi5rambo again and The Convertorum on the board but then we discovered that someone had the foresight to bring a smoke machine. We therefore ended up in a weird grim-dark parody of an Instagram-selfie session taking photos of our creations wrapped in fog. Convertorum's vampire looked particularly spooky.

Over the course of the trip I took in quite a few sights and museums. Finland is, of course, of course famous for being the land of The Moomins. And has contributed its fair share the Black Metal genre. It manages to combine these two things quite successfully and you can usually tell which you're looking at (clue; if its white and looks kind of like a hippo, its not Black Metal). Also, it was fun to see regular guests to the hotel in which we held our event react when they saw this sign in the lobby ('Mordheim' roughly translates as 'murder town' in Finnish)...

On the macabre front, while in the National Museum I learned about the pre-Christian water burials at Levänluhta which are really quite unique and fascinating.

[Image from Google]

Also the Finnish myth cycle of the Kalevala (and its depictions by the Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela) is enthralling.

Thus ended the magical mystery Mordheim tour of 2019. It's been great to watch everyone share their journeys and then celebrate together at such a well run and friendly event. I think we were all a bit tearful at the end knowing that it was a very special once-in-a-lifetime experience. That's one of the great things about this hobby - it brings far-flung people together. And encourages them to hit one another and take the warpstone from their still-warm corpses. 'Murder town' indeed.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Mordheim 2019 - play aids

As I mentioned a while back I've been working on some play aids for the forthcoming Mordheim MMXIX game. After much tinkering about (and cursing) in InDesign they are finally done!

Because I'll be travelling to Helsinki (via Essex, London then Stockholm) I wanted to keep the play aids compact. This led me to read a bit about 'micro games'. A rather nebulous term, but it often applies to small-form-factor (SFF) games. These were all the rage in the early 80s thanks, in part, to examples made by companies like Dwarfstar Games. They were popular partly because they were very inexpensive to manufacture and were sold cheaply. And partly because with names like Barbarian Prince why wouldn't a 13 year old boy want them? They often contained a flimsy booklet, some card chits and sometimes a map all shipped in a small polythene bag or a single-tuck-end box. Of course the genre continues today with lots of SFF games on the market, but its those early ones that capture my attention.

It's the barbarians. Probably.

And they were small. Really small. But with this SFF inspiration, what form was my play aid pack going to take?

My hunt for a format fortuitously coincided with my delving into Dungeonsynth (often abbreviated as DS or BMDS, meaning 'black metal dungeon synth', not to be confused by BDSM...) This is a musical genre born in the early 90s experiencing a resurgence at the moment thanks to platforms like Bandcamp. I'm not going to go into details here (it really deserves its own post) other than to say that much of the music is sold on cassettes. Yes, you read that right. And it has its own 'look' which is inspired a lot by Games Workshop's vintage illustrations. So you get some really amazing cassettes replete with awesome lo-fi fantasy artwork on the J-cards.

So, I thought, could I get my play aids to fit into a tape case? Hell yes I could. Here's how:

I designed and 3D sculpted an insert which would sit in a cassette case and hold a few cards, three dice and some tokens. A friend very kindly 3D printed this for me. And by golly! It worked pretty well. The tape case just required the spindle pins sawing off and the insert slips happily into the case to hold all the components (with the addition of a plasticard back).

  Render of the insert

 The 3D print in situ, showing how the dice are accommodated. The piece needs a plasticard back.
Small tokens cen be kept in the secondary slot.

But what were all the components going to look like? I was keen not to just do a 'cookie cutter' BMDS design. While this might be cute, it would also, I felt, be a bit literal and pedestrian. Of course we already had the black-metal-inspired Mordhehim MMXIX logo so this would play a part. And I wanted to do some worldbuilding to enrich the background of my time travelling gang of convicts. I settled on a dose of dystopian post-war Modernism / Swiss style graphic design. I'll go more into the reasoning behind this and how it ties into their world in a future post. But one of the advantages is that its very legible on these rather tiny cards.

The J-card layout on its own. It looks a bit grey here as it's in CMYK format.

 The back of the case

I'm pretty chuffed with this little package and I might end up doing more tape cases for future games. I really like the idea of having a stack of tape boxes, each case with its own artwork and logos. And one will definitely have to feature barbarians.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Time for some more Epic

I finished the remaining four Marines to complete my Space Crusade-inspired squad for my micro-40K project. Here they are in all their ruddy glory:

Here we see them on patrol suddenly feeling a bit inferior next to a looming beetle-back Warlord. This shot was fun to do and readers as old as me will notice the original Adeptus Titanicus box cover in the background.

Below is a better shot of the little display case I've put together for all my 6mm chaps. The stuff at the bottom is thin magnetic sheeting (typically seen on fridge magnets). The washer-bases stick to with just the right amount of force. So you can actually be all sorts of clumsy around this and the minis will stay put. Yet they pop off with little effort. Handy.

I want to carry on with the Space Crusade randomness of this diminutive project. But I also kind of want a 2nd edition army in Epic scale. Argh! Too many hobby projects...

Monday, 3 June 2019

Haughty Aelf

A short post to show off this little chap. He'll bulk out my rather small band of heroes for my Krawl project. They sure as hell need some help, as the baddies are really racking up in number!

I wanted him to be a 'tooled-up' Aelfen adventurer, replete with all manner of gear. I think the kitbash worked out pretty well on that front. He's got a satisfying balance of clobber without it being ridiculous. Big thanks to the excellent Steve Buddle who kindly downed his digital miniature-making tools for enough time to sculpt the little fur collar on this fellow. It was an awkward join and needed a bit of 'something' to cover it up.

Steve did a great job. So now he can go back to making miniatures professionally.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

The Eyes of the Nine / Die Nibelungen

Eagle eyed readers (pun intended) might have noticed in a previous post there was a sneak peek of another project I'm working on - the Warhammer Underworlds' The Eyes of the Nine. This is hands-down my favourite warband for the game. For two reasons; it's got lots of 'texture'. And by that I mean lots of different things of varying sizes and shapes, right from the hench Tzaangor to the tiny Brimstone Horrors. Plus Narvia is one of my favourite minis ever. Because her gender is quite incidental. In fact, it took me a moment to actually notice she's female. She's pretty much dressed identically as her rival, Turosh. The sculptors have done a great job on this front.

But it's to Turosh we turn first. Here you can see him in all his triangular glory:

While I was noodling about colour schemes I watched Fritz Lang's 1924 version of Die Nibelungen. Which pretty much blew my mind. Here's why:

The surface design in the movie is mind blowing. Coupled with some audacious sets and Lang's eye for composition the film is a masterpiece. Lang shouldn't, perhaps, take all the credit for the visuals though, as it seems that the artist Carl Otto Czeschka produced the illustrations for a printed version of the tale in 1920. This body of work undoubtedly formed a template for Lang's costumes:

Back in Tzeentch land, the large shields form a perfect substrate for the pattern work. I was really pleased with the result and I want to roll this out across the warband. Not sure how this is going to work on the more organic chaps... but I'm sure I'll find a solution.

In an effort to paint faster by being more efficient I reigned in my natural desire to spend ages highlighting the model's skin. I just applied a gradiated wash to it and left it at that. I selectively highlighted elements like the cloth and face mask. I felt these areas are where the effort is going to be seen. Coupled with the neat pattern work the eye is somewhat fooled into thinking the mini has had more effort invested than is actually the case.

So, now on to the other members of the Nine...

Monday, 27 May 2019

Mordheim MMXIX - I finally made it

Below are the last four chaps who complete my Mordheim 2019 warband. They're the top-tier of the gang, being the Leader, Champions and a lone Swordsman. Because they are the big dogs they have been issued the sophisticated 'third ear' head devices. Don't let this deceive you though - they are hardened criminals to a man and hell-bent on collecting the warpstone their masters demand in return for freedom.

I covered some of the painting and theory behind these guys in my previous posts. All that really remains to be said here is that the fast-and-dirty paint techniques worked out pretty well. The camo isn't overpowering and the decals carry on the heraldry motif which runs through the warband. Actually you can't see most of the decals in these beauty shots. I'll try to take some alternative angles soon. The dirty, rusty metal also ties the collection together and the technique I hit on is really simple to achieve. Paint black, wash thinned brown, drybrush gunmetal, then sponge-stipple silver. Boom!

I want to take some shots of these guys on terrain too. There are some suitably dystopian tables in Warhammer World, so I'll cart the gang over there for a photoshoot one day. I would also like to make a little photo set for some more contextual shots, but whether I'll have time for this I'm not quite sure. The idea I have pretty blatantly refers back to the film Stalker, which is one of the key references for this project.

These boys are, of course, alien to both the city of Mordheim and indeed the era in which our game will be set (2019 in the Imperial calendar). I have been thinking a bit more about the world that they hail from. This will be articulated soon, in part through the little gaming card case I'm working on.

If you haven't already, do check out everyone else's contributions to the Mordheim 2019 project especially on Instagram where we mostly hang out. The work is utterly compelling and I can't wait until we all gather our warbands together on the beautiful tables that are being made to see the setting come to life.

Last but not least; a big 'thanks' to Echoes of Imperium for lighting a bomb under us and galvanising us into action for this project!

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Pattern recognition

I've discovered over the past year or so that one of the things I love adding to my miniatures are really bold patterns. Below are a couple of recent examples.

I am hoping to make this more of a consistent feature in the future. It helps a bit in my quest for maximum effect for minimum effort. Maybe.

If you can do a really clean pattern it goes a long way towards the overall impact the model has.

This little collection of photos also reminds me that I really need to finish Steelheart's Champions...