Saturday, August 5, 2017

Commission Work: Orwell's Soviet Cavalry

I was contacted by one of my long-time clients to do a platoon of Soviet cavalry for Flames of War...but with a little twist. As an homage to Orwell's Animal Farm, he wanted to include some pigs on the stands - a clever in-joke and something right up my alley.

The cavalry itself is straightforward. Uniforms are Vallejo Russian Uniform, highlighted with a 50/50 Russian Uniform/Antique White mix, then washed with GW Green wash. Off-white/White isn't something I normally mix to lighten colors, as it tends to dull the base color. However, used sparingly, in a heavily worn military uniform it actually adds to the faded appearance. Skin is Vallejo Flat Flesh washed with GW Ogryn Flesh, kit is Burnt Umber, boots are Pure Black, sword hilts are Granite Grey with a highlight of 50/50 Granite Grey/Pure White, rifles are Vallejo Dark Brown with Pavement barrels.

The horses themselves are all ever so slightly different mixtures of browns, red-browns, tans, and greys. As I do more work painting horses, it's actually very interesting to learn just how different their coats really are, so I try to reflect that by painting each a little differently. Tack is a base of Pure Black, overcoated in certain place with Moss Green, then washed with Vallejo Olive Green wash. For the pigs, I attempted to do a dappled coat of a mid-tone grey mixed with patches of grey/pink, then washed with Vallejo Grey wash. 15mm pigs are hard to paint.

The client also asked for an upgraded IL-2 Shturmovik M to be painted identically to its basic cousin which I did here.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Frostwallon Skeletons

First, apologies in advance for the poor photos. It took me about 2 hours to photograph these skeletons because my normal procedure was either making them brilliant white or washing them out entirely. At the absolute end of my rope with the camera, I did the exact opposite of what I normally do and darkened the exposure compensation to its maximum. So, if you're ever shooting white miniatures, that seems to be the trick...

These are a group of skeletons for Frostwallon, originally Rackham Morbid Puppets. These seem to be pretty rare to find these days and I'm really happy I was able to track them down because they have a certain dynamism that most 28mm skeletons lack. I especially love the "en garde" skeleton and the tired, crouching skeleton. Pictures (as I mentioned) don't really do these guys justice and I tried a few new techniques on them. For the bones, I basecoated everything in Antique White, did a first highlight in 50/50 Antique White/White mix, and then did a heavy wash of Vallejo Grey wash, then picked out areas of deep shadow by doing a selective wash of P3 Armor wash, and finally came back and highlighted select areas with pure White. This gives a nice aged appearance to the bone that simply washing with browns or tans would fail to achieve.

Otherwise, there isn't much else to them, but I tried to keep the palette limited to earthy tones - browns, greens, and greys - on the tattered scraps of clothing present, with liberal washes of Vallejo European Dirt wash. The armor was (as normal) painted in GW Boltgun Metal and Testors Steel. However, I wanted a heavily rusted appearance, so I tried a new technique. Using acrylics as washes, I laid down several washes of Testors Rust, Vallejo Red Brown, and Chocolate Brown. After sealing, I then came back with dry pigments but applied them as washes by diluting them in Isopropyl alcohol, which I really like the effect of. I also did a similar effect with the dirt on the bases.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Movie (Mini-) Review: Dunkirk

I was lucky enough to just get out of an advance screening for Dunkirk just a few minutes ago and thought I'd write up a short review of the movie for those of you who are interested in the period, but are unsure about spending the money to see it in theaters. I will point out that I do like most of Christopher Nolan's work, so if you aren't, you should likely take this review with a grain of salt.

The movie revolves around the experiences of six "main" characters during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the port of Dunkirk, France. A very unique aspect of the narrative is that it is told in three distinct parts - 1. The Mole - One Week (referring to the eastern sea wall Capt. William Tennant used as a makeshift pier), 2. The Sea - One Day, & 3. The Air - One Hour. At first, it's very confusing about what exactly is going on as events in each "part" don't always occur linearly. While it eventually becomes apparent how each "part" is laid out sequentially, the key is referring to the subtitle of each "part". The characters' experiences in The Mole take one week, in The Sea one day, and in The Sky one hour. I really enjoyed this aspect of the narrative, since it wasn't something I'd seen used successfully since Pulp Fiction.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the plot seems to be very factual and, for the most part, does follow the overall historical event quite closely. Obviously, this being modern cinema, there are some fabrications and anachronisms, but nothing that takes you out of the movie. The one criticism I would have is that the defense of the Dunkirk perimeter isn't really shown and the danger of being truly surrounded is only hinted at. I feel like if Nolan were to have focused on this more in the prologue, that casual viewers would really get a better sense of how dire the situation truly was. Nolan does, however, do an amazing job of ramping up the tension - not too fast, not too slow.

The visuals are absolutely stunning. In a year where CGI-laden, post-processed movies are the norm, it was fantastic to see a movie that (to my eye) relied on no CG special effects. The aerial dogfights in particular are the star of the show and, if you're a plane buff, I urge you to go see the movie in cinema format - the planes are gorgeous, especially against the backdrop of grey skies and green-blue ocean. Nolan also captures the opposing dread of being caught wide open on a beach or stuck inside the hold of a sinking ship.

The acting is top notch....with my one big criticism of the movie being that the dialogue was often unintelligible. I wasn't sure if that was an audio issue or intentional on part of the crew (or as part of the narrative). Casual viewers are going to have a very difficult time understanding what orders are being given as, even with a good idea of military orders, even I had a tough time trying to decipher what was actually said. Tom Hardy plays Spitfire pilot Farrier...but he's really just channeling a WW2 version of Mad Max (which, having loved Fury Road, I was totally OK with). Mark Rylance as small boat captain Mr. Dawson is probably the stand-out actor as he does an amazing job acting a wide variety of emotions, often non-verbally (if you like him in this and like historical dramas, I also recommend checking out his role as Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall. While I didn't love the series - period dramas about British royalty are more my wife's passion - I did like his portrayal.

The sound (except for the dialogue) was also fairly good. The Stukas, while having their tell-tale diving drone, also have an odd, slightly unnerving shriek as they level off. Gunshots and explosions are deafening, and are well contrasted by the quiet beaches (early on) and the crashing waves (later).

All in all, I'd say - unless you truly hate Nolan's work - go see it in theaters. It's worth it and, if it grosses highly enough, will hopefully prompt the studios to do more of these types of historical action dramas.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Frostwallon Terrain - Burnt Out Ruins

I've wanted to try my hand at doing some terrain using Hirst Arts molds for years, probably as far back as when I first started gaming, but I always balked at the pricing. Luckily, I have a friend with a nice collection of them who let me borrow a couple to try out. Using Fieldstone Molds #70 & 75 (and Tile mold #200, which I eventually plan to use for a sewer board), I cast up about 4lbs. of a 50/50 mix of Plaster and Rock Putty and put together a bunch of ruined buildings. After casting, I assembled all the pieces using construction adhesive, cut out some MDF bases, and added basswood floors and rubble piles. Once dry, I undercoated everything with flat Grey latex paint, as recommended on the Hirst site. I then used various shades of greys, browns, and tans to add some variation in color. Though I like the end product, the casting process was really labor intensive and (coupled with drying times) was quite time consuming. If you are interested in using Hirst molds, here are a few pointers I learned:
  • Use a plastic or disposable container to mix the plaster that can be bent to pop out any dried plaster before the next mix
  • Rock putty is a good cheap alternative to dental plaster but is too brittle alone. Mix with equal parts of regular plaster.
  • Mixing the plaster too fast causes excess air bubbles to develop
  • While lightly tapping the molds helps, I found having a toothpick on hand (to stir the plaster inside each mold and to pop any bubbles) was better
  • Even after allowing the plaster to dry before demolding, let it dry it for 24-48 hours before trying to build with it
  • Construction adhesive is awesome for locking bricks together
  • Latex paint can be bought in small "sample" jars and tinted any color you want. Check your local hardware store.

The intent was to use them for Frostgrave, but I left out any snow or elaborate fantasy bitz, so they could also be used historical or even science fiction gaming.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Horrors of the Tundra: Scenario 3

Horrors Of The Tundra
A Lovecraftian Adventure for Frostgrave

Written by Jeremy Olsen

3 - What Gods Hath Wrought?

After clearing out the ungodly flock of winged beasts, your party advances deeper into the vast trackless wastes of the icy tundra. When you make camp each night, you study the artifacts the carrion birds were protecting finding them impossibly ancient and inscrutable, pulsing with an inner light that betrays an almost organic sentience. Your apprentice grows increasingly obsessed with the artifacts and when you happen upon a group of  cyclopean ruins, he runs mad into them…

Set up as normal. Terrain should consist of dense ruins - the odder, the better.

Special Rules

At the start of the scenario, do not deploy Apprentices or Captains as normal. Instead, when a monster would normally be deployed per a random encounter, deploy an Apprentice or Captain instead until all have been deployed, then proceed with deploying monsters as normal.

Once deployed, each Apprentice/Captain is unhinged by their newfound knowledge and will attack anyone, even members of their own warband. Members of the same warband will do their best to not fatally injure the crazed model - if taken out of action by a member of its own warband, the controlling player may roll twice on the injury chart and apply either result.

Additionally, such are the soporific effects of the treasure in these ruins, that if the Apprentice/Captain comes into contact with any of the treasures in this scenario, they immediately receive +1 Fight and suffer -1 Will for each treasure token they pick up. These effects last until the end of the scenario. If, for whatever reason, any Apprentice/Captain is still living at the end of the scenario, they run screaming into the cyclopean ruins, never to be seen or heard from again. Remove that model from the warband roster.

Treasure & Experience

Treasure and Experience are gained as normal. If an Apprentice/Captain is incapacitated and survives the ordeal, they gain 10 Experience and gains the “Mark of the Chain” Burning Mark.