Towards Awesome August

A couple of works in progress I am preparing for Azazel’s August challenge.

One is the final model in the Nomads starter set, a Mobile Brigada medium armoured infantry – one of the best models in the entire range, I think.

And the other is a cross-range kitbash I am planning to use as a general or standard bearer for my 9th Age O&G army: an orc warlord on warpig.

Both still need a lot of work, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to complete at least one by the end of the month. Both can compete in the awesome category, I think, but who’s the most awesome?

Alchemy and Anarchy

I have begun working on two small groups of miniatures from different ranges, Rackham’s Alchemists of Dirz and Corvus Belli’s Nomads. Even though the styles and background of the miniatures are quite unlike each other, I am still planning to use similar techniques and a somewhat common palette, so that I’ll be trying out some ideas on one set that I can then translate to the other and vice versa.

The Alchemists are a faction in Confrontation made up of clones and clones masters, mutated beasts and drug enhanced ritual warriors. Their mechanics and design are centred on controlled mutation and the range includes some very neat, skinny, humans and some very dark beasts. Here’s a gallery of the original artwork and pictures for the game cards, from the website that also hosts the community supported version of the ruleset.

I will start painting the core force from one of the starter boxes from a late-ish edition of the game, plus three of the old school iconic crossbowmen and a Neuromancer that I had won in a painting competition as a kid and that, ironically, I ended up painting very badly.



The Nomads are anarchists, in space. Which didn’t fail to please me and was in itself reason to be drawn to Infinity. I can recommend the game for those who like ultimately quite realistic but cleverly and not obviously designed gameplay. The range of miniatures includes some spectacular models and overall the quality, detail and design choices of Corvus Belli’s minis are very good. With their ultra-clean lines and high-tech vibe they are a nice change from GW grittier and messier darkness. Here’s a link to the Nomads gallery: unless GW already got them firmly in their hands, watch for your wallets!

For this project, I am going to paint the vanilla starter pack, which includes a nice variation of armours: three Alguaciles, who have a tricky mix of protection vest and suit in the same colour, a Spektr infiltrator and Grenzer sniper in darker outfits, and a Briareos-like full body armoured Mobile Brigada.


Enough for now, I’ll write more about the project as soon as I have pictures to show, and I am also waiting for some desert and urban bases from Micro Art Studio


Caro / Jeunet exhibition


I wanted to share a couple of pictures I took at the exhibition above, while going to the venue for something quite different – an exhibition on Art Brut from the Balkans.

I’m not a particular fan of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s cinema, but they surely surround themselves with excellent prop makers and environment and concept artists – plus, Jeunet is quite a good modeler himself. Many of their films have detailed, stylish and often wonderfully weird sets. Alien: Resurrection is probably the most accessible from the hobby perspective but, after you remove its thick coat of childishness, even something like The City of Lost Children would not be too off from some grimdark grotesque.

Brain in a Vat

The style feels like the pop version of the Quay brothers, in case this means something to you…

By far the main highlight of the show is a maquette by Ronan-Jim Sevellec, Le Poids de la Crigne (“crigne” is an unusual term, but I think the title can be translated as The Weight of Hair).


Not only it is incredibly detailed and life-like, but also very atmospheric. I love how the shine on the meat contrasts with the sickly green light from behind the window. Creepy.

No less dark, but definitely more sci-fi, here are some preparatory drawings for the Alien film, including some “lovely” concept art by Chris Cunningham.

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Now I’ll probably have a look at Caro’s Dante 01 because a psychiatric ward on a space ship conceived as one of the circles of hell? Why not! Can it get more total institution than that?

Jakub Rozalski

Remember all my carefully laid out plans for the hobby that saw the Vostroyan army quite far back in the queue? Well, I’m not going back on them, but this post from Scent of a Gamer pointing to the artwork of Jakub Rozalski just gave a (pleasant) kick in the belly. That’s exactly the mix of rural society and greasy mechas I had in mind.

Here are some pictures stolen from the web.

And here’s a Hungarian poster from the Soviet era  I photographed in the National Museum in Budapest that in some ways anticipates this kind of steampunkish imagery.




Bitbox theory #4 – Orc chariot project

Those who went to the bother of reading through the previous post in the series (I didn’t really expect you to) know that I’m planning to have an orc chariot in the army.

I had two made from scratch with balsa wood which were reasonably good but that I never painted. And while I may eventually get to paint them and base them properly, something else came to my mind.

It is a very straightforward cross-range kitbash between this…

Isn’t she a beauty?

… and either the Orruk Boarboys GW kit, to respect the fact that the chariot is supposed to be mounted by common orcs, or the Savage Boarboys kit, which would allow me to use the model as a unit filler for the Feral orc unit as well and also give me plenty of bitz to play with at the moment of assembling the foot unit of savages. Not mentioning replacement boars for the boarboys unit that I’m going to field anyway. Win win win.

I may even go… ham (sorry) and paint two set of riders. Or adapt the Old Major from this other set for the eventual unit filler:

I’m sure I’ll be able to do something with the huge hound and the gremlin trapper…

The wild boars from this set could also be used as variants for character mounts or to pull another chariot.

This is going to be my next project after the ‘eadbashers. What do you think?

Bitbox theory #3 – 9th Age Orcs and Goblins 4500 points army project

I like doing army lists. I used to complain, quite rightly I believe, that too much of victory or defeat in WHFB and WH40K was decided at the moment of army building, rather than at the level of gameplay tactics and that a good game system should be one that make all units, and almost all combinations of units, playable, but I still spent a lot of time trying to make good army lists. It has been many years since the last army list I built and I must say it was a real, if a bit nostalgic, joy to find the time to sit down and do a list again.

The purpose of this list is also to act as a global painting project for my Orcs and Goblins army. I want a playable but not necessarily a highly competitive army. I am privileging a balance between what I want to paint and what is viable in the game over both sheer competition and pure fluff. This is many ways respects my original attitude as a kid. Would I be doing the same now with a completely new army project? No, I would probably go for a highly customized themed army. (If I ever have time to do something like that, I will do it in grande stile with the Tyranids / Byzantine Marines matching armies.)

Here’s a link to the combined rule-set + army list 9th age all-in-one compendium that you would need to make deeper sense of the following, in case you wanted to.

The first element of the list is going to be a big bus of cave goblins (9th age name for night goblins), with a cave goblin battle standard bearer (for the time being, I’m planning to use the rackham guy in heavy armor I have already painted, with a banner planted on the base).

45 Cave goblins (120 + 150). Spears & shield (45). Full command (60). 3 Mad gits (195). Banner of discipline (35): 605.

Cave goblin chief (70). Battle standard bearer (50). Light armour with Pan of protection pinchin’ (30). Heavy weapon (10), Lucky charm (10): 160.

I want to go with a close combat block with spears over the probably better option of a horde of common goblins with bows for a series of reasons: being 9th age slightly more objective-oriented than WHFB 8th edition, I need big scoring units with some staying power; I can now use such a huge mass of bodies to block line of sight and protect mages without necessarily having them inside a bunker; spears now grant an agility bonus (new name for initiative) when charged and with the cave goblins natural 3, it means that they will have agility 4 both when defending and when charging (charge gives a +1 agility), making them strike before a good number of units in the game; mad gits (fanatics), though having been “nerfed,” are still prodigious if used correctly. In short, I think I will be able to use this as a surprisingly strong defensive unit, effectively capable of holding a centre objective on its own and, with the help of some spells, grind head-to-head (well…) with regular infantry units and even crush trough small elites. In order to help them cope with their discipline problems they will host a Goblin Battle standard bearer and receive a Banner of discipline which, in combination, will have them automatically pass panic tests and decimated test (old 25% casualties test). I may go ham and give them nets for a good chance of reducing one enemy unit’s strength by 1, but at 90 points, I think the upgrade would be more efficient for a smaller support unit at a lower price. The unit should not be in combat most of the time anyway and when it does, it is going to be either against other tarpits or being supported by spells.

Second entry, two cave goblin mages, each of a different way of magic:

Cave goblin witch doctor (150). Wizard Adept, Thaumaturgy (75) [h, 3]. Crystal ball (25): 250.

Cave goblin witch doctor (150). Wizard Adept, Witchcraft (75) [3, 4]. Rod of battle (60): 285.

Cave goblin witch doctors, as they are called, are a bit pricier than witchdoctors from other goblin races due to their magic mushroom rules – twice a game a 5/6 chance of  subtracting a d3 to the enemy dispel roll. The rules are not great, but the ‘shrooms might still mess up the opponent’s magic phase from time to time and, more importantly, I want to use cave goblin models. In square brackets you find the spells I am planning to use more often (you can now choose the spells you want): 3 of thaumaturgy, “Speaking in tongues,” allows you to cancel the enemy’s battle standard reroll or general discipline upgrade on one unit; h, stands for the hereditary spell, which is the specific Orcs & goblins spell “Bring the pain,” allowing you to reroll failed hits against the target enemy unit; 3 of Witchcraft is “Twisted effigy” and prevents an enemy unit within 36” from using shooting attacks (!); and finally number 4 is the excellent “The wheel turns”, which makes attacks made by (and allocated against, at a higher casting level) rank and file models in the target enemy unit hit and wound on 4+ regardless of characteristics. Rod of battle allows you to cast a bound spell that grants +1 to hit in Close Combat, another useful buff, and Crystal ball allows you to draw a different flux card for the magic phase (basically reroll how “big” the magic phase is going to be). Btw, there are no dispel scrolls any more.

Next, another core, the unit I am painting at the moment:

34 Common orc ‘eadbashers (230 + 323). Hand weapon & shield (34). Full command (60). Stalker’s standard (50): 715.

Yes! They are not going to be 60, they capped the unit of ‘eadbashers at 35. They are not going to be deployed as horde but rather as some kind of anvil: the new rules for hordes are completely different: units in this formation now lose rank bonus and gain fight in one extra rank, meaning that it is a formation for elites not for masses of cheap troops – not a bad change, but they need to find a better name than “line formation” for it, imho. Hand weapon and shield now grants Parry, which means +1 defensive skill (WS is now split in offensive and defensive) or, at least as much defensive skill as the enemy’s offensive skill if yours is originally lower. Tanky (but the bonus is negated by paired weapons, one of the very few rock-paper-scissors dynamics in the system). ‘Eadbashers have a natural Strength 4 and gain +1 Strength in combat as long as they win combat and have more ranks than their opponents (the rule is called “born to fight”). The Stalker’s standard gives them Strider, which allows them to pass dangerous terrain tests and prevents them from losing their Steadfast or rank bonus while in terrain, which keeps them viable as anvils in any situation.

In the unit, I am going to put my general, a common Orc warlord:

Orc warlord (220). War cry (45). Axe of Shady Shankin’ (70). Heavy armour with Tuktek’s guard (55) : 390.

Tuktek’s guard gives him +1 Resilience for Resilience 6 and immunity from lethal strike, and the Shankin’ enchantment gives his weapon lethal strike, magical attacks and lighting reflexes (+1 to hit), at strength 6 until the unit loses born to fight, plus rerolls to wound in duels. May have to give him an invulnerable save, though.

Going on with the hordes, a big nasty 24 strong gnasher (squig) herd:

24 Gnasher herd (150 + 210): 360.

These die like flies but are brutal. Having many many other bodies should help me keep these safe until they have a chance to chew through some elites…

Similar unit, but targeted against regular troops, a 24 strong unit of savage orcs:

24 Savage orcs (175 + 44) (48). Paired weapons (24). Full command (60). Mammoth stabber (25): 376.

To be put, like the herd, in line formation, so that they can fight in an extra rank. The mammoth stabber is there just in case they have to face a monster or monstrous infantry – plus, as you will see, for modeling reasons. The new fury rules make them a little bit more controllable, but harder to rally, they are weaker in defense but gain an “exploding dice” dynamic by which every 6 to hit turns into 2 hits.

Giants are now less random, so it’s a good idea to include one, especially since I don’t like the idea of using Gargantulas (what was the name, Arachnarok?) – the big spiders – without a single forest goblin unit in the army. So:

Giant (290). Giant club (30): 320.

Chaff is going to be a mix of units with a little punch so that they can hit other chaff pretty hard if needed:

5 Common goblin raiders (120). Light lance & shield (5) (5): 130.

5 Common orc boar riders: 140.

Orc boar chariot: 170.

And, finally, the staple war machines, which will help me deal with monsters a little – something I would not really be equipped against otherwise:

2x Git launchers (180). Orc overseer (20): 400.

Splatterer (180). Orc overseer (20): 200.

I have still 7 points to spend, and may want to play around with characters and enchantments a little. But more or less this is the project for the army. Still a horde army, but with the cave goblin horde done (save for the bases), the gnasher horde almost finished and the ‘eadbasher horde on its way I’m kinda hopeful.

Feel free to ask questions about the 9th age if you have any and I’ll answer to the best of my knowledge. From the next post on I will concentrate more on the hobby itself – no long text-heavy post is due in the foreseeable future!

Bitbox theory #2 – The curse of Lead Mountain, or: what I am going to do with my lead pile

My original goal when I decided that I was never going to stop painting and modeling was to level the lead pile: that is, paint everything accumulated in my collection.

It may be hard to swallow, but this is not going to happen. Not only it is a task beyond my forces, it is not even a good idea. Tastes evolve and more interesting miniatures come out: in a condition of limited time, sacrificing the ideal of a fully painted collection may greatly improve your enjoyment of the hobby and thus lead to more concrete results. What to do with the models one is never going to paint is a good thing to think about: some trading or some generosity may allow you to paint models that you like better and free yourself from the depressing thought that you have a mountain to claim or a mass of lead weighing you down.

Morphology. Very roughly, here is a list of what I have in my lead pile. A big Orcs and Goblins and a half a Vampire Counts Warhammer Fantasy army, plus some Beastmen, Wood Elves and a few other models from other WHFB armies. A sizeable Tyranid swarm, quite a few old space marines and a small Vostroyan collection from Warhammer 40K. A composite Van Saar, Scavvy, Delaque, Orlock and Redemptionists collection for Necromunda. A good collection of Wolfen and quite a few other Rackham models. Finally, a good outcrop of fantasy models from different ranges which I picked up in various occasions. It may not seem like a lot, but all in all it’s about the size of five armies and in my whole life I was never able to paint as much as one.

The exorcism. Here is what I would like to do with the pile, in order of what I’d like to paint.

1. A Wolfen army for Confrontation EVO.

2. An OnG army for the 9th Age.

3. A Nomads army for Infinity (wait, this is not even in the pile!)

4. A Tyranid army for WH40K.

5. A Nausicaa in the Valley of the Wind themed Vostroyan army, not necessarily to be played in 40K.

6. My whole Necromunda collection.

7. A Byzantine-themed Space Marine army matching the Tyranid one

8. An undead army for Kings of War.

Now for the hard question. I can plan and share my projects as much as I want, but am I really going to paint all of this? Sure, I can take this to be a life-long plan, and if I go on (almost) not buying any new miniature, I will probably eventually manage to paint everything at some point. But is this really motivating? Is this not, perhaps, just a tortuous and tormented road to eventually stop painting?

So, provided I will not paint all of this, what would I really want to paint? Let’s cut the list in half as a gesture of realism. I can paint some undeads here and there, if I like, as I have done in the past, but I may abandon the idea of having a full army (I can still put them on KoW-style bases just to try). I can paint some Byzantine astartes because I like the concept, but not a whole lot of them. Same with the Nausicaa project. The necromunda collection instead is manageable and so I would put it in the “to do” part of the list. I am sure about OnG and Wolfen. The only choice to make is about the Tyranids: am I going to bolster the collection up – which I would love: I’d have a swarm with models from all editions since the second – and paint it completely, or just scratch the space-horror itch with a fancy model here and there? I’d say I’ll know after the Orcs project. I may also want to prioritize Necromunda, as it is a relatively smaller collection.

So the list becomes: 1. OnG 2. Necromunda 3. Wolfen 4. (Tyranids, with a matching set of victimised astartes) 5. Fun.

This looks way more manageable! It may seem an easy process now, but trust me it took years of distracted but intense struggle to come to this decision and know that I have some chances of actually pulling it off.

How do you deal with your lead pile?

Bitbox theory #1 – Hobbying with limited time

My lack of time and slow pace call for some realistic planning. I do not want to abandon the hobby and I would like to do more with the time I can dedicate to it. I especially want to feel like I am achieving something: completing rewarding projects and improving on my painting skills are my main goals here.

This is a very dry way to state it, but also a clear way to start thinking about how best to combine this two goals and how to organise my hobby with this aim in mind.

I’m writing down these reflections, obvious as they may be for many fellow hobbyists, to clear my own mind and in the hope that they may be nevertheless be useful to others.

Mass painting. Since the childhood of my hobby life I had been haunted by an incapacity to bring projects to completion. My plan to complete a playable, well painted, Orcs & Goblins army is a way to exorcise this ghost. Orcs & Goblins were my first army back in Warhammer Fantasy Battles 3rd edition, I played it often enough but I never managed to paint more than a few models. This is a daunting task but one I absolutely want to undertake. Since Orcs and Goblins is fundamentally a horde army, this means that I will have to paint a large number of models.

Quality painting. I don’t consider myself by any means to be a great painter, not even a particularly good one, but now that I don’t play any more and since converting has never been my forte, painting is really the central aspect of the hobby for me. I am happy to say that, in the past couple of years, I feel like I have improved my painting skills considerably: I am now a quicker and more subtle painter, and that’s definitely an achievement. It is also something I want to put to better use. I want to work on more individual, more impressive, models that will be both a challenge and a showcase for my painting skills.

There may be a conflict at times between these two desires – to paint a large army and to work on individual models – but not necessarily a contradiction. If I had more time, I could customize every model in an army and paint it to the top my ability. Unfortunately, I don’t.

Of course, in a big army project you will have characters and monsters that will stand out and that can be eye-catching paint projects, so selecting a more monster and character-heavy army is going to help me out. As a player, I am not prone to do that, but I have to understand that this may be an acceptable compromise compared with stubbornly trying to paint a horde army that I will never actually be going to complete. Knowing that I am such a busy person and a lazy painter, I should have probably gone for a more elite army in the first place, but I couldn’t have known that as a six year old, nor would I have wanted to know and that is perfectly fine. So now I’m happily stuck with the greenskins!

This said, the main way to reconcile the mass and the quality aspects of the hobby is to improve our knowledge of quick and effective painting techniques. Vince Venturella’s Hobby Cheating video series is an excellent example of how this can be done. Even though he focusses on airbrushing a lot, and travelling around as I do I cannot really buy and use one, the general principle of optimising painting time and results by learning new techniques is exactly what I needed and in this series there are plenty of things to learn. Undershading, using a wet palette, thinning down my paint, using a more vivid and composite colour palette and learning to use the right techniques in the right places are all ways to allow you to paint more models better.

Something else that I should keep in mind is that, since painting a lot of models to a reasonably high standard requires more effort than simply speed-painting or painting unrelated models just for the joy of painting them, I will have to carefully balance the choice of the models I like with what performs well in the game I am painting them for, potentially subordinating aesthetics to army composition. Speaking of regimental level fantasy games, the 9th Age is actually a very good game in this respect, because it is a community-driven game, free from market-driven management of in-game mechanics, and because specific efforts are being constantly done to make all units playable.

Kings of War may be an even better game to conciliate model number and painting level, because of the way it uses unit bases rather than model bases as the fundamental unit template: this allows you to paint less models for a unit and to present them better at the same time. Using unit fillers is a decent solution in this direction while keeping to the (rather questionable) mechanic originated with Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Building my Orcs & Goblins army for Kings of War is not an option because it would not settle my bill with my ghost of hobbying past, but I may consider organising my collection of undead for it: undead and horde armies in general are very good armies to build for KoW in this respect.

As a principle, I think that one should feel free to find the right game for one’s modeling craves, not the other way around (although one can be extremely creative while adapting his modelling skills to a particular game dynamic or lore, as other bloggers so amply demonstrate). I now realise that, considering the way I approach the hobby, skirmish games would be more suitable for me and I will probably switch to painting for games that require a lower model count or simply paint for fun in the future.

Bitbox theory #0 – Intro

This series of posts is going to be wordy, in the sense that it is going to be both longer than usual and less focused on the visual part of the hobby.

In it I will discuss things like: painting techniques, fancy hobby projects, Lead Pile management, rules and game development, miniature ranges and range-bashing, various inspiration for modeling from art and the real world, unusual hobby materials and the like.

The first post is going to be about hobbying with limited time,” the second will deal with the curse of Lead Mountain and how I managed to lift it, then a series of posts will cover the planning of the 9th Age Orcs & Goblins army for which I hope, in the meantime, I will have been able to paint a few more models…

Bundle purchase

Given the monumental scale of my lead pile, I usually forbid myself to buy new minis. If this post is here it’s because I just received an exception in my mailbox – in the form of a apparently haphazard bundle of Rackham miniatures – and wanted to share (literally, you’ll see) some of it with you.

Keltois warriors

There’s three Keltois warriors, one with a nasty break at the ankles. When I was a kid I had won a small painting prize with a miniature from the same army and it would be nice to try painting one again and see the improvement. Here it is.

Plus, I’m toying with a rules set in which Nordic barbarians feature prominently, so at some point I will put them to use…

Necro bombastic

Next, a bombastic fellow who is definitely losing the staff in his right arm (picture the blade as a goblin moon symbol) and serve as a necromancer, or losing both staffs and the sword and end up as a sacrificial victim.

Mini undertaker

The little one, instead, will make a nice addition on a corpse cart or some unit filler for the undead.

Putto with axe

This other tiny mini is quite hilarious – I don’t have an idea for it yet, but it will definitely look nice as part of a big model, maybe even trying to pull the ax out of a wound on a big monster.

Lantern holders

These two little devils with a lantern are going to be a fantastic addition to my devil-themed ungors. I could have bought the set just for this model!

Finally, two figures I can easily integrate in the ongoing orcs & goblins project: the goblin with the blunderbuss can substitute a goblin knight on a giant rat I already have and serve as a character with the Skull splitter magic weapon; the other one I can put on a chariot (he is sitting, in case you were wondering, I just propped him up so you can see the sculpt better).

Forest goblin chieftain

This guy instead, a perfect forest goblin chieftain, is a double – I already have one and I won’t be converting it or painting it twice. So, to celebrate my good luck in finding such a good bargain for all these nice miniatures, and to thank you for reading the post to its end, I’m going to ship it for free to any of you readers expressing an interest!

Step right up!