Saturday 28 September 2019

Avengers: Endgame

I've finally finished off the last of my Knight Models Avengers, from their ill-fated Marvel Universe Miniatures Game (MUG for short), after them sitting part painted for a couple of years.

I was prompted into action by the news of the impending release of the new Marvel: Crisis Protocol game. Much as I'm very tempted, the game will be 40mm, and so not fit with my other models and terrain, and has a release schedule which would probably bankrupt me. Also, I've painted Captain America, Iron Man and Black Widow twice already, and I'm not keen on doing them a third time.

Therefore I decided to redirect my returned enthusiasm for all things superhero into getting a project finished.

Hawkeye was relatively simple to paint, despite being in a somewhat odd pose, which really doesn't look right when you're assembling it.

With Vision I made the decision to chicken out of painting yellow to fit with the classic comics look, and went for the much easier gold, which helps convey his robotic nature.

Although technically this is Moonstone disguised as Ms/Captain Marvel, as part of the Dark Avengers, I wanted to add her to the team as she plays a big part in the second series of Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, which is my primary source material. Also, I really like the model.

However, as is typical for Knight Models, the arm behind her back is needlessly fiddly to attach and there's sadly a little bit of a lump at the join. That's why I'm not showing you another angle.

So that's my Knight Models Avengers completed. I'm really quite attached to them and although most of them don't really fit with my 28mm Marvel collection, I do have a fiendish plan to use them with another game system. More on that soon.

In addition to the three Avengers painted, it was clearly evident that this radar dish/super-weapon from my haul last week does not need any additional work doing, and it has already featured as an objective in a game of Dropzone Commander. Therefore, with no work at all, it joins the painted tally.

Although Wargames Illustrated again saw fit to give me free models I didn't ask for (this time it's a Frigate for Black Seas, something I'm a bit tempted by), I've also managed to palm off an earlier sprue onto Matt, and so this week has been a broadly positive for my personal challenge to 'paint' more than I 'acquire' (although those terms are getting increasingly loose).

Acquired: 176
Painted: 157

Sunday 22 September 2019

Sun, Sea, Sand and EVIL!

Yesterday saw me taking a trip to Walsall to participate in the third Board in Brum 7TV event: On Location.

The suitably thin premise of the event was that Sidney Barron, the CEO of 7TV studios had decided to commission a range of new programmes and invest heavily in some location filming. As ever, things wouldn't go to plan on set and there were complications aplenty to negotiate during filming. However, never one to miss an opportunity Sidney Barron had insisted on plenty of product placement in the new shows.

On Location

Part of the attraction of the Board in Brum events is that attendees are encouraged to bring along their own terrain, and this prompted all kinds of creativity in terrain building, including my own efforts.

There's no real doubt that without this event to work towards I wouldn't have made such progress on my lost world terrain. There's still more to do (and possibly a better mat to buy) as it felt a bit spartan next to some of the other boards on display. However, I am very pleased with what I've done so far.

There was a prize for best board, voted for by participants, which was understandably won by Tavis Hill's outstanding desert island at the top of the post. However, there were loads of great boards, and here are a selection.

The Evil Horde Abroad

The show I was commissioned to direct was a live action spinoff from She-Ra: Princess of Power in which Hordak, jealous of Skeletor's lucrative advertising contract with a price comparison website, sets out on a journey of introspection, self discovery and late night TV violence to determine just how evil his 'Evil' Horde is.

The regular cast of the show were:

Hordak (Alien Tyrant) - Jack Balance
Catra (Ruthless Lieutenant) - Kelly Alley
Scorpia (Serpent Man Naga) - Kirsty Le Brock
Grizzlor (Shocktrooper Commander) - 'Riotous' Ronnie Drummer
3 Horde Troopers (Shocktroopers) - Various
2 Hover Bots (Mechanical Men) - Various
Slime Pit Victim (Grave Haunter) - a different Cameo each week

Episode 1 - The Road to Evil Dorado (written by Benedict Quintiliani)

The series was beset by problems from the outset as the original plan was to make a big splash with Hordak facing off against fellow Saturday morning favourite Tex Hex from Bravestarr. However, due to complicated character rights negotiations breaking down, Tex and his gang were replaced with generic western bandits. In a desperate attempt to fix the situation, most of the bandit were cast as young women in the hope that cowgirls, cleavage and corsets could provide the necessary audience impact.

To add to the problems that beset this production, location scouts had misunderstood instructions to find somewhere reminiscent of 'El Dorado'. Whereas the writer's intention had been to evoke the 1966 Robert Mitchum film of the same name, this was read in the context of popular cartoon series such as 'Mysterious Cities of Gold' and so the film crew found themselves in a blisteringly hot South American jungle adorned with polystyrene ruins.

The heat not only exhausted the actors, sapping their energy for the action scenes, but also caused severe discomfort for those in heavy costume. Lou Ferrigno was this episode's Slime Pit cameo and got very angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

The script itself held up pretty well with Hordak beginning his quest for evil supremacy by confronting a group of villainous (and somewhat buxom) bandits as they tried to rob the fabled city of gold.

The pyrotechnics budget was blown (literally) as first Hordak unleashed a hail of fire from his arm cannon, and then a Horde Trooper followed up with a grenade.

Jack Balance chewed the scenery with relished as he wallowed in his villainous starring role, dispatching incapacitated female bandits with glee.

The last minute casting decisions actually played into the advertiser's hands as Le Brock's semi-clad Scorpia rounded corner with a wry "Hello Boys!" only to be confronted with several equally uplifted cowgirls responding "Hello Back!"

The heat got to Ferrigno, encased in sweltering rubber, at one point causing him to faint mid scene. Although he wasn't scripted to be defeated in combat, it was decided to leave it in rather than reshoot the scene. The opportunity was taken for a little impromptu product placement as one of the extras joked "I bet he drinks Carling Black Label," about the surprise victor of the confrontation.

There was some excellent, if underused, footage of Cally, the bandit leader, stalking Horde Troopers through the jungle.

The episode ended with a healthy amount of camera shake signifying an earthquake, forcing everyone to leave the city. Hordak had proved his supremacy of evil over nefarious desperados and was now on the hunt for a bigger challenge.

Episode 2 - Raiders of the Lost Reich (by Carl Packham)

Fully aware that the problematic first episode might not have had the desired effect on the audience figures, it was decided to bring the script from the series finale earlier in the run to generate newspaper column inches.

Deliberately controversial, this episode saw Hordak challenge the ultimate evil of Moon Nazis trying the reestablish the Reich by locating ancient Egyptian artifacts of power.

The production flew to North Africa for filming, but drew criticism for not employing any local actors whilst they were there. In fact, the streets of 'Cairo' in the episode are suspiciously clear of any evidence of people actually living there.

The episode itself is interesting in that unlike the mass brawls that typify the genre, the climax sees Hordak leading a surgical strike against the Moon Nazi High Command, including a reanimated robotic Hitler played with relish by Sam Kelly of 'Allo 'Allo fame.

The only real limitation is that the fight scenes lack the necessary spectacle thanks to the overuse of the pyrotechnics budget in the previous episode.

The battle features a three pronged attack on the Moon Nazis, with Grizzlor darting in and grabbing one of the artefacts, before leaving his Troopers to cover his escape...and die.

Catra leads a full on assault over the rooftops against the weakest point in the Moon Nazi lines. In this episode the Slime Pit cameo was played by Gary Busey, who demanded the part be expanded as part of his contract, and there is an extended scene of the slime pit creature inexplicably having the intelligence to search for and find one of the artefacts, before making his escape.

Hordak was arguably underused in the episode and apart from a scene of him rushing in, grabbing an artefact, then rushing out of shot, he doesn't feature in the climax.

Catra's assault is an action packed sequence full of wall vaulting, tail whipping, and pithy quotes. At one point, Catra observes that cats like her are better than the dog-like Wulfen of the Moon Nazis simply because "They're grrreat!"

This scene plays out with the Wulfen hunting down Catra to prove to her that dogs are grrreater.

Although Busey had demanded that the Slime Monster secure victory for the Horde, however, this wasn't what the overarching plot of the series demanded. Hordak was supposed to have his nose bloodied and doubt whether he was really evil enough, and so the correct ending was filmed after Busey had left the set.

The finale sees a combination of accurate sniper fire and a dynamic aerial assault from the rocket troopers bringing down the Slime Monster just before he escapes.

The Moon Nazis had staged a powerful counter assault and the monacled scientist was heard to mutter, whilst checking his expensive Swiss watch, "Success is just a state of mind."

Episode 3 - The Evil Strikes Back (by Wayne Bollands)

The script of this episode saw Hordak convincing himself that challenging other evil doers wasn't what real evil doers did. Instead, he would prove his evilness by unleashing his unspeakable evil upon 'heroes'.

The band selected for this demonstration of evil were the crew of the star freighter Greenfly, known throughout the galaxy for doing the right thing when push game to shove. The captain, San Holo (accompanied by his loveable, if derivative, furry sidekick, Ooowaka), was played by none other than David Hasselhoff, a fact which meant that there was no money for a star cameo in this episode, and so the Slime creature barely featured.

The Greenfly landed on the ruined mining colony of Dust City in need of repairs, but with the crew on the hunt for some very incriminating holovids of a planetary governor willing to pay well to protect his daughter's reputation. San Holo was horrified to find out that the Horde Troopers had arrived just before him.

The episode was filmed on the half built back lot of a period drama called Downtown Shabby .

Much of the early action of the episode saw witty and characterful dialogue as the crew searched the area for the holovids, failing to notice the figures lurking in cut away shots.

Perhaps the best scene in the series featured in this episode as Hordak sprang his trap, unleashing a hail of fire upon the hapless crew. There was a particularly touching moment as Astra, who we'd seen earlier flirting with San Holo, declared her love for him over the comm-link as Scorpia closed in for the kill.

As this tragic scene cut back and forth, Catra, having secured the holovid - and watched it, suggestively musing on the fact that there was clearly no hope for the governor's daughter, because, "Once you pop, you just can't stop..." - also ambushed San Holo and used a mind control ray to turn Ooowaka upon his own crew.

Facing off against Catra, San Holo shot first and then in a melodramatic moment, wracked with grief and faced with destruction, muttered, "Have it your way," down the comm-link to a snorting Hordak and took the desperate step of unleashing an alien virus that killed the rest of his crew and several of the Horde.

The epilogue showed Hordak cackling with delight because he'd proved how evil he was with a vicious ambush and driven a good man mad whilst he was at it. This was desitined to launch the narrative of the rest of the series with Hordak being more and more evil until he ultimately heads to Etheria to conquer the planet.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. Lackluster viewing figures combined with outrage from various parenting groups at the combination of violence and nazis with children's TV characters meant that the show was cancelled after three episodes.

Other episodes were filmed, and it is possible that these may come to light one day, but The Evil Horde Abroad would remain largely forgotten save for it's role in the creation of another cult classic.

The on screen chemistry of the crew of the Greenfly saw Hasselhoff and company given their own series, which made it to 14 episodes before being cancelled due to poor scheduling decisions. It developed some extremely loyal fans, known as Greencoats, who have spent years lobbying for a potential return of their beloved San Holo.

Director's Cut

The day was great again, and I heartily recommend both 7TV as a game and the events this game engenders. There is zero competitiveness at play as like minded gamers come together for a bit of a laugh.

There were prizes for best board, best cast (Paul Smith's clown which I foolishly didn't photograph) and best opponent, but not for winning, which is largely irrelevant.

I did, however, walk away with a prize of my own as Wayne very generously gave me some terrain that he'd had in his garage for years to incorporate into my terrain projects.

I'm not sure how to count it in terms of my tally, as I'm going to reorganise, rebase and reconstruct it in a variety of different ways. However, as there are currently 14 pieces, I'm going to add that to my acquired score and add 2 to my 'painted' score for the hills that don't need anything doing to match my existing Rohan terrain. 

In addition I completed four more bits of jungle terrain in the run up to the event. Mainly this was just basing bits I already had, but it still took work, so it counts.

Acquired: 181
Painted: 153

Monday 9 September 2019

Breeding An Army

I've been getting my nose to the grindstone over the last couple of weeks. Firstly, I'm back at work after the summer holidays, which means that I've got less time to paint. However, I also decided to try to make some real progress and finish off all of my unpainted Isengard forces for Lord of the Rings.

Now, I have to admit that whilst painting these I discovered that I hadn't yet painted Grima Wormtongue, and there are some regular Orcs that could technically fit in the army, but I've at least completed all of my Uruk-Hai.

First up are the five remaining plastic warriors. These sculpts really do show their age compared to some other models I've been painting recently, but fortunately they are relatively easy to paint to a tabletop standard fairly quickly.

I can't see myself doing any of more of these or the pikemen in the future, but I may end up doing some plastic scouts or a demolition crew.

Last Christmas I was bought four crossbowmen, and I was really pleased as my games up until that point had seen my forces shot up from a distance whilst my opponents maneuvered with impunity.

However, I was way of starting these models as they were encased in a spider's web of finecast resin sprue. Up until this point, I'd not actually assembled any finecast miniatures, and after this, I'd be wary of buying more. It was horrible. The resin cuts away easily enough but there's just so much to tidy up. I've got used to much better casting.

However, let's be fair, my frustration with them is nowhere near the level of trauma caused by the Suicide Squad Katana from Knight Models.

Another addition to my ballistic capability is the ballista. It may be a little bit of overkill, but it might give opponents pause for thought about where to position their big hitters if a massive spear can skewer them from a distance.

I bought this second hand on Ebay, and it's actually missing the spear from the actual machine. However, I don't think it matters that much as it could be in the process of being loaded. However, the fit of the parts wasn't great either and so decided to base it to provide more stability.

First of the two characters I've done is Ugluk, the leader of the Uruk-Hai that capture Merry and Pippin, and is one of several characters that I felt were somewhat diminished in the Two Towers film. In game he has the rather thematic ability to kill his own men to provide a morale bonus, and so I will need to paint a couple of regular Orcs to provide a cheap supply for this bonus.

I was disappointed to find a chunky mold line running across his face and through his eye. However, if I squint, I can pretend it's a scar.

Vrasku is in neither the books or the films and is a creation if Ganes Workshop. He comes with a frankly enormous crossbow which can be used to deadly effect.

A better sculpt than Ugluk, but I've stuffed up the face a bit. It's probably best to not look too close at these two.

As I said earlier, I still have Grima and some Orcs to paint, and I may pick up some scouts and a demolition team. I also want to buy some Warg Riders and a Troll. All of these can wait though, as I have more than enough for any games we are likely to play.

Thankfully, the effort of getting fifteen models painted makes severe inroads into my tally, even with three models arriving for my She-Ra project.

Acquired: 167
Painted: 147