Sunday 28 January 2024

Flying Horror: A Tale of 4 Armies

The commitment to delve to the bottom of the bits box throws up some fairly problematic situations along the lines of: how the hell am I going to use those?

When the problem facing me was a veritable bucketload of monopose plastic bats, I feel I may have come up with a pretty good answer.

The old plastic swarm kit, which I believe was initially made for Warhammer Quest, was simultaneously great and terrible.

Whilst it successfully provided an affordable way to add swarms of Bats, Rats, Spiders and Snotlings to your armies, it was a very rare individual who wanted all of them. On top of that, the uniform monopose nature of the sculpts somewhat undermined the concept of a swarm.

Alternatively the models could easily be scattered around an army as base decoration quite easily. Well, apart from the bats, which sat upon chunky flight stands that looked like they'd been impaled.

Therefore, when it cam to making use of my truckload of them, the first thing to go was the stands.

I had a good look at different manufacturers' bat swarms and opted for simply gluing them together in clumps to give the impression of a confusing swarm.

I used plastic glue for this to form a longer, stronger bond, but the time it took to dry did present some issues with things falling off during construction (largely because I was a bit impatient). The trickiest element was getting a strong enough bond on the base bat to build from.

When it came to painting I opted for keeping it really simple. Going for a Grey Seer undercoat, Black Templar contrast drybrushed with Eshin Grey and Administratum Grey.

Although I'm fully aware that bats aren't black and this makes them a bit cartoony, I'm completely happy with this as the Vampire Counts army, not to mention the whole Warhammer world, have always been more than a bit cartoony.

The teeth and tongue were picked out in white and pink respectively and given a coat of Skeleton Horde contrast paint, whilst the eyes were dotted white and washed in Hexwraith Flame for added spookiness.

I've made sure the unit ranks up because I didn't check the army list before making them; in Warhammer: The Old World Bat Swarms are skirmishers, but this hasn't always been the case. However, my careful construction will at least help with storage.

I've always liked Bat Swarms in my Vampire Counts army as they make for a good blocking unit, protecting the flanks of my cavalry, as they can keep up with them.

All in all, I'm really pleased in how these have turned out. Very few things in my hobby please me more than making a 200 point unit for this army game out of things I had no intention of ever using.

Call me petty, but I consider these things as a degree of compensation for what Games Workshop  did to my Undead in 1999. It's what Cheaphammer is actually all about.


I still have a load of the metal Bat Swarms knocking about, but they ended up being based separately for more generic fantasy skirmish games, and I'm not sure I'm going to bother to bring them back over to this army. Much as I like swarms, I'm not sure I need even this many.

Beyond that, I genuinely only have a couple of character models to go and my Vampire Counts will be done to the point of no backlog.

To top things off, I think Bat Swarms were the only models I hadn't done for the Vlad's Army feature pack for 7TV, so you can expect an imminent start on that.

The terrain piece I've done was actually bought last week to be carved up and used as a base to pin the bats too until I decided to just stick them together.

It's a Renedra kit and I took the opportunity to play with how I do stone using something I saw on a video. After a base of Grey Seer and Black Templar (I don't have any black spray) I sponged on some Administratum Grey followed by Grey Seer on the edges and corners.

I them proceeded to wash it with three colours at once: Nuln Oil, Agrax Earthshade and Seraphim Sepia. I did different colours in different bits and merged then whilst they were wet, which has ended up giving a much more mottled and natural look than a flat colour with a single wash.

I'm really pleased with this and will probably pick up the other kits in this set of ruins to do the same with.

A really successful 24 hours. 21 models off the Lead Mountain, but I'm only counting them as 7 models painted given that it was all so simple.

Acquired: -12 
Painted: 144
Lead Mountain: 831

Saturday 27 January 2024

Red Fury: A Tale of 4 Armies

I'm getting towards the end of tidying up and adding to my Vampire Counts army, and I've actually reached the point of starting to add whole units, rather than just repainting and reinforcing them.

I'm also adding a degree of pace and hitting power with a second unit of Black Knights and my 'Vargulf'.

The Vampire Counts are one of what's known as 'Legacy' factions in Warhammer: The Old World, and as such haven't been included in the main army books, but instead are available on a free PDF (which is great news for a cheapskate like me).

The in-world reason for this is that the Vampire Wars ended shortly before the setting period of the Old World's history, and so their forces are scattered and hiding.

The real reason seems to be that Games Workshop have invested heavily in releasing updated Vampire sculpts for Age of Sigmar and don't really want to release the old stuff again and compete with themselves.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I've got a free army list and can start making sense of what I have. Importantly, I can definitely have two units of Black Knights, and if the army includes a Wight character, one of those units can count as core.

These models were released alongside the Circle of Blood campaign and I believe we're the first official Black Knight miniatures.

The standard bearer and unit champion (Hell Knight) have been serving in my army for years as a unit champion and army standard bearer within a big block of cavalry.

They didn't get fully repainted, but instead got the Skeleton Horde treatment and tidied up. The Hell Knight got a new horse (his was the bearded one I used for the musician conversion) and a new shield, whilst the standard bearer got his banner trimmed and the pole detailed, a sword added to his back and a new shield.

Yes, that is the Salamanders chapter badge. What of it? It's also a somewhat heraldic dragon and in a different context.

The other three Black Knights had been sitting in the bits box in various states of disarray. The one on the left was missing bat wings from his helmet, the one in the centre's arm was snapped at the elbow and all three were layered with paint.

Therefore they were all stripped and painted from scratch.

If I'm honest, I'm not 100% happy with the unit and I feel I've been too untidy and the models look sloppy. However, the shields offer a focal point and arguably draw the eye away from some very average painting.

In addition to new shields and fixing damaged elements, I also dug out their swords to strap to their backs. I could only find four and so the Hell Knight doesn't have one. I'm going to see if I can dig something out to use instead.

I never liked mixing these metal models in with my plastic cavalry as the aesthetics are so different, therefore I am quite pleased to get these fielded as a separate unit. Their lance arms remain fragile (I knocked one of them off whilst taking these photos) and in game they are also more fragile due to not having barding.

I suspect I'll still lean towards using the plastic unit in armies if I'm forced to choose, but it's good to have the option.

My 'Vargulf' is actually an Abomination from Rackham Games' Confrontation, which was a really good game with excellent miniatures which was seemingly destroyed by some bad business decisions.

This guy has served as my Vargulf ever since Vargulfs became a thing in 7th edition, but he remains suitably savage looking, if a little too techno for the Vampire Counts.

I painted him years ago very simply, with a base of Mechrite Red (I think) and a drybrush of Elf Flesh, bothe of which are discontinued colours. All I've done this time round is run some Agrax Earthshade over the metal bits.

This picture has pointed out that I also forgot to tidy up his base, so that's now been done.

I'm terms of my arithmetic this week, I'm not counting the Vargulf as I just dabbed a bit of wash on. However, I am counting all of the cavalry as painted (and three off the Lead Mountain) because they all had a fair bit of work to do on them.

I also bought a small scenery piece which will be appearing in my next army update.

Acquired: -12
Painted: 137
Lead Mountain: 852

Saturday 20 January 2024

Revamp: A Tale of 4 Armies

Having ploughed through updating and tidying up most of the rank and file of my old Vampire Counts army ready for Warhammer: The Old World, it was time to turn my attention to bring a little character to the proceedings.

Several little characters in fact...

Although I've continued with my 'chuck Agrax Earthshade and Skeleton Horde at it' approach on most of these, several of these models were stripped and repainted from scratch.

Partly this was because I wanted to go in a different direction with them, but mainly it was because they had some quite chunky layers if paint on them and I thought they could do with some detail back.

Possibly the best example of this is my 4th edition Vampire Lord, who has been leading my armies for 30 years. He's had at least two coats of paint as I originally painted him in a much brighter blue, leaving him looking somewhat similar to Superman.

I think I darkened this down on the second time around with black ink (which I used to use as if it was a wash).

Looking closely at him for the first time in a good long while, I was amazed at how thick the paint was on him.

A Dettol bath sorted that out and I ended up painting him in a somewhat similar scheme, just opting for black robes rather than dark blue.

I'm much, much happier with how he has turned out as there's much more detail to him than was visible before. I'm particularly happy with his cloak. I'm not sure it comes out on the photo but I'm pleased with shading and highlighting I did (never amazingly easy with red), using Fleshtearer's Red contrast paint to 'layer down' from Mephiston Red rather than the other way around.

He's still a clunky, old-fashioned model who is a total ballache to rank up, but the nostalgia is strong with this one. I've always loved the fact that it has such a prominent ring on the raised hand, given that the Carstein Ring was such an auto-take item in pretty much every edition if the game.

Another relic of 4th edition is the Banshee, who was originally a special character from the Circle of Blood campaign pack.

Although I wasn't totally unhappy with how she looked, I stripped the paint off her as well as I wanted to change how she looked, binging in a bit more colour (she was basically monochrome before), including giving her a spooooky glow to her eyes with Hexwraith Flame.

I'm assuming Banshees are still a thing in Warhammer: The Old World. They were in the later editions of the game, although she did spend some years leading a unit of Wraiths (the Nazgul to be precise).

Krell, the Lord of Undeath is actually the only genuine Special Character I own for this army. Some other models were initially released as such or make a suitable duplicate (the Vampire Lord makes a perfectly good Vlad von Carstein), but Krell is and always has been Krell, the Lichemaster's mate.

For many years he was riding an ad-hoc chariot as my Black Coach proxy, but with the revival of my metal Chariot, his services in that department are no longer needed.

Krell wasn't stripped, he just got the Agrax treatment on his armour and some tidying up of the details.

This somewhat fabulously dressed Necromancer is a new addition to the army. He's been hanging round my bits box in bits for some time.

He has the telltale design elements of 4th edition bad guys. Big collar and shoulder pads, lots of bling, massive weapons and both arms raised so he can be cast in a flat plane (take another look at the Vampire Lord).

As a result, I was really worried that it would look terrible when I finished and it was possibly the worst case of 'the ugly phase' I've ever encountered.

However, now he's done I think he's delightfully silly and looks evil in a children's cartoon sort of way.

I still think the barding on the horse needs something to live it up, but I've not currently got anything suitable in my transfers pile.

Finally there are the Dark Knight and my unit of Black Knights, who mainly got the wash and tidy treatment.

The Dark Knight (not that one) is, like the Banshee, also originally from the Circle of Blood campaign and has served me for many years as a Wight Lord and, at times, a Vampire (the benefits of having a covered face.

The unit were my original Skeleton Horsemen who needed barding adding to become Black Knights when the 4th edition Undead army was split into Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings. The banner is still that same one drawn by my brother whilst we were both teenagers.

The barding is made from fabric (linen, I think, it was a long time ago) and drenched in Badab Black wash. The flag on Krell's banner is similar but with Baal Red.

The only new addition to the unit is the musician, something the unit has always lacked. He was cobbled together using a damaged Skeleton, some Bretonnian drums and the horse of the previous unit champion (who has been reassigned). It's a bit rough, but so's the whole unit. It's part of their charm.

I still have a couple of units to go

In related news, I picked up my copies of the Warhammer: The Old World rulebook, the Forces of Fantasy book (it contains the  'good' army lists: Empire, Bretonnia, Dwarfs, Wood & High Elves), and the Bretonnian Arcane Journal (extra units, rules and special characters).

There's no sign of the free PDF for Vampire Counts yet, but I didn't expect it yet. However, I've got plenty of reading to keep me occupied in the meantime.

Another chunk of painting that has little to no impact on my Lead Mountain but I do feel like I've very much broken the back of two of the four army challenges I've set myself.

Acquired: -13
Painted: 132
Lead Mountain: 855

Thursday 18 January 2024

Battletech: Coercion Force

Within our small gaming group we have a tradition of using Secret Santa as a way of irritating each other in a somewhat passive aggressive way.

This year that tradition manifested with Pete buying me the Battletech Beginner Box. Battletech is a game the he has jumped fairly heavily into and so far I have steadfastly refused to engage with barring a couple of trial games.

Well, not anymore.

In retrospect, it was a rather cunning plan of Pete's. He's well aware of my constant desire to reduce the Lead Mountain and whilst he was only adding two models to it, I suspect he knows that Battletech Mechs are fairly quick to paint.

And he knows I like quick wins.

However, before you think that I'm being fiendishly manipulated, you should probably be aware that I also drew him for Secret Santa and in return I got him 20 Morannon Orcs to paint as I'd like to start the Gondor At War campaign for Lord of the Rings and can't be bothered to do them myself.

It's tradition.

Anyway, this is is apparently a Griffin GRF-1S medium mech, which I'd imagine, given that this is a Beginner Box, is a fairly middle of the road workhorse unit.

As I was looking for a quick win, I kept things simple with the paint scheme and went for a Grey Seer base, a coat of Black Templar contrast, a drybrush with Administratum Grey, a wash with Nuln Oil, and then a few panels picked out with Averland Sunset. Metal bits were done with Leadbelcher before the wash and the canopy is Hexwraith Flame over white.

It was a no fuss approach and I was really pleased that, being robots with lots of panels and corners, the model responded well and was enjoyable and quick to do.

So quick, in fact, that I would have no issues repeating this to get more done, should I choose.

The other model in the box is also a medium mech but is a Vindicator VND-1R.

I'm less keen on this sculpt as the design is more humanoid and so it seems more like a 28/32mm robot rather than a towering battle suit in a smaller scale 

The details are also a bit more spongy, and so even though I took the same approach as with the Griffin, the final result isn't as good in my opinion.

The bases were coated with Astrogranite technical paint and washed with Agrax Earthshade to give an urban wasteland feel.

I enjoyed painting these and I did enjoy the couple of games of Battletech I've already played, but I'm not going to rush out to buy more yet until I know it's something I'll play. The rules seem a little daunting and I've only got a quick play version.

However, that's 2 more models painted and I've also managed to palm off a few Warhammer Quest spiders on to Matt (who is potentially doing a Mirkwood force for Lord of the Rings), and so I am making progress up the mountain again.

Acquired: -13
Painted: 120
Lead Mountain: 856

Sunday 14 January 2024

Judge Dredd #3: Sweet Justice

The final tutorial scenario from Judge Dredd: I Am The Law pits the entire contents of the starter box against each other in a battle royale.

We swapped out the Rookie Judge model for the Judge Dredd I painted as she didn't exactly look like 'Veteran Judge Cassidy', I've also made a slight change to the scenario as Ramirez got blown away in the last one, and so Kinsey is back for this one.

The battle is just a straight fight. The Judges are trying to take down four gangers and the High Rollers are aiming to drop a single Judge...easy, right?

This was a real back and forth fight. Initially, the Gunfighter rule of the Judges (which we'd finally got the hang of) meant that it was really dangerous to fire at them, as it should be, and it seemed like the perps stood no chance.

However, the stump gun shot and chain attack suddenly put Kinsey on the back foot, but I just couldn't finish him off. When he got back into cover and healed, it felt like the gang has lost their opportunity, especially when Matt started blowing things up.

Ultimately, the return of the ganger with the combat rifle (probably still the Diceman), who'd been severely injured early on and had spent several turns healing, turned the tide and put enough damage onto Kinsey to end the game.

All in all I feel this is a really good game. The miniatures are good and the mechanics really allow for forces mismatched in numbers to feel balanced. The Big Meg and Armoury cards are really powerful, but a limited resource that need to be used wisely. The game also offers the closest representation of a movie-style shootout (the Gunfighter rule is key to this) that I've come across in any skirmish game.

If there's a down side, the rules are a bit scattered through the rulebook and sometimes it's hard to find the bit you need. I also think that it's a game that relies on interest in Judge Dredd to drive sales as this box really does contain everything you need for a good game.

Will I pick up more of the range? Possibly...if the price is right. I'm not a massive Judge Dredd fan, but I might grab a few of the more well known characters: Judge Death, Mean Machine Angel, the Fatties, etc. I suspect I'm more likely to raid my remaining Wargames Factor Survivors to add to the Block Gang, rather than buy expensive resin models, and I'm inclined to use generic city and post-apocalyptic terrain (like the movie did) rather than start building Mega City One.

However, I like this game, and that might have an impact when I'm next passing a Warlord Games stand at a show.

Saturday 13 January 2024

Judge Dredd #2: Half-Eagle Day

The second tutorial scenario for Judge Dredd: I Am The Law sees a Senior Street Judge and a Rookie Judge ambushed by a block gang in retaliation for what happened in scenario one.

Once again, Matt was the Justice Department and I was the villainous High Rollers.

This game doesn't hang around.

This time we managed to get to turn two before it was all over and it was my turn to make efficient use of my Big Meg and Armoury cards to bum rush Rookie Judge Harris and leave Senior Judge Ramirez surrounded.

I don't think we'd properly got a handle on the gunfighter rule at this point, and I was definitely cheating with my stump gun (the ganger in pink), as she shouldn't have been able to move and shoot.

Ah well, that's what tutorials are for.

Friday 12 January 2024

Judge Dredd #1: Sugar Rush

In a slight change of pace, Matt and I played through the three tutorial scenarios for Judge Dredd: I Am The Law from Warlord Games.

The first scenario, Sugar Rush, pits Judge Kinsey against three members of the High Rollers block gang and introduced all the basic mechanics in the game.

I took control of the nefarious perps, whilst Matt was the Law.

As you can see, the action was extremely brief as I completely overlooked the Big Meg and Armoury cards and My att didn't, dropping a Stumm Gas grenade between two gangers, knocking them out and winning the game in a single turn.

The multiple activation mechanic of the Judge meant he acted faster than the perps could react.

Nevertheless, we learned the basics in this first outing, and I learned to remember the cards.

More to follow...

Saturday 6 January 2024

Raise the Dead: A Tale of 4 Armies

As the endless shambling hordes of undead infantry shuffling through the pages of the blog, a rattling sound is heard. Something is getting closer...quickly.

Something with pace and power and more than a little weight...

...something that was thought lost to legend has risen again...

This is the Undead Chariot from the Skeleton War Machines boxed set released in 1991 (I think) and bought for me for my fifteenth birthday.

It's a metal sculpt and because I was somewhat of a novice modeller, it was prone to breaking and ended up sitting in my bits box whilst the horses were used to mount various undead champions over time, including one mummy.

The dragon skull on the front was eventually drafted in to an army standard bearer but the rest sat unloved and was ultimately forgotten.

That was until the end of last year when the main body of the chariot and the wheels turned up in the haul I got back from a friend, and when the Warhammer: The Old World hype hit I was motivated to put it back together.

I'd been using the horses to pull Krell, the Lord of Undeath along in a small Celt chariot as a proxy Black Coach and so I've simply transferred the old chariot onto the bases I was using for that

Painted with a series of contrast paints, dry brushes and washes (all of which always work much better on metal than on plastic), and smeared in Blood for the Blood God where a layer of flesh that I'd never previously noticed provides a degree of underfoot comfort for the crew 

Speaking of the crew, the chap with a goat's/bull's head and a scythe is apparently called Longhorn, appropriately. The poor charioteer didn't get a name, unlike the other characters in the box.

For those keeping track, the unit champion of my Spearmen is called 'Screamer' and the Necromancer is 'Morbius'. 'Reaper' was the army standard bearer that made use of the big skull, but he's currently been stripped and is awaiting a new role (or a new flag).

I'm really pleased with how this has come out as it's such a cool model and really harks back to my early collecting. It will take over from Krell on Black Coach duties; it has horses, wheels and a bloke with a scythe. If anybody asks where the vampire is, I'll just say that they are standing in him.

In other, less exciting news, I've redone the base of the Zombie Dragon I painted last year to fit with the rest of the army.

I'm not counting the Dragon as a painted model, and the chariot only counts as one, however, it does take three off the Lead Mountain because Id counted them separately last year.

Acquired: 0
Painted: 118
Lead Mountain: 870

Friday 5 January 2024

Curse of Years: A Tale of 4 Armies

Having stated my intention to finish everything I had before buying more, after sprucing up the infantry units of my army I set about reanimating the few remaining bodies I had left unpainted.

This this required me to delve into the catacombs of my bits box and bring forth long forgotten creatures that have not seen the light of day for an age, 

I have not bought new units for my Vampire Counts army since I put together the plastic zombies over fifteen years ago, instead opting to drag life out of my somewhat eclectic collection of miniatures to make whatever units I could.

This saw my draft Wargs and Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings into my army as Dire Wolves and Wraiths, paint Empire Militia white to create Spirit Hosts and cobble together a Chariot riding Krell to function as my Black Coach.

This approach saw my use almost every scrap of undead miniature I could to bolster my army, which meant that not much was left before I got my hands on much of my old collection, and what was left spoke of a loss of interest in the undead.

These three (four?) Zombies were cobbled together towards the end of my playing Warhammer Fantasy Battle. They make use of bits from the Zombie kit (naturally), the ever useful Empire Militia and even some Skaven Gutter Runner parts.

The challenge I faced was trying to recreate the terrible approach I'd taken to the original unit using tools much better suited to the purpose. This has lead to Zombies that are better painted than the originals with me trying to not actually be better.

They fit in well enough but the experience has highlighted how much easier average painters like myself have it compared to to when I started in the hobby. Tools like washes and contrast paints allow you to get an army to a decent tabletop standard with much less effort and skill than previously.

Another consequence of my 'how the hell do I get this army 2000 points?' attitude when I returned to playing was the use of Harpies (originally part of a nascent Dark Elf army) as Fell Bats.

I still really like this idea as it evokes the brides of Dracula as they were envisaged in that film classic Van Helsing, starring Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale's corset.

I've given these models the de-shine and highlight treatment, as I'd also over used Devlan Mud on their wings. I've put quite a bit of work into these to get them looking only marginally better than they did.

I also used an unhealthy quantity of Stirland Mud to try to hide the fact that their original 25mm bases had just been stuck on top of 40mm bases because I was clearly scared that they'd snap off their bases and had not at that point mastered pinning models.

To make the Games Workshop Harpies into a useable unit of Fell Bats I was forced to draft in a WizKids D&D Miniatures Game Harpy to help. She's not a bad sculpt (certainly within that extremely variable range), but she's not great either.

She's joined here by two undead warriors from the same game who will help bolster the ranks. There are other WizKids minis already in the army so a few more isn't a problem. The taller Skeleton is actually a decent model part from its bizarrely detail free sword, and the shorter model potentially works as an undead Dwarf.

The major issue I have with all three is the hunch poses that make them a pain to photograph.

Whilst we're on the subject of non-Games Workshop miniature, these are some Grenadier Miniatures I've had since the late eighties.

Whilst I was a wee nipper the only shop in my home town that sold miniatures was G&I Models, which carried mainly trains and Airfix kits. However, they had a small supply of fantasy miniatures from a range of manufacturers.

I really like the Grenadier sculpts and I've made use of them to create some unit fillers, mainly because that gave me space to hide their chunky lead bases (again, more heaps of Stirland Mud).

The gravestone is my last remaining Renedra one, the Skeleton climbing out of the grave is one of the original Games Workshop plastics that had lost his foot somewhere, and the pile of skulls is from the original Screaming Skull Catapult, which I sadly no longer have.

Equally ancient are this Skeleton Drummer and a lone member of the Cursed Company Regiment of Renown.

These weren't mine originally but came into my possession with an entire regiment of the Cursed Company I bought and then sold about a decade ago - clearly because I had no intention of painting them and other projects beckoned.

I kept the drummer because he wasn't part of the unit and was missing an arm (replaced with a plastic Skeleton arm), I think the other chap just slipped through the net.

I used to think the Cursed Company and other Regiments of Renown were at the pinnacle miniature design, but it's cool to still have one to see how far things have moved on.

Finally there are these two undead guards. I think they also came into my possession with the Cursed Company, but I kept them due to them not fitting with the rest of the unit when I sold them.

They certainly add to the armoured feel of the spear unit, and their pole-arms help make the armament of the unit clear. I've still not decided to do with the plain shields if this unit and so I've just given them a light drybrush to be going on with.

I'm a touch disappointed in the photo here because it looks like I've just drybrushed them with Leadbelcher. I promise I have actually painted the bones.

All of this totals up to 20 miniatures painted (I'm counting the corpse on the floor, the gravestone and the pile of skulls as one each, sue me), only 3 of which didn't come from the Lead Mountain.

This leaves only the cavalry and characters of the army to deal with and means that I can slow down a bit and take more time over them, moving beyond the category of 'just make them better' to 'csn I make them good?'

Acquired: 0
Painted: 117
Lead Mountain: 873