Thursday 26 May 2011

Buying bits

It’s not that long ago that I thought “bit sellers” on EBay were a blight on my searches. I would search for something innocent like “Warhammer Empire” and I would get bombarded by hundreds of results offering me a single sword, or a set of horse heads, or just the tops of some wizards’ staves. Suffice to say, this was not what I was looking for.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Don't stow it - show it!

My display cabinets, which reside not far from the painting table. Motivation whilst on the job!
 Most of us spend a lot of our time and effort on painting our models. Preparing an entire army for battle is a massive undertaking, especially for those unfortunate enough to be painting a "horde" army, such as Goblins or Skaven. Why is it then, that some players don't display their models when they're sitting at home? Some of us lavish attention on an army, spending dozens or even hundreds of hours getting it ready, and then store it in a case, ready for transport. I understand that it needs to be possible to transport an army to the club, tournament, or mate's house where you're going to play, but that doesn't mean it has to live in the case all the time.

Monday 23 May 2011

The True Impact of True Line of Sight

Stormvermin and Ghouls duke it out for control of a multi-stepped hill and a commanding view of the battlefield.
I have always been very sceptical of True Line of Sight (TLOS) in wargaming. To a certain extent it is an obvious recourse (for instance, is the building in the way of the target?), however there have always been a number of situations where I did not subscribe to it.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Imperial Progress III

So, here we have the finished ogre unit-filling prototype. He's come out surprisingly well.

1 Empire Halberdier Ogre. Success!

Thursday 19 May 2011


Ah, Greater Daemons. Nothing polarises opinion quite like them
For a number of years, Warhammer tournaments in Australia have included a factor called Composition. In its simplest form, Composition (or comp, as everyone refers to it) is a handicap system. Its intent is to provide a relatively level playing field in a game system where the army books (and even armies chosen within those books) are often anything but equal.

Why I Like Warhammer 8th Edition

Recently I was talking with a couple of friends, one of whom is a current Warhammer player, whilst the other probably hasn’t played a game in 10 years or more. We were discussing the way the game has changed in the current edition. This basically involved the two of us who still play taking turns, trying to cover the massive changes that have taken place, and giving it all context in terms of what it all means for the game as a whole.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Imperial Progress II

Continuing on from my previous post, progress on my prototype unit-filler ogre has gone surprisingly well. In fact, after 2 more sittings he is finished! Not based or painted, of course. But the conversion is done.
From out of nowhere, suddenly we have puffy sleeves and feet! And a base! It's starting to look like a complete model

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Imperial Progress

OK, so as I have stated earlier, I plan to have unit fillers for all of my decent-sized Empire infantry units. 40 or 50 of the same model is just plain dull. A unit filler will break the monotony of the regiment a bit, as well as giving the unit some unique character and even saving me some money. My white furred units have their totem animals, so I have more or less sorted that aspect (even if I have not yet executed all of my plans).

The plan for my non-white furred units was to give them things like supply carts, surgeon's wagons, etc - things the troops have brought with them, then formed up to protect. I still kind of like this idea and might make some wagons as objective markers and the like regardless, however I have hit upon a new idea for unit fillers that I like better. Ogres.

My plan now is to convert maybe 3 ogres per regiment of infantry, to look like huge versions of the same troops. So a unit of halberdiers wearing breastplates will contain a group of 2 or 3 ogres dressed the same way, armed with halberds. This can then be repeated for greatswords, swordsmen, flagellants, etc.

This plan has an additional advantage. The ogres will be useful in their own right if I want to include them in my Ogre Kingdoms army. So I am effectively painting models from 2 armies at once. This is something of an echo of my original plans for the ogres, as they could be Dogs of War to be included in whatever army I chose, in addition to being an army in their own right.

The downside to my plan is that converting the ogres looks like a major undertaking. I don't mind the ogre bull models, but they're not really what I need for this project and there is not enough variety in their poses. So, courage is required. I am going to try anyway, making this easily my most ambitious modelling project to date.

A random ogre bull was "volunteered" by his so-called friends as my prototype. His nervousness was apparent, and he was right to be worried...
My legs! I can't feel my legs!
My ogre models are all largely constructed already. Some of them even have paint on them from previous owners. As such, this building process will also be one of destruction. Apart from the wanton savagery shown above (the blood was cleaned up to maintain my child-friendly G-rating), I had to hack the gut plate off the model and generally try to trim him down a bit. Then I stuck a couple of wires into the torso as legs and started to experiment with my new putty.
This shot is actually from partway through the second session, where I decided to give him back his arms and a halberd
I figured I really had to start by giving him back his legs, so I have done so. He still needs a knee guard on his left leg and some feet (duh). Had I been a clever modeller, I would have made the wire of his legs longer so it could impale a cork or bit of foam so I had something other than the model to handle him by. We live and learn.

As is probably apparent from the shot above, my prototype will be for my halberdier unit (or one of them, anyway). The halberd is made from a banner pole (including the hand that held it, but not the rest of the arm), with the blade components being made from plasticard, with a touch of putty to close it around the handle (you can see that below).
By the end of the second session, our ogre has a breastplate. I figure I can hopefully tidy it up a bit with files and knives once it's hardened.
As shown above, the breastplate was next. It's as close a knock-off of the original halberdiers as I could handle. If you're wondering why he has bits of putty all over his face, that would be 2 things - me not being careful enough where I put my putty-laden paws during the work, and also my making an abortive attempt on a helmet in the first session. At the time his head was still separate and it was too much, too soon. It was removed again shortly afterwards.
And now we add some shoulder plates
Above you can see what I achieved in the third sitting. I decided to give him shoulder plates. I wasn't sure whether to do these or the sleeves first. These were easier, so I kind of sooked out. My loss, I will suffer for it later.
I am hoping I can get this guy finished in maybe 2 or 3 more sittings. If it all works, I will do them in batches in the future. More to follow...

Monday 16 May 2011

Dear Games Workshop

Dear Games Workshop,

I have been a big fan of your work for many years. I have spent thousands of dollars and untold hours on my Warhammer hobby, as well as having at least dabbled in a dozen other games you have offered over the years. My house is so cluttered with GW products that it resembles a particularly well-stocked one of your stores, or perhaps a shrine to all things Warhammer.

Having collected GW models for so long, I am well aware of how prices have increased over time. I realise prices for other things have increased over the same period, however the only thing I have really noticed is the price of my models increasing. Perhaps this is symptomatic of my tunnel vision when it comes to my hobby, which has consumed so much of my time and passion over the years.

So, I have to ask: why do you hate me? Recently I had been taking advantage of the favourable exchange rate and excellent service of Maelstrom Games over in the UK. Today I have received an email saying, “Games Workshop won’t let us sell you anything anymore.” I am surprised that such a stance on your part is even legal, but apparently in these situations the supplier has complete control. I can’t tell you how disappointing that is.

I should note that I received this information from Maelstrom – not from you, who as far as I know are yet to announce anything. As such, I have been provided with no justification for your actions. In some ways I feel this is entirely appropriate, since I seriously doubt that anything you say will come across as anything other than whining and making excuses.

Behaviour like this does not simply affect my bank balance – it makes me not want to support the company that treats me this way. I actually feel bad handing over money for products from the company that is so happy to say, “We will rip you off as hard and as often as we can, without apology.” Why do you treat me this way? And why do I put up with it?

I should point at here that Games Workshop are not the only company in the world that produces high quality miniatures. You are not even the only ones that produce rules systems that are worth playing with, although I admit that I am unlikely to change my habits so wildly as to change games. But of all the companies out there offering me models, few are as expensive, and none try to treat me so badly as a matter of course. In the past I have largely ignored other model ranges, however I can no longer afford to do this. Apparently these companies are more interested in my money than you are.

This is the thing I truly do not understand. What do you hope to achieve by telling me where I can and can’t buy my models from? Do you think you can force me to pay the outrageous Australian retail prices? Am I really that stupid? Or are you going to gradually clamp down on every avenue for procuring your products at reasonable prices until all that is left is GW stores? I can guarantee you that it will be the death of your company and the game that I have enjoyed for so long.

For the moment, if I simply have to have a new model that you make, I will buy it from EBay. Or second-hand. Or from the US, despite the horrendous cost of shipping from there. Hell, I may pay for it to ship via the moon, as that would still be cheaper than walking around the corner to the nearest Games Workshop store and buying it off the shelf.

I can’t help but feel that those of us who bother collecting your models are becoming a laughing stock for the rest of the gaming community. And I feel I have no defence. I am indeed stupid to continue supporting you and your business model of screwing your customers at every opportunity. Well apparently this business model is working for you, but it doesn’t work for me. If I can’t find ways to buy your products at a reasonable price, then I won’t buy them at all.

And you won’t get a cent.

Sunday 15 May 2011


The stuff from which green legends are made
 I have spent most of my gaming life in awe of people who can sculpt. The amount of detail involved in a wargaming miniature (be it 6mm, 15mm, 28mm etc) is incredible, and I find the skill involved in designing and realising these models to be remarkable. Much as I would love to be able to do something like this, it's one of those things I'm willing to dismiss as impossible and give credit to those who can and do. If anyone could do it, it wouldn't be called "talent".

To a certain extent my modelling envy extends to those who produce high-quality conversions, effectively creating their own models by using something created by someone else as a base. Sometimes the amount of work that goes into these creations is almost on a par with that which went into the original, making you wonder why the modeller didn't just build it from scratch. However, the beauty of conversions is that they can be as simple or as detailed as you like. You don't have to go all-out in your quest to make the original model unrecognisable - that is not really the point. Sometimes half the fun of a conversion is trying to identify what came from where.

I spent years reading White Dwarf, looking at articles in which modellers discussed converting models and encouraging readers to try it, before I was ever even tempted to have a go. For a long time I figured that I liked the models the way they were - why would I bother trying to change them? It was probably only when we started to enter tournaments and had direct exposure to a lot more gamers (and they armies) that conversions started to appeal. Now you would see not one, but as many as 10 of a given army. If everyone uses the same models, it can all get a bit dull. And then there were the players who had already converted their stuff, making it more apparent what was possible, and the fact that people who didn't feature in White Dwarf could do it too.

The simplest conversions tend to involve just chopping and changing parts from existing models, often with no putty at all. This was how I started out. Using this simple approach, I was able to make a number of unique models, such as my Black Orcs below.

The unholy offspring of plastic orc archers, ogre bull hands and weapons, and the odd component from other orcs
As simple as chopping and changing components from existing models is, there are limits to what you can do without using modelling putty. This has been a problem for me because, as you can probably tell from the title of this post, I am scared of putty. I think this is partly because it has always struck me as the domain of serious sculptors, however irrational that may seem. Knowing what talented people could do with the stuff just made me feel guilty about using it in my own plebeian schemes.

The other thing that scared me about putty was fear of waste. Buying "green stuff" from Games Workshop is an extremely expensive proposition. You get perhaps a foot of the stuff for the price of a blister pack, which makes it feel like you're trying to model something out of solid gold. Knowing that you don't know what you're doing, and will therefore probably waste quite a lot of the stuff figuring it out, was enough to put me off for a long time.

Eventually my desire to make certain things started to overcome my hesitation. I decided I could probably achieve these things with minimal waste as they were not too ambitious, so I took the plunge.

My most major putty project to date is the Ogre Baker. Nothing too fancy, but the hat, apron, rolling pin, fashionable mustache and human baked goods used a fair amount of green stuff.
After a few projects where I came away satisfied with the results, I am starting to get braver. However, the knowledge that being braver probably means greater waste has led me to seek out cheaper alternatives to the Games Workshop green stuff. It turns out alternatives abound...

This is not so much an alternative to green stuff, as it appears to be green stuff. The containers give you 36 inches of the stuff, for a very reasonable price when bought online. I bought several of these.
Magic Sculpt. Some people online seem to rate this stuff highly, so I bought 1kg of it on Ebay. It seems to be more like modelling clay than putty, but I think I will come to like it. And no, it did not arrive in a glorious pyramid of containers - just 2 small buckets...
OK, so now I have no excuses. I have tons of putty, I have sculpting tools, I have outlandish ambitions. Now all I need is skill...

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Warhammer - the ultimate chick magnet

This morning I was browsing the Screenplay forums on The Age website (which I do from time to time) and I came across the following article:

Now if you’re like me, there are any number of things on this list (or things that are similar) that can be found in your home. I don’t pretend to subscribe to the premise of this article, however this is still a certain amount of truth to some of what it says. It would be an unusual girl who was actually attracted by a guy owning these things. Being a video game blog, the items on this list are heavily slanted to such things as esoteric game controllers and computer games full of boobies, however I draw your attention to the following item:

78. Absolutely anything purchased in a Games Workshop store

I believe that there is a certain amount of condescension amongst the Screenplay community (and potentially video gamers in general) towards the wargaming and roleplaying communities, so I am not overly surprised to see an entry like this in the list.

Maybe we need more scantily clad models to objectify women and make them feel a part of the hobby. Maybe it's just really hot where all the female warriors in Warhammer hang out. Too hot to wear clothes. Places like the frozen wastes of Naggaroth, for example...

I recall stories of a friend who brought home a girl he had met out at a bar, and having to hurry her past the kitchen. “What are those?” she asked, pointing at the remains of a game of Warhammer that were yet to be packed up, strewn all over the kitchen table. Suffice to say that he mumbled something about them belonging to a housemate (not entirely true) and hurrying her off to the bedroom before she could ask more. My friend did not stop and explain to the girl that the table was covered in toy soldiers, and that they did indeed belong to him. I can’t imagine why…

Like it or not, playing Warhammer is not likely to make you a chick magnet. You may be one anyway, but the war dollies are not going to be one of your selling points. I have heard stories of guys hiding their hobby for as long as possible when starting a relationship, and others of girls who would have been interested in a guy, but held back because they knew the guy played Warhammer.

In the current climate, being the sort of guy that chooses to play with toy soldiers is becoming more fashionable. Shows like Big Bang Theory are making “geeks” more popular. Given the choice between geek or a jock, a lot of girls will potentially look favourably upon “brains over brawn”. 

However, it’s possible that there is an extra hurdle here. It is one thing to like a guy who might be inclined toward gaming and other nerdy pursuits, but it is quite another to face the practical concerns of a guy who spends potentially extensive amounts of time (whether gaming or painting) and money on his hobby, not to mention gaming materials slowly taking over the house. Really I think it is these practical concerns that can put a strain on existing relationships. I know of girls whose attitude ranges from actively supporting her partner’s hoppy, through varying degrees of ambivalence right to outright hostility and a complete lack of patience for the whole thing. For every “wargaming widow” out there, I suspect there is a player who has given up his hobby in order to save his relationship.

Games collections have a life of their own. And they like to live their life out in the living room. Don't we all?
Obviously there needs to be a balance between a player’s family life and his hobby, and it’s up to each player to work out where this balance lies. As for those still looking for a partner, feel free to let me know if you actually manage to lure a girl with your war dollies – I’m sure we’d all be impressed.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Size matters

An alliance of Dwarfs and High Elves tries to hold off 10,000 points of the restless dead...
I have always been attracted to large games of Warhammer. I think one of my earliest inspirations was A Gathering of Might, back in White Dwarf 181 (I may be showing my age here a bit, but hey). The game consisted of the studio’s entire Orc and Goblin and Chaos Dwarf armies vs their Empire and Wood Elves, commanded by a total of 8 players. It was epic (and at the time, the number of models seemed unimaginable). I don’t know how many times I have gone back and looked at that battle report, but the number is large indeed.

As attractive as a standard game of Warhammer can be (when played with 2 painted armies on decent terrain), the game becomes a real spectacle when it’s played with larger armies. It adds a sense of occasion – one that tends to draw others to watch, so I know I am not alone in feeling this way. I’m not sure whether this is just because we all appreciate how hard it is to paint that many models, or how much it costs to collect these things, or whether this appeal has nothing to do with these boring aspects of the hobby. Regardless, in terms of making a game feel like something special, bigger is better.

Big Games, Small Units

In previous editions of Warhammer however, this axiom did not apply to the unit sizes within these vast armies. You might have been playing a 10,000 point game, but there was still no point to fielding your units in blocks of 50 models. The game effect would be similar to a unit half the size (same rank bonus and the like), and would break and die just as easily. This was a great shame, because ultimately a big army tends to look more impressive on the table when it has huge units, instead of lots of smaller ones (or worse, all the points are spent on characters…). This was a problem largely addressed by the way GW did battle reports – especially in games such as these huge ones, practical concerns were ignored in favour of giving the game an epic feel, and ludicrous units of 60 models could stomp around, smug in their (entirely imagined) invulnerability.

Being a fan of silly games and also wanting the battles to be a proper spectacle, I had been toying with the idea of adding to the “Legendary Battles” rules as shown in White Dwarf 340. The rules were cute, but did nothing to encourage players to field larger units. As such I proposed that if a unit had to be 5 models wide to get up to +3 rank bonus, a unit 10 models wide could enjoy up to +6 rank bonus. This would require at least 70 models to make it a reality, and seemed a happy solution. I never did get around to actually trying these rules (and other tweaks I made, such as massed volley fire and larger flanking units to compensate for the bigger formations). Instead, 8th edition came along, and basically rendered all my changes unnecessary…

8th Edition – The Great Enabler

No edition of Warhammer has ever been as well suited to playing huge games as 8th edition is. The Horde and Steadfast rules might as well have been made for huge games (and I suspect some players wish these particular rules stayed in the bigger battles and away from their tournaments). Now there are reasons to field your units 10 models wide. Likewise there are reasons to field excessively deep formations. Flanking units need ranks in order to achieve much, so they also increase in size. Units can fire in 2 ranks without needing a hill, thereby freeing up valuable deployment space for more models. The changes they made, as a rule, tend to eerily reflect the sort of results I was after with my own proposed alterations (I don’t know who to congratulate – myself or them. I will stick with congratulating them, since they did what I wanted…).

In truth, I think the 8th edition rules are made with larger games in mind. They’re not just made as intended changes to smaller “standard” type games such as 2,000 points, but rather as rules that make all game sizes work better, with a particular emphasis on improving bigger battles. Some cynical people will always point out that bigger games mean more models, which means more money for Games Workshop; however, they have come out and stated that tournaments should still be 2,000 points, so they are not really demanding that people play bigger games – they are simply making it easier with the rules.

Legendary Battles

As great as huge games are, they are a lot of work to organise, setup and clean up afterwards. I wish this were not the case, but it’s the truth. As such, these games are never going to happen every week, so it’s worth making the most of them when they do come around. As suggested in the Legendary Battles rules, something can be added to the game by basing it around one of the historical battles in the Warhammer world. This helps give the game focus, adds personality to the characters, and makes for a more interesting game than the usual premise of “I KIIIIILL YOU!!” (apologies to anyone whose secret patented tactics I just gave away).

I fully intend to play some very large games this year (there, I have put a timeframe on it), based around some of the greatest historical battles in the Warhammer background. This is part of why I am painting Empire – they feature heavily in so many of these great battles, but we don’t have a lot of painted Empire armies lying around. This is a large part of my current motivation, so I will talk more about my plans for these games in the near future.

Triple Dragon. The little-known sequel to the beloved arcade game from about 1,000 years ago...
NOTE: The photos I used here are from a 4 player game that took place a couple of years back at the club. For more photos, click here.

A whole lot of nothing

Last night I had the opportunity to sit down for an hour or two and make some progress on my army, be it painting or modelling. What did I achieve, I hear you ask? Nothing. I fiddled about, trying to decide what I wanted to work on. I wasted time, chatted with people online, lined a couple of models up on the table, and finally ran out of time and went to bed. It was pathetic.

This effort was nearly matched by what I achieved at Painting Night on Friday. I had hours set aside specifically for painting, and I didn’t even pick up a brush. I did a tiny amount of planning for setting up another unit filler and cut a couple of things off sprues. But then, that was all I had to show for around 4 hours. I’m not sure I would have gotten anything at all done if my wife hadn’t guilted me about my efforts towards the end of the session (can you believe “guilted” is not a word? I am using it anyway. Cop that, spell checker).

So what is wrong with me? Why is it that I can find the time to make progress on my army, then waste it without making any noticeable progress?

I am fortunate enough to have a painting table permanently setup in one of our living rooms, complete with lamps and room for 4 or 5 people to sit around it (when it’s not completely covered in my crap, which is often the case). Normally a would-be painter can waste what little time they have available getting their stuff ready and finding somewhere to sit and knuckle down. I don’t have this problem. I am sure I have made quite a lot of progress I would not otherwise have made as a direct result of having somewhere dedicated to do these things. However, that is not always enough.

I can only assume that I am presently lacking motivation. I find this strange, since I have no trouble thinking about what I would like to do, and how I want the finished army to look. There is some sort of disconnect between envisaging the final product and taking the next small step toward that target. It could be just that I have a whole range of options in terms of what I should work on next, but no clear direction.

I will probably find that once I force myself to start a unit, I will be able to focus on that (as a default course of action if nothing else) and get it done. At least, I am hoping this will be the case. Maybe I should keep working in Halberdiers, even if I have to alter already assembled models in order to me satisfied with them. Or maybe I should get to work converting some ogres to go in the army. Or I should put together the unit filler I started planning on Friday night. Or there are the Kislevites…

Putting the blinkers on

I have never been especially good at focusing on a particular project and seeing it through to the end. I get bored fairly easily, especially given that I derive no particular joy from the time I spend painting, as I have mentioned in the past. This means that even if a particular model or unit captures my imagination, it is unlikely that I will push through and do anything productive with that energy.

Since the painting itself holds no particular joy for me, I have always relied upon things like tournaments to give me motivation. By selecting an army that would require a moderate amount of application between that point and the tournament date, I am able to ensure that I get something finished (or nearly finished) in time for me to turn up with it on the day. This often results in some late-night painting on the Friday night before the event, however this seems to have become something of a tradition anyway. It has almost become a mark of honour that you have too much to do the night before the tournament – if you’re not madly painting then, you didn’t try hard enough (you should have chosen more unpainted models in your army).

Using a tournament as motivation does help me focus for a definite period of time (or rather, for brief spurts over the designated period of time). However, it also tends to feel like a deadline, beyond which I have no plans. A number of times, I have made my plans, gotten the army ready for the tournament in question, and then stopped dead afterwards. Some of this can probably be attributed to burnout, given that I am sometimes painting quite a lot in the last week or two of my window. Some of it can also depend on how the army went in the tournament and during the lead-up.

My Dwarfs and Ogres have both suffered as a result of this – in each case I managed to get the army ready for a tournament, came to the conclusion that the army was not really what I was hoping it would be, and stopped as soon as my commitment to the army was over. The army then went back into its case and was more or less forgotten for an indefinite period.

I admit that this habit never really bothered me until 8th edition was released and I realised that my Dwarfs and Ogres were in no way ready for the shift in army construction. Both could field legal tournament-sized armies, but neither army would really be competitive. What good is a unit of 12 Troll Slayers under the current rules (the correct answer is not much – they will be dead in a round or two)? The frustration associated with this problem is somewhat exacerbated by the knowledge that I do have the models I need to fix the problem – but they’re not painted.

I am trying to avoid the same thing happening to my Empire army. Having already been burned by the Ogres and Dwarfs, I have resolved to persevere with the same army and keep going for as long as possible. There are a couple of reasons for this. Part of it is my wanting large painted armies, so that I can play much larger games and field impressive units that match the scale of the game. I think another part is my desire to be able to put the army aside when I am done, knowing it is there if I want to use it, without having to go back and paint half an army in order to make my collection match a change in needs.

Undoubtedly I need to continue using tournaments as a key motivator for me, as this is a tool that has worked wonders in the past. However, I also need to persist with the same race, even as I adjust the list to rotate more unpainted models onto my painting table.

I do not plan on entering another tournament until August this year, so I am in something of a lull in terms of events to aim for. This has impacted my motivation somewhat. I am also at something of a crossroads regarding my army theme, as I am starting to run low on white-furred empire and the standard-issue puffy-sleeved brigade is beginning to loom large on my radar. This is further spurred by me not having any white-furred halberdiers, nor any real plans to make any. My most recent painting effort has been 10 of the halberdiers shown below. I need to work out a faster method of painting them. As guinea pigs I am happy with the end result, however the process was too slow. I need to adjust my approach to the white half of the models.

Some classic Halberdiers

I am also somewhat delayed by my desire to have a properly themed unit filler in each large regiment. Most of my plans for the puffy-sleeved guys involve carts and wagons, and it seems to be difficult to locate plenty of spare wheels. I am experimenting with making my own and I will let you know if I come up with anything helpful.

Monday 9 May 2011

No school like the old school

I have found over the years that I have an unfortunate tendency to decide I want to collect something after it has ceased to be readily available. This habit tends to be frustrating and expensive, but there is little I can do about it. If I like the old stuff better than the new stuff, why would I be satisfied painting the wrong thing?

The perfect example of this is my Dwarfs. It was only when they model range changed and the older figures started to disappear that I decided to act on my long-held desire to collect them. I think in this case the two things were not entirely unrelated. I had always admired the character of the old Marauder Dwarfs, and when I realised that my window of opportunity to have some of my own was closing, I decided to act. I bought a fair pile of classic models on EBay as they appeared, grabbing what bargains I could. In truth, I may have gotten in early enough with these guys, as I didn’t have to pay the sorts of prices the models fetch nowadays.

I must confess there has to be an element of sentimentality associated with my habit of wanting old figures. It can’t be purely aesthetic. After all, GW are not consistently producing inferior models to what they did in the past. I do prefer some of the older ranges of models (Dwarfs in particular, and to a lesser extent, the old metal Empire), but the vast majority of things are steadily improving. I just seem to keep sniffing out the older models that capture my imagination.

Maybe I have spent too long looking at old White Dwarf magazines with battle reports featuring the Perry twins’ classic Empire army. I have managed to resist the temptation to go around trying to buy up an entire army of models like this, but I do admit that I like the old models.

Like most people, when I am buying armies, I will gather together enough models for a regiment of a particular type (be it Dwarf Hammerers or High Elf Spearmen), then stop adding to the unit. I had sensibly collected units of around 25 of each of the things I wanted to use, figuring that it constituted a large, solid block of troops. With the exception of things like Goblins and Skaven Slaves, that was about as large a unit as you generally saw. I thought I was all set.

The arrival of 8th edition has really thrown a cat amongst the pigeons in regard to unit sizes. Units of 40 or 50 models have become quite viable, whether they be fielded deep for Steadfast or wide for the Horde rules. My armies were largely unprepared for this shift.

I realise a lot of people have gotten stuck into GW regarding this shift, and the inevitable flow-on effect of needing to buy more models. I can see where they are coming from, even if I do like the new edition of the game and the epic feel to the regiments people are fielding at the moment.

However, when you have constructed your army around models that are no longer in production and difficult to obtain, the sudden need for larger units is a real problem. I refuse to pay a king’s ransom for rare models online, so unless I get remarkably lucky and find the models cheap somewhere (this would be quite a stretch), I need a new plan.

Part of my new plan involves unit fillers. I am not talking a large rock or tree in the middle of the unit, as I generally don’t subscribe to that sort of thing. However, I have already started to create some more mobile fillers for my Empire army (refer to my earlier post for pictures). Things like soldiers (and in this case animals) doing something different to help pad the unit out, as well as breaking it up a bit (50 models all ranked up can look rather uninspiring if they’re all much the same). I plan to do things with supply carts and maybe even small dioramas.

Unit fillers alone will not suffice, however. I need more of the models that make up these units. Therefore I have come to the conclusion that I need to make some. What follows is a rough account of how I'm going thus far...

(Snow) Leopard Company

My efforts on these guys are already done. Unfortunately, being my first attempt, they have been something of a learning experience.

The original metal model on the right, with my effort on the left.
Another example, again is it my version on the left. I decided to give the guy a holstered short sword (normal sword which lost a fight with my hobby knife), so he wouldn't just be standing there with his left fist doing nothing.
These are the components I used. Both arms are from Empire Knights, as are the head and torso. I used Empire Militia legs, brass rod for the pike, with a spear tip stolen from a proper Empire Spearman (he will probably get to be a Halberdier now anyway, which is probably a step up in the world). I used this same head for all the Leopard Company conversions because it was the closest match to the real thing, once I removed the plume. I also used a couple of different right arms, but the banner arm has the best pose for holding the pike one-handed. In all cases, the shoulder plates had to be trimmed a fair bit, as they are too heavy to tie in with the other models.

Problems of scale

I was actually pretty pleased with how my home-made Leopard Company models came out. It was only once they were finished that I realised how gigantic the plastic knight and militia model components are compared to the 10-year-old metal Dogs of War models GW used to make. My old metal guys look rather diminuitive compared to the hulking newcomers.

Unfortunately this doesn't appear to be an easy thing to fix. I plan to persist with my plans, but I am going to have to cheat the height of the models a bit to stop them standing out too much. One option is to try to grind the bottom of the torso and top of the legs down a bit. I might try a bit of this, but there are limits to what I can do there. My other options are to either base them on MDF that is slightly lower than the plastic bases (which might get me another millimetre or so), or to deliberately base the models on rocks etc, and make them intentionally uneven. I'm not yet sure which course I will take.

Teutogen Guard

I actually effectively did a prototype conversion of a Teutogen Guard a while ago, whilst I was making my unit filler. However, I still need to make 5 more models to complete the unit at a nice round 40. Unlike the Leopard Company, this conversion requires greenstuff. Something I remain slightly scared of. I will talk about that another time.

Components I use for making Teutogen Guard. Everything here has come from an Empire Knight box set, except for the head, which belongs to a Flagellant. The Marauder Horsemen box also has some pretty good heads for this sort of thing. The knight legs invariably need to be cut apart so they're not straddling a horse. You can simply take a chunk out and straighten them up, or be more adventurous and make them walking. Greenstuff may be required. The arms made for the White Wolf hammers are not really armoured enough to fit in with Teutogen Guard, so I use normal Knight arms from the wrists up. I also find it necessary to trim down the should plates a little.
The arm conversion, further advanced
And here we have a nearly complete example. What remains then requires greenstuff, unfortunately. They need a loincloth and a cloak. You could use one of the White Wolf cloaks, but I think you're better off making one yourself for a more flowing, wrap-around-the-figure result
And here we have my one completed example, from my unit filler. I went for a different sort of pose with this guy, given he is sort of a centerpiece. You can't tell here, but he has the same height issues as the Leopard Company - he is too tall. As I say though, if I base them differently I might get away with it...

Republican Guard

I have not yet started work on these guys, as I am not quite ready to paint them. The current plan is to convert the entire regiment into Halberdiers, so there is work to be done anyway. The basic plan is there - the main thing holding me back is my unit filler.

So, this is what I'm aiming for. I figure the process will be similar to the Leopard Company, although the legs will be Knight legs as per the Teutogen Guard.
And here are the heads I am eyeing off for the job, again from the Empire Knights. It will take a fair bit of savaging to get the Knight Panther stuff off the top - may need some greenstuff to smooth it once I'm done. I have already tried to use these heads for some of my generic household Knight models (used to bolster Voland's Venators).