Monday, February 27, 2012

Vampire Counts

My plan for February was mostly successful. I finished some models for both of my Warmachine armies. I didn't get to the Varghulf, but he's on my workstation ready to go, and I still need to paint the Wight Kings.

I've recently taken on some commission work, so finishing that is going to take my focus for the next couple of weeks. In the mean time, I've added a few more images to the Vampire Counts gallery, and this week I'll discuss my vampire conversions:

The Von Koss Vampires

These days the Vampire Counts rules are more relaxed, allowing players to mix and match their vampires' special abilities, but when the army was initially released, vampires were required to adhere to one of several bloodline themes, and their in-game rules reflected the traits of that particular order, be it martial prowess, magical affinity, courtly guile, or bestial fury.

Blood Dragon vampires excel in combat, and for a while they were the only vampires that had access to generic armor. In an army where the death of the general spells certain doom, survivability is key. (They also had some of the better looking models in the range!)

One of the things I love about Warhammer is the richness of the world. Yet while its history is so storied, things are left open allowing one to build their own castles in GW's sandbox. When creating my army's story, I drew on the established lore: In the lands of the Empire, the vampire Walach von Harken overthrew the Knightly Order of the Blood Dragons. These once noble Imperial knights were transformed into vampires and wights, and Walach reigned secretly over the undead Order for decades, which is where my story begins.

Seth Von Koss

Seth von Koss was a man of the empire, a knight of the Order of the Blood Dragon. Once transformed into a servant of darkness, he fought at Walach's side for years. When the horrible truth about the Blood Dragons was discovered and the Empire's Templar Knights finally razed the Blood Keep, Seth was among the many to escape into the surrounding countryside. Although the Order had fallen, it was not extinguished, and Seth remains one of many surviving vampires who still fight to this day in the name of the Blood Dragon.

Seth's model uses Archaon, Lord of the End Times as its core. The mounted version was the first one I had assembled and the zombie dragon mount  (see it in the gallery)  and foot version came later.

The spiky bits and chaos star were removed from the steed and I used putty to achieve the fiery mane and tail. Seth's head is from the old Blood Dragon on Winged Nightmare, and his sword is modeled from Mephiston's force sword (40K, Blood Angels) with the bat-crossguard of Manfred von Carstein's weapon. The shield is a Chaos Knight's shield with the iconography filed away, decorated with a skeleton shield icon and Warmaster bat wings. Due to the size of the massive steed and all that cape, I had to mount him atop a scenic base to get him to fit in a unit of black knights.

For the zombie dragon mount I cut the legs away from Archaeon's horse and combined them with Malekith's saddle and a bit of sculpting to fit him atop the dragon.

The foot version of Seth von Koss uses the 2004 Games Day exclusive Archaeon. The only real challenge there was fitting him on a 20mm base. I had to cut away the stones and resculpt the feet. I've also made two attendant skeletons to use as placeholders for the models I need to remove when fitting him in a unit.

Dimitri Von Koss

When Seth von Koss fled the ruins of Blood Keep, he sought out his younger brother Dimitri. The two had not seen each other in decades, and truth be told, Dimitri believed his brother to be long dead, killed in service to the Empire. So when Seth showed up at Dimitri's door it was at first a joyous reunion. But Seth could not hide what he was for long and, although horrified, Dimitri could not turn his brother away. This was his undoing, and eventually Seth cursed his brother with vampirism.

To build Dimitri I used the bat-winged vampire as the core model. The legs, basing and weapon are all stock. The armored breastplate is from the new plastic skeleton regiment with its damaged parts resculpted and more putty work to hide the joins. The head came from an old Blood Dragon Vampire and the wings on the helmet belonged to the bat-wing vampire's familiar. The upper portion of Dimitri's raised arm is metal, and the hand was taken from a Corpse Cart zombie with extra armor sculpted on top.

Here's a look at my original version of Dimitri. The figure includes parts from the old Krell model and the Red Duke.

Marduk "The Wolf" Von Koss

Marduk is the cousin of Dimitri and Seth von Koss. Whereas Seth gained his vampirism directly from the blood of Harkon, Marduk was turned by Dimitri. Being so many generations removed from the source bloodline, the vampirism has had a maddening effect. Marduk has become a brutal, nearly feral killer, barely able to be controlled by his brothers.

Marduk's core model is an ancient metal skeleton (Skeleton Warrior with Axe #6, to be precise). His head is from a metal ghoul, and the wolf pelt was created using parts cut from the Space Wolf accessory sprue and modeling putty to fill out the fur.

My first version of Marduk was mounted, and I would commonly run him in a unit of dire wolves, hence his name. This old model uses a plastic skeleton steed with Empire horse barding fit overtop. The rider is based on the Red Duke, equipped with a double-handed axe and shield.

Von Koss and The Legion of the Infernal Skull

Seth worked to restore his former knightly regiments, and among the Hellfire Knights are some of the original wights that had served him during the days of Walach's reign. Under Seth's tutelage, Dimitri's fighting prowess was honed, and the two brought slaughter upon the lands of the Empire.

As their army grew they were drawn to the necromancer Nieman Kimmel and his legion of undeath. They found themselves slaves to Kimmel's power and served him for years in the Legion of the Infernal Skull. But the necromancer's dark magic eventually failed, allowing Seth the opportunity to wrest control for himself, and now the von Koss vampires lead the mighty undead warhost.

These characters form the core persona of my army, and I rarely use any of the printed special characters, favoring my own creations over the pre-made ones.

Dimitri and Marduk's older models have been retired from the game table. Seth is the first character to get multiple models allowing me to field him with different options, but I also have mounted versions of one of my necromancers and the wight king battle standard bearer in the works. I'll talk about those once they're finished, but for now it's back to my workstation.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Modeling: Blood of Martyrs

Last week I worked on some Protectorate miniatures– specifically the warcaster Thyra and her personal warjack, Blood of Martyrs. 

I've been collecting my Protectorate army since 2003, and so I wanted to the style of Blood of Martyr's chassis to match my classic metal warjacks. I also wanted the 'jack to emulate Thyra's dynamic pose. 

To build this conversion, I used the best parts from the plastic and metal kits. The Vanquisher's hull was chosen due to the arrow embellishments on the shoulder trim.

For the legs, I combined the metal waist and loincloth with the plastic legs to create the model's deep stance.

To accommodate the plastic arms, I needed to remove the metal cuffs on the shoulders.  This wasn't as difficult as I initially thought.  The cuff came off with just a few cuts with my clippers, and then I smoothed out the rough patch with files.

I used the larger furnace from the plastic kit.  A jeweler's saw was used to carefully cut away each furnace from its boiler.

Before gluing the boiler and smokestacks in place, I puttied over the cut-away parts of the stacks and repaired some missing rivets on the back.

The plastic furnace was then glued in place and filled out with putty.

The final step was to add some extra pipes with styrene rod and modeling putty.

To mimic Thyra's pose I reversed the blade in the Blood of Martyr's left hand.  I needed to adjust the arm cuff to keep the sword from touching the ground.  I was able to remove the upper arm pistons fairly cleanly with a few knife cuts.  This allowed me more freedom to play with the pose and reattach the pistons in any position.

The right hand was glued on at a slight angle to tilt the sword forward.

With the torso, arms, and legs built, all that remained was to pin all of the parts together.  A little paint, and Thyra and her 'jack are ready to kick ass for the lord!

Check out some detail shots of the completed model (and some other goodies) in my Protectorate gallery.

'Til next time!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Modeling: Wight Kings

I've been talking about converting the new plastic wight king kit for a while. This weekend, I finally sat down and built two of them, armed with double-handed weapons

Here's how:

For the first king, I began by clipping away the shield arm. I also removed the hourglass from the tombstone (it just wasn't working for me, visually).

After attaching the chain mail skirt to the front, I used some epoxy modeling putty to build up the mail on the side of the leg since that area would be visible without the shield.

Before attaching the king's torso, I removed the scabbard. Then I attached him to the base, and added some extra ballast to enhance the ground texture. (Note: If you're assembling a wight king for yourself, gluing him to the base should be the last step after the cape is attached. Once he's on the base, the cape won't fit. I learned that the hard way, but we'll come to that step in a bit...)

I puttied some extra fur over the join on the shoulders, and repaired the chain mail sleeves. I also added a bit of an interior cloak in the gap on one side. Once that was finished, I added the wight's hellfire. The plastic king is perfectly suited for this– I simply treat it as an open crown and putty right over the helmet. The result is similar to the "head brazier" that's all the rage with flagellants & zealots.

The cape and arms were next. I clipped away the wight's sword and added it to my parts box. It will look great in the hands of another character or unit champion. To build the double handed axe, I used arms from the older Skeleton Warriors regiment box as well as Tomb Kings skeleton arms. The axe head is from Privateer's Madrak Ironhide, with its runes and detail filed away or filled with putty.

Here's the wight king with his arms attached. The smaller portion of the cape fit in with no issues. I had to flex the larger portion of the cape to get it to "pop" it into place. Aside from the arms and extra putty work, the model is pretty "stock."

For the second king, I got a little more ambitious. I wanted a distinctly different pose, and settled on an overhead swing. I began by carefully cutting the bat-wing leg armor and keys from the torso (those went in the parts box and will make their way onto a necromancer at some point) and removed the skull scepter from his leg. I cut the model in half at the waist, and removed the tombstone so I could model the base differently.

The molded-on shoulder pads were too low to accommodate the raised arms, so I clipped them away. The shoulder pads from the plastic Grave Guard regiment were used instead. I also shortened the spires of the crown, and used the small skull from the scepter to create an ornament on the front.

I cut a small sliver out of the model's back and glued on the torso with a slight lean to create more action in the axe swing.

After a lengthly search for skeleton arms that would work well for the pose, I finally settled on the Tomb Kings' chariot spear and sword. Only a slight bent in the right elbow was necessary to get the arms positioned the way I wanted them.

As with the first king, I pinned the pieces together to create the weapon arms. Since the backward lean was making it impossible to fit the cape in without cutting it anyway, I glued the model to its base at this point, using a skeleton as the "prop" under the wight king's foot. The shoulder pads were trimmed and glued in place.

For the waist armor, I used parts cut from the torso of the vampire included in the plastic zombie dragon kit. These were glued in place, and I used putty to add some extra chain mail on the legs and sculpt new sleeves.

I sculpted some fur over the joins of the shoulder pads and added a belt buckle. To help hide the rough spots on the sides of the figure, I modeled straps around the torso. The raised foot also needed some putty work so it would look correct. The axe head and hellfire came next.

The final step for each model was to add its cape and putty the seams and fur on the back. To further differentiate the two figures I cut away a portion of one of their tattered capes.

Here are the two finished conversions:

I'm really happy with how these guys turned out, and they will make a great addition to my army. Now to get painting...

'Til next time!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Modeling & Painting: Khador

My goal with this army has always been to assemble and paint the miniatures as fast as possible. I don’t work in very many conversions, instead focusing on distinct poses, basing, and a unique color scheme to make the miniatures stand out. In this post I’ll show you how I finished a recent unit of Man-O-War Shocktroopers. This is the same painting process I use on my entire Khadoran force.

A note on the colors: My paint collection includes both Formula P3 and Citadel colors. I name the actual colors that I used, but if you’re using this as a guide to paint your own models, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding the equivalent color in whatever paint range you prefer.

Assembly and Basing

Assembling the Man-O-War troopers was pretty straightforward. The only adjustment I made was to the length of the halberd handles. To keep them from extending below the base plane, I clipped out a 1/8-inch section and pinned the handle back together. I also pinned the miniature’s weapon hand to strengthen the small attachment point. The shields were painted separately, and I glued them to a dowel so I could hold and paint them all simultaneously. The base tabs were also clipped away to accommodate my basing scheme.

To make the snow bases, I taped over the slot and super glued some small patches of sand onto the base. Then I mixed up a batch of modeling putty and pressed it onto the center. Using my fingers, I spread the putty out over the base and pressed it down around the edge of the sand. Once I was happy with the shape of the snow, I smoothed away any fingerprints. 

By pressing the model’s feet into different areas, I created footprints and kicked up snow so each base would be unique to the figure standing on it. I didn’t glue the figure in place, and instead relied on the putty to secure it. That way I could pop the figure off and paint the base more easily.

I let the putty set up for a few hours before priming and painting.

Painting the Figure

Over a black undercoat, I began by drybrushing the entire figure with Pig Iron. By wetting the brush just slightly I got a more even coat. The next step was to wash the miniature with Armor Wash, and once that was dry, I gave it a proper drybrushing with a little Cold Steel to pop the metal highlights.

To give the halberd blades a nice shine, I basecoated them with Cold Steel and highlighted the edges by running Mithril Silver along the blade. 

The gold trim was first based with Rhulic Gold and then washed with Bloodstone. The highlights were drybrushed with Solid Gold, taking care not to mar any of the silver. To get the perforation holes nice and dark, I carefully poked Armor Wash into each one.

With the metal areas out of the way, I moved on to the armor color. The first step was to basecoat with Shadow Grey.

Next, I washed the recesses of the grey armor with a mix of Armor Wash and Coal Black. During this step, I also washed any of the metal spots I missed in the deep recesses (most notably, the screws on the sides of the chest plate).

Then came the most tedious step: blending the highlights on the grey armor. I used Shadow Grey to recapture the mid tone. The highlights were blended up with a mix of Shadow Grey and Frostbite, never taking it all the way to pure Frostbite. To ensure consistency throughout the unit, I worked on a portion of each model at the same time. So, I started with all of the shoulder pads, then all the chest plates, the heads, arms, etc. I continued in this way until all five miniatures were complete.

I painted the markings on the shoulder pads and numbered each model on the back of its boiler. The letters were blocked out with straight Frostbite, and the edges were cleaned up with Shadow Grey (at times using a lighter mix of grey to match the underlying color).

Painting the Base

With the figure completed, I carefully pried its feet out of the putty and set him aside. This allowed me to paint the base without the figure getting in the way. I began by bascoating the patches of sand with Battlefield Brown. Then I drybrushed the sand, first with Gun Corps Brown and then with ‘Jack Bone.

I basecoated the snow with Frostbite to provide a solid undercoat for the white. Three or four coats of Morrow White were applied to get a smooth, solid white surface.

I moved on to shading the snow once the white was thoroughly dry. (And trust me– when you start blending, you don’t want to pull up the lower layers of paint because they’re still active.) Using thinned Underbelly Blue, I carefully applied it to recesses of the snow. While it was still wet, I softened the edges of the blue with a damp brush.

Finally, I washed a little Battlefield Brown into the snow around the dirt patches and into the footprints to muddy things up a little.

The final step was to super glue the miniature back onto the base and add the shield.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my painting process. Check out the finished Man-O-War unit in my Khador gallery!

‘Til next time!