Thursday, March 29, 2012

Modeling & Painting: Graveyard Bases

As I move along with my "bat blitz," I thought it the perfect opportunity to talk about the basing scheme I use for my Vampire Counts, and show you my process.

Before I get to that, I'll point out that earlier this week I added a new gallery page featuring some of my commission work. If that is something you're interested in, drop me an email. The gallery contains some nice miniatures that don't necessarily fit into any of the other "army" categories. Check it out!

Graveyard Bases

Basing is one of the (regrettably) often overlooked aspects of a model, but even simple basing can make a model with a mediocre paint job look top notch:

Using a cohesive basing scheme can give an army a more unified appearance, tell a story, or make a character model stand out from the rank-and-file troopers.

For my undead legions, I use a graveyard theme– Tombstones, skulls, and rising skeletons. I try to incorporate something of this on every model's base, whether it's just a skull or small tombstone. In larger infantry and cavalry blocks, it's not necessary for every single model, but I balance these details throughout the unit.

On models like Dire Wolves or Fell Bats, where I can't really incorporate the black and red uniform colors or the flaming skull motif, the basing becomes an important element to tie them to the rest of the army. My plan to keep the bat swarms aloft, is to pin the bats together and mount the "swarm" atop larger tombstones. The base itself would feature skeletons clawing their way out of graves below the bats making each swarm base a miniature diorama.

Modeling the Bases

To model the bases I used a selection of tombstones from the Garden of Morr, skeleton and zombie plastic sprues, the classic metal GW gravestones, and some of the resin tombstones I mentioned last week. The GW ones were ready to go as-is but the resin stones needed a bit of distressing and detailing. Skeleton shield icons, and small skulls cut from Tomb Kings weapons were added, as was the banner top from the plastic Grave Guard kit. (Note: the black base on the lower left was taken from an Ogre in my old Mordheim warband. Never throw anything away!)

Once the tombstones were in place, and each base's layout planned, I began adding skeletons. Projects like this are a good use for all of the odd parts and weapon arms collecting in your parts bin. When gluing the skeletons in place, I added some sand on the skeletons themselves to represent the earth clinging to them as they rise from their graves.

Painting the Bases

Starting with the ground and skeletons, I give it a slightly thinned basecoat of Battlefield Brown (A). Once this is completely dry, I follow it with a drybrush of Gun Corps Brown (B) and then Snakebite Leather (C). The final drybrushing stage is done with Bleached Bone (D).

On the skeletons only, I brush some Bleached Bone (E) and then give the entire base a wash of Brown Ink, blotting it off of the skeletons with my finger (I don't want them to get too dark; this is mainly to shade their recesses (F). When the wash is completely dry I apply some overbrushed highlights on the skeletons, first with Bleached Bone, then with a mix of Bleached Bone and Menoth White Highlight. These skeletons have been rotting in the filthy earth, so I try to keep them from looking too clean and bright. If need be, I'll go back in with a fine brush and outline the teeth, fingers, and any other recesses that may have filled in with the highlight color (G).

From here, it's on to the tombstones. I begin with a mix of Black and a little Grey to give the stone a solid undercoat (H). From there, I drybrush up with a mix of black, grey, and white, but don't quite take the highlights up to pure white (I). It's worth pointing out that you should avoid the "blue" greys like Shadow Grey, Greatcoat Grey, and use something like Fortress Grey or Codex Grey, otherwise the stones will end up looking too blue when finished. The final stage for the stones is to create weathering by washing Brown ink around their bottoms (J).

To finish things off, I paint the edge of each base with Model Masters Medium Green and then pick out any metal bits on the weapons. Once the paint is dry, they get some patches of static grass (making sure to add some on the dirt patches atop the rising skeletons) and they are done!

Looking at these as they are, the bases would make prefect objective markers or grave counters.

Now I've got about a hundred tiny metal bats to clean and paint...

'Til next time!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kings and Wings

Commission work has been keeping me pretty busy, but I managed to squeeze in some time to paint the kings:

Attentive readers will notice the bracers on the one with the raised axe. After the initial conversion, I thought his thin, bony arms and the way the cape bulged out in the back was making the figure look a little portly in the middle. So, I shaved down the cape to give it a more natural hang, and bulked up his arms by sculpting bracers. I also concealed his sides a little more with some knives and pouches taken from the plastic Grave Guard kit. All this helps give him a more heavily armed and armored appearance, and further distinguishes him from the other king.

The red armor uses a formula I had discovered years ago while painting my battle standard– It's basically Scab Red with a (very) little Blood Red and Dwarf Flesh mixed in for the highlights. To keep things from going too pink, I apply a thin glaze of Brown Ink and Scab Red in the recesses.

The Varghulf is proceeding slowly, but surely. I've got the reposing and sculpting of his body finished. The Balrog wings have been suitably tattered, and pinned in place. All that remains is to putty the joins and add some fur on the arms.

As you can see, I'm simultaneously working on some bat swarms. I've never been too keen on the "official" bat swarm models. The bats are too large, and they all have the same, upright pose. I settled on Warmaster Fell Bats to use as swarms. They're small, posable, and separate, so each swarm base can look totally unique.

The bats and Varghulf will all be "airborne," pinned into tombstones to create a scenic base. I picked up the Garden of Moor hoping to cannibalize some posts or statuary, but there really aren't any large, solid pieces that would be good for mounting the Varghulf. After some searching, I came across a set of resin grave markers by Custom Dioramics at my local hobby shop.

Once the Varghulf's sculpting is complete, I'll model all the scenic bases for it and the swarms, and paint them all in one batch. I guess that will be sort of like a unit grind.

'Til next time!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vampire Counts Battle Report and Review

Last week, my buddy Steve Stiefel and I got together for a 2000-point game of Warhammer; his Empire versus my Vampire Counts. Steve supplied the awesome buildings (some of which were assembled by Chris Walton, and painted by Steve). They went nicely with my cratered flagstone table to form an Empire city lying partially in ruin.

The lone bastion of hope in this desolate land– a Sigmarite chapel in the town square. The Legion of the Infernal Skull was on the march to raid its catacombs for artifacts and corpses to reanimate. The Roving Provence of Sigmarheim, led by the Arch Lector Albrecht Hexenjaeger, mustered to stop them.

To add a little variety to what would otherwise be a pitched battle, we came up with some special rules to incorporate the clock tower– The town bookkeeper, mad with panic at the sight of the approaching undead has locked himself in the tower, and is firing at anything that moves in the darkness below! In each player's shooting phase, a D6 is rolled. On an even result the madman fires at the nearest unengaged undead unit. On an odd result, he mistakes an Empire unit for the enemy and fires at the nearest unengaged Empire unit. Shots are worked out with the stats of a Master Engineer armed with a Hochland Long Rifle.

The Armies:

The Legion of the Infernal Skull

Seth Von Koss, Commanding

386  Vampire Lord Seth Von Koss (General, Lv3 Wizard)
Sword of Striking, Heavy Armor, Enchanted Shield, Talisman of Preservation, Aura of Dark Majesty
Spells: Invocation of Nehek, Hellish Vigor, Curse of Years
155  Wight King Oren Koth (Battle Standard Bearer)
            Armor of Silvered Steel
170  Necromancer Toht Nhemisis (Lv2 Wizard)
            Master of the Dead, Feedback Scroll
            Spells: Invocation of Nehek, Wind of Death
235  The Red Guard
36 Skeletons, Full Command, Hand Wp, Shield & Lt Armor, 
Screaming Banner
120  The Nameless Rabble
            40 Zombies
200  The Shanks
            20 Ghouls
80  The Doom Hounds of Marduk
            x2 Units of 5 Dire Wolves
548  The Execution Guard
            39 Grave Guard, Full Command, Great Weapons, Heavy Armor, 
            Banner of the Barrows
105  Corpse Cart
            Balefire Upgrade
1999 pts

The Roving Province of Sigmarheim

Albrecht Hexenjaeger, Commanding

201  Arch Lector Albrecht Hexenjaeger (General)
            Great Weapon, Armor of Meteoric Iron, Holy Relic
118  Warrior Priestess Rya Kiehlstedt
            Additional Hand Wp, Heavy Armor, Icon of Magnus
129  Warrior Priest
Additional Hand Wp, Heavy Armor, Von Horstmann’s Speculum
320  Greatswords
            29 men, Full Command, Great Weapons, Full Plate Armor
199  Swordsmen
            29 men, Full Command, Hand Wp, Shield & Lt Armor
200  Halberdiers
            30 men, Full Command, Halberds, Lt Armor
165  Free Company
            29 men, Full Command, Additional Hand Wp
210  Flagellants
            20 men, Prophet of Doom
210  Flagellants
            20 men, Prophet of Doom
234  Outriders
            10 men, Champion & Musician, Repeater Rifles, Lt Armor
1990 pts


As Steve and I deployed our forces, I was shocked to see no artillery or Steam Tanks. I was expecting to wade through a hail of Helblaster fire and to be praying for successful “Look out Sir!” rolls as cannonballs bounced through my characters. Instead, the opposite side of the table was filled with Imperial infantry, and the enemy outnumbered my forces by about 20 models.

I set my Grave Guard on the right flank, with the necromancer Toht Nhemisis behind them in a unit of zombies. The general’s unit of skeletons went in the center with the Corpse Cart pulling up the rear. Ghouls covered the left flank and the dire wolves were just behind, ready to counter Steve’s Outriders.

I had forgotten that dire wolves are no longer fast cavalry, so rather than maneuvering them around the ghouls and forward, I wasted my Vanguard move reforming them for a better first turn march while Steve’s Outriders pushed up along the edge of the board, doing their best to avoid the craters and any dangerous terrain tests.

Turn 1

The Vampire Counts seized the initiative and moved first. I simply marched everything forward. A dire wolf was lost as the lead unit crossed a crater, and the mad engineer in the tower shot another one. 

My casting attempts were all shut down by Steve’s Warrior Priests and the considerable amount of dispel dice they were generating. 

In the Empire’s turn, the Outriders shot one of my dire wolf units to pieces. The Warrior Priests blessed their units with Unbending Righteousness, not much of a concern for me, as we were still a turn away from any real combat.

Turn 2

I have a long-standing tradition of wasting my dire wolves, and this battle was proving no exception. The remaining three wolves charged Steve’s Flagellants, and managed to take out one model before being destroyed. Good dogs.

The Outriders unleashed a volley at the ghouls, and scored a single kill. In the magic phases I was again unable to cast anything, but I shut down the Warrior Priests’ prayers.

The mad bookkeeper up in the top of the clock tower continued to fire away for the remainder of the battle, but he was mainly inconsequential, picking off the occasional trooper.

Turn 3

At this point I had nothing to deal with the Outriders. They wouldn’t be much of a concern, however, if I could get my remaining units into combat. They wouldn’t be able to shoot, and if they charged my flank that would only mean more potential kills, and it would still require a turn for Steve to position them.

The ghouls charged into the Flagellants and the two units did a pretty solid job of tearing each other’s guts out. I came out slightly ahead, but in Steve’s turn he swung the Halberdiers into my unit’s flank. The ghouls’ casualties weren’t as bad as they could have been due to their high toughness and the Flagellants having lost their flail bonuses. They lost the combat but managed to stick around.

On the other side of the battlefield, the Greatswords and Free Company charged my Grave Guard.

I won the combat, but between the Warrior Priest making the Free Company unbreakable, the Greatswords’ stubbornness and the Steadfast rule, neither unit was going anywhere.

Turn 4

Things were definitely heating up. My general’s unit of skeletons charged into the Flagellants, which Steve had reformed to maximize his attacks. I lost a few models to dangerous terrain tests as I crossed the crater.

At this point the zombies were blocked by the combat in front of them, So I reformed the unit to face its left. The Corpse Cart was also struggling to keep up with my battle line, and slowly plodded forward. With the general so far ahead, and no Vanhel’s Dans Macabre in my spell arsenal (not that I would have been able to cast it anyway), these slow moving units weren’t likely to see any action at all.

In the magic phase, Steve’s Warrior Priests shut down my necromancy again, so it was on to the bloody business of combat.

Seth Von Koss, armed with the sword of striking, had 5 attacks and was hitting on 2+. That, combined with almost 30 attacks from my skeletons and battle standard bearer, reduced the enemy by more than half. In return, the Flagellants martyred two of their number, gaining hatred and the ability to re-roll for wounds. Steve put every attack possible into my general, and if not for his ward save, he would have fallen. He suffered two wounds, and the skeletons suffered a few casualties.

I knew my ghouls would not survive the combat, so I directed every attack into the flagellants, destroying them and panicking the Swordsmen behind them! The Halberdiers killed a few ghouls and the rest were eliminated due to the lost combat. The Halberdiers reformed, facing my skeleton unit. If I couldn’t destroy the Flagellants and overrun past them, my general’s unit would likely be flanked next turn.

My Grave Guard managed to kill the Warrior Priest leading the Free Company, who subsequently broke from combat! The Stubborn Greatswords held, so I reformed my unit in front of them to get back some rank bonus.

The fleeing units both rallied in Steve’s turn. The Outriders circled around behind the Halberdiers which, to my surprise, held their ground and did not charge the Skeletons. Seth and his unit finished off the Flagellants (the vampire recovering a wound from slaying his foes), and reformed to face the Halberdiers, while my Grave Guard continued to whittle down the unyielding Greatswords.

Turn 5

Seth and his unit charged the Halberdiers, who fled from the oncoming horde, right through the Outriders, which caused them to panic in turn! 

With one of Steve's Warrior Priests out of the way, I was finally able to successfully cast some spells. Seth hexed the Outriders with Curse of Years, and Toht cast the Invocation of Nehek with irresistible force, injuring himself in the process, but bolstering the ranks of my units. 

The Grave Guard cut down the last of the Greatswords, and directed every attack possible into Steve’s General, Albrecht Hexenjaeger. I hit and wounded with all seven attacks, and amazingly, he saved every one! The lone character could not hold against the overwhelming odds, however and broke from combat. Even with that giant cross on his back, he managed to outrun my Wights and escape to fight another day!

Steve rallied his general and Halberdiers and what was left of his crumbling Outriders, and moved his Swordsmen back toward the fight.

Turn 6

In the final turn, Seth’s unit broke the Halberdiers and reformed to face the approaching Swordsmen. As the last of his Outriders crumbled and fled the field, Steve brought his remaining units into combat, but they did not gain any ground.

The battle was won, a crushing victory in my favor! The chapel was raided and its catacombs plundered, but Albrecht Hexenjaeger and the Warrior Priestess Rya Kiehlstedt survived to fight another day.

You can see more of Steve's models in his painting thread over at the Warhammer Empire Forums: Albrecht Hexenjaeger and the Roving Province of Sigmarheim He took some of his own photos of the battle, and I know he's eager to show them off!

My Thoughts on the New Vampire Counts List

Overall, I am very pleased with the way the army performs. It’s not much different than the 6th edition book. I’ll need to remember to use my dire wolves as light cavalry, rather than a more maneuverable fast cavalry unit. I joke about carelessly throwing them away, but for 80 points I guess they did exactly what they were supposed to do. They attracted the Outrider’s fire, allowing the ghouls to get into combat at almost full strength. Had Steve taken any war machines, the wolves would have instead been deployed to take care of them.


I had some trouble casting spells early on. I suspect that was in part to the older Empire book giving the Warrior Priests more dispel dice, but once I eliminated the first priest, it was still an uphill battle. During the game, I was considering how to deal with the magic phase. The Winds of Magic dice are fickle, and taking more wizards is definitely not the answer since they rarely generate any extra dice. In the entire game my channeling rolls only yielded one extra power dice, which is statistically below average. More wizards would get more spells into my overall list, but I’d still be getting the same amount of spells off per turn. 

A lot of people online are talking about using a single die to cast Invocation of Nehek with the bonus from a Mortis Engine to either draw out dispel dice or cast it once the enemy is out of dice. I’m leery of the one dice attempt since a roll of 1 or 2 (regardless of any other bonuses) means that wizard is finished for the turn, and it won’t draw out any dispel dice from my opponent, either, since the spell fails automatically. 

Perhaps more vampire characters would be the way to go, since they double as wizards, but can kick ass in combat as well.

The Corpse Cart

I’m not really sure how to use this anymore. Since it’s a chariot, it can never march, which means it’s stuck moving four inches per turn and will be quickly left behind, bad news since it needs to stay within 6 inches of at least one unit to get its full effectiveness. Vanhel’s Danse Macabre will help, and it might be worth including the Book of Arkhan to ensure I have the spell at my disposal (and at a lower casting value). But even still, successfully casting that spell will be easier said than done.

In future battles, the cart will definitely be deployed on the front line, to ensure that it keeps up with my battle line for as long as possible. I’ll just have to rely on its regeneration to protect it from shooting.

Looking through the army list again, I think Bat Swarms might be the better choice. Rather than relying on my magic and positioning for the Corpse Cart to make my units always strike first, it may be more effective to use the Bat Swarm's Cloud of Horror rule to make the enemy always strike last.

I can get three swarm bases for the point cost of one Corpse Cart, and they'll move at least ten inches, rather than four. For their ability to trigger, all I need to do is get them into combat. Hmmm... 

Horde Formations

The Horde formations are pretty nice, allowing three ranks of troops to attack. Steve began to realize this as the battle progressed and eventually reformed his Halberdiers ten models wide to take advantage of this. We’ve traditionally played with units of about 30, so bulking them up to 35 or 40 (to still have full rank bonuses) isn’t too much of a stretch.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this battle report. I’m curious to know what other players have experienced with their armies (Vampire Counts or otherwise), so comments are welcome, as always. Also, please let me know if this is the sort of thing you’d like to see more of. 

‘Til next time!