Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Necromancer, Toht Nhemisis

The first batch of models from my Vampire Counts painting queue are finished– I can now bring the full fury of 40 black knights to bear on the battlefield! And the mounted necromancer is, at long last, complete.



Toht Nhemisis

Not much is known about this elderly necromancer, other than that he hails from the South near the Khemrian empire. He joined the Legion of the Infernal Skull's ranks early during Nieman Kimmel's ascention to power, and has been a seemingly loyal servant to his dark master. When the Von Koss vampires wrested control of the Legion, and it appeared there would be a schism in the high command between the vampire family and those loyal to Kimmel, Toht Nhemisis chose neither side. Instead he swore fealty to the army itself, bound to honor the Infernal Skull, regardless of who carried the banner. 


I've never been a fan of the older "stock" necromancer models. The original version of Toht (on foot) is made from the Mordheim necromancer. Flames were added to the skull with modeling putty, and the sword was replaced with a hand from a plastic zombie, posed as though he's summoning his minions from the earth.

I've needed a mounted necromancer for a while, someone who could keep pace with the knights as they moved out on the flanks, or ahead of the main battle line. For this new version of Toht, I used the same Mordheim model, mounted on top of the Lord of Nurgle's zombified horse. The book is from the Sisters of Battle Cannoness, held in a plastic zombie hand.


Here are the inset detail shots, full and uncropped:



'Til next time!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wait, HOW MANY Ghouls Will I Need to Paint?

Last time, I mentioned that I was preparing for a large game. My buddy Steve and I have each been working on our armies for more than a decade, so our collections are pretty substantial. We were hoping to throw down with everything we've got, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 points.

I counted up the points cost for all of my miniatures and it comes to just about 8,000 before adding in magic items. If I kit out my characters, add in some magic banners, and finish a few of the items in my painting queue, I could push it toward 10,000. But there's a problem:

8th edition Warhammer uses the percentage system for army composition. For anyone unfamiliar with what that means, units and characters are categorized as either Lords, Heroes, Core units, Special units, or Rare units, and each has a minimum and maximum requirement to build a valid army list. Core troops need to make up at least 25% of the total points and Rare troops can't exceed 25% of the total points.

25% of 10,000 is 2500. Here's the entirety of my core units– zombies, skeletons, ghouls, and dire wolves:

Pretty impressive if I do say so myself. 230 models, and it clocks in at...

1565 points. That's 935 points shy. Even if I break down the wolves into minimum units, each with a doom wolf upgrade, and take a magic banner for one skeleton unit, I can bring it to 1620. 

That means if I ever hope to play a 10,000 point game I'll need to come up with 880 points of core troops. At 10 points per model, ghouls are the most expensive Vampire Counts core unit, so I'll have to paint 88 ghouls. That means the 48 or so classic metal figures I've got in my parts bin, and the 40 winged hybrid ghouls I've got planned. Those are all conversion-heavy, so this will have to wait a while. Until then, I guess we'll just have to settle for a small, 6500 point game.

Edition Fatigue

I began playing Warhammer during the 5th edition, "Hero-Hammer," as it was known. Characters (even wizard lords) were powerful enough to take on regiments of troops, single handed. The magic phase was governed by a dice roll and used the Winds of Magic cards, meaning the casting player would either dominate the magic phase or be completely ineffective. Army composition was based on percentages and there was an "anything goes" attitude for monsters and allied units.

6th Edition was a total rewrite, and in my opinion the best edition to-date. The army lists were more appropriately themed (one could no longer select from the entire range of Warhammer monsters), and characters were greatly toned down. The focus was on using troops and regiments to fight the battles. Most of the army books were planned out alongside the core rules, so they were mostly balanced with each other. And the magic system was streamlined, with most of the magic items unique to each army book (reinforcing that idea of army theme).

7th Edition felt like a stop-gap between 6th and 8th. The rules were mostly the same, albeit simplified a little. 

8th Edition was another rewrite, and feels like a cross between 5th and 7th edition. It uses the percentage system and the oh-so-fickle Winds of Magic (although power dice have replaced cards). It also uses random charge distances, which is counter to the idea of tactical maneuvering, you know– the crux of miniatures wargaming.

I've never been a fan of the percentage system, even when they used it back in 5th edition. 6th edition's system using minimum/maximum numbers of units was so much simpler. The current magic system also doesn't scale well for large games. At 10,000 points, between all of my vampires and necromancers, I'll have 9 wizards for a combined total of 25 spell levels. The Winds of Magic will still only generate 7 power dice on average and maybe I'll channel an extra two dice for a whopping average total of 9, and a maximum of 12. 

That means, with 25 spells at my disposal, I'll only ever have enough power dice to cast about 4 or 5 spells in each magic phase. Compare that to the 6th edition rules, which generated power dice based on the level of the wizard(s), meaning more wizards meant more dice, allowing the magic system to scale up with the size of the armies. 

New editions of the game usually bring an equal amount of excitement and dread, but 8th edition (while having the most beautiful rulebook ever produced) has felt like too much of a step backward, so I'm looking forward to an update. The rumor is that 9th edition will be another total rewrite, so we'll have to wait and see.

Painting Queue Update

My Hellfire Knights are coming along, slowly but surely. Their shields are finished and I'm working on the fire pattern on the lances. Now I remember why I put these off for so long– blending the red to yellow and then touching up around the flames is a major pain.

Once the lances are finished, I can dull cote them and then it's just a matter of painting the armor and gluing them on their horses.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Shelf of Shame

In my miniatures cabinet, somewhere between the army display shelf and terrain storage, lies the Shelf of Shame.™ Every modeller has one, and you all know what I'm talking about– The place where half-finished projects languish in a state of limbo, hoping to one day regain the attention of their creator, who has abandoned them to this state of perpetual purgtory for reasons beyond their understanding.

I imagine it like a scene from Toy Story: On the display shelf, a full unit of grave guard practices marching in ranks and attacking in unison. Marduk the Ghoul King riles his wolves into a frenzy, all in preparation for the eventual day when a giant hand will reach into the cabinet and carry them off to war.

Meanwhile, on the Shelf of Shame, half painted and unglued knights struggle to stay in their saddles; zombies, still attached to sprues, wail in agony; and a wight king with no hands fumbles for his weapons. They look up through the glass above with a never ending desire to join the ranks of finished models.

I wonder who the "Woody" of the bunch would be. Probably the vampire standard bearer; he's fully assembled and looks pretty authoritative with that sword.

"Here he comes, guys! Stand at attention, maybe today will be the day!"

The hellsteed stops flopping around on its back, and one of knights makes a comment about having been waiting for nearly a decade. Of course, this all goes on while I'm not looking. At least, I think it does...

Working on the winged ghouls got me thinking about all of the unfinished projects I have for my Vampire Counts army. And, yes, some of them have literally been there for years, having been packed up and unpacked through multiple address changes.

I think it's about time I finished some of these. My buddy and I are talking about having a super-sized throw down, hopefully before the end of the year, and it would be nice to bring some newly painted models to the table. So, this is what I'll be working on in my spare time between modeling and terrain commissions.

Legion of the Infernal Skull Project Queue

(This list isn't presented in any particular order; I'll be finishing them as time and inspiration allows.)

1. Garden of Morr

I thought this would be a quick, one or two day project but it has been sitting unpainted for about a year. (At least I took the time to prime it.) I've got to finish this before the next big terrain project comes along or it may be another year before I can get back to it.

2. The Last 10 Hellfire Knights

Nine. Years. That's how long these models have been waiting to be finished. Although in my defense, there used to be 28. These last ten are left over from the 2004 Iron Painter challenge at the Glen Burnie Battle Bunker. The challenge was to paint a1500 point army, start to finish, in 24 hours. While I didn't complete a single model, I was able to knock out a significant portion of the painting. I've been picking away at these guys ever since, slowly adding them to the ranks of completed knights. When they're finally finished, what had begun as a pair of small 6-man units will be rounded out to an entire legion of 40 Hellfire Knights. The horses are already done, and I only need to paint the riders.

3. Toht Nhemisis, Mounted Necromancer

My army list for the painting challenge consisted of 28 black knights, 20 dire wolves, and this mounted version of my necromancer Toht Nhemisis. The wolves have already been finished. Once I knock out those ten knights and this guy, I can finally call it done. After nine years. That's abysmal.

4. Hellsteed

This is a project I started while I was out in Seattle. The hellsteed is based on a plastic Bretonnian pegasus knight, with some plastic skeleton steed parts and a lot of sculpting. The wings are from a Warmaster wyvern and the head is from the Red Duke's horse.

I've been collecting the plastic vampire parts from terrorgheist kits, in the hope of scratch-building a unit of Blood Knights. I'll think I'll use one of those to build a new vampire character to ride the hellsteed. Maybe this could even become the mounted version of Dimitri Von Koss.

5. Oren Koth, Mounted Battle Standard Bearer

My wight king army standard bearer is converted from a classic Blood Dragon vampire miniature. The blister pack had come with both mounted and infantry versions of the same character. I've had the one on foot finished for quite some time, and a couple years ago I decided to convert the mounted version. With a little sculpting and a horse from the plastic Empire General kit, he's ready to go. I keep putting off painting this guy, but now that the black knights are nearing completion, I think it will be nice to have a mounted battle standard bearer to accompany them.

6. Vampire Battle Standard Bearer

I really like the Konrad Von Carstein model and its cloak of bats. With his arms cut off, the figure is open for some unique posing, and it struck me that I could easily turn this model into a third version of my battle standard, this time carried by a vampire.

My plan was to use some of the smaller Warmaster fell bats to expand his cloak, but all of them went into my bat swarms. I'll have to track down some more before I can finish this model.

7. Corpse Cart Conversion

This project fell by the wayside after the rules update meant the model's ability to negatively affect enemy wizards was no longer cumulitave with multiple carts. (I had planned to put five of these things on the table! How's -5 to enemy spell casting sound?) 

It's still a fantastic model, however, and I particularly like this conversion using all manner of Chaos spiky bits and carrion birds. It's already about halfway painted, so I should be able to finish this off pretty quickly. (Famous last words, right?)

8. Terrorgheist

I completed the assembly for this monster back in April but I keep putting off painting him. Maybe if I work on the terrorgheist's base and the Garden of Morr as a single terrain project, I can knock out two birds with one stone. Then I'll just have the beast itself to worry about.

9. Three More Vindicators

Because why take one when the campaign rules allow for an extra heavy support slot? Like the black knights, these tanks are left over from my time in Glen Burnie and have been waiting for almost nine years to be painted. I won't be getting to them any time soon, but the new space marine codex is out, so who knows?

10. Winged Ghouls

I'm sure "Woody" Von Koss tried to be open and friendly when the winged ghouls showed up. I can't imagine the black knights being very welcoming, though. Fortunately, most of the models on the shelf are in too much of a state of disassembly to to cause any trouble. The knights are almost finished, however... And those Vindicator tanks are fully operational!

Now, I can't say for certain how it occurred, but one of the ghouls was knocked over when I came into the studio this morning. Being the new kid on the block is difficult enough, but on the Shelf of Shame it's like Thunderdome when your back is turned. I really need to get painting before these guys get their asses kicked.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Winged Ghouls: Proof of Concept

Including the Garden or Morr, I have about five projects currently in progress for my Vampire Counts. So what kind of hobbyist would I be if I finished any of them before staring another?

Winged Ghouls

This is a unit that I've had in mind ever since the Legion of Everblight Grotesques came out a couple years ago. Anyone who's followed this blog long enough knows what a stickler I am for proper bat-wing anatomy, and the Grotesque wings are near-perfect. The arm and hand are well formed, and the fingers extend with the wing membrane stretched between them. What's more, they all have consistent anatomy across the different poses. (I'm looking at you, Vargheists!)

The current edition plastic Crypt Ghouls look nice and feral, and I thought they would be perfect as winged bat-men to form the infantry core of Marduk the Wolf's bestial army. I've got some wings and a box of ghouls, now I just need to see if I can make it work.

I figure it's as simple as swapping out the arms for the wings. Sculpting will be required, of course, to cover the shoulder join.

Those awful piercings and back... things (seriously, I can't tell if they're spikes, quills, or hair; bones are randomly stuck through and impaled on it) have to go, too. I'll resculpt a bony spine on each model.

With the torsos assembled, the next step is to pin the wings in place using a single brass rod running through the arm sockets.

Not bad.

As I'd suspected, the wings make it difficult to rank up the ghouls. I'll definitely need to go with regimental bases for this unit, with some of the ghouls perched on tombstones so they sit at different levels.

I sure do miss the days of skirmishing ghouls. That would make this so much easier. But, hey– The 9th edition of Warhammer is apparently just around the corner, so there's a chance the next Vampire Counts book could revert ghouls back into a skirmishing unit. My winged ghouls will be a long time in the making, with luck I'll have my answer before I've glued them onto regimental strips.

'Til next time!