Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Dark Elf Army Takes Shape

Its been too long since I last posted an update of my painting work. Nearly a month... more you say? Well, works been firing on all cylinders so I have some excuse - getting up at 4-4.30am is pretty arduous!

Dark Elf Warriors - mix up 1

I promised in an earlier post that I'd try and grab a pic of the old Mengil's Manflayers mixed up with my other Dark Elf warriors. I kept the command groups the same, just splitting the male and female Mengil troops evenly and mixing in the rest of the warriors at random. This unit is 21 strong, including a full command with a characterful Ean Hawkbane as unit champion.

Dark Elf Warriors Unit 1
Mixed up Dark Elf Warriors

Dark Elf Warriors - mix up 2

This is how the other unit looks again 21 strong, with a full command plus wizard added in for fun:

Dark Elf Warriors Unit 2
Another solid unit of skillful, chaotic Elves.

So, basically they're finished. Sure there's the odd touch up here and there, plus the varnishing to do but otherwise I need worry about them no more... except if they have to face up to some Chaos Warriors or perhaps a couple of trolls. I'll worry about those issues later!

All in all I think they make some pretty interesting units, and as the main bulk of the army they look the part. This isn't a typical Dark Elf colour scheme I know but when I started out I saw that the Dark Elves could be either evil or chaotic in alignment so I went with the latter and picked brighter, contrasting, maybe even bombastic colours O_o It saved me from churning out another run-of-the-mill black/red or purple/gold army, which may have been striking but, to me rather boring. I admit that I had initially intended the turquoise to have way more contrast and be much darker overall but that never materialised.

Witch Elf Unit

These are the Marauder Witch Elves and they're ok miniatures. They're certainly not my favorites, with the sculpts being a tad crude both in their anatomic proportions and their rather sexist portrayal of women. Compare them to the older sculpts of female elves in the warrior units and, well, they seem to have removed most of their clothes, had their legs and necks stretched way out of proportion and their hairstyles are frankly ludicrous. They do make a dynamic unit and the style is at least cohesive with each witch wearing a skimpy chainmail swimsuit, thick bracelets on each arm (with "moar awesum skullz" added) and variations on the theme of loin cloth/tabard down the front. They're also nicely dynamic and brandish a variety of weapons to suit the 3rd edition Fantasy Armies supplement.

Marauder Miniatures Witch Elves & Citadel Dark Elf Sorceress
The Old Hag leads her witch elf guards in the vangaurd of the assault
Despite their weaknesses they do work well as a unit, on the whole. I have stuck to the same palette as the rest of the force but bulked up some of the more minor colours - purple, green, pink - to create a slightly wilder, more frivolous tone. A Citadel Dark Elf Sorceress, Azireth Darkforce,  is in there in the front rank, because it suits the 'fluff' rather nicely and allows me some extra room for narrative. There could be some tension between her and her bodyguards and the army general, perhaps allowing for some role-play style gaming.

Second Crossbow Company

I picked up some Black Tree Designs Dark Elf crossbows a while ago. Are they originally Harlequin miniatures or from the Fantasy Armies range? Either way I'm pleased with the quality of the miniatures. The unit has a cohesive scultping style and a good variety of models in it. The poses are all fairly similar though and they are not very dynamic either. This isn't neccessarily a bad thing, though a couple of kneeling poses and a couple that look like they're actually firing would be a useful addition to the range. The only problem I found was trying to attach the bows to the stocks - they rarely lined up well and, although a little work got some pretty close, a few are down right wonky!

Black Tree Designs - Dark Elf Crossbows
Crossbow reinforcements courtesy of Black Tree Designs
Whilst not in any way terrible the command models feel a little weaker in design and sculpt than the rest of the unit, with the dual wielding champion seeming rather flat and awkward. This could easily be remedied with a hand swap and maybe a little metal bending too! I probably won't bother. I will however be making a banner and finishing off the leather parts and bases soon.

Mercenary Contingents

Dixon's Samurai: Ashigaru Archers

I acquired a small collection of about 6 Dixon's Samurai models a while ago so whilst pondering the ally and merc options available in Fantasy Armies I figured a contingent of skillfull Nipponese might be an interesting addition. Feeling I could use more long range covering fire whilst my hand-to-hand warriors closed in I ordered some ashigaru archers and a bow wielding samurai to go with the minis I already have. I painted them in a variation of the same old colourscheme, using a royal blue alongside a more simple orange. The samurai leader is in a starkly contrasting green/orange combo. There's some work to go painting up bows/arrows but they're nearly complete.

Nipponese Ashigaru Longbow mercenaries
Nipponese mercenaries, a company of Ashigaru longbowmen
I actually really like these models. The sculpts are best described as wonky, with their chunky faces and stocky build. They have a real charm though, which accounts for them being in production continuously for some 30+ years! These guys are clearly well equipped with light armour and powerful zen-style longbows but I'll be keeping them back away from danger - they're relatively weak in combat. Full blown samurai are better up close perhaps, but are more expensive and have the same skill with missile weapons as this lowly peasant company. The Samurai commander is a dangerous opponent though - I might be tempted to equip him with a magic item of some sort. Of course once I get a full Samurai unit to go with them he'll probably be at the head of that instead. I might stretch to a cavalry wing too just for fun - that way I can give him a Ki-rin or a Temple Dog mount. There's also the potential for an assassin, though only if I have multiple units. The possibilities for this contingent are pretty exciting!

But What about the Ogres?

Well, I have an 8 model strong unit of Golgfag's Mercenary Ogres in a jar of Dettol right now, with some of them already stripped and cleaned. I'll probably only ever field 6 or so of them but the lot I won on ebay (for a tad more than I'd have liked but still under a fiver per model) had eight, so I now have eight. Simples! Better check back soon to see how that unit pans out. I've already got a crazy idea of paint scheme and given them a new name:  Jimmy Rancid and the Fuck Muskets. That's quite a major clue, right?

The Moment You've All Been Waiting For: Another Army Shot!

WIP Dark Elf Army
The Host assembles - the muster is nearly complete
This project is inching closer to completion and, whilst tantalisingly close, there always seems so much more to do. I happen to have another Hydra under the brush - a lion bodied one this time - in case one isn't enough, hah, and the only unit yet to get started is the ogres. Oh, to see it all finished will be a glorious day!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

The Oldhammer Community

What is it all about?

I joined the Oldhammer forum a little over a year ago. Having read various threads and topics for some time as a 'lurker' I decided it was time to make my own contributions to the community. It had been around for a while and is still growing by the day. Its still in its infancy in many ways.

But why this community and not an up to the minute forum like Warseer? In answering this I want to address an issue that seems to have dogged the Oldhammer community since its inception - defining what Oldhammer is. More specifically I want to propose why Oldhammer as a concept is flawed when viewed outside the context of those that contribute to it, as a community.

A Little Slice of History.

Since my rekindled interest in war gaming of the fantasy variety (by which I also mean science fantasy and science fiction) I bought some models, painted them and then bought some more. It wasn't long before I decided to take on commission work and painted single models and entire armies for other gamers, mostly GW stuff. As the workload increased the variety increased and the more models I painted from other manufacturers. Keeping abreast of developments in miniatures outside the Games Workshop brand widened what you might call my 'aesthetic horizons'. I was thinking about the design of individual models and the styles of the factions from the game systems and how these might be customised or changed to suit different, personal gaming and aesthetic motives.

I started looking beyond this as well, to the artwork and literature that accompanies those miniatures. I could see how every company was working hard to create an original, noticeable brand and how it all felt so different to the games and models I aspired to all those years ago. Disillusionment soon set in and both my own painting and that of the commissions I was working on began to falter. What exactly had happened? Why was I helping people to create armies that only used models and parts available from Games Workshop or Wyrd Miniatures. What had happened to the 'anything goes' attitude I had when I played with my brother and friends as a boy. I dug out some old boxes and looked at the battered remnants of my childhood gaming. 

One of the things I found was a plastic goblin spearman on a palanquin made of glue melted sprues, extra shields and paper flags coloured in with felt tips. Awful to behold but it served its purpose in the games we played perfectly and I can remember to this day what I had in mind as I made it. Maybe one day I'll build the "Goblin King of Undermountain" properly, with the tools and materials - and skills - that I lacked as a 9 year old.

Why join Oldhammer.org.uk over any other fantasy war-gaming forum?

With the flame of nostalgia burning brightly I started looking for some of the models I had always wanted to own and paint as a young'un, and for the artwork and imagery I aspired to back then to inform my own sense of aesthetic. I discovered  that many of the figures were no longer available and the artwork hard to track down. In my searches across the internet various blogs kept surfacing and eventually those bloggers grouped together and formed the Oldhammer forum and Facebook pages. These are still growing and perhaps it is due to this rapid growth that people who have come across it are asking what it is. I never bothered to ask for a definition, I could see from the threads and discussions that it suited what I was looking for. Having re-found my love of fantasy miniatures in the early 2000's and almost lost it again in 2012, the Oldhammer forum and associated blogosphere allowed me an avenue to take it further, in the direction I wanted it to go. There are people who've played every version of Warhammer from 1st through 8th, people who'd never played any of them but have incredible collections of beautifully painted miniatures and others, like me, who just like to immerse themselves in imaginary scenarios and see what they can find!

So What is it Then, this Oldhammer

To answer this I want to respond to, and elaborate upon, Zhu's point (bottom of p4) that Oldhammer is a community, in the "What is Oldhammer?" thread. Community is exactly the word I didn't have at my fingertips at the time! Without the contributors to the forum and (though I haven't joined it) the Facebook group, there wouldn't really be an 'Oldhammer' to argue about since individual gamers/painters etc. with blogs is a somewhat solitary affair, albeit loosely affiliated. 

Let me use an example to express the contrast I have in mind. Warhammer is typically defined as the most current editions of rules released by Games Workshop, characterised by the current set of models, literature and artwork. This is a fairly straightforward idea - a product, a brand, a business. It changes over time but it can be viewed as a singular concept at any given time, and is distinct from those who are buying the products. Gamers buy the products, sure, but Warhammer is the game.

On the other hand, the Oldhammer forum doesn't promote one specific ruleset, a certain release of miniatures or any specific brand or business. It could be argued that it is much like a political party or, arguably, a protest group! The title 'Oldhammer' is almost impossible to define without making reference to the community of active contributors. It's us that give Oldhammer its focus as a basis for gaming, painting and discussion. There are always going to be aspects of a community that are uniform across most of the members (a love of historic, non-current rules being the most obvious maybe) but like any community there will be those who join because they feel attracted to more peripheral aspects of it - such as enjoyment in making turbo charged, gunned up cars a la 'Dark Future' or discussing the history of 25mm fantasy miniatures. This doesn't mean that any of these ideas is enough to make for a singular definition, they are simply differing aspects of the community at large.

Viewed in this light making a statement such as "Gun toting orc miniatures in the Oldhammer style" is wrong; gun toting orc miniatures will never be the dream of every member, and their style may be completely at odds with the preferences of some who frequent the Oldhammer forum. Its like saying "Tory styled suits" when the Tories have no specific uniform - do they mean power-shoulders like Thatcher or clean-cut charcoal, like George Osborne? 'Oldhammer' is not a style, or a set of rules or even a particular range of miniatures (see the Alternative Playing Pieces thread and The "How To Oldhammer" Thread). Oldhammer is the name of a forum, coined by a bunch of, mostly, blokes, who wanted to discuss gaming related stuff on common ground. It is about what can be learned and what can be shared.

In a phrase...

From my observations, and the reason I joined, the Oldhammer community is formed around the principle of continuing, or for some resurrecting, an historic, fantasy gaming mentality from the 70s/80s/90s that for many died with increasingly tournament/competitively driven gaming using only GW models and their subsequent near monopoly of the industry. This mentality is best summed up as narrative gameplay, where even the lowliest commoner caught up in a conflict has an interesting backstory or a hilarious motive. Its about escapism and imagination. This also covers the numerous members who are only really interested in living the gaming experiences they dreamed of in their youth, but couldn't attain (like me!) but also stretches to those who are primarily collectors/painters/sculptors of models from the period that this escapist, fantasy gaming was born to its heyday in the late 80s. 

Vague and long winded as a description it may be, but what else could it be? This is the only way I have ever viewed it, with my introduction to the Oldhammer term following similar lines to many others. Sure there are those who are driven only to build a collection of models they love with little interest in the gaming side of things - kudos to them, I'll envy every model they have painted - but that's not everyone's cup of tea. Other discussions revolve around game books and fantasy gaming magazines, aspects of that 80s culture that many 'Oldhammerers' are very familiar with - but not everyone is interested in that either. In the end it doesn't matter what draws members in, that idea of escapism seems to be at the heart of things.

There are of course numerous other aspects that are covered in the day to day discussions on the boards and on Facebook. In any motivated community common ground between members will be found and these will then be talked about. This simply add to its richness, rather than detracting from some pre-defined set of characteristics.

In a world where defining a brand is increasingly becoming the overriding factor of life, through social media et al, let's not get sucked into this idea that something has to be clear cut and simplistically delineated. Instead let's just enjoy the diversity of ideas and constructive argument that being a member of an open, multi-faceted and (to me!) infinitely interesting community is all about.