Monday, 2 February 2015

Acceptable in the '80s: Dale Hurst's Tzeentch Warband

In yesterday's post we discussed the seminal dwarf army article by Wayne England, and thanks to some knowledgable fans of the force, we now know that more units of the army appear in several later issues of White Dwarf. I just need to set about tracking them down so we can have the pleasure of examining the models chosen in greater detail. We also heard from Wayne himself on Facebook and he mentioned that he is working on a brand new dwarf army as we speak - so hopefully we will get the chance to check out that force too at some point.
Today we are looking at another highly influential force from White Dwarf 135 - Dale Hurst's heavily converted Tzeentch chaos warband. Realm of Chaos fans hold on to that sanity and we turn the nostalgia factor up to 11!

If Wayne's article launched a thousand dwarf armies, then Dale's must have signed the death warrant of a thousand toy soilders. For the first time, White Dwarf published a comprehensive guide to converting troops for play and displayed the final result as a unit. Sure, during the heady days of the release of Slaves to Darkness, John Blanche had taken us on a little journey about how to manufacture mutations in metal - but that work was more broad in scope and lacked the nitty gritty detail that aided the inexperienced modeller's first steps with scapel, saw and wire.
So what do we get? First up is a little look at Dale's philosphy for the unit. Paint quick and play fast. Its a philosphy that we are perhaps more used to now as many wargaming companies promote huge forces and many of the paint sets and techniques used nowadays really aid the painter in getting stuff on the table faster. Painting culture in the late '80s and early '90s was, at least where I was based, very labour intensive - with many of us spending hours and hours getting the most out of our plastic space marines and never really having much time for gaming. Still, I don't recall seeing the horror of horrors - unpainted units on the tabletop - being pushed around in games until much, much later. In a Peterborough GW in the early 2000s, I saw a game being played entirely with boxes of miniatures, with the sprues still rattling around inside!!
Still, using Dale's block colour philosphy it would be possible to get a striking looking force on the table quite quickly, which would allow you time to get games in, while doing further work at your own speed in between bouts. Its certainly not an approach that I would take - preferring as I do to lavish time and energy to all of the models I field, so at least they look good as they are routed or destroyed by huge 'tar pit' units of skeletons! But its a perfectly acceptable approach that other people may well wish to employ.

This second page give sound advice about how best to choose which models to convert. The collector in me rails at the thought of chopping up my beloved Citadel models in anyway, and I do search out broken or damaged models just for the purpose of 'improving'. Obviously, at the time this article was written access to the classic models used was not an issue, but gamers today now have a huge wealth of companies and componants to turn to when converting models. Though its not something I would do myself, I really do enjoy seeing the intelligent ways many Oldhammerers make use of plastic and resin parts to update classic and modern figures and make them their own.
The photocopable banner is a nice touch here, and something that I love making use of. From my previous life as an archaeological illustrator, I suspect that this design was produced with technical pens at a much larger size, and then reduced down on a photocopier. Freehand designs always look more impressive with a good deal of planning behind them after all. Have a go, even if you are printing an image off the internet and painting over the top. You'd be surprised how effective this can be.
There is also some sound advice about using a knife properly. And the word 'hobby' hasn't been sprinkled around the text like confetti at a wedding either. In the later stages of my White Dwarf buying this really got up my nose... 'Use your hobby knife to cut the plastic parts from the sprue... Then use your hobby saw to remove the unwanted head... Before using your hobby glue to sit everything together...' Ahhh! I much preferred this type editorial style - as it made me feel like an adult and not some foolish child while it was educating me. 

Anyone setting out on their first conversion journeys needs to know about pining. Even tackling the much larger monsters (such as the spined dragon I worked on last year) is made all the easily with a good understanding of why heavy parts are pinned together. Before I read this article back in the day I had no idea whatsoever about supporting limbs, wings and other appendages with trimmed down paperclips. Thanks to this article I asked my dad what a pin-vice was! Luckliy, my old man was a highly skilled railway modeller (Scale Four you know) and understood exactly what I was referring to. Within a week he'd gone out a bought a nice new one, and I had his battered campaigner in my bits box. Sure, within the first few minutes of using it I managed to impale the bit into my hand and bleed all over my Bloodthirster, but at least its wings never fell off!

The article goes on to describe head swaps. One of the easiest techniques to master and something which many of use have lost the art for, especially with the tendancy of modern kits to automatically give us a range of options in this regard. Actually hacking off the head of one metal model and attaching it to another can be quite a challenge, but if done correctly it can breathe new life into an old model. Seeing the range of heads on display here, I mutilated much of my Heroquest plastics with ill-informed improvements. But at least I learnt how NOT to do it!

This final page gives further detail about how many of the more impressive conversions were achieved. Reading through it once again with far more knowledgable eyes Dale's words make much more sense. I seem to recall much of the discussion here was beyond my modelling skills back in the day - especially in the filling department. I read about how he used plasticine to fill gaps and copied this with the grotty plastercine I found at the bottom of my younger sister's art chest. Needless to say, the results of me building up a minotaur's back were utterly disasterous!
There is a great quote in here for all Realm of Chaos conversion affectionardos. "With some imaginative interpretation of its attributes, I ended up with a very strange-looking creature." Imagination is a vital part of any good conversion, and in a world of proscribed paint schemes, defined unit layouts and trademarked insigia - the conversion is one of the few bastions yet to fall to the 'hobby-suits' (look, there I am adding that dreaded hobby word on to nouns) who threaten to derail us from the freedom wargaming should allow us.
Get converting!


  1. One of the key modeling articles for me too - I pretty much use all the techniques on all of my conversions still!

  2. I still refer to this article frequently as a source of inspiration, it influenced me as a kid and still does. My love of converting models into unique creations stems from this and I remember copying the exact same arm swap back in the day, more recently I've copied the thug head swap and the zebra minotaur idea!

  3. I love this issue of White Dwarf because of those four key modelling and painting articles; the dwarfs, the chaos warband, the ork-genestealer cult, and the freebooterz. It was those four articles -- and the sample chaos warband in the Marauder pages -- that ignited my interest in modelling and painting.

  4. I also was heavily influenced by this article. I even bought a new chimera model just to get 3 different new beast heads and a pair of wings to emulate the miniatures shown in the photographs. My conversions never obtained the quality shown in WD, but some of the results (including the parts of that purpose-bought chimera-model) here:

  5. This was one of the most important WDs I ever got, I was floored by this article and it fed my activities for ages, it was opening doors for more imaginative application of the skills I was developing just building and painting straight out of the tin. The Ork-Genestealer cult was terribly painted but the concepts were so awesome. Those really were the days, the sparks igniting bigger fires!

  6. Clearly Khorne was pleased with your sacrifice, hence why your Bloodthirsters wings remained securely attached!

  7. the advice in this piece was so informative at the time, but I just didn't like the end results, I think it was because of their paint job....

  8. This post is really good! I added a link to it in my Best Reads of the Week Series for February 1-7, 2015.