Friday 29 January 2016

eBay: A lament

Looking back, I can see it was a Golden Age. And like all such wonderous times, I was totally unaware of its existence until it had gone. I could, obviously, be talking about the years Bryan Ansell ran Citadel Miniatures, and his magnificent design studio produced exceptional models, games and supplements to support them. 

But I am not.

I am talking about eBay. 


As a miniature collector, I have passed through the atypical phases of the grognard. That initial early period of high aspirations limited by poor funding (otherwise known as youth) to the wilderness years of indifference as booze and girls take over. But like an insidious poison, the desire to collect (and sometimes paint) little lead men slowly drips back into your subconscious. You pass a Games Workshop in the mid-nineties and peer through the foggy glass of the store front. Before you stand the 'next generation' of the company's target demographic, buckets of dice in hand, egged on by the wild-eyed enthusiasm of the redshirt. He looms large, like a overeager cultist at a religious rally. 

You pity them all, for they were not there in the 'beginning'. They're just not aware of what has been lost. Looking over, you see the miniature display cabinet in the window. The miniatures on show are largely unfamiliar to you, though you can still recognise the basic humanoid factions; inexplicably they are nearly all painted red. You may even pop in to purchase a model for old times sake, and a set of paints too. You while away a few hours at home working on it, reminiscing on the miniatures you have had, and the ones that got away. 

Then gradually you learn of a place online where 1987 chaos thugs are being traded. You meet a bloke who proudly fields an impressive unit of them at a local GW, who goes on to explain that the website in question is called eBay and the whole enterprise is reasonably safe as you can pay with a cheque. Later on, as the familiar chimes of dial up gurgle across the living room, you remember that moment in time and type eBay into the Alta-Vista search engine you always use just to see what all the fuss is about.

Well done grognard. You have discovered eBay!

Chapter One

I can remember that moment well and it was awesome. Now, I know that the Americans have overused that word to such a degree that the adjective has lot its power to communicate a feeling. See the game last night, Chuck? Yes - it was awesome! What did you think about the new Star Wars film, Starbuck? Yes- it was awesome! Want to play a game of the new edition of Warhammer, Butch? Yes - it is awesome! But in truth, that moment in my life was mind-shatteringly joyous. It was awesome in the true sense of the word. For there, on my computer screen, were all of the miniatures I had ever dreamed of owning for sale in their thousands. No matter how obscure the search, results would ping up almost instantly and a bloke in Petersfield could sell me a Perry Chaos Chariot for a few quid. 

Of course, it was all auctions then. You have to wait and see if you succeeded in your plans to pick up the miniatures you wanted. Early on is was fairly simple and almost sporting, much like the beginning stages of the air campaign during the First World War. Missed out on Sandra Prangle? Nevermind, she will turn up again soon. And she did. But like trench warfare, the experience of bidding quickly took a darker tone with the emergence of the dreaded sniper. Oh, you thought you were winning that 1988 Rogue Trader Chaplain with the flag? Well, you were up until the final two seconds when someone dropped £2 on top of your 50p bid. I am sorry, but you have been outbid.

But such things were tolerable, and hell you even joined in with the action when you really just HAD to have that model. I can remember pulling late-nighters just to jump in at the last instance with the hefty bid of £3.77 to get my hands on Skrag the Slaughter. There were just so many listings all of the time that, to me at least, it didn't matter if I missed out as there was always five or six other juicy lots to have a flutter on. 

After all, everyone who was anyone posted up their listings with a starting bid of 99p! 

Chapter Two

Overwhelmed by choice, I took on a rather whimsical approach to collecting. I called it '99ping', after the trend I has just described above. There would be easily twelve pages of 'dwarf' models alone when I typed in Citadel dwarfs 80s into eBay's search engine. I'd run down the results placing a bid of 99p on anything and everything that took my fancy. I'd not bother to snipe or track the auctions, I'd just pop back later and reflect on what serendipity had netted me. 

Joblots were great fun. People had yet to realise that 'more money' could be made by selling models individually with a crisp photograph. These were the collecting equivalents of pot luck and the fag smoked stained parcels were a revelation to unwrap once they arrived at your door. You'd discover models you did not even know existed.

Very early on I picked up the Machineries of Destruction Skeleton Chariot in one such auction. I hated the thing on sight, thinking it crude and ugly. I discarded it in the back of my garage where, years later, I was able to retrieve it. It was to be one of my first proper 'Oldhammer' miniatures published on this blog. 

My collecting followed no real pattern as I had no goal beyond buying the models I had always wanted. I am awfully glad now that I did as I now have a very eclectic collection of odds and sods in the leadpile. 

Chapter Three

'Buy it Now' was starting to develop as I began to shift miniatures on a larger scale and twice in my life I had to resort to trading Citadel to make ends meet. Both times it worked, but I bet it would be impossible now. Too many sellers wanting you to hand over a set amount of cash rather than taking a chance. Just look at the results today; out of 19,469 lots under 'Citadel' only 2,175 are auctions, and a fair whack of those have high starting bids of £5+ 

I can remember selling as being fun. The auctions were a big part of that. I'd post up my wares with a seven day turnaround and habitually sign in to watch the green sale price grow. It was exciting to see the models I had kicking about the place unloved to go 'double figures' as collectors sought to out do each other. Sure, I was stung a few times with lots that didn't sell for what I was hoping, but  I always stuck to the belief that a model would rich its price through bids alone. And generally, they did. 

As a rule, I would always, always, always list with a starting price of 99p and a low postage cost, as I noticed that the higher you charged for 'expenses' the less punters seemed to bid. I don't recall huge amounts of unsold lots sailing by unloved either, I sold everything I listed every time. Look over eBay today, and there is an enormous amount of product just sitting there, unloved and unsold, not even soliciting a cheeky bid. 

Prices can be stupid now. I have written extensively about the subject here, here and here over the years. Back then, it seemed, to me at least, that the only stupid prices were the once created by bidders in their frenzy to own something, not the sellers in the hour of greed. 


I still have the occasional flutter on eBay. And you can still find some incredible bargains, believe me. But it is exhausting work. Scrolling past page after page of overpriced BIN models that just seem to sit there and fester. I have heard all of the justifications for this trend over the years. 

My favourite is the classic 'Scalper's Defence' of 'my prices are high so I can keep models available all year round for you!' Yes, you have got that right - the sheer cost of keeping unsold stock on eBay with all the fees that abound causes sellers to have to hike up their prices to turn a profit. They have to sell one massively inflated model every now and again to keep the whole enterprise afloat. Lunacy!

The other old chestnut is 'the market always dictates what miniatures are worth so if it sells it is the right price!' I am sure that words of this nature have been uttered in many a doomed boardroom across the world as idiot managers 'raise' those prices to order to rebalance books or please badgering shareholders. Even back in the 'Golden Age' of eBay I can recall buying models for a couple of quid at auction and a couple of places above or below the lot, the same model would be selling for twice the price. I could never work out what was going on in this regard. Could they just not see the same listings as me? 

A while back I heard a 'rumour' (though I expect it is more of an urban legend) that this whole trend of very high BIN prices comes from a single event. Some nameless company had one of those 'wild' office parties and set a lowly underling the task to buying in the sundries for the event. His (or her) budget was very high, and knowing that 'The Boss' was a hue fan of Warhammer they allegedly hoovered up nearly every model that was on eBay at the time. BINs only, of course - busy people like that have no time for an online auction. 

I have been scrolling through eBay tonight and doing so has left me feeling a little sad. I am sad that we have lost such a wonderful resource and a wealth of old school models. Of course, I wonder what part I had in the slow decline of eBay as a medium to buy old Citadel figures. When I created the Oldhammer Trading Group years ago, I never expected it to grow to the size it has. How many of the punters who used to list stuff like I did (99p all the way!) now trade through the OTC? Or hoard stuff as trading fodder, rather than peddling it off on eBay to create more hobby funds in that never ending story of the leadhead. Buy. Sometimes paint. Sell. Buy again. 

What about you dear reader? Do you think there was once a 'better time' for collecting Citadel miniatures on eBay? Do you even still use eBay to buy and sell your models? I would be most interested to know. 


Wednesday 27 January 2016

Circle of Chaos: Oldhammer style miniatures Kickstarter

I had a very pleasant surprise returning home from work today, another Oldhammer inspired Kickstarter and one that has already reached it's pledge goal flashing up on my Facebook feed! I must admit to not being aware of the project before spotting the news and I expect that there are a great deal more potentially interested parties out there in the same boat. Hence this post. 

Anyway, out of the horse's mouth is always best, so let's hear from the team responsible for these new models. 

"Welcome to the first Circle of Chaos project! We are a group of sculptors who banded together to create the most evil and chaotic minions, mutants and miscreants ever seen. Now we are letting them loose upon an unsuspecting gaming world!

These models are all scaled to 28mm heroic in order to be useable in as many different game settings or systems as possible."

"This project is being run by Curtis Fell. Curtis is the owner of Ramshackle Games and has successfully run five previous Kickstarter campaigns.
The master sculpts of the figures are all completed and ready for the mould making process. We will be using a reputable casting company to produce the models. We are asking for backers to raise the money to pay for the casting and postage.
Therefore the risk on this project is low. The only real challenge will be to make sure that the casts are all sent out in time if this project receives loads of backers!"
Curtis Fell, who I have had the pleasure of meeting during the Oldhammer Weekends, is behind the project with his company, Ramshackle Games.  As I said, the project has already funded with twenty days remaining. And at £25 for seven metal miniatures delivered to your door, Circle of Chaos offers good value for money.

If you are interested in the project, more information can be found here.

Sunday 24 January 2016

A Tale of Four Oldhammer Gamers: Plague Skeletons

This weekend was a little bit of a busy one, and Fallout 4 currently holds me in its post-apocalyptic embrace but I still managed to get these four plague skeletons finished. These are the the rank and file of the seven skeleton unit I am planning for my Nurgle force. The command models - a skeletal champion, standard bearer and unit commander remain unfinished on my paint station. The standard bearer is a conversion and needs more work, while the other two models only arrived in the post this week and have yet to see undercoat. 

I was keen to make these models a little more generic, rather than go all out on the Nurgle iconography for much the same reason as I did with the plague cart. These models will also be able to become part of my undead force, and as I have three painted metal skeleton warriors elsewhere and future ten man unit is a possibility.

These old Citadel skeletons are full of character. I used to really despise them and strongly favour the plastic models from Skeleton Horde, but actually playing Warhammer has softened my few of them, for the plastic models are so light and spindly they are so easy to break. These chunky boneheads are much more hardwearing than their plastic cousins. I also love the variation of pose, armour and style the skeletons of the '80s bring us. I think all of the major sculptors working at Citadel at the time had a crack at at least one bonehead and they sold is suitable millions over the years to make them very easy to collect now. 

They are totally crap in combat mind, but they look great! 

Unusually for me, I painted the four models as a batch, working on each area separately before moving on to the next. For the bone, I used my trusted Foundry boneyard triad. The rusted metal was fairly simple, with a black undercoat drybrushed dark silver and then orange/brown to create the rusty look, with the dark silver back over the top. I highlighted the chainmail here and there with pure silver, and edged the helmets, plate and shields with the same. As you will have seen, I opted to give each skeleton a 'colour' to add interest. This is where these models differ from my standard undead army models as they stick to a scheme of black, bone, white, metals and brown. 

As is my usual style, I knocked up a couple of shields and had a go at some tiny little freehand skulls. They look naff up close but work reasonably at a distance. 

The 'green' skeleton is my favourite of the bunch. I have always loved the figure ever since I saw one fielded by Thantants at a game in Mansfield. His collection (particularly the undead) has always been a big influence and inspiration to me. This skelly's cheeky beard (still hanging from the jaw) tickled my fancy and I managed to find one cheaply on eBay. Lovely model! 

Right, I am off once again. I have a game in just over a month (In Defence of Far Corfe) and need to produce my units over the next few weeks. Hopefully, I can get a few hours in to finish this unit before March. Until then, enjoy what ever you are painting! 


Friday 22 January 2016

The Lead of Winter: A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Day at the Wargames Foundry 5th March

"Far Corfe was once a thriving economic centre with a wealthy and tasteful artisan class keen to patronise the arts. The key to their success? The humble wool trade. The lolling, grassy hills that surrounded the town could easily sustain thousands of sheep, and the countryside was once awash with numerous little farmsteads specialising in fleeces. The town's location, built on a crossroads to Altdorf, Erzstadt and Middenheim, also helped, as it was easy to transport goods to and from the rivers that were the pathways of the Empire.
But the town has been in decline for over eighty years. New markets and cheaper produce from Kislev reduced the profitability of wool and though still viable, the industry is not what it was. Nowadays, if you ask the average peasant in the street across the Old World about Far Corfe, they would probably speak about the 'Grand Recreation' rather than its former role as the hub of the wool trade.
Some two hundred years ago, the chief of the Airyaxe Wound tribe, Todge-Dropper the Terrible, unleashed a swarm of orc and goblin raiders against the defences of Far Corfe. Legend said that the previous winter had been so harsh in their mountain fastness, that even the warmest undergarments could do little to ward off the evils of frostbite. Swearing appalling oaths of violence on the altar of Mork, Todge-Dropper set out to destroy Far Corfe and claim their enormous stores of warm, fluffy wool for himself. He swore that warm underdrawers would be the spoils of a successful war and all of those who followed him could return home with as many pairs as he wished. 
As all schoolboy students of history can tell you, Todge-Dropper was defeated and Far Corfe was saved in one of the most remarkable battles in history. Due to a series of remarkable coincidences, field armies of men, dwarfs, gnomes, halflings, wood, sea and high elves were all in the immediate area when Todge-Dropper launched his poorly timed assault.
Dick FitzInwell, leader of the Far Corfe militia, couldn't believe his eyes when rank after rank of elite fighting men marched up the road towards the town walls within hours of him sending out the call to arms. Bjorn Whiffabigun, the dwarf mercenary captain was the first to arrive. Swiftly followed by a combined elvish force lead by the sorceress Pyria Sweetcherry. Their timely arrival meant that Todge-Dropper's vanguard were beaten back and Far Corfe was able to re-enforce itself considerably. Eventually, Todge-Dropper's forces were crushed on the wooden walls of the town, though the orc leader's body was never found.
So remarkable was the victory, that the nations of those involved continued to celebrate it years after the final survivor had died. Every ten years, hundreds of warriors would arrive in the town, from all over the Old World, for a week long festival of feasting and re-enactment. Local tribesmen were employed to dress up as Todge-Dropper's legions and a 'Grand Recreation' was fought (using safety weapons) to the delight of the adoring crowds.
Since the town's decline, the Recreation has become less and less well attended. Though all of the nations involved still send token units of troops. Interest in the spectacle is waning. Mayor Haywood Jablomi, the current ruler of the town, is now faced with being the last leader to organise the event. This year's low key celebration will be the last of the 'Recreations'.
But unbeknown to Jablomi, or the crowds that are forming inside the town, this year's event is soon to spiral out of control. For the winter has been long and harsh....
And something is coming..."

'In Defence of Far Corfe': A Warhammer Third Edition Fantasy Battle
The organisation is simple. Anyone you wants to become involved in the battle needs to bring TWO units of equal points value. ONE unit needs to be from a 'goodie race' (Empire, W H Elves, Dwarfs, Brets etc) and ONE unit needs to be from a 'baddie race' (undead, skaven, orcs, goblins).
No chaos units please - as they won't fit into the narrative as well.
All units will need a named levelled character to lead them (lvl 5 - 15) and a full write up of their stat line, equipment and special rules on a handout. No magical items - as they will be up for grabs during the game. 

Warlord Paul has suggested using these:

The battle will be fought using the Warhammer Fantasy Battle Third Edition rules, with a far greater emphasis on 'narrative gaming' rather than traditional tournament play. The GMs will be organising the layout of the battle, including the placing of all units on the table, out of sight of the players. The units you will command, as well as you position in the command structure of the 'good' and 'evil' sides will be determined randomly. It is extremely likely that you WILL NOT be playing with the models you bring on the day. 

The town of Far Corfe will be realised using the cardstock buildings from Warhammer Townscape, so if you have any of these models in your collection please do bring them along.
This battle is open to all, and if you are interested in attending please email me or sign up to the Event Page on Facebook - though you will need to be a member of the Oldhammer Community on Facebook to follow this link. 
Of course, the Wargames Foundry have loads of other tables going free, so if you fancy playing something else and want a lively atmosphere in which to game, why not come on down and join us?
We hope to see you there! 
Wargames Foundry
The Carriage Court
Stoke Hall
Church Lane
East Stoke

Sunday 17 January 2016

A Tale of Four Oldhammer Gamers: Plague Cart

Hello all! I have had quite a prolific weekend and managed to get a large number of models near completion. Sadly, the light is diminishing rapidly so I must reluctantly clean off my brushes and pack away until next Saturday. But, blogging is possible in any weather, so he we go...

Last month the leaderboard looked a little like this:

Warlord Paul = 8 points
Steve Casey = 5 points
Chico = 5 points
Orlygg = 4 points

And yes, that is me languishing and the bottom of the table! Not wanting to remain there for any longer than I have to, I got to work building up my rank and file for my Nurgle army. Using the list in the Lost and the Damned gives you a great deal of options, and my eye immediately fell on the units of plague skeletons. I have a large number of undead models sitting in storage as well as an embryonic undead army, so why not kill two birds with one stone and paint up some skeletons!?

Nurgle's daemonic number is seven, so any units I build will need to be grouped by this amount, or a multiple of. I selected seven suitable skeletons and set to work prepping the models. It was then my eye fell on the section for plague carts, and it appears that any player who fields plague skeletons in the Nurgle army can have a cart for FREE! So my Nurgle warband would soon be seeing seven skeletons (lead by a skeletal champion) and a plague cart to boot!

Only I hit a snag. I ran out of decent light today before I could finish the skeletons. But the plague cart that goes with them is, at least, complete. The plague cart usually costs 100 points (and even though I technically don't have to pay them) can act as this month's commitment on its own. I hope to have the skeleton unit complete well before the end of the month, but this post can be my insurance policy just in case!

I must confess to being a big fan of this model. The plague cart is a truly iconic Warhammer model that sadly disappeared from the game some years ago. The beauty of the plague cart is that it can be used in ANY game, thus making it essential to any serious old school Warhammer player. If you are not au fait with the rules let me paraphrase. The plague cart can appear on any battle field and usually travels in a straight line across the table, passing through most obstacles. It causes fear and reanimates fighters slain nearby as it trundles its way wherever! A choice piece for any GM and a regular 'event' in my games of youth. 

Initially, I tried to paint the model entirely with drybrushing but the results were less than spectacular. So I returned to my tried and tested bone recipe - using the Foundry Boneyard triad, which is excellent. I completed the undead ox first but realised that I was in danger of producing a model that just looked like a cart made from bones. How would the eye differentiate between the ox, the wheels and the pile of bones in the back?

In the end, I used a red/chestnut ink wash over the corpses in the back of the cart, before highlighting in my usual way. This gave the bones here a bloodstained look that I really took too, and I used the same technique on my other (as yet unfinished) skeletons. 

The wooden cart was very simple to paint. Just a brown undercoat washed over with black ink. When dry, I drybrushed over with my brown basecoat and highlighted with the darkest shade of boneyard. Very simple. 

In the end, I decided to paint the grim reaper rider like a ghost. If you read the background of the Plague Cart it states that the vehicle is actually ethereal so I wanted to make reference to it on the model. Again, he was fairly easy to paint and I used a dark blue/green mix as a basecoat and added the lightest shade of boneyard gradually to create the highlights. 

To conclude, I am really pleased with how the model came out and it has become one of my favourite ever Citadel miniatures. I discovered a new way to approach the painting for bone that I am keen to try again too. With a point for this post and another point for delivering my 100 point entry for the month in the guise of the cart itself, I now have six points. 

Hopefully, I can earn a few more before the end of January and knock that Paul off the top of the table! 


Wednesday 13 January 2016

The Malignancy of Malal: A Pantheon of Chaos WIP of a 'Malal Beast'

I saw this when I got home and I just had to share it for all those bloggers who don't frequent Facebook. The Pantheon of Chaos boys are at it again and they have only gone as far as sculpting the suspected 'Beast of Malal' creature.

If you don't recall the image, have a look below, and cast your mind back a couple of years when I worked with Anthony Ackland to recreate the daemonic pantheon of Malal. A number of other websites have now jumped in on this piece of research and are displaying the creatures on their webpages and wikis, but the original article can be found here. 

Of course, what those lesser websites don't state is that the Malal pantheon we presented is more conjecture than fact, but nevertheless it gives interested parties something to work with. The famous 'Beast' drawing under discussion was published in the the Lost and the Damned as part of the 'independent daemons' section, and never officially tied to Malal.  

Diego Serrate shared a few snaps of this startling sculpt today and, fingers crossed, we will see some of the other creatures from those old concepts created in putty in the not too near future. When, oh when will this kickstart!!!!?

Further information about the Pantheon of Chaos can be found on Facebook. Just follow this link!

Sunday 10 January 2016

A Warhammer Bestiary: Manticore

Ages ago I started a painting project, but like so many others before me, it became lost in the myriad of other projects that I started working on. It was called A Warhammer Bestiary and it was my attempt to paint one model for each entry in the Warhammer Third Edition Bestiary. Clicking on the link will take you through the models I have completed so far, that is the entire 'Intelligent Races' section from the book. I also managed to get a giant painted (the first entry in the 'Giant Races' section, obviously) before McDeath and a couple of other projects took hold. I just checked through my blog and discovered that I first started trying to work through the bestiary over two years ago, and that the last entry I posted was way back in March last year!

Rather by accident, I have started work once again on the project. I had a Jes Goodwin manticore lying around on my workstation for ages and ages, and last night, while I was working on one of this month's entries to A Tale of Four Oldhammer Gamers, I slapped on a little colour and inked on the shading. He is way off my chronological list ( minotaurs are next for the project) but we can treat him as a detour like we did the treemen

As it was reasonably bright this morning (for winter) I put my entry to one side and cracked on with this beautiful beast. Surprisingly, he painted up rather quickly and I was very pleased with the result, though there are a couple of areas I would like to revisit on the mane and scorpion tail - but he will do for now. 

The background for Manticores can be found on p.256 of WFB3 and it states that these chaotic beasts were created as a side effect of the collapse of the Old Slann warpgates. They generally have a head of a man, and I painted my model to reflect this little nugget of information, the body of a lion, wings and some kind of prehensile tail, in this model's case - the tail of an arachnid, complete with sting! 

I tried out a few new things with this piece. Painting a decent orange was the first and most significant. Usually, my oranges come out either too muddy (looking like a yellow clay) or far too red, so I am really proud of the rich tone I have managed to bring out here. My secret? The Foundry yellow triad, oh and some careful highlighting too. 

Painting black can be tricky, so I was keen to try out highlighting the colour with blue on the tail. Andy Craig mentioned such a technique to me way back when, so I thought it about time I had a crack at it. It was fairly straightforwards- I selected a bright blue, mixed in a fair blob of black and basecoated the tail, slowly, I added a little more and a little more of the blue until I was using just blue as the final highlight. 

Having a read through the rules, Manticores are fearsome creatures on the tabletop and weigh in at an impressive 200 points each, 250 points if winged! So this model is one terrifying beast! Have a look if you are interested..

Right, I have a couple of other projects on the boil at the moment as I have already said, but hopefully it won't be months and months until I have another crack at a model in this one. I shall be returning to task next time, as I am supposed to be attempting to paint all of the models in the order they are listed in the Bestiary - so my next piece will be a minotaur!


Sunday 3 January 2016

Women In Warhammer

No matter how hard an artist works, sometimes it is impossible for them to not reflect the age they are working in. Much like those Hollywood films they play on Sunday afternoons where no matter the period in history, every lady has a nineteen-fifties or sixties haircut. I think the same can be said for David Gallagher's Dragonslayer (see above) on the cover of White Dwarf 88, for though encased in a very serviceable suit of armour and wielding an equally serviceable sword, she has a distinct whiff of the nineteen-eighties when it comes to the hairdo and makeup. 

I love this piece of art and I find it as striking an image today as I did when I first saw it. I like the way that Gallagher presents this lady as being both very capable (not only does she look it, but she's slotted a dragon too) but also more realistically clothed. Her armour, after all, is plausible and take away the black tights, looks identical to the armour a man in her situation would wear. As an historical aside, Norman Knights wore hose under their armour and kept them secured with suspenders apparently, so perhaps we can let the tights stay. 

One thing I often find a little frustrating about women in wargames (the sculpted figures, not the players or painters) are the daft and implausible models that you see on offer, e.g. the big breasted glamour-girl type who forgot to put her clothes on in the morning when she has a dragon to slay in the afternoon. 

I am sure you can think of many examples of the models I mean, from both wargames and roleplaying games, on both paper and pixel. I am sure that there are plenty of people out there you enjoy figures like this, but I am not one of them really. I much prefer the female figures in my games to look like they are actually capable of fighting, if they are a fighter, or casting a spell if they are a wizard. 

This figure originally appeared as Mace Lady. Painted by Cubs.
My kind of woman in Warhammer is Julia McEwman. Realistically armoured and equipped as seen in this beautifully painted example by a chap known as Cubs. In many ways she is similar to David Gallagher's Dragonslayer. She wears plausible armour and carries a plausible weapon. Her gender is highly relevant to the McDeath scenario but not for the reason that many would think. McDeath after all cannot be harmed by any man, so Julia is one of the few options they attacking player has of felling the villain of the piece. Having collected McDeath figures for a long time and having gone as far as creating the first scenario in which she appears, Winwood Harbour, in great detail, I cannot say that anyone I ran through the game with thought any less of Julia because of her gender, she was just another powerful commander to be fielded and fought with. 

I think her equipment helped create that feeling towards her. She can be taken seriously. 

Now Warhammer, and Warhammer 40,000, has been given some flack online about being sexist. Perhaps you have seen one of the threads that occur here and there. There is an interesting article here that bemoans Slaves to Darkness as being a sexist tome for not portraying women in equal proportions to men, as well as poaching various quotes from the interviews I have done with Bryan Ansell and Tony Ackland. There are others online if you search for them, though they haven't nicked quotes from my work and not provided a link to their source. 

Gender and Representation in Warhammer's Realm of Chaos is typical of it's trope, an attempt to brand Warhammer sexist because it lacks an equal number of female characters and roles. This kind of argument is heavily flawed, as for starters Warhammer's background is based on Renaissance Europe and a period in time when women were treated very differently than they are today, hence they appear much more infrequently than their male counterparts 

The same 'logic' of a sexist agenda can be applied to almost any other toy too, just look at this catalogue page for Barbie toys that I used to buy one of my daughter's Christmas presents - she had the bubble making mermaid if you are interested - and you will see over the first two pages of products that out of forty odd dolls, only three of them are male and two of those dolls are represented wearing very little, baring their muscular plastic chests! The same trend can be seen in the other toys she is interested in, with a wealth of predominately female characters and a few male. 

I don't believe for one minute that Warhammer, Barbie or Disney Princess are in anyway sexist but it is fair to say that Citadel Miniatures, and other manufacturers, have released some truly awful examples of female models, but there have also been some really good examples though sadly, these are much fewer in number. 

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at some Citadel's lows (and believe me, they go pretty low at times) and some of the highs in the way they have represented women in the game. I am going to stick to period with this list, and pretty much focus on stuff released in the 1980s. 

From Collecting Citadel Miniatures wiki
By far the worst offender in Citadel's long history has to be the series of models released as part of the Fantasy Specials range in the early '80s, of which this example, FS10-1 or Naked Girl Roasting on Spit over Brazier, has to be the most extreme. Not only is the model very crudely sculpted, it is generally an very unpleasant concept for a toy soldier and I can see little merit in producing models like this apart to revel in their brutality. A drunk dwarf is fun, but this is not. 

From Collecting Citadel Miniatures wiki
There were a whole range of sculpts produced in this series and they all shared a similar theme - women without clothing being tortured on historically accurate devices. Stocks, pillories and the rack all have their examples, as does an iron maiden (the punishment, not the band.)

From Collecting Citadel Miniatures wiki
If having a collection of tortured girlfolk wasn't enough, you could always invest in a topless torturer herself! Though not as bad as the models we have seen so far, this girl looks like an extra from one dreadful 1970s exploitation films. But at least she has a few clothes on. This model has a number of variants but the basic premise is the same on all of them. 

From Collecting Citadel Miniatures wiki
Unlike this example, though at least she is just sitting down. Still, the model seems to imply that she is somehow subjugated or held captive.

From Collecting Citadel Miniatures wiki
Still, there were other female models about at the time which portrayed women in a more aggressive way, like this rather scary looking individual from the Fantasy Adventurers range. There are a number of variants again with this model, and indeed I have one of them. I like the fact that the ladies here and shown to be much larger than normal, reflecting different body sizes and so on. Though very different from the dragonslayer that opened this post, you feel that this lady knows her business and isn't anyone's fool. 

Looking through the rest of the Fantasy Adventurers range, there are a number of other female figures in there that fit more closely with the scantily clad cliche, particularly spellcasters, though there is an amusing model called a Seductive Wench, who though she looks harmless from the front, look behind her and you can see she is holding a dagger very firmly behind her back. But, she isn't a fighter like our dragonslayer but there are three other examples in that range alone that could easily join her. Have a look:

FA 18-2 Female Cleric with mace from Stuff of Legends
FA 19-2 Female Fighter with Sword  from Stuff of Legends
FA 30-2 Female Ranger  from Stuff of Legends
Sure, you could say that some of these models are a little leggy - but their outfits could be found on male miniatures in the same (or contemporary ranges) and on historical equivalents. And again, these examples portray an individual who knows their business - so I quite like them. They all have echoes of Julia (or Mace Lady) and the dragonslayer from White Dwarf 88. 

Amazons - from Orclord's collection.

Later on in the 1980s Citadel released the Amazon range in support of the Shrine of Rigg scenario in Compendium 2. These are excellent models and are now highly sought after. Here, though obviously female, none of the bugbears I have mentioned before are on show. They look competent and wear realistic clothing that seems appropriate for their role in the scenario. There are no scanty thongs on show here but a consistent and well designed series of models. Much better than the slave girls from earlier years. 

Of course, no discussion on Women in Warhammer can be complete without the villagers and townsfolk ranges produced throughout the 1980s. There are an abundance of female miniatures to be found here, and though not overtly militaristic like the Amazons, they do attempt to show females in the Warhammer world in all aspects of society - just like male figures. 

Take a look:

A Noble Woman from Orclord's collection.
Mother and Child from Orclord's collection.
Mother and Child from the dwarf villagers range - and yes, there were once female dwarf models in the game. Orclord's.
An old hag from Orclord's collection.
Washer Woman from Orclord's collection. 
The villagers and townsfolk ranges are some of my favourites and I have a large number of them. There are far more female figures in the ranges than I have had space to show here and all of them sit comfortably with me. Sure, you have some less moral stereotypes in there, and some lowly tavern wenches too, but you also have some haughty ladies in fine dresses, just like in any genuine Renaissance town or village. 

From the author's own collection.
And no discussion about Women in Warhammer can be held without mentioning these two, Wanda and Kristen, two of the characters from the epic Enemy Within Campaign. They were originally villager models but were pressed into service for the miniature release of the roleplaying supplement. Again, they don't bother me because they represent real people in a fantasy world, Wanda is dressed as a wealthy woman and Kirsten in the clothes of a sneak thief - which reflects the backgrounds of both characters nicely. It is worth pointing out that these are major characters in WFRP's biggest scenario, and though there are five other male characters, these are broken down into two humans, a halfling and an elf. The human characters are presented equally - two men and two women. 

Wanda and Kirsten were not the only major female characters in WFRP's The Enemy Within either, though only one of them received a new model to represent them. That was Renata/Renate and I am lucky enough to own a painted version of this rare model.

Have a look: 

From author's collection
I bought her for a hefty price because she doesn't look like a ridiculous caricature of a woman in Warhammer. She wears appropriate clothing and knows how to use a bow. She is a variant of another female character, and we return to McDeath as we begin to wrap up this blog post.

I am talking of course about Sandra Prangle. Here he is:

Taken from eBay listing. Photographer unknown.
There are slight variations between the two models, but they are appropriate and realistic - in fact the only proposturous thing you can say about Sandra, is the price tag she often sells for! While on the subject of McDeath, perhaps the single Warhammer release bar the Shrine of Rigg to have such a high number of female characters, we need to mention Lady McDeath - the evil sorceress and all round evil doer. 

From the author's own collection.
Of course, this blog post has missed out a great number of female models released in the 1980s for use in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. There simply isn't space as there really are so many of them, and yes a few of them (and I really do mean a few) are incredibly awful, but on the whole there are far more female models than I had originally expected and most of them are quite positive. Of course, the amount of them is far fewer than their male equivalents and some of them do slip into the dubious zone of implausible clothing, at least they are there. 

Which cannot really be said on the more modern ranges of Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000. A browse through the modern ranges reveals very few female characters. It seems that though the rest of the world has progressed in terms of gender equality, Games Workshop seems to have regressed significantly. 

And that is very sad. 


Saturday 2 January 2016

So what was your first miniature?

Psychostyrene Dwarf Artwork used as the backing art for the blister they were sold in.
As miniature collectors and painters we ask each other all kinds of questions. How much did you pay for that miniature? How did you achieve that effect with paint? What are the rules for using chariots? I could continue in this way for most of the day, easily, as I suspect could any other grognard. 

One question that we don't seem to ask very much concerns that moment in time, long past, when we bought our very first miniature. For the first time, we peeled open one of those blister packs and held a miniature in our grubby hands, or perhaps tore away the cellophane wrapping around a Big Box Game, like the immortal Heroquest, and sat gaping at the mass of plastic sprues that lay before us. 

So to ask my question: What was your first ever miniature and in what year did you buy it in?

Casting my mind back, it is actually pretty difficult to be sure what my first miniature (or miniatures) actually were. I know when I bought them, in late '88 in Wonderworld near Bournemouth. Surprisingly, the shop is still there, though not quite in the original location, and it concentrates on the comics trade these days, so I doubt that there will be a copy of Rogue Trader left on the shelves after all this time. I am 90% sure that the first pack of models I bought were these: 

Oxy O'Cetylene and the Tinman. But I have vague memories of having a Paranoia robot or two way back then, so it may have been one of those, though it is more likely that I bought both at the same time. I can recall spotting the advert for Wonderworld in White Dwarf and badgering my dad to take me. The shop wasn't far from a Model Railway Shop and dad was a keen enthusiast of steam trains, so was happy enough to take me after I had spent what felt like forever wandering around looking at tracks and signal boxes. 

I can still feel that excitement upon entering Wonderworld that day. It was dark, dingy but crammed from floor to ceiling with gaming kit. Car Wars, Dr Who soundtracks (illegal copies on tape), roleplaying books and rows of movie tat. Then there was the enormous Blister Wall and the boxes and boxes of Games Workshop products. I expect that Oxy and friend were part of a bargain bin lot, as I can faintly recall grubbing around in a pile of battered blisters. Being a parent now, I know that you don't really want to spend much when your offspring get interested in something new, you must purchase something cheap first to check that the interest level maintains itself before spending the serious money. So I guess that is what dad did. 

When I got home, I used pots of Humbrol enamel to paint the Tinman but considered Oxy too fiddly to attempt in that first session. Though later, I did use the paints I had for my plastic Airfix Napoleonics to blob colours on Oxy. He didn't look a pretty sight and my dad put him in turps so I could have another go. Which I did a few years later, when I painted him up as a leaving gift for my Teacher, Mr Cooper. Sadly, in my teaching career, none of my pupils have presented me with an unusual Citadel miniature at the end of the year! 

And so Oxy left me. The Tinman lived on for a while, taking part in many a battle on the bedroom floor. In my games, he was elevated to a more powerful central character, and fought a long war against the ogre, Vomitbreath, until suffering that most serious injury of the snapped ankle. In the days before I knew about pinning, this meant retirement for any of my models. But this disaster had a positive outcome in future years, as because he was broken, my Tinman model survived the two periods of 'selling off the collection' that I carried out in the early 2000s. Hence, I was able to find him in my garage the other day when I was thinking about our question at hand. 

After a spell in the Dettol, I attempted to clean the Tinman up, and in doing so nearly lost his other foot! At some time in the past I must have repaired both feet, but I had clearly forgotten that and risked losing a vital piece of him down the plug hole. Once clean, I did a really decent job of pinning him back together with decent wire. I left a long piece of wire sticking out of each foot and used them to attach him very securely onto a large, square base. Luckily, some time ago I picked up a second Oxy from eBay as I knew that I had the Tinman lying around somewhere. Scrabbling around in the collection for a while, I spotted him in the odds and sods bag in the Welsh Dresser and the two were re-united once again (even if Oxy is an imposter!) 

If you didn't know, the Tinman and Oxy were a limited edition release and were part of a scenario published in White Dwarf called the Crude, the Mad and the Rusty. There are only 6 models in this little collection and the scenario includes the original, and highly sought after, Skrag the Slaughterer. I may have a go at tracking down the rest of the models one day, to make Oxy and Tinman feel even more at home. 

If you are interested in finding out a little more about the scenario (including it's brain-meltingly bad full colour game board) then I have embedded a link to issue 83 of White Dwarf via Scribd. The scenario details begin on page 30 so it is pretty easy to just scroll through the other pages to find it. 

I suppose that simply sharing the story of your first miniature is not going to be challenge enough for some folk, me included. So I took things a step further forwards and set about actually painting my 'first ever miniature/s' in glorious technicolour. 

And here they are! Apologies for the unsightly blond hair, but my three year old daughter was playing with my scenery just before I took this little shot and left one of her little markers for us all to enjoy. Perhaps it is chaos tape worm? As you can see, Oxy is an interesting little dwarf wearing grubby working clothes, so I chose a suitably oily blue for his overalls and a dirty brown for the apron. Both painted up very easily. It was very easy to just basecoat the metal parts silver, give them a black and chestnut ink wash and highlight with two lighter shades of the colour. I added a few little spot colours to the other tools in the apron, which you can just about make out in my photograph, as well as using silver once again ti pick out files, hammers and screwdrivers. 

The flesh tone was my usual method, with an added layer of red to make Oxy seem a little more ruddy than normal. I used a red ink wash to draw attention to the spots that cover his face (though they might also be warts, I suppose?) and dotted their heads with a little yellow. His blond beard was easy enough to paint on, again with layering but I chose to fiddle around a bit more with his welding mask and blow-torch. 

The mask was a case of basecoating in a sliver/black mix and washing over in black ink and wiping away the excess on the flat surfaces with a damp brush. I then drybrushed over the top in silver to bring out the detail. Blue ink was dribbled into the eyeholes to give them a slightly different glassy sheen. The blowtorch started out much the same, only I watered down the blue ink wash and used it to glaze over the silver paint, giving the torch a blue tint. Once dry, I just drybrushed over with silver and used straight ink (black and brown) to make the end of the torch look used. Then, all I had to do was base him and old Oxy was complete.

Tinman was a little different. A nice black/silver mix created my basecoat and I washed over the lot with black ink. A brown ink wash followed up to create rusty patches here and there. Once dry, I blocked in a mid silver all over the body, leaving plenty of black lining to create depth, and highlighted in pure silver. Here and there I painted a few brass sections and a red wheel on a gas tap for interest. Then it was just a case of basing him in a similar way to Oxy and he too was done, though I may come back to him later and tart him up a bit more when I buy a brighter silver paint. 

So, to conclude. There is my story of the first miniature I ever bought: The LE14 Oxy O'Cetylene and Tinman blister. For bonus points I have tracked down the actual models and given them a sparkling new paintjob. Now, dear reader, you can do something for me! Kindly share with me the details of what YOUR first miniature was and the year you bought it. I'd love to know!

Oh, and if you fancy a challenge, why not have a go at tracking down those models once again and repainting them with all the flair you can muster today. Just let me know somehow because I would love to see what you come up with. 

Looking forwards to hearing your stories!