Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Mongols Approach! My first batch of Mongols for Saga

    My first batch of 8 Mongol mounted warriors gallops through an enemy village on a lightning raid
I had no intention of starting on my next Saga army so soon after finishing up the Carolingians. However, Rodge from Saga Thorsday announced a painting contest. The rules were simple -- paint at least one point of a Saga army (but you could enter more, even an entire army). It had to be all new paint jobs -- nothing you'd finished prior to the start of the contest. I honestly have never entered a painting contest, so figured why not? 

    My 28mm Mongols are from Curteys Miniatures, carried by 1st Corp in the UK
I'd purchased these Mongols awhile back from Curteys Miniatures, which is carried by 1st Corp in the UK. I'd picked them for their incredible variety of poses and packs. Their price is also very good. Even including the shipping costs, these came out to be very affordable. One drawback that I read about on the internet was their smaller size. I figured since the entire army was going to be from the same manufacturer, I didn't have to worry about them not sizing up with other miniatures. Plus, Mongol horses and Mongols themselves tend to be a bit shorter than Westerners. So, no problem with being a little short, eh? They're Mongols -- they'll make up for it with attitude.

    I was really drawn to the variety of poses and expressive faces that were cast on these miniatures
This first batch was of eight miniatures, which is normally larger than what I like to paint for mounted troops. However, Rodge's rules were clear. I had to paint a full point, and one point of Saga warriors is eight miniatures. After this batch, I will likely paint in smaller groups. I selected one pack of light horse archers and one of the several command packs that I purchased. Interestingly, the horse archers came in three parts while the command pack came in two (horse and rider). The archers' lower bodies had to be glued to their upper half. I'm not 100% sure why, though. Maybe to give even more variety? However, the lower halves were very similar and I didn't think it made much difference. The different headgear did a better job of providing variety.

    I mixed a pack of horse archers and a command pack for my first batch of 8 miniatures
Looking at the sculpts closely, I really liked the expressive faces. I liked the headgear, but boy did they have a lot of equipment festooned on them! Most had a bowcase, quiver, sidearm like axe or sword, ceramic jug, and some other bag-like piece of equipment I didn't recognize. These were all attached to the lower half of the rider (or rider himself, in the case of the command pack) -- not the horse. The horses were okay sculpts - not the strongest part of the casting, but acceptable. They were actually where I started, once I'd assembled the figures and primed them. I decided to glue the figure to the horse before painting, unlike I had done with the Carolingians, recently. I was worried about fitting the riders to the horse and wanted to be sure I could ensure the fit was good before applying paint.

    My favorite robe was the dark, blue-green one worn by the standard bearer
I wanted these horses to stand out since I was painting this batch for a contest. So, I pulled out all of my 28mm Dark Ages cavalry figures and picked out the horses that I liked best. I set my favorite eight out on my desk than placed the primed miniatures up next to them, side by side. Sometimes I had to scratch my head to figure out what paint color I had used on the figure I was using as a model, but for the most part I was able to match the previously painted ones. I used a mix of grays, tans, browns, chestnut reds, and such. Previously, I had done research to see what colors Mongol ponies (who aren't actually ponies, but just small, hardy horses) actually were. Everything I read made it appear that their horses are the same variety of colors we see elsewhere in the world.

    I'm very happy with how these figures came out, with decorated robes, bowcases, and quivers
 For most horses, this meant there was a base coat and lighter shade of it drybrushed over top. Then I used two to three colors to give the fading to darker colored legs, noses, or whatever coloring the horse had. The manes were also painted a base color and dry brushed. I used a couple different color combinations of leather -- a darker one and lighter one. Each set of reins, bridle, etc., was done in two colors - a darker base coat and a lighter highlight color painted full strength (not dry brushed) atop. Once the horses were done, it was time to figure out what color to paint the rider's robes.

    The standard was modified, chopping off the metal top and placing it one wire spear
Another decision that I had to make was what skin color to use for my Mongol army. I don't have a jar of paint that says "Asian flesh" or similar. I went online and looked not only at historical images painted of the Mongols (such as Japanese or Chinese paintings), but also at photographs of modern Mongol herders. I then opened up each of my bottles of paint, finally settling on a Delta Ceramcoat paint called Khaki to use as the base. Honestly, I think it is far too dark to be what I consider khaki, but I liked its tanned flesh look. I added in standard Ceramcoat ruddy flesh until I came up with a mixture I liked. It was still a little light for my tastes, so I put on two rather than one coat of brown wash and was finally satisfied with the result. I had created my own Mongol flesh tone. I then used a plastic bottle to mix a big bottle of it up so that I didn't have to worry about matching the color with each batch of figures (like I had done for both my brown and black washes).

I rationalized that my Mongols were representing a period after the Mongol conquests had begun. So, they would have access to Chinese silks and Middle Eastern fabrics. Most source books like Osprey that I had perused also showed Mongols in brightly-colored silks. I took that as a go ahead to paint the riders much like I had done the Moors -- probably my favorite 28mm army that I have ever painted. I looked up at my paint rack and picked out base colors. Next, I decided what kind of pattern I would have on the robe. As always, I use the cardboard base that I glue my unpainted figures on to write notes, drawing sketches of the patterns, and so on. My favorite of the robes was the standard bearer, who has a dark blue-green robe with a sky blue pattern of dots. Not everything was a dots, I also painted little crescents, hollow circles, and more. I was really happy with how the patterns turned out.

Once the flesh and robes were done, it was time to delve into the plethora of equipment the riders were wearing. I pulled out about 7-8 bottles of paint that would fit in the linen-leather-brown spectrum. I picked up a figure and painted its bowcase, quiver, ceramic bottles, and bag all at the same time. I didn't want a bland look of everything being the same color, but I also didn't want a jarring rainbow of colors. I made sure the equipment gave a pleasing tonal range but still looked like something a tribal culture would produce with hides or ceramics. 

All in all, I was very happy with how this first batch turned out. Next batch, I will talk about the basing with the oval bases and the decisions I made on why and how I did that.


Friday, July 9, 2021

Last Points of Carolingians!

    Count Drogo - lord of the Lombard Marches - leads the forces of Charlemagne on its borders
Here are the last of the figures for my 28mm Carolingian Saga army. They include another batch of eight warrior bowmen, the warlord, and a supplemental batch of six archers. As I mentioned in earlier posts, all of the figures in this army except for the bowmen are from the Gripping Beast 4-point starter box I purchased at Game Table Adventures in Newark, OH. I already had a number of various Dark Age bowmen, so I didn't really see the point in going out and purchasing more for this army. I decided instead to use the figures I had and paint them up to match the rest of the army as best I could. Some are from Old Glory, some Warlord Games (I believe), and who knows where else? Feel free to comment on my blog if you recognize certain miniatures!

    I was really happy with how the hand-painted shield and the Photoshop-created banner came out!
I really like how the warlord base came out. I was planning all along to go with a red and green stripe theme for Count Drogo, my fictional Carolingian warlord (count of the Lombard marches). I made it a point to repeat those two colors throughout the warband so they predominate. I obviously made Count Drogo's reds and greens much brighter and fancier! I am not a big fan of painting stripes, but I am pretty happy with how his striped cloak came out. The yellow dots on the tunic were kind of overkill, but hey! A Dark Age noble will want to show off his finery when it comes to clothes. His dragon shield is hand-painted and one of my favorites from recent batches of figures.

    Count Drogo's companions, his trumpeter Ranulf and his Doberman Pinscher, Griffo
The other bit of overkill was on Drogo's scale armor. I decided to paint alternating rows of silver and bronze scales. The Franks were known to produce fine armor and weapons during the Dark Ages, so I figured this noble lord would have the best. Oh, and in case you think "Drogo" is completely made up name, that's not the case. I "Googled" Frankish names and saw it pop up on a list. I like the way that Count Drogo has the same rhythm and rhyme as Khal Drogo, the badass leader of the Dothraki from Game of Thrones! Count Drogo's Doberman Pinscher (no, I did not research if that breed was around in the Dark Ages...) is from Iron Wind metals, I believe. Or perhaps yet another 28mm dog miniature I picked up somewhere in a flea market! I used wire to wrap around the dog's neck as a leash and tucked it underneath Ranulf's hand resting on the hilt. 

    Batch #2 of my Carolingian archers - note the four with shields strapped to backs at the last minute
As mentioned before, though Count Drogo was included in the box, his companions on the base came from other places. I tend to take the figures out of the manufacturer's packaging nowadays when I purchase them. I put them in ziploc bags so they fit better in my unpainted lead drawers. Yes, sad to say, I have a mini cart on wheels with 5-6 drawers full of unpainted lead -- AND a supplemental 3-drawer bin on the shelves next to my painting desk! There's no way everything would fit if they remained in their original packaging. Lately, I have been trying to snip off part of the label and put it inside the ziploc bag, or at least write on the bag in marker what manufacturer and pack the miniatures are from. I would like my blog posts to be more informative and say, "I have no idea where this figure comes from" over and over here...haha!

    I am fairly certain the two on the left are Old Glory Viking archer figs, but not sure about the left two
I did the archers in two batches, one of eight which I had originally planned on doing, and a supplemental group of six after I foolishly thought I was finished with this army. Why paint more? Well, in my Carolingian Saga army, the warrior bowmen are the real killers due to the way I use the advanced abilities on the battle board. So, I decided to paint some more up so that I could reduce the number of warrior spearmen and increase the number of archers, if I choose to do so. Also, as I was finishing the first batch, I decided to attach shields to the backs of four of the Old Glory archers. They are supposed to be warrior bowmen, after all -- not Levy! This meant scraping paint off the figure where the shield would touch the archer's back. I tried to scrape the paint off the corresponding part of the shield off, too. Normally, I would attach any weapons and shield first, before painting. However, I already had these mostly done when I made the decision to give them shields slung on their backs. Probably a poor decision that will result in shields popping off that were insufficiently glued metal onto metal...!

    As with my other Carolingian warriors, I gave these colored hemlines on their tunics
Two of the archers had cloaks, so I was able to do a little pattern on the bottom border. Otherwise, all of the tunics have a simple, contrasting stripe at the hemline for decoration. They also had helmets, so I continued the two-tone metal color combination. These are actually two of the miniatures that I'm not sure if they are Old Glory or another manufacturer. They seem a little more cleanly cast then the other Old Glory sculpts that I used, but that could be just random. They also are a markedly different pose than the others. Old Glory specialized in big bags of figures with slight variations in pose and equipment, so maybe these are their figures and maybe not.

    My modifications to Old Glory Welsh/Irish figures changing them into supplemental bowmen
Once I decided to do the supplemental group of archers, I rummaged through my Dark Age & Ancient unpainted bin drawer. Much to my surprise, I had actually painted up ALL of my archers already. I thought I had more than a dozen more Old Glory Viking bowmen left over, but nope! Oh, no...does this mean I would have to (gasp!) buy more miniatures?? Well, don't despair -- my skinflint nature won out and I found some figures that I felt I could easily convert to bowmen. They were from my "Welsh/Irish" bag of Old Glory miniatures. They are meant to be holding a javelin and a knife, I believe. However, I switched that to a bow and arrow.

    Here are the six painted as a group - I used four different Old Glory poses to create these six archers
Converting or modifying miniatures is not my strong point, I admit. However, I thought I did a fairly good job drilling out their hands and using the remnants clipped from wire spears to create bows in the hands of these four separate poses I used (two duplicates), and an arrow in one of the poses. I have included a picture in the post so you can see my modifications before painting.

    I was getting bored with plain tunics, so I decided to add a bit more decoration to the mantles
Since most of figures that I have painted up for this army are ordinary, rank and file warriors, I have to admit I am getting a little tired of painting plainer looking figures! I am ready for a change up. The parade of dull greens, faded blues, and other earthy tones look good in mass. However, they're not very exciting to paint. However, at least they are not a uniformed army! It has been a L-O-N-G time since I painted uniformed troops. My guess is the last were the groups of 6-8 figures that I did when I was painting my 28mm Pulp project. I painted some U.S. Sailors, Senegalese riflemen, British Indian troops, and so on. So, I am sure all of those gamers who are painting up uniformed armies are laughing at me, now! "You think YOU'RE bored...!"

    The feathers on the arrows being held up are just a couple thicker layers of paint with tiny gray lines
So, what's next for me after Carolingians? I plan on getting the last of the terrain done for my Saga collections. Inspired by Jim Beegan's efforts, I want to have enough to set up eight games for a 16-player Saga tournament. That means I need to add four more swamps, fields, rocky areas, and ruins pieces. And if I can ever find a source of large sheets of styrene, I will make make some generic, flocked "large" pieces (10"-12" circular shapes). I also have a lot of resin/plastic pieces to paint up to place on the rocky areas and ruins (which I actually finished before these last six archers, see the More Terrain for Saga post here). 

After that, I was going to intersperse some character figures that can be used in the Old Feud scenario for Saga. Any figure can work for the "Soldier," of course. However, I wanted some distinctive figures for the "Brute," "Mystic," "Counselor," and "Princess." I have found some at both the Guardtower and Dragons Guildhall from their AD&D and Reaper Bones lines. Of course, I already had some figures that I could use for some of the characters, but I wanted more. I hope to have 16 participants in the Advance the Colors Saga tournament, so want to have a good handful of loaner characters for those who haven't painted up anything that they can use for them. Speaking of which, the player packet for the tournament has been released. For a copy of the file, click here. If the link doesn't work for you, comment below and give me your email address. Also, be sure to contact me and let me know you are planning on participating, and I will save you a spot!

Monday, July 5, 2021

More Terrain for Saga (Ruins, Rocky Ground Scatter Pieces)

    28mm Carolingian archers take cover amidst Acheson Creations rocky ground pieces

Normally when I create terrain, I do a fairly decent job of documenting it on my blog here. However, after creating three different types of areas awhile back (rocky ground, ruins, and fields), I didn't do a post. I just put in some pictures of them on one of my Saga battle reports. The good news is the pieces worked out great, and I decided to do a second batch of all of them. 

    Acheson Creations tumbled columns and ruined stone columns and walls
My friend Bryan Borgman, who used to be a rep for Acheson Creations, had a garage sale a few weeks ago. I found a number of boulder pieces and a couple toppled columns that were perfect for the "scatter" to set atop my flocked terrain pieces. I have always loved Acheson Creations' stuff, and find it easy-to-paint, looks great on the battlefield, and relatively inexpensive. I also took some Graeco-Roman columns from the Mantic Games temple terrain I'd purchased at the local game store. So, once I finished my Carolingian army a couple weeks ago, I slotted these pieces in to paint up and flock. 

    The pieces after "Step 3" -- the 50/50 mix of water & black paint has been brushed on
Step one is running them through the dishwasher on low heat to get rid of the release agent. Otherwise, the paint will bead up like rain drops on a newly-waxed car. Step two is spraying them with Krylon flat black acrylic. Step three is to brush on a 50/50 mix of water and black acrylic craft paint. Once that has dried and "shrink wrapped" itself onto the pieces, it was time to dry brush them.

    The rocky pieces from Acheson Creations after their first dry brushing of medium gray
I gave them a medium gray dry brush first, then followed that up with a light gray highlighting. Once dry, I did a final black wash over them to blend int the dry brush lines, so to speak. After that, it was on to flocking!

    The column pieces after their first drybrush - note the extra stones I added to the column bases

The first layer of flocking is painting the surface with a 50/50 mix of white glue and brown craft paint. While it is wet, I dip the piece into a tub of Woodland Scenics fine brown ballast. I spray a Krylon clear coat over it when dry. Then, I gently brush on a 50/50 mix of white glue and water over the ballast. While wet, I dunk it into a tub of Woodland Scenics Blended Turf.

    The ruins & rocky pieces after drybrushing, washing, and the first layer of flocking

The final stage is dabbing on full strength white glue and sprinkling Woodland Scenics Blended Grass in random patterns -- much like I do for my figure bases. Think camouflage -- irregular patterns to break up the outline. While it is still wet, I dab three or so areas with more white glue and press on various shades of Woodland Scenics clump foliage to give it an overgrown look.

    The Mantic Games terrain box that I got the columns and broken columns from
One final spray of clear coat, and they are done! These took remarkably little time, and are enough scatter for plenty of terrain pieces. For most games, I prefer to do flocked pieces of styrene plastic with these type of scatter pieces (or trees for woods) atop them. You simply move the pieces out of the way of the figures and you have terrain that looks good but is fully functional on the tabletop.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Sunday Night Gaming Group Back in Session!

    We had 8 players at the very first session of gaming at my house, so split into two games of Terraforming Mars
Missed somewhere in the traffic of all my posts on Saga is the fact my Sunday evening gaming group is back in session. We actually have been going on for a couple months, now. So far, it has been all board games. We almost did miniatures a couple times, but so far haven't pulled it off. I am working on an idea for a series of skirmish miniatures games (kind of like I did with the Fur-grave Ghost Archipelago games awhile back). Players would have the same warband over a number of games. I would love to do a post-Apocalyptic setting, but have to check if I have enough figures to pull it off. Plus, there would be the issue of which rules set to use. When it was all said and done, I simply didn't enjoy the Frostgrave combat system. I have purchased Burrows and Badgers, and like it's combat system even less. Maybe I will write my own set? Or use Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes...

    Close up of Terraforming Mars -- you need a decent amount of room to spread out all your cards
Probably one of the more popular board games we've been playing is Terraforming Mars. I really enjoy the game, and like it even more in an in-setting instead of just playing on the app against computer opponents. Somehow, it is less stressful and more fun when it is me and my friends than when I am trying to beat the A.I.! I taught it to them a month or so ago, and we've played it a couple times since then. It has helped that we've had really big turnouts -- an astounding 10 players last Sunday! Obviously, we split into two games going on simultaneously. Terraforming Mars takes a max five players.

    A 7-player game of Wingspan at my friend Mike W's house...or the Brewpub as we call it!
Another one of my favorite board games recently has been Wingspan. Jenny and I own both the European and Oceania expansions (haven't played that one yet, though). We have also found that you can do more than the five players that the game is supposedly limited to, though. We played a 7-player game once, and two six-player games. You simply need a second copy of the game for the additional player pieces and habitat boards. The game does change in multi, multiplayer mode. Those pink abilities (once between your turns) are much more valuable than they would be in a game with fewer players. I would have to say those are my two new favorite boardgames -- even more than Seven Wonders. Though honestly, we played the absolute heck out of Seven Wonders on our Covid-induced, online sessions on Board Game Arena.