Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge: March 2014

Its all over for another year - Curt's extravaganza of painting closed in the small hours of Thursday morning. Cue bloggers furiously painting to finish projects off and try to hit their targets. All in all, a bumper challenge in so many ways - output, quality, controversy and banter. With the tallies in, I came a very respectable 28th out of 60 challengers with 755 points, smashing past my 700 target with a micro-'points bomb' on the last day. I'm quite astounded I managed a top half finish given how slowly I paint.

March saw 'the grind' really telling on my output, alongside weekend plans and being busy at work, which sapped my will to apply paint. For some weeks, I could only bring myself to work on the theme round entries. First up was my 'Favourite Character'. 

One of my favourite series of books when growing up was Steven Erikson's 'Malazan Book of the Fallen', an epic fantasy series of increasingly weighty tomes. The first books in the series are quite excellent and I really liked that Erikson ditches many of the fantasy cliches and throws you into a world that feels like it could exist. He skimps on the explanation, so the first book passes in a haze of not quite understanding what is going on. I found that they were best on second reading. Erikson doesn't just write good characters, but cultures and histories. The books span thousands of years, though the 'present' is the age of the Malazan Empire, well packed with heroes and villains.

The books have scores of dramatis personae and I'd have struggled to pick a favourite, let alone one I could have found a suitable mini for. I settled on one of the 'Bridgeburners', a hard-bitten infantry regiment of the Empire, favourites of the old emperor. Members regularly feature in the series and the regiment itself is one of the few 'characters' that features in all of the books. The Bridgeburners are cast aside early in the series and purposefully decimated by a new Empress that is suspicious of their loyalty to the old emperor.

The Bridgeburners are packed with interesting characters: noble and heroic leader Whiskeyjack, brooding assassin Kalam, enigmatic mage Quick Ben or raucous sappers Fiddler and Hedge among others. But the ordinary footslogger is also appealing, so I just painted a nameless, ordinary member of the Bridgeburners, one of hundreds that was buried at the Siege of Pale.

The uniform is conjecture: they are barely described in the books. But I think the mini captures the look of them I have in my head. He correctly carries a stabbing sword, shield and heavy crossbow and wears the sigil of the Bridgeburners on his sleeve: unsurprisingly, a burning bridge.

It is a 'heroic scale' mini from Rackham's Cadwollan range, around 35mm tall. I did some conversion work to make him more like I imagine a Bridgeburner: a new, plain round shield to replace the ornate kite shield, trimming off some detailing on the scabbard and helm and sculpting the sigil on his sleeve. The shield transfer came out quite strangely, so I've since painted over it. I actually had a plain transfer with a very battered design, but messed it up and had to re-do it.

My second entry in March was also a theme round offering, but this time didn't go to plan: I failed to finish my entry. I intended to submit a vignette of chose General Gordon last stand in Khartoum in Jaunary 1885, which felt appropriate to wrap up my challenge. Only Gordon himself was finished.

I tried a new method on the skin, trying the same flesh recipe but highlighting in MartinN's excellent style - it seemed fitting for Gordon's face to be drawn with worry as the siege concludes.

I noticed after submitting that I hadn't painted the button on his jacket which has since been rectified.

The photos were hurriedly done late at night, hence the poor lighting. This is as far as I got on the rest. It is a Perry a miniatures set based on George William Joy's painting. I was adding a walkway and backdrop and wanted to add a casualty on the walkway. One day, I hope I'll get around to finishing it off.

I closed my challenge with a few bits that rolled off my painting table in the last few days. First, a captured Mahdist gun with Egyptian gunners. I actually painted them minis in early January, but hadn't got around to basing them. I based the Beja overseer separately as I though he'd come in useful as a slaver in Pulpy games. Also, at a push I may end up using  this for somewhat bedraggled Egyptian artillery, ignoring the shackles on the gunners and leaving the overseer off. It will suffice, until I inevitably get around to adding the Krupp from the Perry Egyptian range. I am trying to get hold of some perspex basing 'holes' to make my own sabot trays for the Mahdists and also mount the overseer snugly on this base. I'fe left space on the base so when they arrive I'll sort this one out and do a huge batch of sabot trays for the Mahdist hordes.

I dug an extra lamp out for these photos, hence the orange glow on the gun.

The British in the Sudan finally get some cavalry support, the rather dashing 10th Hussars. Not a fancy pelisse in sight by this era, but I still think they look fine in their navy striped trousers and spiked helmets. Deployed from India, they were in khaki. After whistling through the horses for these one Sunday afternoon, they were an absolute slog. This is my first stab at getting the right khaki for the Sudan, based on Vallejo khaki grey, I think it came out well, if slightly too green.

Finally, I had two test 15mm minis to play Chain of Command with. A fairly new scale for me, but they colour scheme is quite basic. I successfully minimised the painting time by spraying them Army Painter leather brown, picking out details and giving them a good wash with strong tone. Leather Brown perhaps isn't quite the right shade for the overcoats, but it made the painting a doddle.

Not the most inspiring paint jobs, but I'm not sure how I might jazz them up more, so am tempted to just knock the rest of the platoon out so I can get some games in at Wyern Wargamers.

In review, I'd say my third Challenge wasn't a classic in terms of my output - lots of what I painted had been seen before over the past year or so. But that aside, I'm pleased that I was much, much more focused, saving my more esoteric offerings for the theme rounds while steadily crunching through the Sudan lead pile. I had hoped to finish off more anbd be ready to game by the end of the challange: two more command stands and a unit of Bengal infantry in particular. But I just couldn't face them.

While I'm delighted with a top half finish and my highest tally, I actually painted less miniatures because half of my points came from the seven bonus rounds. While they were fun, creative and well received by the Challengers, timing the bonus round entries interrupted my flow and probably reduced my output overall. In hindsight, I'd probably have better served focusing on one or two and doing a diorama, rather than small entries to all seven. Still, the whole challenge was a blast and I offer my thanks to the ever-steadfast Curt for organising and running the whole event.

I've taken a few days off painting, giving the much-neglected PS3 some attention and finally applying paint to the kitchen walls to placate my beloved wife. But I'll be back at it soon enough.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge: February 2014

Wow, is it March already? As I flick through February's photos, I realise how much I've been slacking. Just one main entry, my entry fee and two theme round entries for four weeks' work. Crikey.

The month started with the 'Hero/Heroic Group' theme round and I rolled out a classic antihero of literature and the Victorian age: Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC, KCB, KCIE.

Of course, a true heroic story wouldn't be complete without a love interest - even more so for the lecherous Flashman. So I offer two for him to charm - a modestly dressed local and upstanding European lady. Here we can see our man, on Her Majesty's service in some far-flung corner of the Empire, spying the ladies on the veranda...

...and making his move, brandy in hand.

Flashman is from Eureka, both the European and native ladies are from the Redoubt Sudan range. All were rather nice to paint up. 

The bulk of my work in February was a few more infantry for the Mahdists and a third Command stand: Osman Digna himself. I was very pleased with the basing on him - raised just a little on a rocky outcrop, overseeing the battlefield. A very fine sculpt, his lack of movement nicely complimented by a more active rifle-armed tribesman.

I painted these alongside the casualties below, a fairly sizeable batch for me but a mere drop compared to DaveD's ocean. Different parts of the force are starting to get differentiated by colour, with Beja being very plainly dressed, mostly in Vallejo Iraqi sand and tan yellow, deeply shaded as usual with Devlan mud. I'm almost out of Devlan Mud - crisis!

Once again, this batch is well furnished with conversions to mix things up a little. These five all got a good hacking, mostly with arms from various places, including Warlord plastic Celts and Wargames Factory Greeks. My favourites are the tribesman with arm thrust in the air, his war-cry of 'Allahu-Akbar' almost audible and the Beja flinging his spear, shield arm thrust backwards for balance. No doubt I'll do some more conversions at some point - I fancy a stick-thrower for starters.

This batch will bring my Mahdist infantry to 70 or 80 - no mean feat for me as someone who normally paints a mini or two then shuffled off to order something else.

For my entry fee, I went for a desperado from the lead pile. I don't know who the manufacturer is, as he was picked up in a bargain bin at Triples many years back. A slim but nicely posed sculpt.

I chose a 'Wild Bunch-eque' palette. He's unbased, so Curt can finish it to his liking.

I like the fluff that has settled on his hat here

This is him after a few updates last weekend - I painted the eyes and made him quite a lot grubbier - actually just done with stippled Khemri Brown rather than powders, but came out well on the black clothing. 

Finally, I finished the 'casualties' theme round, a handful of Mahdists  painted in the same batch as Osman Digna and the rather more healthy Mahdists. For this, I set a scene packed out with Mahdists and the Sudanese infantry that featured earlier.  

 On my entry, I wrote:

The first Battle of El Teb was a disaster that destroyed Valentine Baker's Egyptian field army in a single day. When deploying into a brigade square to face Osman Digna's Beja tribesmen, one regiment inexplicably extended to the front, leaving yawning gap on one flank. Poor fire discipline at 1000 yards wreathed the line in smoke for no effect and caused skirmishers and artillerymen to be fired upon by their own infantry. When the furious Beja charge hit, the fragile Egyptian formation collapsed entirely and routed, to be slaughtered for no quarter. There were only small pockets of organized resistance, including a fighting withdrawal by the Sudanese Massowah Battalion, that I attempt to represent here.   

Of the 3500 men who had set out, barely more than a thousand survived. The Beja force is estimated to have been 1000, with a marked technological disadvantage and yet their casualties were only in the dozens. The disaster led to the deployment of British troops to secure Suakin and defeat Osman Digna, starting with the second battle of El Teb just a few short weeks later. 

I had a lot of fun getting some minis out and setting it up, but I didn't seem to do well on the voting - perhaps unsurprising as there were some quite excellent entries, spearheaded by MichaelA's grisly Victorian murder scene. Stiff competition this year!

I also did Egyptian and Sudanese infantrymen, picked up from Redoubt as Perry don't do wounded Egyptians. I was pleasantly surprised by these minis - perfectly serviceable alongside my Perrys.

I was really pleased with this one

So, the final countdown: barely more than two weeks to go. My plans have been tweaked accordingly: the 15mm WWII platoon is unlikely to feature and while I've started a test mini, I'm waiting on the arrival of some AP Strong Tone to replace my nigh-on empty Devlan mud. I've some colonial cavalry on the table now that have a realistic chance of being finished and my final theme round entry needs a lot of work. Beyond that, I'm not sure I'll get much more done. And that'll be it for another year! 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Not all About the Challenge

While 90% of the time I've been slaving away at the Sudan project for the Challenge, I have had chance to finish some odds and sods that won't score. 

First up is this little Pulp Alley 'Plot Point', an adventurer's camp complete with map and supplies:

Also, some game marker explosions, the traditional wire frame with clump foliage hot glue gunned on. A doddle to make, if time consuming. Then a healthy dose of black spray and dusting if wits finished them off. The first can of white spray that I picked up was running out so fave a spluttered, splodgy effect. Followed with a lighter dusting from a new can, I think they actually came out rather nicely, though it was a close run thing! 

The craters are resin from Warlord Games and go rather nicely if I do say so myself. 

I did submit these to Curt but they were deemed to be 'terrain' and so ineligible for points - pah!

Finally, I finished his lady in 1920s dress that I had in mind for a damsel in distress in some Lovecraftisn Pulp. I had already started her and set her aside on challenge start so she is also ineligible. 

I think I applied the window and newton brush on varnish too early and it seems to have misted in the recesses and given her a grubby sheen that is quite irritating, though doesn't really come out in the photos. A bit odd, I'll have to have a go at tidying her up

I have just sent in my 'favourite character' bonus offering, drawing on some of my favourite books. But I've been slacking and have missed my regular entry alongside it. I've some 10th Hussars for the Sudan on the table and crawling along, but a fair way from completion. After that, I'm going to have to out some series effort into my final bonus round entry, going off piste for me and doing a vignette. Any guesses what the subject might be?