Friday, 16 June 2017

Welcome to Planet F**k You!

"Let's f**king do this!"

...screams the heroine in Tormentor X Punisher, E-Studio's twin-stick shooter before a hoard of crazed demons emerge from burning hexes. Cue a lot of heavy firepower, demon-gore and some very bad language.

My favourite facet of video games is graphics and design, and TXP is a real retro-clone treat. Inspired by 16bit outings like Doom, Splatterhouse and Primal Rage, artist Tuuka Stefanson has done a great job on the title. His busy, detailed logo is superb and embodies the kind of heavy metal gore-porn that typifies the game.

Once you get past the loading screens and options menu, massive, red demon-hands rip open the view to reveal the arena where you're going to be making a lot of things die. At this point the genius of the design is its simplicity. The animation is smooth, the sprites stand out in such a way that the frenetic carnage never becomes unintelligible. A neat trick they pull is that the bright red gore quickly fades to a deep crimson so as not to obscure the next tide of attackers. The naive, balloon font used for text is both easy to read and a great signifier that the designers are not taking this game too seriously. But you probably already guessed that.

TXP is published by Raw Fury Games and is available on Steam.



 




Wednesday, 14 June 2017

When a stealth bomber has sex with KITT in a Lovecraft story

I'm usually disappointed at how slowly the look of tech changes. The cases and chassis seem reliably homogeneous and largely ignore any other trends in, say, surface design.

Don't get me wrong, there are great reasons why progress is so glacial. The UI is the thing that changes according to the zeitgeist, and the current trend is to minimise the presence of the casing altogether, so putting the UI at the forefront. Also, these products are expensive to manufacture and there is a lot at stake. Each model is worth hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds in revenue. Hence flirting with a trend just isn't viable. So how about we just give it a matte black or silver case, eh?

When something like the Shadow turns up, it's really striking. The company makes weird, illuminated-but-black boxes of non-Euclidean geometry. They look like a stealth bomber had sex with KITT in a Lovecraft story. In fact, it's so weird I can't quite work out what it does or if Shadow makes just one product or several (but that might be due to the 'Fringlish' copy on the website). But, you know what? I don't care. I just want one. And 'Shadow' is definitely not an ominous name for a tech company.

I am reminded of the Sandbenders in William Gibson's Idoru. A colony of craftspeople, they make bespoke tech using a very Arts and Crafts approach to the externals. A chassis made out of mahogany and slate? Yes please. But no hokey Steampunk tomfoolery - I want good design, without superfluous frivolity.




Saturday, 3 June 2017

Bloody Haemonculi

Welcome to another irreverent battle report! If you're looking for tactical insights and strategic tips, you should probably just pass along right now. But if you do get to the end there is a treat in store for you...

My regular opponent, Mr T, decided to shed his Tyranid carapace and instead threw his lot in with the Haemonculus Covens. He's done a smashing job painting a small force which was pitted against my Blood Angels. Queue set-up, roll offs and missions and all that jazz. I think we were capturing objectives and slaying Warlords. Or something. I was mainly there to kill Xenos.

To be honest, things started off pretty badly for me as I managed to chuff-up my deployment. I got excited handling my newly-painted Razorback and inadvertently put it in a stupid place. The roof-surfing Death Company mini is a reminder that the tank driver was ever-so-pleased to be sharing his shiny ride with five frothing lunatics.


My 90s Scouts took up position in a ruined building. They did their best at trying to hide against the grey walls but found their bright red armour and yellow undercrackers didn't make this an easy task.


Everybody ran forwards. There was a bit of killing. Notably a combat squad of Tactical Marines foot-slogged up the right flank to be greeted by a Raider full of angry Haemonculi. The Marines held out surprisingly well and succeeded in slowing down the Xenos for a couple of turns. I'm now more at-peace with seeing my troops whittled down if they're tying up more expensive enemy units like this.

The Razorback driver was palpably relieved when his cargo of maniacs disgorged into the fray around an objective. They tore through a Haemonculus squad then rushed the enemy Warlord. The puny alien was doomed. Stupid Xenos.


However, behind a rocky outcrop my Warlord wasn't having fun. The Chaplain vaguely imagined the  steadily increasing buzzing sound he could hear was a large, angry bumblebee. But then a massive pain engine hove into sight. Uh oh! Smack down. He lost and the filthy Xenos machine buzzed with alien pleasure.


All told, it was pretty close and the Haemonculi won by a narrow margin. Mr T had his fair share of bad luck and did a good job of pulling apart my red chaps.
So the prize for getting to the end of this post is that this battle report (and a couple previously) have been 8th edition games. I can wholeheartedly assure you that the system is a dream to play - smooth, accessible and fast-paced. GW has also made a herculean effort to update all the stats for every unit, so you'll be able to play all factions from day one. All the new datasheets are found in the new Index books (akin to the Grand Alliance books for Age of Sigmar). Mr T and I have always used the new Power Level system to build our armies as that suits our mid-core style. We found the system gives a very balanced game with the outcome often decided in the last turn (and sometime on the last die roll). Of course, 8th edition sees the release of the new Primaris Marines, and I'll definitely be adding units of these beautiful models to my Blood Angels army.

While the Dark Imperium is a dismal place to live, it's a new dawn for 40K hobbyists.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Vikings - Wolves of Midgard

It's time to strap on your walrus furs, grab your axe and get ready for some pillaging! And by that I mean; take another look at the graphics of another gorgeous game.

Vikings - Wolves of Midgard is a hack-and-slash RPG developed by Games Farm and published by Kalypso Media. You play a clan chief facing the arrival of some very historically inaccurate beasties who are intent on raiding your settlement and ruining your day. Cue some excellent hack and slash action, loot gathering and item crafting, all set in a gorgeously rendered fantasy vision of Scandiwegia. This is Diablo with furry boots, big axes and longboat-loads of Norse mythology. And wolves. Lots of wolves.

Games Farm have done a stunning job of realising the environments in this title. The naturalistic landscapes range from snow-covered mountain sides, to grassy uplands to beaches with rockpools. And they all look amazing. The textures do a lot of this work and the studio deserves an award for them. But they're combined with some awesome lighting work that gives the game a genuinely cinematic feel. The designs of the world and characters is ace as well, blending a lot of very naturalistic and historical items with some great fantasy visions, like floating ice monsters and goblin huts that resemble oversized poppy seed pods. I also need to give a shout-out to the art on the loading screens, which is beautifully done in a loose natural-media style and really evokes the mythic quality of the world.

So if you fancy some beautiful fantasy-Viking action this is definitely the game for you, my friend. It's available on console and PC, Mac and Linux.







Tuesday, 16 May 2017

You might be gurning and lumpen, but I still love you!

It transpired my cunning plan to use five, near-identical Oldhammer Scouts wasn't so sensible after all. A recent game of Shadow War: Armageddon mainly consisted of me trying to remember which Scout was which, and who was armed with what. This is neither fun, nor fair on your opponent. I needed something more WYSIWYG. And hence the two guys below.






These are from the plastic sprue released with Advanced Space Crusade. Admittedly they hail from the era of gurning, lumpen plastic miniatures, but I love them all the same. While they don't have the dynamism of their metal counterparts, they do have a kind of solid charm. Plus you really can't miss that MASSIVE gun and bright yellow chainsword, which helps with my 10th Company's identity crisis.

The eagle eyed nerds among you will notice that the Sergeant's pauldrons are rather mis-matched. After Rogue Trader there were several revisions to the Codex scheme of Space Marine iconography and livery. When these Scouts were released this IP was entering its current incarnation but still bedding in, as you can see in this scan below:


What I love about this cra-zy era is the liberal incorporation of  heraldry. I took the the Dave Gallagher White Dwarf cover and 'Eavy Metal miniature below as reference points.




I'm not sure what I'll be painting next for my Blood Angels. Perhaps a Primaris? ;-)

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Wode Warrior completed

Having posted a WIP a few weeks go I managed to finish this guy. To be honest, I'm not overly pleased with him, but I did learn a few good lessons so it was worth it.


Early on I got rather intimidated by the amount of detail on him. I spent ages highlighting the top of his shield and decided I couldn't go on that way without risking a melt down, cannibalism or some other malady. So I mixed up a subtle first hightlight dry brushed it on. This worked really well and I added two more highlights, this time using more precise strokes. I carefully dotted-on pin pricks of almost white too, which I'm getting better at and I find really lifts miniatures. Any resulting sloppyness was mitigated by adding the 'scratches', which are really quick to do. The result is a much for equitable balance of effort-to-result.

I managed to mess this up with his wode tattoos. These look really awful and only serve to break up the shape of his body. Never mind. However, the hallucinogenic blood worked quite well and the red vibrates against the olive drab of his shield exactly as it does in the Bisley artwork.

Visual research for Solonchak

I've been thinking more about Solonchak, the dried sea basin this guy inhabits in the Realm of Fire. It's a crazy mix of white-hot salt dunes shot through with luminous oxides. The depressions have become bone-fields where the cartilaginous remains of leviathans slowly crystalise. These Silurian carcasses eventually shatter and are ground to powder under their own weight. There is no sun in the sky that beats down all hours, but a borealis of fire that merely waxes and wanes according to the whim of the gods. In this toxic wasteland a living can be eeked out, but only by denizens that strike first. What remains of society is groups of apex predators, united not by race or species but by their ability to survive.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Synskin Shinobi

If men in flak vests or giants in gaudy Power Armour rock up, you can be certain you've annoyed the Emperor. But whem men in black, skin-tight rubber suits arrive, you know the Man Upstairs is properly miffed.

I wanted to intimidate my opponents more and the recent Made to Order Assassin was an ideal choice. As with all Jes Goodwin's sculpts, he was a joy to paint. Plus he reminds me of Joe Musashi, the hero from the Shiobi series of video games.

I've seen some lovely alternative colours for Assassins, but I chose to stick to the traditional black as an homage to Rogue Trader IP. I used the same technique as I employed on my Death Company - paint black over metal, zenith spray grey, then dump a wash of black ink mixed with black paint over the top. The wash settles in the recesses and knocks the grey back, just leaving it on the raised surfaces, to which you add a few highlights. Boom. There is a vent on top of his backpack which you can just see in the boxout. I highlighted this up with blues and that worked well to separate the element from the rest of the zentai suit (sorry - "synskin").


I also got both the Inquisitor and Demonhunter in Terminator armour to swell the ranks of my retro-clone Imperial agents. They are nowhere near the front of my painting queue, but shuffling around at the back, trying not to stand out while noting down people's names and nodding in a totally un-threatening manner.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

When you're in dire need of vengeance

I promised to post the five new Dire Avengers I completed for my Eldar army. To be honest they're not terribly exciting. The most remarkable thing about them is that they sit really well alongside the previous lot I did about five years ago. So that's a win for writing down your colour recipes.


I gave this squad different colour tabard clothes so I can separate the two lots if I need to. Here is an awkward family photo.


The gloss trims to the bases come out really nicely under lights. The new ones are a bit neater than my first attempts. The trick is to add grit/texture to the base tops and, once the glue has set, sand the trims with fine emery paper to ensure they're really smooth. Then paint and gloss.

Next up I'll be bringing you some psychic fun with my Warlocks.

Monday, 1 May 2017

You can't hide the truth from... MINDHORN!

Mindhorn is a high-grade-capoeira detective with the power to SEE the truth with his bionic eye. He's also, sadly, not real, but the on-screen persona of Richard Thorncroft. What's also sad is that Thorncroft hasn't had much work since his 80s hit series and has just lost his agent. If only he could somehow redeem his career in a wildly implausible and hilarious manner? Well, step this way, sir...

Back in the real world, Mindhorn is the new offering from ex-Boosh duo Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby. It's a hilarious romp in the vein of Hot Fuzz and Alpha Papa, gently poking fun at classic British detective dramas, crap TV merchandise and the Isle of Man. It sees Barratt waddle his way from one farce to another in a punchy, well constructed comedy.

On Saturday Barratt and Farnaby came to sunny* Nottingham to accompany a showing and give a Q&A afterwards. They are as amusing in the flesh as on-screen and the audience was consistently reduced to giggles. One of the aspects they touched on was all the retro-clone merchandise that was created to dress the film's sets. In the fictional world, the TV show Mindhorn spawned endless bits of clutter like dolls, stickers, videos and shatter-proof rulers, all of which had to be created by the art department. Some of these items are shown on the great site belonging to the Art Department intern Emma Rosling in her excellent portfolio. These bits of ephemera are spot-on and really help to build the world of Mindhorn.

Chief amongst this glut of merch is the Mindhorn doll. Barratt was asked if he kept one of them. He doesn't. Nor, sadly, are there any plans to mass-produce the item for sale. Barratt is afraid that the film will bomb, the dolls won't sell, and he'll be found hanging in a room surrounded by tiny facsimiles of his fictional self. Yikes!





*Nottingham is rarely sunny. It is, at best, overcast.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Woad Kill

An admirably muscled Slaughterpriest stumbled into my clutches recently and inspiration hit. I had been looking at some old Bisley art and was reminded of his amazing colour palette. While there are some aspects of his work I'm not so keen on, Bisley's portrait of Slaine is just awesome. I also love his cover for The Bitmap Brothers' Gods, which again uses the same blues and oranges that vibrate against each other. At the same time I've been reading a bit about the Dying Earth genre with its post-apocalyptic-meets-fantasy vibe. All this went into the mental soup.

I figured this guy might be a wanderer in Aqshy, the Realm of Fire. His native land is a vast, dried sea that the flames of Aqshy have evaporated, leaving the denizens to walk the cracked crust of what was the sea floor. If you look closely you can just make out a few shells I've worked into his base. I unashamedly stole the technique for using them from the amazing Don Hans. The shells were kindly donated by the awesome Julian Bayliss, whose work you can see of Ex Profundis (IMHO one of the best hobby blogs around at the moment).

I chopped the Slaughterpriest up a bit and gave him some Seraphon bits. I love the primitive-but-ornate feeling that these items conjure. They give the exact post-apocalyptic, desert raider vibe I wanted. He's at the wash stage at the moment and will get brighter with subsequentl stages. I think he needs a bit more variety in his colours though. I'm might try some gold on his weapon, plus he'll get azure-blue woad daubings too. I might end up calling him the Max the Woad Warrior.

Sorry, I'll stop with the puns now.



Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Basement booty: Realm of Battle

I'm hoping I'm not alone in having a basement which mostly functions mostly as A Place Where Things Go to Die. During a recent expedition into the depths I discovered an old Realm of Battle tile. I'd been given some time ago and had always intended to paint the thing as a skirmish board. With the unusually fine weather upon us, I rolled up my sleeves, brushed off the spiders (from the board, not me) and got stuck in.

I decided I wanted it to be generic affair which could be put to all sorts of uses and opted for traditional greens. However, I really wanted the exposed rocks to have naturalistic variation of colour. I started by blocking in the colours and working wet-in-wet with the acrylics to achieve the kind of colour transitions I wanted. This was actually really good fun. Because the weather was warm you have to be quick with acrylics as they go tacky in a very short space of time.

Below are some shots when the painting is nearing completion. I worked inks into the recesses in the rocks to add some depth and tone.

Below are shots of the flocking in progress. Top tip: don't flock when it's breezy. It doesn't end well. I was trying to build up a variety of types of grass and so layering the different types of flock onto the landscape.

Below is a shot of the finished tile. The glue is actually drying at this point on some of the grass areas so they appear slightly lighter. I wasn't too pleased with the deep green which forms the bulk of the grass. I feel the colour of the flock is too 'mono'. It'd be cooler if there was more variety there. Ah well, I'll know for next time.


I'd love to take some shots of minis in action on this table, and maybe use it for a bit of photography for painted Oldhammer minis. In the meantime, I need to sweep up a load of escaped flock...

Monday, 17 April 2017

Don't get overly-familiar


The Familiars are some of my favourite miniatures from GW's 2016 Silver Tower boxed set. The high-fantasy world of Age of Sigmar gets even more trippy when Tzeentch, the nefarious Lord of Change gets involved. Magical familiars are not merely cats called Tom, but walking books... with tails.

These miniatures are an homage to some of Citadel's oldest and most beloved scultps from the late 80s, rendered in 21st century style with cutting-edge technology. I was kindly gifted a set and they were tremendous fun to paint. They are also rare examples of modern single-piece plastics, but are no less dynamic for that.

These are some of the last I did in the 'grey' style that I had been experimenting with. While it's been fun I have eventually found the tight palette too restrictive so have moved on to more colourful things. I am very much into miniatures functioning as miniatures. I like mine to be be recognisable and intelligible from a reasonable distance and this style lacks the contrast necessary to do that.

Enjoy! And did it take you as long as it did for me to notice that the walking fish is in the shape of Tzeentch's icon? Genius!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Purple Sex Marine






I painted this Renegade as a gift for a friend. I was pretty pleased how he came out (no pun intended).

He's actually one of the later resin casts and I think came in a pack of four, each being the classic Jes Goodwin model for each of the Chaos powers. I just love this Marine's pose. He is relaxed and haughty, demonstrating the arrogance and posturing of the Slaaneshi cult. Jes is a master of the one-piece sculpt and I just love painting casts like this.

The paint job was really simple. Leadbelcher spray over a black undercoat, then washes of ink on top for most of the plate. Additional details were blocked-in as necessary. I used the technique I'd established on my Harlequins for the pastel-pink whites. Base with a mix of white with a dash of red, wash the recesses with a darker mix, then highlight up to white. The green eyes and very simple green grass base were deliberately chosen to contrast against these warmer details.

The decals are actually from super-old sheets printed in the early 90s. I still have all my old sheets in all their shabby, cut-up glory. I'm pleasantly surprised how well they still work after 25 years.

Secretly I imagine that when he talks, this Marine sounds like Kenneth Williams.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Hang on to your biomass - an Eldar VS Tyranids battle report

Posting has been a bit slow of late due to Life getting in the way. But at least the planet hasn't been consumed by a star-faring race of biomass guzzlers. On that note, I played a game of 40K yesterday against my long-term opponent and his Tyranids.

I brought my Rogue Trader-inspired Eldar to the party. It turned out we had both inadvertently dressed to match our factions. I wore a mustard yellow top, and Mr T had a shirt and jeans that matched Hive Fleet Behemoth. I am going to make sure this is a new rule that goes into the next edition of 40k.


We opted to play along the length of the table and, with a swish of their skirts, my space elves eased their crinoline into various ruins. Space elves in the open don't last long. My Hemlock Wraithfighter was so cunningly camouflaged you could hardly see it against the grass it hovered over.


Mr T's bugs thought they had been invited to a game of British Bull Dog. They lined up appropriately, ready to dash headlong into the fun that is Eldar munitions.


The game started off pretty badly for me. In true British fashion I blamed the dice, declared that I was underpowered and it was totally not fair. As the game wore on I decided to actually read the rules for my units. I discovered they can do all sorts of nasty things. At which point the tide turned and some of the chitinous beasties succumbed. This didn't stop Mr T's Termagants sweeping, Gallimimus-like, around the objective. Damn.


Gradually a combination of firepower and psychics whittled down the Tyranids. We each lost our warlords. Both our armies looked on in horror as their leaders were hacked down, then shrugged, carried on, and wondered why they took orders from those jerks anyway.


My Warlocks eventually got fed up of the Carnifex who kept rolling around like a puppy in your laundry. They whipped out their witchblades and Magic Dave the Warlock took him down. And everyone cheered.

This was the state of play at the end of the game. Mr T claimed the objective (darn!) but there were plenty of space elves left to boo at the Termagants. Props if you can spot the Hemlock. Very few people can.

All told this was a great game and we're both inspired to paint more. I had finished another five Dire Avengers beforehand and will post photos of them soon. I also realised I'd never shot my Warlocks, so I'll take some snaps of them at the same time. I think I might paint another squad of Rogue Trader Harlequins soon as well so they can become a playable force on their own. Looted Imperial Robots anyone?

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Ruiner: You are being played

Ruiner is a forthcoming cyberpunk RPG shooter from Reikon Games. It looks like an awesome mash-up of Akira, Hotline Miami and Daft Punk with a dose of Only God Forgives. Best of all it features some utterly amazing environment artwork on a par Otomo's 1988 anime classic. Some gameplay videos have dropped recently, one of which is below.

I love the bold typography too.

Definitely one to keep an eye on. As the game's strapline declairs, "You are being played."

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Are you American? Then I think you're creepy and kooky.

Lately I've been delving into representations of the gothic in American culture. For us Brits, gothic America is a slightly uncanny place - many of the cultural mainstays are alien and don't resonate in quite the same way. A good example of this is the classic American haunted house - a tall, faded, wooden clapboard structure. We have very few examples of clapboard constructions in the UK so these buildings immediately strike us as 'alien' and 'other'. There is no sense of familiarity about them. Good examples of such houses in pop culture are the Bates house in Psycho, and the Addams Family mansion. It's the latter I want to delve into, particularly because of the franchise's pedigree.

Created by cartoonist Charles Addams in 1938, the fictional family continued to appear in printed cartoons until 1988. They have been the stars of numerous TV shows, cartoons, movies and video games, as well as featuring in other universes like Scooby-Doo. Throughout, their residence has been described as a 'mansion' and its depiction has stayed pretty consistent.

The mansion in a panel by creator Charles Addams 

Another Addams panel, giving a view down from the central tower. This scene with the boiling oil is recreated in the opening of the 1992 movie.

The facade of the mansion from the 60s TV show

The box cover of the 60s plastic model kit by Aurora, later re-issued by Polar Lights

The house in the 1992-3 (I think) cartoon

The set at Toluca Lake for the 1991 and 1993 movie adaptions

The mansion in a SNES video game
(I'm not sure which of the four games this is, all were released by Ocean between 1992 and 1995)

This is an unofficial and speculative plan of the mansion from addamsfamily.com. The site says:
The Addams Family Home Floor Plan was drawn by Mark Bennett.  Mark Bennett has been drawing floor plans of TV homes and offices for years.  The floor plan appeared in the LA Times Magazine on September 10, 1995.
Timber became increasingly uncommon as a construction material in Britain as the centuries passed. We destroyed many of the forests which covered our island. Land was converted to agriculture or the wood used for buildings, industry and the fabrication of ships to fight the French and Spanish. Brick and stone have been common for several hundred years. These materials also have the benefit of being less combustible, as fire was a constant threat in dense, cramped cities like London. America has had no shortage of wood (especially split oak, pine and spruce which are ideal for construction), nor space on which to build and so wood has persisted in vernacular architecture. The clapboard style has come to resonate as historic and is therefore a common signifier of a 'haunted' house. Indeed, the faded grey of the Addams' mansion is a natural consequence of the tannin being washed out of the clapboards as the years pass.

The Addams mansion is in the Empire style - neoclassical inspired by French architecture under Napoleon. This aesthetic was popular in America from about 1810. Charles Addams had probably seen the SK Pierce mansion in Gardner, Massachusetts. This is one of America's most famous 'haunted' houses. Built in about 1880 it later fell into disrepair and was the site of various alleged murders, deaths and suicides.

The SK Pierce Mansion. Its bay windows and central tower make it a likely source for the Addams' residence.

In 2013 Tim Burton was attached to an animated reboot of The Addams Family, but, to date, this hasn't come to fruition. It would be fascinating to see how me might have re imagined the franchise and its mansion, especially given how he overhauled Batman in the 1989 movie. Alas I can't find any concept art for this aborted version.

I'll leave you with this great bit of fan art of the mansion by IrenHorrors: