Sunday 23 March 2014

Stalkers done and another crew is completed

 The Witchling Stalkers are done, which means that I now have 4 fully painted starter sets (the other three are Justice, McCabe and Lynch). These three are actually cast in one single piece which is pretty amazing considering the amount of detail the designers managed to squeeze in on them.

I didn't use the box artwork as reference as I wanted them to look like the old metal versions I painted a while ago (you can see pics below). As far as comparison between the two versions goes, I think I'm leaning towards the classic metal versions. The plastic ones are pretty cool with dynamic poses and solid amount of detail but the metal ones seem to have more character to them. The details are sharper too. This is particularly noticeable on the hilts of their blades and the robes with recesses more carefully defined.

Anyway, I'm glad my fourth crew is ready for gaming and now I'm going to work on the Family :)

Monday 17 March 2014

Skeleton Crew

Skeleton Crew is King's second collection of short stories (though one of them - "The Mist" could actually be treated as a standalone novel(la) ). The first thing that immediately comes to my mind when I think about it is variety. There are nineteen short stories, two poems and the above-mentioned novella. There's also an afterword from the author at the end, which is always an enjoyable read and offers interesting insights into various inspirations and 'stories-behind-stories'.

As far as the stories are concerned, there are a few true gems among them. It's really hard to pick a favorite. I'll just quickly go through the ones that I liked the most.
"The Monkey" is a story about a cursed toy. Each time the cymbal-clapping monkey plays, someone dies. It might seem like a parody of a horror story at first glance and in a way it is. However, there are some very good descriptions of what's going through the head of the protagonist along with some very suggestive descriptions of his emotions. You can almost feel sweat trickling down your spine as you read it.
"The Jaunt", a short tribute to Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination" is an unusual tale for King. First off, the setting - science fiction and the future in general are not typical elements of his works. The story pays homage to the original work nicely but King adds his own touch of grotesque horror and the ending leaves you not feeling too comfortable.

Speaking of feeling unsettled - the "Survivor Type" is a story that is really hard to read. It's basically a diary of a surgeon (involved in drug trafficking) who ends up on a tiny desert island. He has no food and he has only heroin with him along with some surgical tools. He has an accident in which he breaks his ankle and soon realizes that he needs to perform an amputation. He survives (using heroin as anesthetic) but after a while it becomes clear to him that in order to survive he will have to eat the amputated foot. His torment doesn't end here as other limbs soon have to go. It's not a pleasant read at all but you can appreciate King's use of language as the protagonist's notes gradually become more disjointed and less comprehensible.

"The Mist" is the longest story in the book and it can be treated as a novella. Unfortunately, a few years ago I saw Frank Darabont's movie (a pretty good screening to tell the truth) which spoiled it for me. Here King plays with the idea of devastating effects of secret army experiments. They result in a catastrophe on a potentially huge scale. I liked the idea of showing the crisis through the eyes of inhabitants of small town who are stuck in a supermarket during the crisis. The author also plays with the idea of who the real monsters are (surprise, surprise - it's the humans again!) and the negative effects of religious fanaticism (it seems to me that it's something King dislikes particularly strongly). It's a good read and for those who were dismayed with the movie's outcome - here it ends differently.

These were the ones that stood out the most to me but some of the other stories also read very well. I can easily imagine "The Raft" screened as another (run-of-the-mill) horror movie about teenagers who first get drunk and then get into trouble with something Evil.The miraculous gadget from "Word Processor of the Gods" is something that everyone would like to have (and use sometime too). "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" is an interesting story about a man's gradual descent into madness.
"Skeleton Crew" is a very solid collection of short stories. Not all of them are exceptionally good but the range and themes of them is so big that everyone should be able to find something of interest here.

Friday 14 March 2014

Praetorian Stalkers

They used to be among my favorites in the original Warzone game. They operated in pairs and were pretty much a self sufficient unit well capable of dealing with enemy forces.
I really like the new versions of these minis. They still have ancient looking massive armors and wield the same type of weapon (though I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by lack of detail here)

I had fun working on their armors. I started with a solid basecoat of Vallejo Red Gold. It's a very strong tone so I used P3 golden metallics to play around with highlights and shadows. Sometimes I work without a specific outcome in mind, just paint freely applying highlights and shadows. I knew that I wanted something that would look ancient and that would not resemble and metal that could have been made on Earth.

 I added some contrast by painting their skin using more vivid shade of blue than I'd initially planned. After that I tried to add some texture to the weapons by using GW technical paints (Typhus Corrosion and Ryza Rust). I kept the bases simple as aim for a desolate look here.
More to come soon - I'm working on Alakhai and Razide now.

Sunday 9 March 2014


Yesterday I finally played my first game of M2E. It felt really great to put the minis on the table again. I played a quick game for 36 soulstones and we simply used the starter sets for Perdita and Sonnia. Before that game I'd only played using Lady Justice so I was really impressed with Perdita's mobility. The companion rule is a nice thing (even though it's been nerfed in M2E) but it's easy to overdo it and as a result let your opponent outactivate you. And damm, Papa Loco isn't the guy to keep close to your friendly models - I learnt that the hard way.
The game feels easier than 1,5 and faster. I thought that pre-measuring would make the turns last much longer but it actually doesn't. Without that I'd spend a lot of time trying to work out if the opponent is withing my charge distance or whether I should do something else. Now it's just a matter of a quick measure and the game can continue. So, even though I suffered a major defeat, it still felt nice to play Malifaux again after a long break.

I also painted one more miniature. This one is by far my favorite from Wave 1 of plastics for the second edition. I see this one as a big improvement comparing to the original metal model. The pose is dynamic, the details (especially the hunting tools) look great and the facial expression is appropriately grim.

Painting Samael was fun but I had to work out a color scheme that features mainly different shades of brown.I like working with this color so choosing and applying various shades never felt like a chore. 

 I decided to use brighter colors on his base as otherwise the whole thing might seem too uniform. The base is a resin cast from Micro Art Studio and it also features a big toad. At first I wanted to get rid of it but then I changed my mind and left it there, making it even brighter so that it could add a small element of extra contrast to the whole thing.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Fight fire with fire

The title of this entry is no coincidence. It refers both to a cool song by Metallica and to the way in which Sonnia fights the Arcanist threat on behalf of the Guild. Accessing the forbidden knowledge in order to face the enemy is a good excuse for taking advantage of the power one can gain along the way. And in M2E Sonnia Criid is all about the fire...

I wasn't a big fan of the metal minis in 1st edition. I didn't really care for Sonnia and Samael as they seemed somehow flat. Witchling stalkers have always been among my favorites and a while ago I painted the three of them up just for fun.
With the release of The Torch and the Blade, I knew I was going to buy the box as I thought all the minis from the set looked great. The first one I focused on was Sonnia's totem - the Purifying Flame. It's a quick paint job on the skeleton and then some fun with the flames. I didn't play around with OSL but I'll get o that later on in this entry.

Next up is the new Sonnia, now sporting an elegant metal mask. It's going to be interesting to finally find out how Perdita came into possession of this item and how it actually helped them in the fight against Cherufe. This miniature was fun to paint with lots of details. It seems to me that Wyrd has improved the quality of their plastic minis a lot during the last two years. Even though her pose is static, her jacket has pieces moving in the wing and there's a lot of other small bits (mask, lantern, blade) that more than make up for the static pose. Compared to minis like Jakob Lynch (who's just standing there and lacks detail) or Mr Tannen (I felt the mini itself was nothing spectacular so I added some variety to the base), she's definitely a step up.

 Last but definitely not least - the avatar version of Sonnia. This is one of the most impressive models I've ever painted and it's also one that I cursed along the way. First off, the dragon part is cast in three different types of material. That alone is not a problem as super glue fixes resin to metal solidly. The problem is that these parts don't fit too well and there was a lot of GS applied to fill in the recesses as you can see here. The second challenge was that I had to paint Sonnia and Dragon separately. Not that much of a hassle but still an inconvenience. And finally - painting the flames on the dragon. That proved much more challenging than I had originally expected.

I started with a solid white basecoat and worked the colors up by adding yellow to white for initial highlights, moving on to pure yellow and then working my way up with gradually darker colors (orange, red and finally black). In the end it looked way too messy so I started working  with yellow and orange glazes. That caused the white to disappear so I had to work on the recesses again by highlighting them using orange, yellow and white, mixing them with each other for successive highlights. The serpent-like shape of the dragon didn't make the task any easier and accessing some areas was really hard. I actually had to hold the model upside to get to some places. Having repainted these areas I noticed that the dark edges lost the solid look I had initially so I had to carefully pick them up again. Long story short - I was going back and forth with highlights/washes/shades until I decided I was reasonably satisfied with the final effect.

Now before I finish, a word on the OSL effect. I avoided it for two simple reasons - one practical (it's really challenging and getting it right is never easy for me) and one connected with the fluff. It just seems to me that Sonnia's fire is somehow magical so if she actually reacted to heat she'd burn up entirely within seconds. So I like to think that the flames are somehow magical anc can affect only her enemies. Besides, if I wanted to paint OSL on the model itself, it would have to be... pretty much all over the mini.

Next up is my favorite from M2E wave 1 miniatures - Mr Samael Hopkins.

Monday 3 March 2014

Black House

I'd originally started reading this book a few years ago but gave up after a while. It was hard to get into it with many references that seemed too vague for me then. A couple of weeks ago I read "The Talisman" and felt ready to have another go with "Black House". I'm familiar with the Dark Tower series (having read the whole thing twice), so I was no longer worried about potential vagueness in this novel.

It's another book co-written with Peter Straub and it seemed to me that their work was even more efficient this time. I've mentioned in my previous note on "The Talisman" that the narration feels different than in a typical King's work. Here it's even pushed further with the narrator literally inviting the reader on a journey and entering a very peculiar kind of dialogue. At first it put me off but after a while I got used to this style and in the end I see it as one of the book's major strengths. Another thing that makes this book unique is the frequent occurrence of seemingly incomprehensible words. Words such as Abbalah, Gorg, Coppiceman, or Opoponax. They enter the discourse early on and at first seem to be random ramblings of mad people but later on they grow in significance. They resonate throughout the whole story and nicely play on the idea of the mysterious unknown.

The story itself is not overly complicated. There's a mysterious murderer stalking his prey in the city of French Landing. His main targets are children. What makes it even worse, the bodies of Fisherman's victims show traces of cannibalism. The murderer has been surprisingly successful in evading the local police.They become desperate and ask one of the new residents for help. The man is enjoying his early retirement after an impressive career in Santa Monica PD, where he became almost a legend. The man's name is Jack Sawyer and he's the same person who traveled across the US and the Territories when he was a child. The story of Travelin' Jack is well known to the reader but the man has repressed his childhood memories and has no recollection of this period of his life (I can't help but notice how this story is reused in "Doctor Sleep"). His gradual immersion back into the Territories and acknowledgement of the past for a significant and, unfortunately quite predictable, part of the story.

The mood of "Dark House" is dark and rotten, sometimes even filthy. French Landing doesn't seem like a friendly place at any moment in the novel. The atmosphere is tense and people who have been victimized by the terror of the Fishermen are constantly on edge. There are quite a few less than likable characters here. And the infamous Black House becomes an almost organic symbol of what's bad. This is counterbalanced by a handful of positive characters, Jack's best friend Henry (who is blind but sees more than he admits) being the most memorable for me.

Overall, the book is a good read for those who have read "The Talisman" and are at least familiar with the "Dark Tower" series. The narration is exceptional but the story and pacing make the "Black House" a decent, but not spectacular novel.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Another crew finished

There hasn't been much going on here recently but truth is I've been pretty busy hobby-wise finishing off old crews and starting new ones. Not to mention my ongoing work on the Warzone minis. I'll be publishing more here in the next few days. I just need to find time to take decent pics of newly painted stuff.

 I've had the Relic Hunters for a few months now and painted a mini from this crew every now and then. I left the leader as the last one as the prospect of working on both the mounted and unmounted miniature (not to mention the mount) put me off.
Not surprisingly, there was a lot of work involved in painting the beast. There are many flat surfaces on the skin and on the saddle and the reins don't make painting any easier. I guess I could have glued them after painting the horse but I prefer to work on assembled minis as filling up all the recesses that appear is a pain if the parts are painted.

Lukas McCabe is a very confident arrogant person. I think of him as a kind of criminal Indiana Jones. That's why I tried to use colors that would evoke the feelings of an adventures and a cocky dandy. I used khaki on pants, slightly weathered white on his shirt and livened that up with blue vest and a bright purple tie.
I still need to get TT Arsenal Deck as I have two painted crews that are ready for playing (Relic Hunters and Lynch). McCabe is an interesting master but I think I'll be using him mainly for my Guild as I don't have any other minis than the ones from boxes from Ten Thunders.
Last but not least, here's a quick photo of my third fully painted crew for Malifaux (soon to be joined by the fourth).

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