Sunday 30 December 2018

Guild Ball: The Blacksmith's Guild

Another big project finished in 2018. Some Guild Ball minis I painted for a buddy. I was free to choose color scheme so I decided to play with Green Stuff World colorshift paints a little. Cold blue armor was meant to bring more contrast to fiery elements.

As for the minis, I have mixed feelings. The scale doesn't hold at all as pretty much each model in a box is scaled differently. The quality is rather good for preassembled models and I didn't need to use a lot of Green stuff but I just don't really care for the kind of soft plastic that is used here. It makes removing mold lines a chore. 

Anyway, it felt nice to paint something non-Malifaux for a change and I did get a nice exercise in using metallics too.

Baby's on Fire

These are the last Malifaux minis for 2018. Fire is the main theme here as Kaeris is a master who uses this element to her crew's advantage (and to cause trouble to her enemies).

Here are some pics of the process. I started by priming everything light grey and adding some white to plan highlights better.

After that I did initial sketches of fire with an airbrush. I used only yellow and red here.

This was followed by some brushwork as I worked with both the brightest and the darkest parts. Vallejo fluo yellow was really useful here.

I will work on some more Arcanists in the foreseeable future so stay tuned :)

#18/2018 Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I grew up watching the show and Eric Idle has always been my favorite Python. When I learnt that he had a "sortabiography" out, I knew that sooner or later I'd get it. 
The audiobook is red (or I should rather write performed) by the author himself. It gives an interesting background to his story. As a child he was growing in the WW2 aftermath era, going through the period of despair and then welfare. Life wasn't easy as Eric's father died in a car accident as he was returning home from the war. Yet despite his harsh upbringing he managed to make humor his way of life. Learning about his early career and getting unique insights into his celebrity life with his relations to other famous musicians/actors is what this book is really about. If you're a Python fan, I don't even have to recommend it. And..

#17/2018 Fear: Trump in the White House

This book may just as well be titled CHAOS instead of FEAR. Bob Woodward accumulated knowledge from hundreds of interviews to present Trump's working style and the way he makes the most important decisions. In a way this book felt scarier than any horror novel I've read since it talks about a real person who (sadly) can potentially influence major events worldwide. Now I need to find a book that actually praises him so that I can have two extreme opinions to work with. 

Sunday 2 December 2018

Smart space

I've had my Detolf glass cabinet from IKEA ever since I moved into my new flat. This was one of my priorities - get a nice, functional cabinet to showcase my works. And it worked... for a while.

My "man cave", or rather a room in which I work and paint is not a large one. As such, the cabinet fits right between a bookshelf and a desk. There a 4 shelves (if you count the bottom one) and plenty of space inside. The trouble is, after a while it got to the point when I simply added more finished models to the upper shelves, while keeping the unpainted ones on the lower ones.

As a result, it turned into a colorful mass of models without any coherence. Simply put, one tall column of chaos. Definitely not the way I wanted to present my works. 

Fortunately, I was able to find an easy way to fix the problem; A-Space. A perfect solution from a company that successfully launched their A-Case campaign a while ago (I reviewed that one on my blog). It's so simple, you basically get 4 custom made transparent shelves with 16 pieces to fix them in place inside your Detolf. The difference is huge. I was able to organize my minis thematically without losing any aesthetic value.

The installation was simple and straightforward. Putting the first extra shelf in place took me about 5 minutes, and I needed less time for next ones. One thing worth mentioning is that the extra shelves keep the whole thing more stable. I have two small kids (as evidenced by the mess on the bookshelf which is often their playground area), and the whole thing used to shake when they ran pasy it. That's no longer an issue as extra connections points made the cabinet more stable.
Wrapping things up - if you have Detolf glass cabinet at home, it means you have a great hobby and want to proudly showcase your collection. And if you're a collector you're bound to run out of space at some point. Don't wait for that moment, grab your set at Kickstarter now.

Before          vs.          after A-Space

Saturday 17 November 2018

Elara and Issyria

I had to step out of my comfort zone while working on these two. Firstly, because I'm not a big fan of the aesthetics of Warmachine miniatures. Secondly, because the buddy for whom I painted them asked for an unusual color scheme. It involved colors that I don't typically use and hardly ever mix them on a single model. It was a big hurdle to overcome but I think in the end it worked out pretty well.

#16/2018 Bird Box

I won't lie - prior to seeing the trailer for Netflix's most recent movie, I'd never heard of this novel before. It immediately caught my interest and I got the audiobook for Josh Malerman's novel.
The story is told through the eyes of Malorie, a young college student who discovers her pregnancy. This realization coincides with the advent of worrying news spreading all over the internet. Incidents of people going mad and hurting themselves violently become more frequent and the death numbers increase worldwide. When "the Problem" reaches her neighborhood, she eventually ends up seeking shelter among a group of other survivors. It becomes apparent that seeing "something" is the cause of problems and thus no one can keep their eyes open when leaving the shelter. This part of the novel is contrasted with events that happen later on as Malorie, with two children, decides to make a desperate attempt at reaching a safe house that can only be accessed by sailing in the river.
Such structure allows Malerman to make the reader focus on two timelines at the same time. While we know that Malorie eventually ends up alone with children, we have no knowledge of the events that led to that, which keeps the story so interesting. The atmosphere is truly suffocating and the emotions experienced by the protagonists are something that can easily be imagined. Actions dictated by fear, distrust, often lead to chaos.
The author cleverly distributes the tension without using cheap literary devices (like "jumpscares" where evil/ugly/powerful creature appears suddenly). Quite the opposite, I often felt puzzled as there were no direct clues to what was actually happening and only slight portions of the terror were being revealed. Just enough to cause me to try imagining the rest myself.
Definitely the best horror I've read in months and something that reminded me of some of the earlier (and better...) works by Stephen King. I'm going to chek out some of Malerman's other works for sure!

#15/2018 Where the Crawdads Sing

This novel has a few genres mixed in; the coming-of-age story of a lonely girl living on the marsh, thriller, mystery, and love story that is not banal and offers a broad view on the society of coastal North Carolina during the 1950s and '60s. Nature plays a big part here as Owens manages to successfully paint a vivid and diversified view of the swamps with their unique  wildlife. 
The story moves back and forth, which adds tension and builds a more complex view of Kya. The world is presented through her (naive initially) eyes, but that changes as she matures both physically and mentally. The main story revolves around a murder, and there are many viewpoints on it, which adds some extra depth.

#14/2018 Elevation

Nothing works here. The story is simple and predictable without any memorable characters. The supernatural element is a recycled theme from one of King's earlier novels. Instead of building tension and making the plot more complex, it feels like the more you read the more of a chore it is to finish this short novella. I was hoping that this might finally be a good one from King but I guess I will keep on waiting and hoping a bit more...

Saturday 3 November 2018

Hodgepodge Emissary

This has to be one of the best models from Malifaux range. It's extremely well detailed and has that extra tongue-in-the-cheek factor to it that was characteristic for 1st ed models. An elderly man clutching reins, sitting atop a pile of random baggage carried by a donkey. If it wasn't for numerous firearms and swords, it could even be described as the most pacifist mini in the range.
The main challenge I faced while working on it was that I received it completely assembled. As a result, getting to some areas proved extremely difficult. At first, the number of elements on this model put me off but I just kept at it, adding a little every other night.

I also painted a Nino model from Puppet Wars.

#13/2018 The Godfather

Godfather is another big classic that I hadn't read before so I decided to give it a shot. I wasn't impressed... While the portrayal of crime family with its honor code and complex relationships is deep and well laid out, I just never felt that the story was strong enough to draw me in for good. Throughout the novel we get to learn about each of the sons of Don Corleone and follow their stories. While distinctly different, none felt like something that made me curious to learn more and follow other interactions with that given character. It just felt like reading a family chronicle that never was exciting or overly complex. I realize that it's not a popular opinion but this novel just didn't appeal to me the way I expected it to.

Monday 8 October 2018

Domaru Takeshi "Neko" Oyama Infinity

This is the first miniature I've ever painted from the Infinity range. I've never been too enthusiastic about these. While I can appreciate the quality of sculpt, proportions, dynamic poses, I simply don't care much for the futuristic aesthetics. The box art shows them painted by Angel Giraldez to a very high standard. However, this is too different from my style to try so I stuck to my own, gritty one.

I followed the "official" paintjob for this one with slightly more toned down shades.I also got to use my new Colorshift paint set from Green Stuff World. It is very easy to apply (as long as you remember to use glossy black basecoat) and the effect is really nice without putting a lot of effort into it.

Even though I was initially not too happy to work on this mini, over time I started enjoying myself as I continued working. I don't plan to paint more minis from Infinity range in the foreseeable future, but it felt nice to take a break from my standard steampunk/Victorian/horror aesthetics for a while.

#12/2018 The Three-Body Problem

I hardly ever read science fiction novels (and had never read any book by a Chinese author before!) and chose this one only because my friend recommended it. "The Three-Body Problem" ponders big ideas, such as limitations of science, presence of other civilizations in the universe, technological advancement and its impact on human nature. Many of these ideas are supported by actual scientific theories, which makes the events presented a bit more credible. The story is presented through different timelines and puts the protagonists in extreme situations where choices of individual can affect the fate of entire mankind.

I did enjoy some of the ideas presented here (such as how the alien race seeks to undermine scientific achievements among humans and plants a seed of doubt as a method to prepare for their invasion), but the high tech theories mixed with scientific data proved at times a bit too much to fully enjoy it.

#11/2018 American Wolf

First and foremost, it is an account of O-Six, the most famous Yellowstone wolf. The reintroduction of these animals to the park caused many problems, both from the logistic, and theoretical point of view. Wolves have always been perceived by many as ferocious and dangerous, while in reality they steer away from humans as far as they can. That's why observing them is such a big challenge. The book presents some truly extraordinary and passionate people who devoted their lives to doing just that. These two worlds, one of nature with it's admirers and preservers, and the other of hunters and poachers, collide on many levels here.

#10/2018 Total Recall

I've always liked Arnold Schwarzenegger as an actor. He never pretended to be someone he isn't and his roles were usually well chosen. At the same time, it was nice to see how he broadened his scope and evolved as a professional over the years.
"Total Recall" gave me numerous interesting insights into his background as well as his career in entertainment and politics.I found the childhood part particularly fascinating. Growing up in post-war Austria, in a not-so well-off family and with a father from the military shaped his character. After that came the time for fulfilling his greatest dream of success in bodybuilding. I have to admit I've never found this sport interesting but the way he describes his meticulous preparation and true passion allowed me to find a new appreciation for bodybuilding.

Schwarzenegger's career in movie industry is a true testimony to his perseverance. Once he set out a goal he did everything he possibly could to achieve it. This part of his biography was really interesting to follow as there were many stories from the industry, curious facts that are normally not known by the viewer who has no access to what is happening backstage.
The author's story is presented in a very entertaining way and it reads really well. What particularly impressed me was the author's honesty in admitting the mistakes he's made over the years and how they affected his life. I think I might have underestimated his intelligence and political instincts. I tended to believe that his fame and people skills were the driving force behind his success, while in reality there is a lot of cunning and calculating. Hi involvement with the disabled, prisoners, fighting juvenile delinquency, are aspects of his career that I wasn't aware of and was very impressed by.

Schwarzenegger is a man of contrasts. He is a republican who married a woman firmly rooted in democrat family and throughout his political career managed to have good relationships with representatives of both parties. He is an environmentalist who drives a hummer. And yet in between all of those contrasts there is a wise man who's always tried to achieve more for himself and his people. A man who has achieved pretty much everything he planned. "Total Recall" is a positive story that can be both entertaining and motivating.

#9/2018 The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Non-fction books tend not to be too impressive when it comes to aesthetics, rich style, original ideas. What they can offer in return, is a true, honest, and often powerful message. Such is the case of "The Tattooist of Auschwitz". 
It tells a story of Lale, a young dandy from Slovakia who is sent to a concentration camp. From the very beginning, his narrative is characterized by bewilderment and lack of understanding. New camp reality seems completely incomprehensible and the shock comes through visibly. Further events, as Lale learns how the camp functions, bring even more feelings of utter horror. Hunger, violence, countless deaths, slowly become his everday reality. Despite that, he refuses to give up and fights to make the lives of people around him at least a little better. Soon he becomes the camp's "Tattoowierer" and starts tattooing the number on hands of new prisoners. As such, he was the first official to "welcome" newly arrived prisoners. He tried to soften the initial shock by being polite. There he meets Gita, a woman who will change his life and give him energy to push on and fight for survival.
I've read a few similar books and while I am familiar with the historical context, such first person narrative always makes a stronger impression on me. The book is based on interviews with the real Lale Sokolov and ends with some of his original comments. Not an easy novel but definitely worth reading.

Saturday 15 September 2018


I've painted these models before so I didn't feel too encouraged to do that again. I wanted to have some potential summons for Ana Lovelace so I had to find the motivation. It wasn't easy as I am still adjusting to different style of working at a new place and return home much later than I used to. Still, "nulla dies sine linea", as Apelles of Kos used to say. I tried to find a few minutes on a slightly irregular basis and somehow managed to finish them.
Nothing too fancy, the combination of toned down green with a vibrant red/yellow pattern is not something that can be described as innovative. I tried to blend them with the bases slightly more by sculpting around their tails and adding the greenish light effect there as well. Also, I made sure not to use drybrush on the manes. While I'm not strictly against this technique, I find that standard highlights with smoother blends work much better for a wavy look of hair that flow in a natural way.

The inspiration derived from Chinese Dragon parades is rather obvious here. To the Chinese, dragon is a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it. Well, apparently Ana and Kirai are the worthy ones in the world of Malifaux. I like the fact that each of the Seishin has distinctly different facial features and their bodies are not the same size and thickness too.

If this model is sacrificed in game, it can protect friendly models within 3' from blasts and auras, or heal them. Other than that it's merely an extra activation that can occasionally come into play as a result of trigger from Ana Lovelace's attack. They may have some good use against blasters like Rasputina or Sonnia but I haven't tried them under such circumstances yet.
These three took much longer to finish than they should but now that they're done I can focus on other, more interesting projects.

#8/2018 Magpie Murders

I've never been an avid reader of whudunits so I approached this one with some hesitation. And I was immediately rewarded with a fresh take on the subject.

Horowitz sets the plot in two parallel realities. One is a classic country murder case, in which Atticul Punt is trying to find out who and why committed murders in a small town. The other one is set in contemporary times as the editor reads part of the manuscript for the novel and begins her own investigation. She soon finds out that the two realities are uncannily interwoven and she can use her knowledge of the manuscript to understand the way the author perceived reality.

It's a good read on both levels as Horrowitz fluently switches from one reality to another in successive sections of the novel thanks to his masterful use of different styles and vocabulary.

Thursday 16 August 2018

More Terror Tots

I've painted Terror Tots before twice so I knew more or less what I wanted to do with them this time round. It was a little different though I as also had three old metal sculpts from the first edition. I like the plastic ones but they seem a bit too similar to one another. The same build, identical proportions. I think the metal ones better reflect the ferocious nature and insatiable hunger that drives these creatures. Their weapons have more distinctive design and their faces have much more clearly defined expressions. Not to mention the pre-censorship era sculpts, which means that they run around naked...

Cherub required some extra effort as I had to figure out a way to paint feathers on his wings. Painting all those thin lines was a very slow process as I washed them down with blue glaze and had to repick some of the highlights there again.

I used pale purple shade for their skin and complementary colors that kept the overall scheme rather cold.Thanks to that their bases (resin 30mm Micro Art Studio forest themed) pop more. Some blood splatters were also used on their weapons and partly on the bodies.

In game they mainly serve the purpose of scheme runners. I've never fielded them before so I hope I'll have a chance to give them a go with Lilith soon. They can also be used in growth lists , but these need more Nephilim miniatures, which I currently don't own.

Saturday 4 August 2018

Agram Arena and Black Queen 2018 Report

Two weeks ago I took part in a Malifaux tournament organized by UMS "Agram" in Zagreb. This was also combined with "Black Queen" painting competition. After returning home I enjoyed brief holidays with my family and then started a new job so finding time to write about my experience was really hard.

I played Neverborn, one game with Titania, four with Zoraida. I was too immersed in games I played to take precise notes and take pictures. Anyway, you'll find the gist of what happened below.

Game 1

Deployment: Standard 
Strategy: Ours
Schemes: Guarded Treasure, Set Up, Inescapable Trap, Take Prisoner, Public Demonstration

This was the only time I used Titania. She does Set Up so well that I felt she was a better choice here. Guarded Treasure was another scheme that Titania's crew is good at. I took the Emissary, Mr Graves, Cyclops, Pukeworm, The Thorn, Bultungin, and Mysterious Effigy to bluff Public Demo.
I faced Nina from Croatia with her Lucius (+Jury, 2 Thralls, Austringer, Scribe, some other minions I don't remember). 
I quickly moved up the board, blocked the middle with Pillars, and dropped schemes for Guarded Treasure. Cyclop was a nuisance in the middle of the board while other models were placing scheme markers. Close to the end of the game the was a hilarious moment . The FormT double walked to lure the Judge in for set up. I had high cards in hand so all she had to do was to survive walking through Hungry Land market. It was then that Nina flipped the red joker for damage. Bad things do happen I guess. Titania flew in, placed The Jury next to two other markers, placed the third withav trigger, and secured 3vp for me. At that moment I was leading by a big Martin and let my guard down. Nina took advantage and in the last turn scored 3 points for public demo and one for Inescapable trap. The game ended with my 9-7 victory.

Game 2
Deployment: Flank
Strategy: Supply Wagons
Schemes: Guarded Treasure, Covert Breakthrough, Undercover Entourage, Take One for the Team, Public Demonstration

The T-shirt of my opponent shows true dedication to the game
In my second game I was paired with Matija and his Ulix crew. He had Old Major, Penelope, the Sow, Slop Hauler, Merris, some piglets. Seeing the schemes I immediately thought of Zoraida. I completed her crew with 2 Cyclops, Juju, Iggy, Spawn Mother, and two Wisps.
I decided to get rid of Merris first as I saw her as a main threat for covert breakthrough. I set her on fire with doll/Iggy combo and, luckily for me, she exploded in the middle of her crew. Next turn I launched the Juju missile into the middle of my opponent's crew. He stopped there for a while, which allowed me to push my wagon way up into his half, and push his slightly back with a Gupp I summoned earlier. Juju took a while to go down, he was on his last two wounds and received 3 damage. I prevented and flipped red joker. Next turn I activated the gupp first and killed his pig. I cheated in a red joker for the fuel, which allowed me to summon a Silurid. This also meant that the Gupp was sacrificed and I was able to bring Juju back. In the meanwhile the Cyclops were effectively blocking any movement forward on the flank.

Things are getting ugly

In the end it all came down to Zoraida's activation. She flew into the opponent's deployment zone and forced one of the big pigs to kill Wisp that was my FFM target. I won 7:2 

Game 3
Deployment: Close 
Strategy: Guard the Stash

Schemes: Guarded Treasure, Set Up, Undercover EntourageTake One for the Team, Show of Force

Once again, I chose the same schemes and a similar crew. I basically only swapped Spawn Mother for the Emissary, took one Cyclop, and added one Depleted.
I played against Miran and his TT Lynch with Hyggy, Yamaziko, Lone Swordsman, two Illuminated, and a Beckoner.

Juju missile brings death
It was close deployment and I lost the initiative flip. Miran decided to let me go first so I activated Zoraida, obeyed Juju to walk and charge Lynch. I put some damage on him, survived the retaliation and flurried onto him. Lunch barely survived on one wound and tried to run away. Fortunately for me, I'd used Zoraida's last action to obey the Emissary to walk forward. He walked again and killed Lynch. Next turn the Emissary survived a few big his and killed both Yamaziko and Huggy. Cyclop and Depleted we controlling one stash marker while wisps were hovering next to another one with hungry land marker blocking the path to it. Iggy was burning the hell out of Swordsman and Zoraida kept obeying Illuminated away from the stash marker. In the end she obeyed Illuminated to charge my Wisp and later flew into enemy's deployment zone. I won 10-0 thanks to a combination of good decisions and great flips, I have to admit that my deck was really on fire throughout the whole game.

Game 4
Deployment: Corner 
Strategy: Symbols of Authority
Schemes: Punish the Weak, Covert Breakthrough, Dig Their Graves, Hold up their Forces, Search the Ruins 

As the only player with three wins and a solid differential, I was firmly at the top after day one. This meant that my opponent would be challenging. It turned out to be Georgi with... another TT Lynch. He brought Huggy, Beckoner, Lone Swordsman, shadow effigy, monk that can remove conditions, Sensei.
I took Zoraida, this time without cyclops (which I regretted later) but with grootslang and Insidious Madness.
This was a very tactical game and we both played cagey. I underestimated Lynch's damage output and he quickly got rid of Juju. Beckoner lured Grootslang away from my crew and Swordsman finished him off. My opponent was playing wisely, keeping models away from potential hems from the doll. Emissary and his hungry Land marker limited his movements. I copied Zoraida's teleport with a Wisp to prevent my opponent from removing my symbol and removed one of his with my Insidious Madness. I killed one of the wisps with iggy to bring back Juju. Juju then killed the monk, which gave me another point.
We didn't get to play all 5 turns but at the end I had three markers in place to score 3 more points for search the ruins and won 5:3.

Game 5

Deployment: Close 
Strategy: Interference
Schemes: Punish the Weak, Inescapable Trap, Show of Force, Take Prisoner, Recover Evidence 

At this point I knew that barring a disaster, I will win the whole tourney. I faced Vinko whom I also played against last year in my last game and it was a hard fought draw. This time he brought Ironsides with Captain, Joss, the mages, effigy, and engineer. I took Zoraida with two Cyclops. Right at the start I blocked the middle section of the board with pillars. Ironsides got pushed forward and took down the cyclop easily. I activated another cyclop and blocked another section of the table.
This game was also very tactical without a lot of back and forth action. I quickly burned the effigy with iggy and I should have targeted the engineer sooner as it would have guaranteed me 3 VP for the scheme. Instead, I burned one of the mages to death.
We had to finish after turn 4 so all I could do was to take Captain for prisoner for 3 VP. Had we played another turn, I would have scored two more points and won but we run out of time. I lost this one 7:8

In the end I was the winner and got the best painted trophy. I also won two gold (single miniature and crew category), one silver (large miniature category) and one bronze (bust) in Black Queen painting competition so I have to say it was a really good weekend for me.

(photos of my entries courtesy of UMS "Agram" club)

The event was very well organized, things run smoothly and the were no negative emotions at all.

After the event we went out of the club to enjoy the pre-final atmosphere in the streets. The game didn't end the way we were going for but the atmosphere in the city was festive anyway. Becoming the second best team in the works was huge, and the Croats were very proud of their team.

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