Saturday, January 23, 2010

Musings, Brief

January is usually one of my hell-months for work, so the few hours I'm home are usually spent catching up on sleep, even Saturdays. But I have been getting in a few hours this past week to move along on a Pictish mounted warband (while listening to vol. 2 of the Conan audiobooks) and reading Imaro IV - The Naama War (hey, that rhymes!).

So far my reading of Imaro IV has uncovered three gameable land battles; a couple of others were just massacres, and another was a fantasy naval battle that is a whole 'nother genre of gaming I'm trying to avoid. I won't divulge too much about the battles yet, because I know a lot of us are reading the book as I speak and don't want to spoil things.

But in terms of miniatures, there hasn't been any "oops" in what I've planned, or more fortunately, painted! One modification is needed for the skin colour of regular Naamans, I need to figure out just what to use for "dark amber". I also will need to check into Irregular's 6mm Zulus for some figures for Shingane the Great Elephant and his Twins; he isn't really that tall, but like the giant-kings of Acheron, has that effect on the battlefield.

One neat new unit to come up with will be velociraptor-riding Naaman light cavalry. I was going to have to do something similar anyway for the Kaa-U terror bird riders of Kull's Thurian Age and for tauntauns for Star Wars. After several seconds of intensive study of pictures of tauntaun riders, ostrich jockeys, and Warhammer dark elf cavalry (thanks, Google Images), my plan is to use cavalry figures, then cut off the forelegs in a descending curve to get bipeds out of them. Then for the tails for the raptors and tauntauns, I'll add using clay.

I've been thinking about using clay for mods for the gunkwu (a much scarier conversion) and Imaro IV has reminded me I should be thinking about it for the rhino-riders too (horns covered in steel) rather than relying on the paint job. Some research has shown I can bake Sculpey on the miniatures, but the idea of putting metal into the oven doesn't sit easy. So I may try DAS, although I wish it came in smaller amounts, opening a brick-sized bag to add a couple dozen 2mm rhino horns and raptor tails seems a bit out of...well, scale.

My final musing for this week, also on conversions, came to me while on one endless drive or another this week, and I think I have a way to do antlers for reindeer (the Thules use reindeer for both chariots and mounts). More after a test!

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Thurian Age Part I - An Introduction to My Take On It

Robert E. Howard is one of my favourite authors, from his well-known Conan to one-off adventure and horror stories ("Pigeons From Hell" is one of the creepiest stories I've ever read). I haven't read many of his western or oriental stories, or any of his boxing stories, I'm kind of saving those to work through at a leisurely pace. It's like Marx Brothers movies - as great as each one is to see new, it also means one less that will be new to see, and eventually you reach the end of the line and there ain't no more.

Anyway, my favourite Howard character is Kull. Solomon Kane follows closely behind, but that's another topic for another day. As mentioned, I plan to do some gaming in Kull's Thurian Age, mainly in miniature now, but I had originally started together putting together notes for RPG'ing the Thurian Age.

The background material I've compiled is running at almost 50 pages to date, and I'll post bits and pieces of interest here. I want to be clear though that this is my expansion on the Thurian Age, not a scholarly examination of the works meant to be taken as gospel. To game in this age I've needed to know information never remotely covered in the canon, so I've extrapolated as needed and as best fits my feeling for the age.

My primary sources are the stories themselves, but where I agree with them I've incorporated ideas from Dale Rippke's "Hyborian Heresies" book, some of the chat on the Conan forums (we seem to agree that the ecology was probably more ice age-like), and the finished texts from the Lancer edition of "King Kull". I recently acquired the first volume of the reprinted 1970's Kull comics, and while a lot of it is kind of 70's goofy, there are some ideas I will use, but my early readings suggest not much. I do like how they conceived the walls of the City of Wonder though.

One of my first divergences from common thought is Kull's appearance. I've never really liked him as a near-clone of Conan, and he gets a bit Prince Valiant-ish in the comics (never mind the Speedos he's wearing). As a king, I picture him in his late 30's, early 40's, pretty grizzled, maybe a bit Kirk Douglas-ish (but with those iron-thews Kull and Conan shared). He certainly doesn't have long hair, which just seems impractical.

Since I can't draw for love nor money, I found this online superhero/rpg character creator called Hero Machine 2.5, which lets us bad drawers at least do a rough impression of a character. So I pieced this together for King Kull:
Not perfect, but it fits my general idea of him. He's geared up for battle here, and skipped the scarlet and purple robes, the silver cloaks, and his crown of red-gold. He has kept his pirate earring though.

Oh, and on the subject of tigers...although I've pictured a typical modern Asian tiger here, albeit in odd colours, to me the real tigers of Atlantis were saber-toothed tigers. More on that when I do a piece on the fauna of Thuria.

So onto my mapping project...

I liked the 1970's map by Tim Kirk, even though parts were wrong (lots of discussion on the Conan forums about Thurian Age maps, for those interested). The "Hyborian Heresies" also give a good overview of where the major continents and places are in the world. So working from those basics, I've used a simple hexmapping program to start making my own game-ready maps of the Thurian Age. The Kirk map was my original basis, I gridded it up and re-drew it in the software as best can be done with hexes, and then I started moving to new territories adjacent to the original map.

So here's my map of the main Thurian continent, showing the Seven Empires (including individual baronies of Valusia). Each hex is 36 miles across, 30 miles up-down. Clicking on the map will bring up a much better view.

Directly to the east lies more of the...Eastern Empires, as well as Khari and Lemuria:

Couple of comments for anyone who studies these in detail:

  • If you're fitting these together, there's a one hex column overlap between the two maps;
  • The red lines are national or provincial (in Valusia only) borders, however, some borders are defined by rivers, so if a red border suddenly ends, assume the river continues it;
  • The Eastern Empires are actually three empires of nine nations total (3, 1, and 5);
  • Lacking a better/cooler name, I like Dale Rippke's idea that Acheron could well have been the name of the land of the Giant-Kings.

I've gotten most of the map of the lands immediately south of the Seven Empires done, including Kaa-U and the rest of (old) Acheron.

More on the nations and armies of the Thurian Age in future posts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Giant King Command Stands

As you'll recall from my last photos of my Giant King command stands, the general was done but his aides/henchmen were still stuck in primer grey. I've now got them done, and all that's left is a final touch-up of the green base, then a coat of Future, then Dullcote. But rather than wait for all that fussiness to be finished, here's the the preview:

I was trying out a new gold paint for the bronze shield, definitely a brighter paint than what you see for the general's shield and sceptre. For now I'm calling that a true gold, and will use the brighter stuff for bronze. This will be more critical when I get to Kull and his Red Slayers.

Weirdly, both Acheron and Valusia use purple as their colours, but different purples. And Valusia has gold in their standards.

I also finished the hybrid* general's command chariot, although this base really needs a touch up in green - my black wash from the patch of boulders seeped through a lot of the base.

* The giant kings interbred with us lowly humans, creating tall, pale offspring sort of the equivalent of bastard sons from medieval times. Most end up in the military or priesthood.

As a command chariot it was pretty crowded - there ended up being six painted figures on it! Two are bowmen, from the side shot you can see at the front one of the bowmen and his bow (light brown). This chariot has bronze barding for the horses and was made of bronze (or gold, I'm easy), regular Acheronian chariots will have quilted barding in various colours and be of wood.

Finally settled on burnt sienna as my chestnut horse colour. It took a few tries of different colours to get right.

Savanna Tiles

I've been distracted lately working up the background for a fictional 18th century India setting (these are called Imagi-Nations in the wargaming community), but I do have a couple of posts for today that have been backlogged for a bit. I'm still getting painting in.

So first up, since I haven't found anyone who makes mats that match an African savanna (deserts and drylands are no problem to find, just nothing with a touch of yellow), I've been tinkering with my own idea.

On the left is the original vinyl floor tile - I'm going to use some of these for smaller scale (skirmish) desert or Martian tiles - and on the right is after a couple of light coats of yellow spray paint. As we speak I'm misting green over it, then another mist of yellow, to see what I get. Twenty-four of these will give me a 6x4 playing area for battles in Nyumbani or colonial skirmishes.

Here's my test tile with my kraal on it.

If I don't end up doing a full set, this at least gives me something to base some scenic pieces on.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

And now we dance...

After wrapping up my last post I got the delightful news that the long-awaited (as in it was completed in its original form about 25 years ago) fourth book of the Imaro series is now available from Lulu!

It's called The Naama War, so obivously it's going to become the most important "historical reference" for my Imaro project. Luckily I don't think I've gotten too far ahead of the game with my war lions and izingogo, but I am going to move to other projects until I get and read the book. I do have the figures for an initial war bull unit from Dossouye's universe, so when I need a fix I'll work on that.

Anyway, with Mr. Saunders' permission, here are the covers from all the Imaro books in their various incarnations. Dossouye's down at the bottom for good measure as well.

This is the new cover, has a sort of superhero feel to it. The dude on the right is Bohu, sort of Darth Vader to the Erriten's Emperor, if you need a quick cultural analogy. While he's not an Erriten (but could be a Naaman), I did at least get the colours right - skin tone and sorcerous green - on my Erriten.

Nightshade edition Imaro.

Nightshade edition Quest for Cush - I think this is my favourite cover of the new editions. And not just for the lady!

Lulu edition of Trail of Bohu. I think this is the only one that really gets his age right, he's in his early 20's here. He looks older in all the others.

This is the original DAW cover, after the Tarzan reference had to be removed. Kind of weird, between the Miles Davis hair and the lizardman that doesn't make an appearance in any story that I remember (which may say more about my memory than anything).

DAW edition. We finally see Pomphis, but this doesn't portray him accurately - he was a very civilized pygmy! One with a fair bit of flair. On the other hand, it does give us something to work with for Imaro other than a loincloth. This is what I generally imagine his workaday dress to be, after his time with the bandits.

Naturally any book cover with a guy riding a rhino at full speed will be one of my favourite book covers of all time. And we have the zebra cavalry in the background. Both units will be on my table shortly! (Although unless the new edition deleted this, he doesn't ride a rhino in this book! Bloody cover artists)

Warrior woman Dossouye. Hopefully there's another book of her adventures coming out in 2010, maybe with her war bull on the cover.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Giant Kings and Killer Baboons

Finally wrapped up some figures for Kull and Imaro this evening, as well as some other odds and ends (the latter for another post). For the stands of izingogo (hordes of killer baboon-men) I took pictures at each painting step as a bit of a how-to. Photos are still a challenge, had to take about 4 for every one used here, and the erriten is still a crappy photo. The one that got the colours right wasn't in focus, and the one that was in (marginal) focus doesn't show the colours properly!

You can click on the photos to see a larger image, and I'd recommend doing that for some of them if you're going through the step-by-step painting section.

Forces of Naama (Imaro)

Mr. Erriten. Not entirely satisified with the final result. The paint job was ok (despite this photo), but the body shape doesn't quite work out, he looks kind of like a muppet gone wrong. He'll do for now, till I figure something else out.

Ten bases of izingogo after getting the base painting done (moon yellow - green wash - cadmium yellow drybrush). Some dirt areas added as well. Don't need to be too careful here, the figures are getting their first coat of paint next.

These figures, by the way, are IKF8 Goblin/Orc Infantry Warband with the standards cut off, shields removed, and the bases cut up into varying shapes. Cutting the bases in half made getting rid of the standards much easier, which was my first objective, but once I got into it, I went from just turning each base into two bases to multiple semi-randomly shaped bases. The one exception was the lead stand (with the standard intact).

Once I got through slicing off the shields the results were kind of hit and miss, some still looked like figures, some looked liked boulders. I even turned a few stumps of the standards into figures. So the smaller bases I think help hide this by breaking things up.

All the figures have gotten a thorough coat of dark chocolate brown. Found some interesting shapes once I got them under the magnifying light. Little tail or leg appendages here or there. Painted some, left others as base colours.

A view of the horde after the first coat of paint.

Next I drybrushed "Mississippi Mud" over them, it's a kind of grey-brown, lighter than the dark chocolate. If you look at some baboon pictures, they have that same sort of greyish tinge to them. I wanted to add a third colour around their heads, so I made sure I drybrushed around the sides too, otherwise just the head would pick up this colour, and then I'd end up painting over it in the next step.

So my drybrushing was first directly overhead both north-south and east-west, then I went in at the sides, north-south and east-west again.

The drybrushed horde.

Finally I added nutmeg brown "faces" to them, although the actual splotch was sometimes to the front of their head, sometimes their top, depending on what I thought of each individual. If I could kind of see a face I'd hit that, otherwise I'd go more for the top. The idea was for an overall effect from the third colour.

I considered drybrushing another lighter brown over everything, but I was happy with things to this point, and my experience has been that I always go one step to far.

The horde effect after the "faces" were added.

You'll note I'd added some foliage earlier without mentioning it, and then I had some "rocks" which were either figures that got trashed during shield removal or more stumps of standards. For the bigger ones I was trying for sort of an Ayer's Rock colouration, but got things a bit too bright. I think I should have gone for a wine red-brown rather than Georgian Clay.

Since I've started hitting the figures (but not the bases) with a coat of Future to prevent Dullcote from muddying things up, I'll leave these rocks uncoated and hope Dullcote tones them down a level.

The final horde ready to take on those Cushite war lions!

The dreaded five-snake banner of Naama. Funny thing is I can't remember if I made up the banner or if it's actually canon...

Giant Kings of Acheron (Kull)

You saw these guys after priming in an earlier post. The two sorcerers (left and middle) are done, the general needs to have his aides painted up, as well as the boulders behind him. These are all IKF2 Giants, with two different hand weapons on the right, and the one on the left (jr. sorcerer) had his snipped off.

Their flesh is actually supposed to be very pale, which may be why I had trouble getting their faces to come out in the photos. The legs are actually flesh, not leggings, if you want an idea of what the colour is supposed to be.

The giant kings' nobility are the sorcerers, so they get finer duds. The shields were snipped off and the remains turned into sorcerer supply bags. The younger sorcerer has his hand visibly on his hip, the other has his behind his bag. The one on the right also has his fireball ready to go.

The giant king's general, wearing more practical armour and with his scepter of authority. His aides didn't get painted at the same time because I hadn't thought through their uniforms...

I have a hybrid giant-king general in his chariot on the table too, but ran into the same problem - after painting him, I didn't have a plan for the rest of the chariot!