[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: Retribution of Silvermoon

Like our man Dave of Wargaming Tradecraft, I have a bit of a thing for World of Warcraft, and for the Horde. Like our man Dave, I’m drawing on that bit-of-a-thing as inspiration for a Warmahordes army project. Unlike our man Dave, I’m not a particularly adept sculptor, and while I could indeed learn, I don’t really fancy ruining a whole bunch of figures that I actually want to use while I do so. Besides, I’m already teaching myself how to draw semi-properly; there are limits to how much new stuff it’s wise to take on at once.

Ergo, rather than torment myself trying to sculpt exact replicas of WoW gear onto models, I’ve decided to exploit certain similarities between my Warmachine faction of choice and my WoW race of current favour. One or two people described the Retribution as “stupid sci-fi WoW elves” or similar upon their release, which to my mind is only a good thing; I’d rather have sci-fi WoW elves than another bunch of boring tree-huggers. Personally, I’ve often felt that early Warmachine was heavily influenced by Warcraft III (the micro-management of a powerful Hero piece or several in interaction with lesser forces, and the style of the Escalation campaign which mixed solo story missions for particular warcasters with narrative battles), and I’m quite fond of the colourful, slightly cartoonish aesthetic of the Warcraft games.

This last is perhaps slightly unorthodox; some loud voices on the UK tournament scene pronounce ‘cartoonish’ with the same inflection that one might say ‘kiddie-fiddler’. Sod ’em. Warmahordes may have a pedantic and precise rules system, but its style is pure Saturday morning cartoon. A cast of special, gifted heroes and villains, controlling giant robots and monsters with the power of their minds, and those giant robots and monsters use god-damned wrestling moves on each other? It’s absurd. It’s a cartoon. Plus, my ‘realistic’ armies all turn out dark and boring.

Here are a few Retribution pieces I’ve been working on, which demonstrate (I hope) how I’ve been using the WoWs as a source of inspiration and guidance.

Ravyn, Eternal Light
Ravyn, Eternal Light

In general, I start the process of painting a Retribution of Silvermoon elf by looking up a gear set for a class that roughly corresponds to the model’s in-game role. Ravyn here was fairly easy as she’s a close-range mincing machine with a polearm, and my main character happens to be a Monk; I basically borrowed the general idea of her gear directly from Nivienne’s current transmog set. I also decided to paint her ginger, firstly because I happen to like redheaded female commanders in my armies but also because I’m working in a few homages to my WoW guild (so far, Aiyana and Kaelyssa have in some way been ‘influenced’ by characters with whom I regularly play and RP, as well as Ravyn here, who is essentially tabletop-Nivienne).

Now, without sculpting lots of extra details onto my Warmahordes models, I can’t directly transfer the colours point-for-point, so what I do instead is to achieve a kind of impression of the original. I look at what colours are used and what sort of things they’re used for, and which are ‘outside’ on a particular part of the model and which are ‘inside’. For Ravynivi here, that meant a reddish-orange, possibly striped, on the ‘inside’, and then purple or deep red panels of armour layered over the top. It meant a gold trim on the various straps and belts, and pale turquoise gems for contrast. It also meant having a look through Nivienne’s equipment to find an appropriate polearm; the one for which I opted offers a contrast to the relatively dark armour, and follows the standard doctrine of ‘get the scary bits looking bright and they’ll hide a multitude of sins’.

Sylys, the Seeker
Sylys, the Seeker

For Sylys, I had to be a little more creative. Since he attaches to another character and keeps them ticking over nicely, I opted for a Priest set, but since he’s not a warcaster, I didn’t want to go for something that looked too high and mighty. I tend to save the epic gear for warcasters and go for uncommon sets on lesser mortals; Sylys here was particularly awkward since he lacks the ‘big shoulderpads’ look that allows transmog gear to transfer directly.  In the end, I opted for an obscure Priest set, with the colours swapped around to better fit the model, but the basic ‘blue armour and grey cloth with gold trim’ principle maintained. I did go for epics in one area, though; he needed a couple of suitably sci-fi weapons and there were none that seemed fitting in the lower tiers. No point in sticking to unwritten rules if they’re just going to make you unhappy (and if I truly believed that I’d be a much less miserable person).


Of course, sooner or later I’ll have to approach the matter of units. My Stormfall Archers have set the basic style here; pick a unit from the game that’s not too complicated, and reproduce it in as few stages as possible. These chaps were based on the Blood Elf Engineers from Warcraft III (I figure they’re more ‘ballistic specialists’ than highly-trained combatants, cf. the decidedly sub-par RAT), and I plan on re-using that look for Arcanists, Rifle Teams and anyone else who’s not really a front-line soldier.

For other unit types, I have a page of notes on which WoW ‘unit’, i.e. generally-repeated not-too-complex common soldier, is going to map to which Warmachine unit type; the Mage Hunters will all be Farstriders, the Dawnguard Blood Knights, and the Houseguard Silvermoon City Guardians. I haven’t decided what to do about the Battle Mages yet; Sunreaver Guardians seem to be likely candidates, though.

The bases for the army are simply green flock with a thick layer of snow scatter over the top. Aesthetically, this suggests both the Iosan forests and the chilly Khadoran tundra (their home, and their primary sphere of operations, especially since Shiny’s Khador could well become regular opponents once again before too long); symbolically, I like to think this includes both the winter (the long decline of the Iosan people, and the search for Nyssor) and the spring (the resurgence and revival of Scyrah which is the ultimate goal of the Retribution’s more… optimistic elements).

By using the same bases, broadly the same shades and hues of colours (albeit in different combinations, but I paint all the reds in the army the same sort of way, for instance), I’m hoping to create the effect of a slightly ‘incoherent’ force that nevertheless has some elements in common. As far as I’m concerned, the Retribution shouldn’t all be marching around in the same uniforms; they’re members of several disparate martial and magical traditions who happen to be fighting alongside one another, and I’d rather my army reflects the sort of guerilla, allies-of-convenience nature of those forces than gives the lie that they’re somehow like the nationalised military forces of the other Iron Kingdoms. It’ll give me the variety I need in order to sustain my interest in a project, and the best part of it all?

Glowing green eyes are piss-easy to paint.

Author: Jon

Sententious, mercurial, and British as a bilious lord. Recovering Goth, lifelong spod. Former teacher and amateur machine politician, now freelance writer and early-career researcher.

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