Recommendations, inter alia

[30/08/2016 21:01:07] Von: (I am currently Low on Cash and do not need to be thinking about Chaos Space Marines)
[30/08/2016 21:01:27] Von: (hell I don’t even know how to plan and manage a 40K army any more, what with all these Formations and Allies and shit)
[30/08/2016 21:01:54] Prince Charles: YOU DO NOT NEED MORE CHOAS MARINES
[30/08/2016 21:03:12] Von: YOU ARE QUITE CORRECT IN THIS
[30/08/2016 21:03:26] Prince Charles: VON
[30/08/2016 21:03:30] Prince Charles: YOU HAVE PLENTY OF SHIT
[30/08/2016 21:03:42] Prince Charles: PRIORITISE
[30/08/2016 21:03:49] Von: I KNOW RIGHT
[30/08/2016 21:03:54] Von: PRIORITIES ARE A THING
[30/08/2016 21:04:08] Von: that fucking Mammoth is sitting there waiting for me to Google ‘elephant toenails’

I don’t know where this whiff of interest in the Grimdark has come from again. Must be the Stars aligning or summat: I was in the right mood to reread the Night Lords Omnibus, replay a bit of Dawn of War II, and idly look at the Start Collecting Chaos Space Marines box and wonder if that and a bunch of Night Lords helmets off Forge World (the skull ones, not the stupid bat-wing ones) were a viable acquisition. I also binge read a few blogs.

(By the way, Jimmy, your Eldar army looked lovely, and I’m sorry for all the egotistical and derailing responses to your posts; upon rereading them now I am struck by a sense of wisdom, and a frequent “oh, I should have said this, instead of gabbling on about things I already understood”.)

This is the perfect opportunity for me to raise a glass to A Gentleman’s Ones, and to recommend – besides his excellent army logs and game reports for the Arrugginiti and Onorevoli Chapters – this post on inverting colour schemes and this one on bases and their power to unite disparate elements within a miniature or collection. As the man himself might say – glorious.

While I’m feeling recommendative (silence! it’s a perfectly cromulent word!), I should also like to draw attention to Gardens of Hecate, where work is put into that most neglected and ill-considered aspect of the wargame: terrain.

In conversation with Hawk Dave a couple of weeks ago (oh, the namedropping!) the great man happened to mention what a shame he thought it was that people didn’t spend model prices on terrain features. The reasons I detect behind this inarguable tendency are numerous. As Dave himself says, it’s not something you can actually play with. Adding something to an army feels more fulfilling.

I would add that terrain often has to be generic – it’s kept to the hills and woods level because that’ll work with damn near everything. When something like the Killzone tournament comes along, someone like Brian emerges to curate specific terrain for that specific environment – the rest of the time, what we generally want to curate is something that works with everything.

It’s an odd reversal of the trend toward the branded and proprietary that we see with miniatures and rules – and I think terrain has held out against that because, frankly, it’s something we had to do ourselves for the longest time, and so it’s taking longer for the Bought Kit to replace Termite Art as the standard practice.

I have a box of ‘scale’ hills and rivers that I should finish at some point. They’re huge. Tall enough to award elevation within WM/H, and broad enough that they aren’t dwarfed by the buildings, trees and some of the models on the table. Given that my kitchen table is a trifling 4′ x 3′, they almost dwarf the table; they imply something massive just off the edge, which is how I feel hills ought to work in the 25-32mm scale of my preferred wargames.

There’s another blog I wanted to recommend, but its name escapes me. It’s not Haute Macabre, but it’s something that feels like that: something arty and strange and a bit pretentious. The authors do a lot of kitbashing, play a lot of Mordheim, and carve out their own eloquent and erudite take on the shared universes of the Workshop. For the life of me I can’t remember what it’s called. That’s annoying.

Currently Playing… a spot of Dawn of War II and that’s honestly about it. I’m feeling a bit flighty right now. I ‘should’ be giving WoW a roll since Legion’s out now, but in honesty, I can’t be arsed. I have no intention of being sucked into the serpent’s coils again. It can wait. It can wait until it’s bloody well working properly, for one thing.

want to play some Black Crusade. It’s coming to the point where I might put up some sort of notice in the ‘Model Centre’ in town – it’s been a year, they’re still selling GW kits, it can’t be a total flash in the pan.

Currently Modelling…

SCOURGE

That’s a Scourge starter set for Dropzone Commander. I scored a bargain on the Facebook group immediately before taking a short break from Facebook (I realised I’d spent the best part of a day mindlessly scrolling up and down instead of doing anything worthwhile, and that I couldn’t focus for thirty seconds without popping open a new tab for the blue and white god: that’s an addiction profile if ever I saw one, and I’m not having that). There’s a set of command cards, which I’ve opened and sleeved, and a second starter force, which I’ve decided to sell rather than overloading on bread and butter at the expense of the full dining experience offered by the Scourge range.

I’m also painting the Mammoth. Finally. The armour is done, the skin is done, and some of the metal has received its basecoat, with metallic ink to follow. It stalled slightly while I thought about how I would be painting ropes (of which there are many), nails and  tusks (which are prominent) and the howdah (which is a significant detail). I’m still not sure about the ropes. Purple is technically my spot colour and is thus far absent from the figure, but I’m worried about it detracting from the gun barrels and fists. The nails and tusks are going to look suspiciously similar to the armour, but I think I can treat it like I do the skin on the infantry, i.e. worth a layer of Actual Paint besides the lazy man’s “slap ink on everything” that deals with the rest of the model.

Currently Listening To… the Sucker Punch soundtrack. Say what you like about that film, there’s a bangin’ set of tunes on it. This one’s my favourite.

A Grand Day Out At The British Museum

Hark and I went to the British Museum earlier this week. Here are some things I saw; they are all things in which I am aesthetically or culturally interested, and many of them are also things which I see as plunder or booty to be used as influences upon gaming, some less directly than others.

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The works of Durer demonstrate both allegorical density and immense complexity; in particular, the physically-impossible-to-build-on-the-budget triumphal arch of Maximilian I, shown below. Imagine a realm where every ruler commissions something like this and, by magical means and agency, it’s actually possible to build them; a realm where the monument dwarfs, and is the principle product of, all other forms of residence or industry. Many of Maximilian’s conquests were outright fabrication; possible future events used as demonstrations of his informed prowess; again, imagine that as the norm. You don’t do things, you just lie and say you did, in grand architectural form.

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Gold coins, in the pre-industrial sense, are actually wafer thin. I never realised, and it’s something I haven’t always considered in terms of encumbrance. I’m sure they still weigh a fair bit but not, being not so chunky as the modern oncer (shown above), as much as I’d envisaged. The weighty coin seems more a late medieval thing, especially commissioned as ornate artefact commemorating or honouring an individual.

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Verdigris’d bronze tablet and crocodile-cult parade armour. The former was used to convey the metal from foundry to forge (or is it the other way around?), the latter to display membership in the cult (presumably they wore dead crocodiles rather than butchering live ones). Shown here for… reference. Reference of course having nothing to do with impending Nurgle releases for WFB, nor for the Gatormen who I confess are one of the more compelling Hordes factions. I’m also quite inspired by the crocodile cult; the forsaking of human kinship and the embracing of a totem animal chimes in with some of the ideas about ancestry and religion that are knocking around at the moment. It’s cool because of the kind of implied shapeshifting, or soulshifting; you are (or were) what you wear (or were).

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An archaic Chinese (I think) banknote, of value equivalent to one thousand strung-together coins. The size of the thing’s what gets me; it’s about an A4 page and densely populated with information. Imagine them bespoke, like banker’s drafts; detailing not merely the amount for which they’re good, but the status of the originator, aspects of their biography and wherewithal – not merely a promissory note, but a guarantor grounded in reputation.

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A couple of depictions of ritual magic at work, the latter especially interesting to me since it depicts a raising of the dead. I love this crowded, monochromatic style; it has a certain stark quality, a statement that Here are the Things and you’d better like them ’cause they’re going nowhere.

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Mentally captioned ‘The Adventuring Witch’ – and isn’t the spaniel-Cerberus on the right the most adorable thing you’ve seen all day?

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Satan, Sin and Death, after Milton; the powers that wrestle over men’s downfall. Interesting to me less because of what it depicts than how; the anthropomorphic personification and its allegorical reflection. Eternal life in damnation vs. the final release of oblivion, with temptation as arbiter and uniting factor between them. That’s the sort of thing I expect to see in religious art.

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The greatest of the Temptations of St. Anthony. Mentally captioned: Bad Day, Worse Day, Actually Quite Alright Day, and then this one: the Worst Day Ever. St. Anthony becomes less and less relevant to his own story after a while, eventually becoming a tiny detail in this vision of apocalypse. With all due respect to Ian Miller et al, sometimes one just has to go back to one’s sources.

Despite recent lamenting and trailing off in content I am very much alive, actually quite interested in the prospect of the new Nurgle releases for Warhammer (though I can’t in all good conscience afford them) and currently soaking up inspiration and impression in readiness for next month’s writing odyssey. Tempting a colleague and a close friend into joining me will be crucial in the venture’s success, I feel. I’ve also been playing one of those despicable modern RPGs, as will be discussed on Sunday or thereabouts.

[D&D] Three Map Drafts from the Sketchbook

Mollified only a little since my rage began to blossom, I’ve decided that there is, perhaps, a use for ‘real’ maps, provided that they’re rotated in the same way that the real places and moments that make an impression are; i.e. turned sideways through the ‘why does this bit of geography appeal? what’s interesting about it? how could other impressions be placed within it to make it something other than what it was?’

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These are three maps at three stages of production. Being unwilling to just slam elements down on a blank page and betray my gross ignorance of physical geography, I’ve instead elected to trace from my archaic atlas and then rotate a region of Earth’s geography that’s a) not in Europe and so not immediately recognisable as stock fantasy fodder and b) vaguely in the right part of the world to have the climate that I envisage. (I did spend a morning reading up on cloud forests and vulcanism so I’d not be totally hopeless at mashing the concepts together). I had a couple of goes at simply copying a computerised image but found the wealth of details and my own inability to manage ‘scale’ frustrating; I’ve never been good at life drawing.

While I could do this sort of thing with computerised editing of atlas images, I am something of a Luddite when it comes to both art and roleplaying. I’m of the opinion that Photoshop and drawing tablets have a great deal to answer for; they’ve made it possible to include insane amounts of detail and to remove any evidence that a human hand was involved in the production of imagery, and the net outcome always seems false and plastic to me. The eye is able to detect the unreal and this eye takes pleasure in the signs that a work of art is a made object. More to the point I rather enjoy making a mess when I do arty stuff and I think the vagueness that comes from my clumsy attempt to follow the lines, the occasional skid of the paper and the loss of detail during the tracing process ultimately benefits us in the mapping of what are, after all, supposed to be UNREAL places, maps of which would be drawn by hand.

I traced the major waterways – those I could see through the paper – on the grounds that a waterway indicates much of the surrounding scenery; they are sourced in high places and growths sprout along their courses. The map on the left – and pray excuse the childlike quality of the colouring, I can shade better but this is not the point of the exercise – fills in what was transferred AS waterway. It was the first I produced and I’m not wholly convinced of its provenance, although I see opportunities for underground rivers (potentially one connecting the two inland seas) and perhaps some sort of high plateau on the left hand side/mountain range on the right. I regret doing this with the first map I produced now, but mistakes will be made. I’ve never actually done this before as I’ve always used pre-existing settings or actual places or relied, Discworldlike, on a stout refusal to map and a carefree approach to travel between scenes of import.

The central map was the final tracing before my original copy became unusable. So vague were many of the lines that a joining up of those which remained indicated some sort of archipelago on some coast of a continent, with a major ‘terra incognita’ landmass of some sort at the top. This one I would be more tempted to rotate back through ninety degrees starboard and consider the majority of the map as ocean territory. And what’s going on with that island that’s either swearing or pointing at something?

On the right we have the middle tracing with which I have yet to do anything. I almost prefer the incompleteness of this one, the sense of open possibilities, and might simply fill in a few areas which currently have the LEAST stuff on them as potential starting points for a group of explorers. The remaining tracery then becomes a fog-of-war; we know a little about what’s out there but not much.

I’m still working out the best way to present and discuss my process for populating places. It might well be that I end up using Pinterest or similar to collate them and then post the outcome of the process here, but that doesn’t do the world’s best job of demonstrating how I do it. If I could find the mixing gear I’d record myself talking to myself and try to show rather than tell.