Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hobby Blog Review: Paul's Bods

It's been ages since I took the time to paint and post anything around here. I hate to leave this blog fallow for so long, so I think I'll do a series of reviews of other guys' hobby blogs.
First up: Paul's Bods.

If you have any interest at all in 1/72 models, then you must see Paul's work. He paints or constructs his models almost every day. Everything is well-made, well-painted, and expertly photographed. There are the expected army posts, but what I love are his unique (often whimsical) vignettes, custom conversions, and how-to tutorials.

Paul takes on a wide variety of time periods, but he tends to focus on Medieval and ancient models (which are my favorites). Check it out!

P.S. Paul, I hope you don't mind me showing a few of your photos here to promote your blog!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

G.R.R. Martin's toy soldier collection

Did you know that G.R.R. Martin, the author of Game of Thrones, is a member of our esteemed hobby? He collects and sometimes paints 1/32 (54mm) scale Medieval minis. Unluckily, his updated website no longer has photos. Luckily, I grabbed the above image from his old website. I guess George doesn't think it's cool to show off his nerdy hobby anymore!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Drinking Halfling by Mega Miniatures

Here's a thirsty bloke. He's one of Mega Miniatures' 28mm halfling villagers. I sold this model on eBay a couple years ago, but I wish I hadn't. I miss the little guy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Roman Centurions 753-31 BC

Roman Centurions 753-31 BC is a solid addition to Osprey's Men-At-Arms series. Ancient history researcher and professor Raffaele D'Amato discusses the Roman centurion within the organization of the military, his social status, promotion, duties, arms, and equipment.

The reader can be confident in D'Amato's knowledge of historic sources for clothing, armor, and weaponry of the centurion. He previously coauthored Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier (2009) with Graham Sumner, an expert in the subject. Roman Centurions features many styles of armor, shields, and helmets & crests that one does not typically see in other illustrated books. I was most intrigued by the Caesarian-era leather armor based on period sculpture from Aquelia and Narbonne. The bronze shield seen on the cover is intriguing, but might need more evidence. There is sculptural evidence showing circular shields were sometimes carried in the late Republican period, yet the D'Amato does not provide support for the bronze material.

For these armor and equipment reconstructions there is a strong reliance on ancient representational art (sculpture and frescoes). It is always best to compare art to actual archaeological finds, and D'Amato does this where possible. When there is no surviving example to compare (as with perishable leather or quilted armor), then a best guess is made using similar known objects as general guidance. Some of his interpretations might be debated, but there isn't anything especially controversial. There are often new discoveries being made, so the coming years may confirm these illustrated reconstructions.

The artwork by Giuseppe Rava is just fantastic. I'm a big fan of his work. There are five fully illustrated plates (with backgrounds) and three plates of just the men (white backgrounds). Rava first caught my attention ten years ago with his box art for the 1/72 toy soldiers by Hat and Italeri. I'm very glad to see his art in Osprey's books.

Compare D'Amato's and Rava's Etruscan centurion reconstruction with that from Ancient Warfare magazine vol iv, issue 1. Also check out the magazines issue devoted to Caesar's campaigns, vol ii, issue 4.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

A few weekends ago I was in the fantasy fiction section of a local independent bookstores when I chanced upon Thud! face-out on the shelf. It's a great cover, right? I think this is the first time I bought a book based purely on the cover design (well, it also helped that it was on a staff's recommendation shelf) Anyway, I'm glad I got it. Thud! is excellent. I wasn't aware of Terry Pratchett, but I have since discovered he is an immensely popular author. It turns out there are almost forty titles in his fantasy Discworld series.

In its essence Thud! is a humorous (definitely spelled with the British extra "u") fantasy world cop drama. The captain of the City Watch is the central character supported by his town guard of humans, dwarfs, a werewolf, and a vampire. Commander Sam Vimes must contend with dwarf-troll tensions within the citizenry, a murder mystery, out-of-town dwarfs flouting city laws, and rumors of an ancient demon. The compelling plot steers clear of typical fantasy story lines, and it has a satisfying ending.

Pratchett created thorough and convincing cultures for his dwarfs and trolls with compelling inter-species and intra-species politics. I have to admit, while I was reading the first couple chapters I thought the book might be too silly for me. Some of the vampires talk like The Count from Sesame street, and some of the dwarfs have goofy names. But, I'm glad a I kept going. Thud! is a smart fantasy, and I look forward to reading more of Pratchett's series.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gripping Beast Pony and Celt Villager

These two models come from Gripping Beast. Under the Livestock section of their catalog you'll find this shaggy beast, which to me looks like an Exmoor Pony. The man comes from their pack of unarmored celtic warriors. I made the bag he's carrying out of putty. I didn't mean to, but I ended up painting this guy in the same colors as my celtic boar hunter from two years ago.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Sleeping Dragon, by Joel Rosenberg

There's a thread on The Miniatures Page about favorite Dungeons & Dragons novels. Although not official D&D books, the Guardians of The Flame series was suggested by one commenter. I got the first book in the series, The Sleeping Dragon, from my local used bookstore (for only $1.50). It was published in 1983, which is apparent when you read the first chapter. The main characters seem like they could have been taken from a John Hughes film: there's the jock, the nerd, the easy girl, the reserved girl, etc.

The modern-day role-playing gamers are magically transported to the very fantasy world they've been playing. Each of them appears in the body of the character they created back at their college campus. So the wheelchair-bound nerd wakes up in a sturdy dwarf body, the drama major is a muscly warrior, and so on. The premise is a common one. I can think of a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon, a 1980s/90s computer game series, and a bunch of other novels that magically place a modern character in the past or in a fantasy world. Still, I'm sure it's an appealing idea. I for one remember reading LOTR when I was in junior high and wishing I could wake up in Middle Earth.

The characters proceed to travel the magic land in search of a portal back home. The story is made up of a series of short encounters/adventures, that are similar to the playing sessions of a RPG. Rosenberg vividly describes his world and writes well, but I found the central premise to be distracting. The constant reminders that these college kids are really from earth prevented me from immersing myself into the fantasy world. There are seven characters who go by their ordinary earth names and/or their role-playing character names. I didn't get a hang of all these names until about half way through the book. Yet, there was something engaging about the duality of these characters. The personalty of a rpg character was often at odds with the mind of the kid from earth. It was interesting to see how each of them dealt with this internal conflict.

The plot ran well, although it got unexpectedly disturbing near the end. I don't want to spoil the book with details, but I have to say the events seemed inappropriately dark for a book with such a frivolous premise (this is not a book to give to your kid). This was Rosenberg's first novel, so it might be interesting to see how his writing and story developed in the next book of the series. If I happen to find a $1.50 copy of The Sword and the Chain the next time I'm browsing, then I'll probably pick it up for a read.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Dwarves, by Markus Heitz

I've been reading The Lord of the Rings to my kids at night, which got me thinking I should look into other fantasy fiction for myself. As a history buff I don't usually read novels, so I have only two reference points for judging fiction: the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Bernard Cornwell. It might seem terribly unfair to judge a fantasy novel against those two heavy-hitters, but there you go.

My new foray into fantasy fiction starts with The Dwarves, by Markus Heitz. The story centers on Tungdil, an orphaned dwarf raised by humans far from his kin. The only knowledge he has of other dwarves comes only from books. This character's isolation is a convenient opportunity for exposition. As Tungdil learns about the lands and the people of the world, the reader does too. Unfortunately, these characters and descriptions are lacking in depth. Heitz' book does not offer a strong sense of place. On his quest Tungdil rushes from one land to the next. Distracted by dangerous encounters, we absorb little detail of his surroundings. The dwarf's relationship with his human hosts had potential, but this storyline was dropped early on. An aging dwarf king involves Tungdil in an intriguing conflict of royal succession. Yet, the plot relies on a standard fantasy device: seeking a magic weapon so the chosen one can destroy the bad guy.

Ordinarily in a supporting role, the dwarf is at the center of this fantasy story. I did enjoy reading The Dwarves, I was just expecting more. It would be interesting to compare this book to Warhammer's newly published The Dwarfs.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vendel Miniatures Goblin King

This weekend I painted Vendel Miniatures goblin king. I actually based and primed this guy over a year ago. I was going through my shelves, found the mini, and felt sorry that I hadn't painted him after all this time. The king's crown was damaged when I bought him, but this doesn't bother me too much since we all know goblins don't take good care of their stuff.

The old Grenadier Fantasy Warriors range (now sold by Mirliton) and Vendel Miniatures (now sold by Sgt Major Miniatures under the name "Bloody Day") are my favorite manufactures for fantasy models. I just love their models' heft proportions. The SGMM website design is pretty horrible, but it's worth checking out their old Vendel models.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Classic RPG ads

In my wanderings of the internet I chanced upon this collection of vintage role playing game ads. They look to be from the 1970s and 80s. I'd say most are poor examples of advertising, but these three have a certain charm.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus, by Rosemary Sutcliff

I read a book to my kids before the go to sleep each night. My 8-yr-old enjoys The Hobbit, so I thought she'd also like all the adventures and monsters from The Odyssey. Although I'm a big ancient history guy I had never read Homer's work. It turns out Rosemary Sutcliff, author of Eagle of the Ninth, published abridged versions of both The Iliad and The Odyssey. Her books, Black Ships Before Troy (1993) and The Wanderings of Odysseus (1995) are the perfect introduction to Homer.

Both are illustrated by Alan Lee, renown for his work with The Lord of the Rings books and films. I compared his armor, costumes, weapons, etc to the Mycenaean Greeks depicted in Peter Connolly's Greece and Rome at War. It seems Lee did his research for this project. There's a bit of artistic license taken, but for the most part his art is historically accurate as well as beautiful.

The borders at the opening of each chapter are an especially nice touch. Each border is unique, relating to the subject of the chapter. (see below)

I read both books to my kids. My oldest daughter much preferred The Wanderings of Odysseus. Her complaint about Sutcliff's version of the Illiad was "They never go on any adventures. They just argue and ask for help fighting." I'll add that even these youth-oriented editions include parts that are a bit too gruesome for a kid any younger than mine. As I read to her I felt I had to re-word a few scenes in order to tone down the violence. I recommend Sutcliff's and Lee's stunning books to kids over 8-years-old. They will also appeal to adults who want to read Homer's famous stories without slogging through the nearly 700 pages of a full translation.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Arrivals, Better Late Than Never

In July of 2009 I made an order to Black Tree Designs. When the package arrived it was missing a couple packs. I waited for the back ordered minis to arrive, waited, and waited. A couple months later I emailed to see what was up. John, the head guy at the Texas location apologized for the delay and offered a free pack as compensation. I patiently waited some more, and nothing arrived. I received no further response to my emails after that. I gave up.

Today I got a little package in the mail. It was my missing Hundred Year's War minis with a very apologetic letter from John. Apparently the UK location only just produced these models to him. In 2010 John had promised me two free packs to make up for the long delay, but apparently these were forgotten. It was way too long of a wait, yet Black Tree finally made good on my original order.

I bought these models to serve as town guards for my Ultima XXVII game. You can see I painted a small detachment of Britannian Guards in 2008. This project has been shelved for a while. In fact, all my mini-painting has been on hold since February. I'm still reading a lot, so you can expect more book reviews soon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

No Greater Ally, by Kenneth Koskodan review

I finished reading No Greater Ally a couple weeks ago. You can read the full review on WWII history blog and the first paragraph is bellow:

You may be surprised to learn that it was an all-Polish squadron that scoured the most enemy kills and fewest lost planes during the Battle of Britain. These Polish pilots reported enemy kills only when doubly-confirmed. This careful reporting was meant to accurately display their value to the doubting British military and public. Author Kenneth Koskodan accomplishes a similar goal with the same means. Based on first-person interviews, official military documents, and other published works his well-assembled account dispels any doubt one may have about the Poles' important contribution to the Allied war-effort. Read more...

And be sure to check out the Hat's 1/72 scale WWII Polish Infantry models.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lower Regions: an awesome dungeon-crawling adventure comic

My free time activities rotate throughout the year. I haven't been painting any little guys, but have been doing lots of reading. I just finished Lower Regions by independent comic artist Alex Robinson. It's a well-thought and well-drawn take on the dungeon-crawling adventure. You can see sample pages of this comic book on the artist's website. He has several other Lower Regions sample pages viewable and a few short stories online, but they exist on several different websites (it's kind of confusing).

One of the supplementary short stories is Defense of the West Gate. There was a Lower Regions blog where he posted pages from his upcoming full-length graphic novel (unfortunately, Alex has set this project aside for now).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Painted Splintered Light Kobold

Splintered Light is known for its fantastic 15mm models, but I recently discovered they have lots of figures that mix very well with 20mm men. The Goblinoids in the "Splintered Lands" range have chunky proportions which make them suitable monsters in a 1/72 scale. I'd say the humans and most of the other creatures in Splintered Lights catalog are too slim and tiny to serve as 1/72, but the Bugbears, Goblins, and Kobolds work great.

I got their goblin cavalry on wolves for my growing DBA goblin army. I also noticed that their Kobolds looked to be about the right size too. The owner was nice enough to through in a single sample for me to compare. And they look perfect! I just might have to do a Kobold army too (or at least paint a few singles for fun). Below you can see the Kobold slinger next to a 1/72 Revel Celt.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Painted 1/72 Goblin Army for DBA or HOTT

I finished painting three elements from my 1/72 goblin army. I'm following the fan-made LOTR DBA army lists from  David Kuijt's site. For models I'm mixing manufacturers. In the warband element (thumbnail at left and the photo bellow) I am using Rebel Minis Bag o' Orcs (now sold as Armored Ogres by Splintered Light), Caesar orcs and some gnarly-looking Strelets Franks.

My old 28mm orcs were painted with grey skin, so I thought I'd have a little fun with these green guys. I used Citadel's old "Catachan Green" paint as a base, and I mixed "Rotting Flesh" for the highlights.

Click on images to see a larger version.

The archers above are all Caesar orcs and a goblin.

The above Ps element shows psiloi in the truest sense. These rock-throwing 1/72 goblins come from Caesar. The fellow on the right was initially holding an 17th century-looking grenade, but I clipped off the fuse to convert it into a rock.

And I've got the command element models all picked out in this previous post.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Professional Illustrators take on D&D

Recently I discovered two excellent D&D blogs that feature the art of professional illustrators. These guys make their living making art, but not for Wizards of the Coast. Their monster illustrations are done purely for fun. You'll definitely want to check them out:

Beyond the Wall presents post-game reports from an art director's D&D games. Each report is written in a narrative style with the artist's own illustrations highlighting points in the story. It's very much like reading a graphic novel. The setting is the wilderness found beyond a great wall. There are biographies and portraits for each player character, which are replaced whenever someone dies. His game session reports are entertaining and he just started offering GM advise too.

Reekmurk by Blanca Martinez

Dungeons and Drawings is the blog of London illustrators Blanca Martinez and Joe Sparrow. Every Sunday these two post an interpretation of a monster from the D&D Monster Manuals. Each day this week they've been posting an illustration from a guest artist.

Rust monster by Joe Sparrow.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Luttrell Psalter film

The Luttrell Psalter Film follows a year in the life of a 14 century medieval village in Lincolnshire. Based on images from the world renowned manuscript the Luttrell Psalter. The film company promised to release the footage online if they received 1,000 followers on Facebook. In December they reached that goal, so enjoy!

Also check out the film blog.

And be sure to check out the illustrated children's book based on the psalter. Published in the 1980s, it is now out of print. Still, you might find it in your local library.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, by Ethan Gilsdorf book review

Book Review
In Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks Ethan Gilsdorf takes on the role of fantasy anthropologist, studying the various tribes of geeks and gamers lurking on the edges of "normal" civilization. A pop culture and travel writer, Gilsdorf journeyed across the U.S. and Europe to meet Tolkien Society members, D&D developers and players, live-action role players, Society of Creative Anachronism citizens, World of Warcraft gamers, costumed convention goers, Kiwi LOTR tour guides, and a French dude building his own castle. The book explores the realities and the common assumptions made about fantasy nerds. Along the way the author examines his own relationship with the fantasy world and it's affect on his life. It's a fun and enlightening read.

The Giveaway (NOW OVER. Congrats to Tom W.)
For Christmas I bought myself and a friend autographed copies of Fantasy Freaks... The author also sent along a autographed paperback for me to give away to a lucky blog reader. You, dear reader, are obviously a fantasy nerd, so I am sure this book will appeal to you. Here's how to win it:

Leave a comment on this post. Be sure to include your name (first name and last initial will do). You may also enter by sending an email to: andrew [insert at symbol] ferrouslands.com I will stop accepting entries after 12 noon Mountain Time on January 10, 2011. I will randomly pick a name from all the entries and will announce the winner in this post (so be sure to check back here after the 10th). Once the winner sends me his mailing address I'll ship it off to him via USPS Media Rate. If you live outside the US, then you will need you to pay for the shipping cost. If I don't hear back from the winner within 4 days, then I will pick a new winner.