Monday 30 September 2019

Grim Man of a Somber Race

I have just finished painting up the last of the official Rangers of Shadow Deep ranger figures. I seriously enjoyed painting this one. There was just something about the detailing that felt so right under my brush.

I purposely left his eyes dark, and mixing that with his long hair and dark beard gives him an especially grim aspect. I was reminded of a line in the Robert E. Howard poem, ‘The One Black Stain’, which I used as the title of this blog post. That line refers to the character Solomon Kane, but I think works well for this ranger as well. (Give the poem a listen, it's got some great lines.)

I actually feel a bit sad that I have painted all of the rangers that Bobby Jackson has so far sculpted for the range. Hopefully, they’ll be some more in the future. In the meantime, I’ve still got some of the baddies from the range to paint up.

Thursday 26 September 2019

Paint Rack Minimalism

I have been painting miniatures for most of my life, at least the last 30 years. In that time, I’ve had several different ‘paint set-ups’, from my original red tool box, to a fancy desk-mounted drawer system. Two years ago, we moved into a new house, and I got my little office. Although it is a wonderful little space, and I’m grateful for it, it doesn’t have room for a dedicated writing area and a dedicated painting area – my desk has to serve for both. I soon realized that I would need a quick way to convert from one to the other.

After much thought, I bought the above paint rack (unfortunately, I can’t remember where from, though similar items are available from many sources). It holds 40 Vallejo or Army Painter, dropper-bottle paints. When I bought it, I set myself the goal to get my paints down to just 40. That way, I could just move the computer off my desk, throw down a cloth, and move my paint rack into position.

As you can see, I have never quite made it down to 40. I have a couple of colours I use so frequently (black, grey, and the green I use for bases) that I buy large acrylic paints. I also have a few washes and a gloss varnish that I use so infrequently that I keep them underneath the other paints. Still the system works.

I’ve been using this system for around two-years, and I’m really happy with it. Yes, I work with a limited palette compared to most figure painters, and much of it is brown and green (I love rangers!), but rarely, if ever, do I feel like I need a colour that I don’t have. It is easy enough to mix up a new colour from the ones I have available.

So, if you are just starting out on your own miniature painting journey – don’t feel like you need to order a mega-paint set and have every colour under the sun. You can achieve great results with a small, but well-chosen selection, and this will make the care and upkeep of your painting area, and your painting supplies, much, much easier!

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Cartoon Joe & A Ghost Archipelago Scenario

This month’s issue of Wargames Illustrated contains a piece I wrote called ‘A Wargame Designer’s Day’ which is about – believe it or not – how I spend my working day. What I wasn’t expecting was for the piece to be illustrated with a little cartoon of me working at my computer, riding my bike, and playing wargames.

In truth, it is a rather good likeness, even if my hair isn’t quite so long at the moment. I’m not sure who the illustrator is, but my compliments to him!

Also included in the issue is a new scenario I wrote for Ghost Archipelago to give myself even more excuse to use the Rangers of Shadow Deep giant fly models!

It’s a jam-packed issue and even comes with a sprue of the new, plastic Napoleonic ships for Warlord’s forthcoming Black Seas game. (These are really cool!)

You can order the issue from North Star or direct from Wargames Illustrated.

Friday 20 September 2019

A Chance Meeting

My last few ‘hobby sessions’ have been spent painting up a hobbit house. It’s a resin cast from ModelEarth, that set me back £27 plus shipping. Looking at their website, it appears they may have sent me a mismatched roof and body, but they fit together well enough, so I’m not complaining. Anyway, it’s a quality piece, and the service was very speedy, so I can highly recommend them.

It probably took me about 6 hours to paint from start to finish. For the most part, I wasn’t using any fancy techniques. I just wanted a decent paint-job to get it on the table. I did add some lichen-effect to the roof, mainly to break up the sold brick-colour, but also because I see the Shire as a rather wet place. All of that good growing must mean lots of rain, and if it is really based on Oxfordshire…well, I lived there 12 years and saw a lot of rain! Roofs there are often speckled with lichen.

I pulled out a couple of figures to get some scale shots and just loved the little scene I created enough that I lead off with it – even though it somewhat obscures the model I’m showing off! It is said, somewhere, that in his later years, Bilbo often went for long walks to the edges of the Shire and spoke with strange people. I wonder, if in that time, he happened to meet Aragorn once or twice?

Bilbo is a Games Workshop model. Aragorn is a ranger from Rangers of Shadow Deep that I also recently finished painting.

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Mr. Lulu

My son (3 years old) wandered into my office, pointed at my bookshelf and said:

'Can I have Mr. Lulu.'

I had no idea what he was referring to. The dinosaur? The mech? The Chimera? After a little bit of trial and error, I discovered he was referring to the knit Cthulhu doll that sits on top of the shelf.

Considering my daughter (5 years old) calls him 'Mr. Squidface', I'm not sure how he got that close to the name...

Mr. Lulu was hand-knitted by my sister. No she doesn't sell them... we'll, I guess if you offered her enough she might.

Thursday 12 September 2019

In the Wargaming Mags!

It was a bit of a quiet summer on the Ren. Troll. Partly this was due to a lack of hobby activity on my part, but also because I ended up writing a slew of magazine articles, which kind of fulfill the same writing urge as blogging. This wasn’t something I set out to do, it just sort of happened. Well the first fruits of those labours can be seen in the newly released issue of Miniature Wagames (#438).

I’ve actually got two pieces in the issue. The first is a couple of pages discussing my starting point in designing a wargame, namely a game’s ‘Core Mechanics’. If you are interested in game design, you might want to have a look. I also get ‘The Last Word’ in the issue, where I write a bit about the rise of 3D printing in wargaming. This piece also features a very large photo of my face (not sure how that’s a selling point, but there you go).

Actually, the issue feels a bit like an Osprey Game Designer party as it also features an interview with Ash Barker about his new expansion for Last Days – including a new scenario, and an interview with Mike Hutchinson about Gaslands Refuelled – also including a new scenario.

My stuff aside, it’s an interesting issue that also includes a couple of cut-out card bunkers, a long interview with the Perry twins, and even a set of rules for historical battles in the Renaissance (no trolls though).

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Catching Up on Star Wars

I received an email recently stating that my Star Wars geek-accreditation was due to expire. As I deem this important to both my professional and social life, I figured I had better brush up and get recertified. I mean, I can tell my Trandoshans from Zabraks, but what’s this about Darth Maul surviving The Phantom Menace?

So, I

This is the only one of the feature films that I hadn’t seen, and, in truth, I hadn’t heard any glowing reviews. Still, I went in with an open mind. I enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll remember much about it in a few weeks. It just seemed to lack a bit of heart. In truth, while I’ve enjoyed some of the Disney movies, and parts of others, their main accomplishment has been to demonstrate how rare and difficult to duplicate the original trilogy was.

This was, I think, the first Star Wars novel released under Disney. It was a fun read, a fast-paced adventure novel. I like that it didn’t feature any of the movie characters in a major role. Although it is the first book in a trilogy, it pretty much stands alone. I will likely read the others at some point, when I feel I need a Star Wars fix, though I’m not rushing out to get them.
            I do love the way that Disney restarted the Star Wars universe. They apparently said everything in the films was canon, everything outside of them was not. Then, they stated that everything in their new books, comics, cartoons, etc. was canon and have then slipped some of the old stuff back into the new universe (such as Grand Admiral Thrawn).

This four-series cartoon has gotten a lot of good press. I watched the first season and really enjoyed it. It’s a kid’s show, but that can be enjoyed by adults. Although it’s broken into 25 minute episodes, its 15 episode seasons means it can spend more time on character development. In truth, I think it has more of the feel of the original trilogy than any Star Wars media I have seen since. I will definitely be watching the rest of the series, which I hear gets even better.

Bought and painted some Star Wars: Legion figures.

I was a bit miffed when Star Wars: Legion came out. The figures are something like 35mm, which means they are incompatible with all of my other figures, including the Star Wars: Imperial Assault figures I’ve collected. Since I wasn’t particularly interested in the game either, I ignore them.
            Then I saw some of the new Rebel Pathfinders in the shop and decided to give them a go. They are extremely nice figures. Although they are cast in a somewhat bendy plastic, the detail is very sharp - as good as most metals. Although they need super-glue to assemble, they fit together perfectly.

Monday 9 September 2019


The Chimera has always been one of my favourite mythological monsters, but for a long-time I never found a miniature of one that completely satisfied. Then, not too long ago, I came across this one from Atlantis Miniatures. It’s absolutely huge. It’s also very expensive. I loved it, but I couldn’t justify it.

Well, a couple of months later, it was given to me as an overly-generous birthday present from a friend.

I must admit that the ‘miniature’ is so big and so beautiful that for a while I was too intimidated to paint it, fearing that my paint job could only make it worse. But minis need paint – it’s just a natural law.

The miniature is composed of a very plastic-like resin. There wasn’t a single air-bubble to be found. The pieces fit together perfectly, except for the tail/serpent-head which gave me a little trouble.

Painting it began as a bit of chore as it took awhile to get the base coat down; however, once that was in place, the body was just six layers of dry-brushing. Then I spent a few hours on the two big heads, before quickly painting the serpent-head and the base. All-and-all, I probably spent between 6 and 8 hours on it.

It’s truly a centrepiece figure, and while it comes at a premium price, you really are getting what you pay for here. This may not be the last Atlantis Miniature to join my collection!