Tuesday 31 October 2023

The Fellowship of the Ring


Almost exactly 4 years ago, I painted a Reaper figure to use as my ideal Legolas. The Legolas that had been in my head since my father first read The Lord of the Rings to me, close to 4 decades past. In truth, I had no plan to take it any further. But not long after, North Star released the first miniature to accompany Rangers of Shadow Deep, and darned if it wasn't nearly my ideal Aragorn... 

It took a little conversion work to get Aragorn just the way I wanted him, but after that, I was on a quest. Gandalf is a straight-up Reaper figure. Boromir was much harder, but eventually, I found a Reaper ranger with a horn. The more I looked at him, the more I began to see the possibilities. I had to cut off a weapon and add a shield, and he'd need some facial hair...

Gimili proved the trickiest of all. I think this is because I had the least clear vision of the character. In the end, I found a Reaper figure I liked. I wasn't sure I had Gimili when I finished, but a couple of years later, the figure has really grown into the character for me.

I had some Reaper minis for hobbits, but I could never quite get it to work. I could find a good Merry and a Sam, and a third figure that I could never decide if it was Frodo or Pippin. Also, the more I looked at them, the more I became convinced they were just too large, more small dwarves than hobbits. So, I reversed gears, went looking, and finally found my perfect hobbits. I got them from Scotia-Grendel, but they were originally produced as part of the Harlequin, The Lord of the Rings line. I swapped which one was Merry and which was Pippin, and gave them their movie colours to better distinguish them. 

Four years is a long time to paint 9 figures (or actually 12 if you count the 3 discarded hobbits), but really, aren't these the most important 9 in the collection?

(Of course now that original Legolas is looking a tad dated... my painting has gotten better since then... maybe I should go back and paint him again...)

Monday 30 October 2023

Me Reading The Hobbit

I first tried to read The Hobbit to my daughter when she was 7. This failed. She was clearly frustrated by her lack of understanding, both of individual words and of the story, and constantly stopped me to ask questions. I put the book aside until she was 9. Then I read it again, and she loved it. If you can push through the first chapter, most of the rest of the book is easier. 

My son is now 7, and I decided to see if he was ready. While his reading and comprehension skills are slightly behind his sister at the same age, he's more comfortable not understanding certain things, and more happy to flow with the narrative. He didn't say a word as I read him the first chapter, though he seemed to enjoy it and grasp most of it. Yesterday, I read him the second chapter, with the trolls, which he liked even more.

He was drawing while I read, and at the end of the chapter, he presented me with this picture. It's me, reading The Hobbit

Thursday 26 October 2023

What I've Been Working On

The last few months have not been my most productive. Between the summer school holidays, travel, and my wife’s return to full-time teaching, my schedule has been all over the place and my opportunities for sustained creative time have been few. Still, I have made at least some progress on most of my games systems. For those that are interested, here is what I’ve been working on: 


I have just seen and approved the final pieces of artwork for Frostgrave: Mortal Enemies. Although aRu-Mor has been at it for awhile now, I am continually amazed by her work on the series. There is a wonderful depth to her colours, and a sense of menace in even the simplest compositions. While this is the only Frostgrave book currently on the schedule, I am in discussions with Osprey on another one. 


Bold Endeavour was just released last week, and I’m excited to see what players make of it. With the new rules for starships and space encounters, it brings a completely new aspect to the game that can really increase the sense of adventure and narrative within a campaign. I loved working on it. But that’s not the last for Stargrave, because I have also been working on a full, book-length version of the Dead or Alive solo expansion that was originally released when the game first released. This book greatly expands the possible settings, complications, and marks that bounty hunters can pursue across the Ravaged Galaxy! 

Rangers of Shadow Deep

have nearly finished a big project with Modiphius that will hopefully be announced soon. I have also been working on something much smaller, which I intended to self-publish, that looks at the game from a completely different angle… 

Old Bones 

Old Bones #3 is in the final stages of production. This one is basically an all Frostgrave & Ghost Archipelago issue. Actually, Old Bones #4 is not running far behind! 


I’m not allowed to say much about this, but there are ongoing discussions… 

The Silver Bayonet

I have just completed my final read-through of the layouts for Egypt: Shadow of the Sphinx. It was a lot of fun to take The Silver Bayonet out of its European setting and bring in some other classic horror monsters! I delight in seeing how much fun can be packed into these small books! 

Deathship One

This is a small-scale, ‘limited’ wargame that I originally wrote for Blaster. As it is now unavailable in that form, I am working to bring it back, in a slightly expanded form, as a stand-alone, self-published book. 

The Renaissance Troll 

Over the last couple of years, I have been quietly working on one other major project – I have been writing my ‘gaming autobiography’. Essentially, the story of my life in games, or perhaps how games have related to my life. It covers my earliest encounters with hobby gaming, the great games and game stores that influenced me, my immigration to Britain, working with Osprey, right up to the writing and publication of The Silver Bayonet. I have now finished the first draft of the manuscript and am slowly editing my way through it. It is the longest single work I have ever written. I don’t know what I’ll do with it once it’s finished, or if anyone will ever want to read it, but it has been an enjoyable exercise in self-reflection, nostalgia, game-philosophy, and writing in a different genre. 

So, plenty of irons still in the fire!

Thursday 19 October 2023

Bilbo Baggins, Esq.

Realizing that I didn't really know what 'Esquire' meant, I looked it up. Now that I've read the Wikipedia entry, I realize that no one else does either. Given that, it seems to me, if anyone should have Esq. after their name, it should be Bilbo Baggins, at least after he'd settled back into Hobbiton with enough money to be happily eccentric. (File under life goals). 

Waiting for the rest of my Fellowship hobbits to arrive, I decided to paint up this really nice Bilbo figure, that came in the same pack as Frodo, from Scotia Grendel. This figure is clearly based on an Angus McBride sketch, found in the Middle-Earth Role-Playing rulebook (any doubt being removed by the subtle decorations on his vest). Really though, it's just a nice little figure. He's got a great expression. He looks happy, but also ready to spring into action should a Sackville-Baggins come around the corner!

I must admit, at the moment, I'm finding these 'Old School' style figures much easier to paint, with their bigger, slightly out of proportion detail. Easier on the eyes and more friendly to washes to boot!

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Stargrave Crew

The sad truth is that I now write games faster than I paint miniatures for games! That's because writing games falls into the more protected 'work time' while painting generally falls into the scarcer 'relax time'. That said, at long last, I have finished my Time Lord Stargrave Crew! 

The crew is mostly plastic - except for two metal figures front and centre. It is also mostly made from official Stargrave kits. The only exceptions are my Time Lord, which is a special figure made for me, and the two figures to the right of that one which are mostly made up of Frostgrave plastics parts. Interestingly though - despite being from different places, I think all of the figures are sculpted by Bobby Jackson. That even applies to the little  robot doggie, which is a metal loot token from the Stargrave range. I'll be using it as a drone.

Now, as a last step, I just need to organize their dedication transportation. No, not a ship - they've already got a Tardis. I mean a dedicated figure case!

With that one ticked off, I can get back to work on my very slowly developing Oathmark army and start work on my The Silver Bayonet unit!

Tuesday 10 October 2023

The Three Hunters (Redux)

Having returned to my Fellowship, I decided to tackle something that had been bothering me for awhile. When I originally made Legolas I had cut him off his integral base before gluing him to the plastic round base. If you've done this, you know how much of a pain it is, and how easy it is to take a foot off by mistake. So, when it came to Gimili, I got lazy and just put him on the plastic base with his integral base still attached. The upshot was that Gimili always looked a bit too tall. It wasn't a big deal, but it always bugged me.

So, since I am waiting for my new hobbits to arrive, I thought I'd go back and rectify that mistake. Using my hobby knife, I managed to cut Gimli free of the integral base. Then I filed his feet down to even his stance and glued him to a plastic base. Unfortunately, the process had damaged the paint job. While touching him up, I decided it was a good opportunity to brighten him up a little. I gave him some more red highlights on the armour, painted his axes a brighter silver, lightened his beard, and gave him silver beard-beads! It doesn't change the overall look of the figure much, but just gives it a little more pop.

I'm really pleased with how it all came out and think he is much more in proportion to his fellow hunters as well as to my new hobbits! 

Monday 9 October 2023

Concerning Hobbits


I've been thinking about hobbits a lot recently. Now, that's not a terribly uncommon thing for me, but specifically, I've been thinking about the hobbits in my miniature Fellowship. Up to now, I have been using some lovely figures sculpted by Bobby Jackson for Reaper Miniatures (example on the right). I really like these figures, and if I were to play a hobbit in an RPG, I think I'd probably go for one of these. However, for my Fellowship, I started to feel that they are just too big. 

So, I ordered a sample pack of hobbits from Scotia Grendel*. These are actually from the old Harlequin Miniatures The Lord of the Rings line. I painted up Frodo, and you can see him on the left. In the centre is Aragorn (a converted Rangers of Shadow Deep figure). He's kind of my 'base' figure which I used to judge all of the others. Considering he is supposed to be a very tall man (with long legs to boot!), I think it is appropriate that a hobbit be close to waist height. I did worry, for a bit, that maybe the new mini was just too small... but that's kind of a defining trait of hobbits after all! 

Looking at them lined up now, the Reaper hobbit looks a little more like a dwarf than a hobbit compared to Aragorn. The Scotia Grendel model is close to Games Workshop hobbits in size, but has the more exaggerated features, which I prefer.  

I have now ordered another pack to make the rest of the Fellowship hobbits and am awaiting delivery. In the meantime, I think I need to have another look at my Gimli...

*Though for some reason my computer refuses to go to the Scotia Grendel site so I have to order through my phone, which is not the best way to look a minis! Beyond that though - I got great, quick, service!