May 8, 2013

In French, one would call this "du réchauffé", or My Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge Wrap Up

It was about time that I take a little break to dust my Nowhere. Two months off the bloging enjoyement were slowly leading me to a hobby dead end. Yes, life and work have tended to over shadow everything else during April. Also, I must say that I felt really tired when Curt's painting challenge came to an end. Almost a painting burn out, even if I could only achieve to paint a third of what I pledged to do. I managed to paint at least one to two hours every day during Curt's challenge which has been quite an achievement by itself, considering my usualy irregular commitment to the paint desk.

Anyway, to keep some consistancy in my wargaming venture, I really meant to be back on track where I left it two months ago. So, here after, comes a little bundle up of all the figures I managed to sneack into the challenge. Just for the record I finished 30th out of 47 contestents, which was beyond my expectation for a first go at this kind of event. To be very honest when I pledged to paint about 800 pts last December, I knew this was merely showing muscle, and that I be thankfull to reach an half of it. Well, with 387 pts, I almost did.

If you ever like to, click the label of the images to be directed to the original post on Curt's Blog:

28mm Frankish Crusaders (144 points)

Ronin #30 (20 points)

28mm Russian Folk Hero Dobryna Nikitich (12 points)

28mm Russian Folkhero Ilya Mouromets (11 points)

I have recently received new brushes to replace the ones that were brought to me in the Army Painter box set and that have already quite suffer during winter. So far, with these new tools in hand, I have been back to the paint desk for 3 weeks, but nothing new is quite ready yet. I hope to show more pics of the Crusaders in the neer future, as soon as I can get a little more job done on their bases. And hopefully new things should be released in the coming weeks.

Voilà. À bientôt!

Mar 4, 2013

Ronin thirty, Kogaratsu or Kazamatsuri?

Back to the Analogue Hobbies Winter Painting Challenge with this new entry. One significant point of the Challenge's is that any impetrant has to paint a Samuraï Figure as both a participation fee and a reward to Curt's incredible dedication to clutter his blog with our highly eclectical works of art.

So, Here is Ronin #30. I didn't have a samuraï in stock when the Challenge popped up, so I had to browse a few manufacturers on the web to find a figure that would suite both the purpose and my taste. Yet, I didn't hesitate very long to pick this Reaper Miniatures interpretation of a Ronin. Okay, this is a 32 mm model, but I thought it would do the job. Let say this ronin will be the tall guy among the crowd.

Kogaratsu by Bossé
Now, the way I would paint this figure was not very clear to me until I received it. But, once I had it in hand, the propinquity of this model with the two prominent characters that have shaped my understanding of the concept of ronin really stroke my mind. In fact, this figure proved to be the perfect illustration for both Ronin Kogaretsu, the hero of a rather fascinating Franco-Belgian Comics (13 episodes so far), and the nontheless fascinating (and Rock n’ Roll) villain of the movie Samuraï Fiction: Ronin Kazamatsuri. I don’t think that the adventures of Kogaretsu have been transalted to English, although… But I am pretty confident you can find the movie quite easily. I actually advise anyone who has interest for the Chambara movie style to watch it: it's a quite cool reassessment of the genre...

A groovy approach to Chambara films
So, it has suddenly become all clear that Ronin # 30 would dress in black. What wasn’t so clear to me though, was how I would paint a nice black dress, since, as we all know, black is among the hardest tone to render… After a deep breathe, I went with the option of experimenting new things, and tried to see how well my brush could respond to John de Terre-Neuve’s approach. Well, not clearly his technic, rather what I understood of it: some sort of semi grey-scale chiorusco slowly darkend by layers of a very diluted mix of dark-grey and orange, and washes of GW blue ink after washes of AP Dark Tone.

To be honest, I am not so pleased with the result. But I thought that I would mess it up if I would try anything more to make it better. Also, I had never painted asian skin tone before. Therefor, I went with what Army Painter recommends, i.e. a mix of AP Desert Yellow and AP Skeleton Bone. Here again, you might feel he looks a little sick… Not to mention that each time I give a Matt Varnish coat with the brush it ends up looking shiny… Well… Hell is paved with good intentions.


Challenge wise Ronin #30 has earned me 20 more points. Added to the 144 points I earned from the later submission of Franks Knights, I am now poling at 197 points. Dude! I am so close to reach a quarter of my original par...

Now, since I like you very much, here is a glimpse at Samuraï Fiction. Enjoy!

Feb 11, 2013

Blood in the meadows, a SAGA battle report

On Friday evening John de Terre-Neuve and I met for a quick SAGA around the table, at aperitive time. We had but two hours to game, so we wanted something effective. Our last SAGA games being aimed at searching and looting things and chasing and capturing warlords, we felt that this time we would like to play a direct and brutal way, where SAGA dice would be more spent at triggering abilities than moving around the battlefield.

We settled on regular 6 pts warbands. John brang his Vikings and I deployed my Anglo-Dvergish (Anglo-Danes battleboard). We also agreed to try the new rule for banner barers. John’s Vikings consisted of 1pt of levies with bows, 2 pts of warriors, 2 points of hearthguards, 1pt of Ulfhednars and was led by Freidis Eriksdotir the fabulous female warlord he has created. John organised his warband thus: 1 unit of twelve levies, 1 unit of six warriors to accompany his warlord, 1 unit of ten warriors with banner, 1 unit of eight hearthguards and 1 unit of four Ulfhednars. My Anglo-Dvergish warband was led by the legendary Harald Dwarfinson (Harald Godwinson) and his double-handed-axes jousters brothers, and was putting together 1pt of levies with bows, 2 pts of warriors and 3 points of hearthguards with double-handed-axes. I organised them into 1 unit of twelve levies, 2 unit of eight warriors, 2 units of six hearthguards, with one carying the army banner.

The battlefield was a 4x4 game board. The terrain featured two hills and two elements of rough terrain, also a farm in one corner, but only to frame the battlefield and please the eyes. We both deployed L distance from our respective edge of the table. John had his levies covering his right flank, the units of ten warriors with banner occupying the center and the units of eight hearthguards at his left wing, his Ulfhednars, warriors and Warlord were held behind to fill the gaps. My frontline was build around my levies archers, flanked on both sides by my warriors, when Harald Dwarfinson his brothers and hearthguards were kept behind in reserve. Then, between the two facing warbands, a fresh breeze swiftly began to comb the grassy meadows of September…

Turn one & two

The Anglo-Dvergish battleline at the end of turn two.
The first two turns were spent moving our troops towards each other, and redeploying a little. I moved my levies forward to shooting range and could start harassing the Vikings warriors in the center by taking one down, while a unit of hearthguards was brought to the frontline to fill the gap between the archers and the warriors to their right. On the Viking side Freidis had some hesitation from where she would best support the attack of her clan. While on her left flank the thralls archers came close enough to shoot a deadly volley at my warriors, and take a good half of them down… Ouch!

Turn three

The Anglo-Dvergish push back the Viking's archers...
While Freidis builds her attack to the right.
On their right flank the Anglo-Dvergish fearing the constant threat ot the thralls arrows decided to move forward and charged to push them back. They eventully managed to kill three of the archers without suffering an injure. Meanwhile Harald’s archers knocked their arrows at the Viking center again and killed one more warriors. Freidis worried of the retreat of her archers send out her fearsome Ulfhednars to plug the gap and chop some heads… And, in a breath, the remainings dvergish warriors were desmembered to the ground, blown away like unsignificant dust… Well, significant enough to take down two Ulfhednars with them. And Freidis continued her advance towards the Anglo-Dvergish right flank.

The Ulfhednars charge from the right. In a short while,
eight dvergish eyes will be shut for ever...
Turn four

The Dvergish hearthguards push to the center
and wash away the Vikings warriors. Hurrah!
Freidis warriors had move to the middle of the battlefield bravely raising their banner over head. Harald decided this pennon at too long been seen and that time had come to take it down. To start, the dvergish archers sticked two more arrows between the chops of the Viking bondis. Then Harald’s trusted huscarls fell on them with their double-handed axes to finish the job. Only one Viking survived. He stood firm against the Anglo-Dvergish push at the end of the melee, and managed to escape… with the banner… For all the huscarls survived, Harald felt proud of his men, but he could not withstand the vision of his ennemy banner still high in the sky.

Harald watch the Viking bannerman escape, and think:
God damn it!
For one second Harald thought he could triumph today. But the second after, Freidis hirdmen were upon his warriors on the right flank. And in no time the Dvergish ceorls were scatered, all cuted down to pieces, not inflincting a single wound to the Vikings. John had been lucky enough to get eight SAGA dice this turn, so the bloodthirsty hirdmen were now turning against the huscarls. And again… The huscarls were all crushed to the guts. This time the hirdmen lost four brothers of arms, but they left no survivor on their path of blood. By the beards of the Gods! Cursed Harald. He could not believe his army had vanish so easely.

After having literally harvested the Anglo-Dvergish line,
the four victorious hirdmen present their swords to Freidis.
Turn five

The last stand. The Anglo-Dvergish regroup,
 while the archers take down the last two Ulfhednars.
Harald in need for vengeance was about to through himself in the melee, but his brothers reasoned him, and pull him back to regroup and reform a line with the last unit of huscarls. In fact, I had so few SAGA dice to throw this turn, that I could not figure a plan to seize revenge efficiently. Instead of what, the geburs fearing an other bloody assault from the Ulfhednar, turned their bows to the left flank and killed both remaining wolfskins.

The viking archers having been reforming their line, moved forward again and shoot a volley at the Dvergish geburs, killing one. Freidis now totaly confident in her success, decided to throw an ultimate charge of the hirdmen against the geburs archers. But the levies proved more resistant than the huscarls and lost only two when they could kill two hirdmen in return. Freidis elite was driven back. As sun was setting, time had came to count the deads and heal the survivors.

The last view of the battlefield,
 after the ultimate charge of the hirdmen has been driven back.


During this violent clash,
The Viking have lost 3 levies, 9 warriors, and 10 Hearthguards including 4 Ulfhednars.
The Anglo-Dvergish have lost 3 levies, 16 warriors and 6 Hearthguards.

Even if John had lost more elite troops than I, we called it a narrow victory for the Viking, since they clearly had the initaitive at the end of the game, with 4 units still on the field, when I had only 2 left. Also, John clearly wrote the SAGA this day with his unbelievable breach through the Anglo-Dvergish line.

All in all we were both quite satisfied with this battle, for we both felt that we really fought it by the book (the rulebook), and felt at ease with the game mechanisms.

One lesson learn here though. In SAGA the way we group our points to create units is critical. The effectiveness of an eight hearthguards unit says it all. And I am now thinking about the damages three combined points of hearthguards could inflict.

A question now. We couldn't really see the advantage of having a banner in a unit. Any thoughts?

Feb 7, 2013

The Bogatyrs, the back is revealed...

In order to put an end to my Russian Folkhero fancy, I thought it would be fun to show you a group picture of Ilya Mouromets, Alyosha Popovich and Dobryna Nikitich (click the names to know more about their respective story) and compare with the original canvas from Vasnetsov. I mean... It is not so often that we paint figures taken from a painting masterpiece.

Also, what I realised while painting these horsemen, is that Vasnetsov clearly avoided the hardest part by showing them stricly from a frontal point of view. In fact, I have put most of my efforts on items that are barely visible on the panel. So much, that I could have easely let these shields, scabards or kaftans completly bare of color.

Viktor Vasnetsov, The Bogatyrs, 1898
Well, I guess easy is not the way I see things when it comes to painting, hence my poor score in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. But at least I get to show you something that even the painter did not really care to pay attention to. For the first time (and probably the last) in my modest painter career, lets reveal the back!

Oh no, not this one... That one!

Now, I won't probably paint something related to russia for a while. And yet, I hope I could do the same one day with some other pieces of Art from the master Vasnetsov. His work is truly a well of inspiration for anyone who likes Russian Middel Age and Myths.

Viktor Vasnetsov, The Bard Bayan, 1910

Quite evocative isn't it? Only the miniatures haven't been sculpted so far... Well, who knows what the future holds...

Feb 5, 2013

Dobryna Nikitich, last of the bogatyrs

Dobryna your mother warned you, don’t go to the river for “the first wave belches fire, the second wave brings sparks and the third issues steam”. The summer day was to hot and Dobryna did not really care. He could only forsee a bath of cool water. Long did he ride trough the steppe, and reach the river at last. Burned by the summer sun, his armor was hot as a caldron. Dobryna took off his armament and jumped in the refreshing water.

Suddenly the sky turned to black and Dobryna could hear again the warning of a loving mother. Indeed, it was no cloud nor night that darken the sky, but the immense shadow of the three-headed dragon Zmei-Gorynych. The dragon was once prophecised that a knight responding the name of Dobryna would eventually kill him. Instead of waiting for is faith, he faced it and caught Dobryna in a rather embarrasing situation.

Dobryna fearing no danger swam to the bank but his horse had flee with all his equipement, only the helmet that had fell on the ground remained. The knight filled it with sand and threw it at the dragon, thus blowing one head. He then jumped at him and grabbed him by the remaining necks. Zmei-Gorynych clearly saw the exit door, and started crying and pleading for life. Dobryna felt pity for the dismembered creature and let him go.

But dragons are not the kind to be trusted. Damn it! Dobryna! lessen to your mother! The minute Zmei-Gorynych was free, he flew to Kiev, abducted the niece of the Tsar Vladimir and took the maiden to his cave, deep in the mountain.

Out of guilt or maybe in need for a good meal, Dobryna rode back to his mother to seek some advice. Lessen carefully son: “here is a seven-fold silky whip. Now go get the horse of your grandfather, the one that has been neglected for ages, and you'll be able to ride to the dragon's cave safely”.

When Dobryna broke into the cave, Zmei-Gorynych protested that the knight has no word and that he broke an oath. Well, it takes some guts to be so  arroguant. Guts and blood and venom that would soon cover the floor after Dobryna chopped the last two heads and slayed the dragon for good. After a bath in the blood of the beast, Dobryna eventually found the pincess attached with gold chains in one of the many caves of the lair. He took her back to her uncle the Tsar Vladimir of Kiev. The two fell in love on the way, and Vladimir wouldn't have been a sovereign of tales and legends if he wouldn't have offer the hand of the princess to the deserving knight.

With Dobryna ends the serie of the Bogatyrs, the three russian heros, taken from the canvas by Viktor Vastnetsov and finely rendered by the manufacturer Plastic Miniatures. With the two extra points added to retribute my effort to render the patterns on his kaftan, Dobryna has earned me 12 more points in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, which lift me up to a total of 33 pts, and a well deserved bottom line on the scoreboard.

Jan 25, 2013

The shape of shields to come

Who could these shields belong to?
Dorbina Nikititch is on his way to arrive quite soon, here in Nowhere. Meanwhile I thought I could share a little preview of what's coming next, as an interlude. So here we have fourteen freehand painted shields, to be soon glued to the arms of their bearers, knights of renouns and songs.

Indeed this is the start of a new SAGA warband (or should I say Ost in this case), which is intended to be played with the Norman or the Frank Capetian battleboard. I shall try both and see what suits the best.

Yet, despite the almond shape of those shields, this is not going to be a warband of Normans, nor is it going to be a genuine Capetian army, since it is not meant to represent knights from the area of Paris.

Now, my wargamer friend John did reveal a few days ago what is new SAGA warband will consist of, and of course, since it is designed to face my own, it gives some intelligence of who the hell those shields will belong to.

So, there will be a complete presentation of them as soon as I'll be posting pictures of the first point of army. In the meantime, if someone would want to take a guess, here are a few leads. There is noting to win, so there is nothing to loose...

- First: Note that I delibarately avoided to use green color, to leave it to the saracens.

- Second: During the last third of the XIth century, these knights would have been seen fighting on battlefields stretching from Spain to Palestine.

- Third: Medieval accounts often tell they were rather known for their skills at pillaging and looting than for their fighting spirit.

- Fourth: Although assimilited to the Frank dominion, they would speak a different langage at that time.

- Fifth: If you know about nowadays french provincial heraldry, one shield clearly points out their area of origin.

- Sixth: If you are a usual reader of this blog, I am positive I have already give the answer.

Jan 19, 2013

Alyosha Popovich, a very russian hero

Today I'd like to present you Alyosha Popovich, the second horseman in the serie of the Bogatyrs, an other charismatic russian hero, who fought for the Tsar of Kiev. As with Ilya Mouromets, Alyosha is taken from the painting The Bogatyrs by Viktor Vasnetsov. Again the figure is from Plastic Miniatures company, and the design is just top notch, the figure was really clean and needed but very few preparation. The horse has been painted using GW paints for the robe and hairs, since their Bestial Brown remains one of my favorite color, and Army Painter for the saddle and buckles.

There is not so much to say about Alyosha than there was about Ilya. Mainly because, I believe the character of Ilya Mouromets slowly agglomerated the deeds of others around his rather archetypal person,in the oral tradition of tales and bylines. Alyosha Popovich, as his name indicates, was the son of Leonce the Pope. He was so strong when he was young, that when he played with other kids, he would often dismembered them by snatching an arm or a leg. One might think he really had trouble to make friend at school, but the tales indicate that it was only when he would separate a body in two pieces by the middle, that he would got into trouble, because then, his young friend would die...

Fortunately, when he became a grown up, he was presented with some chap almost as strong as him, and they became friend without an injure. Thus accompanied by Marishko Paranovich, he decided to enter the service of Prince Vladimir of Kiev. In fact, as he reach the court, his strong arm proved promptly useful when the dragon Tugarin Zmeyevich came, threaten the city, insulted the Prince and claimed his crown. A dragon as his name Zmey suggests (i.e. russian word for dragon) or simply an infidel prince son of the tribe of the dragon (or the tribe of the snake), as there could have been among the Polovets steps riders during the XIth century.

Wherever he came from, the dragon acted so crudely with the Tsar, that Alyosha took the opportunity to show his bravery and challenged him for a duel. Alyosha compared Tugarin to a cow that his father the Pope Leonce once had. The beast was so greedy that one day, she drunk a whole lake to the bottom, and eventually exploded! Then he prophesied that such outcome would happen to the dragon if he would not stop claiming a realm that wasn't his. Of course Tugarin the dragon took it bad and threw a dagger at Alyosha. And Alyosha to say: "Thank you mighty Tugarin for this dagger you give me! By it, I shall cleave your pale chest and bare your bitting heart!"

I think, he really meant so... Because, the day after, Alyosha eventually killed the so called dragon in the meadow right outside the walls of Kiev. Now, don't think it was that easy. The creature Tugarin was so evil, that Alyosha had to pray for the help of God. Alyosha may have been a really faithful knight, for God did show up this day under the disguise of an heavy rain. Well rain doesn't kill dragon, but since Tugarin's wings were of paper and coton, they became wet, and the monster could not flight and threat Alyosha from the sky anymore. Then, I understand it was as easy for Alyosha to cleave Tugarin's heart out of his chest, than it was to snatch a leg from an infant back in the good old days.

To be honest, I don't really understand what the paper wings symbolise, maybe the weaker faith of a pagan barbarian, but Alyosha surely did a great job by kicking this nasty vilain out of Kiev. For that my friend Alyosha you have indeed deserved your seat next to Ilya and an extra effort to paint your shield. I kind of think it looks a little overdown now, compare to Ilya's, but hell! I like it! Hope you enjoy it two! Next will be the last of the three Bogatyrs: Dobryna Nikititich...

Alyosha has granted me 10 more points in Curt's Analogue Hobbies painting challenge, and I am still the slower painter of this challenge. To give you an idea some of the contestants have already more than 1000 pts. Me, 21 pts!

Jan 8, 2013

Ilya Mouromets, onward to a new year

Happy new year 2013 to anyone who dare reading this entry. I am back from a two weeks vacation to the land of my ancestors. I haven't touch a brush nor a paint pot during the time and I am just starting to pull things back together for a new year of wargaming and painting. Well, I'd better hurry because the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge is already in its third week and I have this feeling that it will take me a few days to be back at full painting speed.

Nevertheless, I wanted to begin 2013 voluntarily, reason why I have picked the character of Ilya Mouromets for this first entry of the year. The way he is staring at the horizon tells enough his determination to overcome any hazardous situation. A state of mind I wish to make mine.

Ilya Mouromets is a prominent character of russian folk stories, if not the most characterful hero Mother Russia ever infanted (although some would argue it is Vladimir Puttin... Well, I leave this thought to everyone's self appreciation). One can tell from the rough of his beard and the round of his baly that he someone personifies the very soul of his rather intriguing country of birth.

Now, Ilya took his time to become a legend. Who wouldn't with both legs paralized until the age of thirty. Some tells that the long desired son of two peasants of the area of Mourom, miraculously recovered from his affliction and was suddenly gifted with a prodigious strength. Some other believes, that it is when he reached the aged of eight-teen, that he helped a beggar to quensh his thirst and was then rewarded with unequal strength.

Of course such tremendous strengh would be waisted in the daily work of an humble farm. So the beloved parents treated him with a lance and a mount, and Ilya decided to travel to Kiev and make his most powerful arm an instrument of the faith, in the hand of the Tsar. To be honest, some other tells that the Tsar of Kiev ordered him to come, but who really cares? The important is that on his way to Kiev, Ilya freed with his sole spear the city of Tchernigov from a siege by the unpious tartars of the East. And that he could bring peace back to the whole country by expelling a group of scoundrels that had been plundering the place for too long. Had he reach Kiev, he won the trust of the Tsar by capturing a strange creature named Nightingale, whose whistling was loud enough to kill a man and was thus cursing the depth of the forest.

Yet, some other tells that this was only the first task of a larger quest he had to complete in order to win the heart of a beauty. A beauty of unequalled beauty of course, who was leaving in a far far far away realm, and was harassed every night by a dragon with nothing less than twelve heads. We would probably call it sexual abuse nowadays... What so ever, Ilya went to rescue the beauty. At the crossroads, he choosed the path of death and had to survive the cunning of Baba Yaga the witch and her sister. Only after that, could he chopped the twelve heads of the perverted dragon and put an end to his scandalous behaviour by crushing the last head. As he came back to Kiev, Ilya found the court subdued by a giant who had a head the size of a beer cauldron and answered the name Idol. Idol could devour a bull to the bones, but Ilya kicked him out of the palace by simply raising a single hand.

Ilya Mouromets as Viktor Vasnetsov painted
him in his masterpiece The Bogatyrs.
Well Ilya, with such a pedigree you really deserved a figure that would fit your prowesses. Let's admit that manufacturer Plastic Miniatures did it quite fine. The pause is actually taken from a canvas by Viktor Vasnetsov, so to stick with the legendary atmosphere, I went with an interpretation of the colours seen on the painting. This work has grant me 11 pts for the Painting Challenge and the last seat in the competition, more details can be found on Curt's Analogue Hobbies.