Painting THAT Dark Elf

I should have finished this one last weekend, but I got distracted… wanting to work on a dragon I had been given. That mini is coming along nicely, but this morning I made an effort to get the last of the detail and highlights down on Drizzt Do’Urden.

This is a single part metal figure by Ral Partha, 1988 for TSR “10-550 Drizzt”. I probably bought it on its own in a blister-pack way back then, and most likely because it was a figure with two swords, rather than for the character himself. I do have a lot of the novels of the Icewind Dale / Dark Elf / etc series that date from the late 80’s so I should have known ‘who’ I was buying.

The figure has been in a figure box for so long that when I picked it out for painting I took it for someone’s copy of Drizzt and not a licensed production until I went searching for some details.

I have a separate bunch of drow figures, and was more interested in this now for the two swords… so not painted as Drizzt. I’ve been playing a lot of Lord of the Rings Online recently, so I looked at images of the rangers from the game, picking a palette of mostly browns.

I really enjoyed painting this, once I worked out my colours. It was also great trying to do more work with highlights. I’m pretty comfortable with shading and washes, but getting the fine lines for good highlighting can be a struggle based on a combination of sculpted detail, focused eyesight and holding a fine brush steady. The sculpting on the figure itself helped a lot in this case. I’m also impressed that I didn’t just get the hair and the eyes right, but even managed eyebrows!

Painting Infantry

My first painting for 2023. I base coated both in 2022, but its only been in the last few days that I’ve really paid them serious attention and worked out what I was doing.

These are plastic Pathfinder Deep Cuts (WizKids) “Infantrymen”. (Blister pack of two)

They had very few mold lines and I like the pose, and the details.  I really like the pack and bedroll on one (although there is only half a shoulder strap sculpted; I had to hand paint the rest), the shields have handles/straps on the back, and each has a scabbard of the right length for their sword! The pack art shows the guy on the right with the shield symbol on his surcoat front… this would have been nice to paint, if it was flat. It’s textured, so I decided against it.

The other difficulty was that the guy with the pack. His shield is quite close to the body and its very difficult to get even a fine brush in between to paint. That bit isn’t as good as I’d like it to have been, but its not something most people will see. Their faces are also a little small, so painting eyes was a chore, mostly because of the low helmets.

It’s nice that while most of what they have (surcoat, shield, boots, pouches) matches, but they have different helmets, and obviously one has a pack. This isn’t the same figure in a slightly different pose. If there was a second Infantrymen pack (with different poses/gear), I’d happily buy it to have a small group of men-at-arms / soldiers.

The images haven’t come out quite as I hoped – they’re a little dull. I think I need to make a new light box (the old one had deteriorated and didn’t move house) and/or find the right spot in the house for taking pictures.

2023: Into a ninth year of blogging

Another year over, and a week into the New Year. Covid certainly made a difference to most of my hobbies (and everyone else’s) though the last month or two have felt a lot more “normal” than things have been for the last two years.

So what was 2022 for me?

Painting: My total for 2022 was 8 figures, and some assembly (minimal painting) on 12 plants. This is way down on past years, but I’ve nearly painted every single unpainted figure that I own. Unless I bought a lot more, I was never going to exceed 2021’s total of 81 figures. There are exceptions: I do have unpainted walkers, fatties, and runners for Zombicide, and  there’s orcs and gretchen in Space Crusade. If I’m desperate to paint something I could start those!

Gaming/RPG’s: My gaming group hasn’t returned to my Fals’Krag mega-dungeon, but we did manage to get nearly everyone together and play a one-shot Call of Cthulhu based on Gilligan’s Island, and another night a Shadowrun one-shot based on the “Olympus has Fallen” movie set in Canberra’s Parliament House. There’s been about half the group available on other weekends and we’ve played board games – notably Lord of the Rings Risk (twice – team play is really good), and a New Year’s Eve of Zombicide: Black Plague.

Board Games: We’ve played a bunch of other board game’s with one mate (this started with Covid restrictions on the number of people together, and how far you could travel) – those have mostly been Alhambra, Kingdom Builder, and different versions of Ticket to Ride.

Computer Games: I’ve been playing a lot of Lord of the Rings online, some World of Warcraft, occassional World of Tanks, and a fair run late in the year with Freelancer. Freelancer’s single player game is something I run through every few years, this time I found a HD version to update the graphics.

Other Stuff: I’ve been reading a lot! I’ve spend lots of spare time writing one-shot RPG games for different systems that my group may not have played before. I’ve combat-mapped a large area ready for Fals’Krag, and need to finish detailing what’s in those locations. My wife and I moved house and cleaned up the old house to sell. It didn’t sell, so there’s been preparation for it to now be leased. All of this, and both setting up the new house, fixing things, gardening, building chicken housing, etc have taken months. My work has stayed very busy all year, and though I keep considering retirement, while I’m happy to keep working I will.

Plans for 2023:

I have three figures on my painting desk to finish. I have thirteen Citadel beastmen that I think are worth doing. Then its probably time to dig through all my figure boxes to see what I might have missed. I have more plants to work on, similar to the previous set and I’m considering some trees or bigger plants. It might be a good year to actually build some proper terrain – walls and basic ruined buildings.

The next RPG is likely to be a one-shot Conan adventure (using Conan d20 rules), but I expect that we’ll restart Fals’Krag this year, and play one-shot’s when a few players are not available. I hope to finish three other one-shot adventures: Battlestar Galactica and Star Gate (using StarGate 5E rules) and one Eclipse Phase adventure. All these needs maps before I can finish adventure detail.

I’m reading through my collection of Barbara Hambly books now, then I have a fair number of trilogies to read (for the first time!), having purchased the missing book/s last year. I’ll continue playing LotRo on the computer, and I was gifted Rome: Total War for Christmas so that will be something new in the near future.

Final image: These are my bookcases set up for painting, gaming and most of my collection of dragons. The first is next to my computer/painting desk, the other (only 30cm away) is next to our large dining table where we play games. This is much better than stuff in boxes and multiple bookcases, in different rooms, that I had before we moved house. There are a few more board games on top of another bookcase in the lounge. The green bag is my travelling bag – it has a large figure box to hold whatever figures, terrain, etc that I’ll need for a RPG, and smaller boxes with tokens, dice, dice-tower, cards, maps, PC miniatures, etc.


This guy is probably a very appropriate mini considering Christmas and New Years just past. He was completed on the Christmas weekend, but he’s only been taken outside this morning for a varnish where the bright sun and 30 degree heat (celcius) probably won’t do his hangover any good.

I was looking through mini boxes for some other figures and found him mixed in with painted figures that were being used in a D&D campaign run by a mate a few years back. He got my attention over the other three figures (started but not finished) on my desk.

I’ve done a bit of searching but can’t work out the manufacturer or anything on this specific dwarf. When he was chosen as a character to play, I filed the base flat taking off all the interesting things like names and dates. I’m sure that I’ve had him for at least thirty years… so he should be 1980’s, or early 90s. One piece metal with a round base. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a Citadel Bugman’s dwarf, but he’s not cluttered with detail like I expect from most of their figures and should also be slotta-base. I’m guessing Ral Partha.

Painting was fairly easy, and straightforward and not fussy like the two soldier figures I’m still working on. To give him more balance on the table top, the original base is glued to a 25mm thin round, with a little bit of extra stone decoration. I like the figure, and he certainly looks much better painted than as dull metal. This is very likely the only figure I have holding something as simple as a tankard, and not some weapon or magical device, etc.

Happy New Year!

Terrain – An assortment of plants

For what is probably a few years now, I’ve had the idea of creating some terrain for the various games I play. While a lot of ruined walls and buildings are high on the list, I’ve been thinking of an assortment of different plants for tabletop use too.

My work involves a wide range of artificial plants and plant related products. I’ve been collecting “bits” that would normally be thrown out that I thought I could utilise for a long time. Unfortunately, it looks like I threw some bits out when we moved house, but I’m collecting again.

I did have a bunch of pieces that required minimal work to be table ready and yesterday decided to finally see what I could do. I’ve completed 14 individual specimens.

Each of these is plastic (or rubber) and is a single piece – I haven’t had to assemble or glue the ‘plant’ itself together at all. All the round bases are 25mm plastic slotta-bases, where I’ve filled the slot and made a slightly wider (than the slot) hole in the middle. I had a whole lot of “second-hand” flocked bases that repainted would do for rough ground or desert-like terrain once repainted.

The flock on the bases had been a mix of greens. I glued a little sand for added texture, then gave them all a splotchy brush over in burnt sienna and yellow ochre. I have a ‘Nubian Flesh’ which is very thick and awkward to use on skin. (When thinned to a good painting consistency it looses a lot of its colour) I realised today that thinned it makes a great replacement for my Army Painter Quickshade Dark Tone, and it’s a much cheaper alternative. Finally a hint more yellow ochre and flesh, dry brushed on bits of the base tops.

The largest two plants have a short “stem” with a wire rod through the centre, that was trimmed short enough to stick into a prepared base. The others have had their wire removed entirely leaving the stem long enough to push into the base holes. All have been glued into place firmly.

The tall cactus with the pink-purple flower on top have a bit of stem still visible (though not in these shots) on top of the base. When I was taking photographs I realised that I should have used a bit more glue on the bottom of the plant, and pushed it all the way down onto the base, then trimmed the ‘stem’ that stuck out the bottom of the base. It’s not worth the effort to break the seal and rework them now… but in future that’s what I’d do if I make more. The smaller cacti with the red flower have two sizes – I made up three of each.

The main idea for all these is for use in Gamma World, where in addition to terrain, they could also be Green Folk (mutated plants) NPC’s or “monsters”. They will work fine in fantasy or other sci-fi games too.

The last image here shows the plants with the PC’s in my Gamma World campaign.

I really want a few more of the larger ‘spiky’ plant – I think that looks really good. It’s also time that I bought or created a proper saguaro cactus to do my wife’s PC justice. The one in the pic (on the left) was created from a garden twig. I’m sure I can do a much better job now.

Inspiration for a Dragon Miniature?

I’ve certainly been doing more reading (and some RPG writing) recently instead of painting. Most recently I’ve completed an autobiography by Tony Rivers (an English 60’s singer who went on to do backing vocals and arrangements for heaps of popular groups and singers through the 70’s & 80’s), an autobiography by John Cleese (you should know who he is), and a political thriller co-authored by Hilary Clinton.

I’m now planning to catch up on some books I purchased just before we moved that filled in gaps in a number of series I’d collected. I’ve started with the Winterlands series by Barbara Hambly. I’ve only previously read the first book, and had waited decades before getting copies of book 2 & 4. Tonight (halfway through book one) I suddenly had a suspicious idea concerning the book cover, that has never before occurred to me in the last 30 years or so… relating to a miniature I own.

The book is “Dragonsbane” published in 1986 by Del Rey. The cover image was done by Michael Whelan. Here’s a clipped image of the original from which the cover is taken.

Then here’s the unpainted “Black Dragon II” released by Grenadier in 1988, as part of their Dragon Lords series. Their relationship with TSR had finished in 1982 but this series depicted the AD&D dragons with slight differences. Sculpted by William Watt.

I painted this figure when I first got back into painting miniatures. The timing is fine for the book cover to have inspired the miniature, whether directly or unconsciously. Note the raised forearm, and the shape of the neck. The body scales are very small like on the book image, unlike the other dragons in this series that I have. The rest of the sculpt, like the tail, rear legs and wings don’t match the same pose. I’m ignoring the three-clawed hands as all the other dragons Watt did are the same.

I can’t find anything on the sculptor, and geographically, Hambly/Whelan and Grenadier were on opposite sides of the USA. Maybe there is no connection and this is coincidence!

Trivia: The AD&D Black Dragon has forward pointing horns, unlike the images of the assembled figure, and larger plate-like scales.

D&D vs Warhammer 40k

I completed three figures yesterday and got them varnished today. These have been quite enjoyable to paint.

Two Mimics and a Ultramarine Terminator…

The pair of Mimics are from ‘Nolzur’s Marvellous Miniatures’. Both had almost no mold lines, and are great figures with a fair amount of detail, particularly with the transformation from inanimate object to hungry shape-changer. I’ve wanted this pair since they came out in 2020. Most of the online stores that I get figures from (and a bunch of other places that tried to get them from) over the last 18 months or so have been out of stock. One or two places had them (like eBay), but I wasn’t going to pay what they were asking. Mid this year, I checked again, and finally found places with stock at normal prices. I love the finished pieces.

The Terminator (a veteran Space marine with rare and much heavier armour than usual) has been painted in Ultramarine colours. He’ll go into my Space Crusade game box for now, since that’s where the rest of my 40k figures originate. This figure was given to me by a mate. I think he got it with a GW magazine – possibly White Dwarf. It was a multipart figure that snapped together allowing you to move the arms separately and swivel the upper torso. He’s glued solidly together now.

A return to painting & hobby plans

The house move is done, and we are pretty much set up and settled in. There continue to be little things that need to be fixed up in and outside the house, and a few things we’ll probably move around until we are happier. The old house is finally on the market to sell. If all goes well next month, I may treat myself to a new board game, and/or some more miniatures (if I see something I really want).

From the hobby perspective, I’ve been finding time to read, think about RPG’s, play some games and in the last week – paint!

In terms of figure painting, 2022 has been the worst for figures completed since I re-started painting in 2013. The figures I’m currently working on will more than double this years output. There are good reasons that contributed to this – Covid, planning to move & moving house, more writing RPG material earlier in the year than playing RPG’s or painting, and so on. I’ve also painted the majority of my figure collection now, so unless I either buy more figures (which I’d prefer not to do) or push to complete the remainder of unpainted ones, painting will remain less.

This isn’t a bad thing… after spending a lot of time on painting Zombicide: Black Plague (2016-2017, and really enjoying it) I considered a target of 100 figures a year to be something worthwhile. I got to 93 in 2017, but I’ve only averaged 70 a year over the previous 5 years, not looking at 2022. When I paint sets of figures (Zombicide, all my Orcs / Skaven / Star Wars, or some board game figures, etc) I tend to have a greater output, and I’d say I enjoyed it more. All in all, I was considering that a target of 50 would be more likely, but I think I’m better off not setting a target at all and being happy with whatever I achieve.

So… I would like to complete the GW Beastmen I have that aren’t painted (about a dozen), and dig through my figure boxes to see what else is left. I’m also thinking of making some terrain. I’d be starting with some plants for Gamma World, that might also be useful for a fantasy setting, and considering some walls and ruined buildings. Early next year I should have the Witcher Board Game (Kickstarter by ‘Go on Board’) arrive with some miniatures that I’m looking forward to painting. I have a lot more RPG writing to complete too. More than that, who knows! I’ll see what happens!

Almost Nothing to report…

It feels like a long time since I posted anything, and I don’t really want to look at how long its really been. It’s been a case of ‘Life’ being more important than my hobbies… August has been very busy at work, and all my novels, RPG stuff, figures and painting materials are all in boxes as my wife and I are moving to a new house. We should have the move over this weekend, and I can start unpacking!

I have a half dozen figures primed & ready to paint, a few series of novels now complete that I really want to read, and RPG work to continue. It will also be nice doing all this in a slightly larger house, with more natural light in a quieter street.

So I’m looking forward to everything being a new normal and having friends round to do some gaming! Roll on September…

Painting Battletech (Part 4)

Here’s the last two of four Iron Wind Metals BattleTech mechs. I finished them just over a week ago, but I’d been waiting for some warmer weather to be able to spray varnish and let them dry.

The Dola (on the left) is quite large and was rather fiddly to assemble. A complete rethink of the basing helped made it stand up properly and I feel looks really good. The sword it holds has a fine joint between hand and blade, and bends too easily. It would be easy to break off if care isn’t taken with handling. The Gurhka was a bit easier, but I would have spent more care positioning the legs at the time of gluing if I’d realised that early that it could end up bot being entirely vertical in stance. By the time I was basing it, and realised, I wasn’t going to pull it apart and try again.

The DOL-1A1 is an Inner Sphere mech used as a skirmisher, primarily by House Liao’s Capellan Confederation. As such I’ve gone with a colour scheme used by the Capellan dragoons. It mounts a pair of medium lasers in addition to the sword.

The Gurkha, also an Inner Sphere mech, was developed by the Word of Blake. The GUR-2G is fast with good armour. It has a four-laser hand, sword and particle projector cannon. (I presume the PPC is the chest mount.)

I’m very glad to have these all done and even happier with the way they all look now. Here’s a shot with all four together:

That almost completely clears my painting tray. Of the six figures remaing, I only want to paint two of them – a Warhammer terminator and a possible Drizzt figure. (Warrior with two scimitars) Two more are old skeletons that need paint removed before I could start on them, and that’s part of the reason I’m not enthusiastic about them. Then I have a metal two-part black orc shaman, and a bones priest. I have a non-bones prepainted plastic of the priest already, and the shaman doesn’t really fit with my other orcs.