Or, How to Call a Bluff
Hello everyone! Welcome to my first blog post for the Grey Company. I’ve been meaning to provide a recap of Clash of the Titans from February, however, due to a lack of recording the results of my games, a hazy day 2 thanks to the Baron*, and more projects popping up, I … well, … haven’t.
Quick introduction, I am Hobby Machine, I have been playing the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game – and its Hobbit successor – since 2002. I only got into the tournament scene fairly recently and have enjoyed decent success on the hobby side of things, winning Best Painted in Courage of Numenor, Mother of all Battles (MOAB), Hobbitcon and three of my last four Clash of the Titans events (and coming 2nd to Jeremy Shannon in my first ever Clash ’14). I earned the nickname after working on several armies at once, and presenting them in custom display boards.
What I love most about this hobby is the feeling of taking an existing force or faction, and making them yours through conversions, force organisation or just a unique paint scheme. Each army I put on the table – no matter that faction – has a story, and through similar conversion techniques and shared paint recipes (for universal things like human flesh, silver armour, etc.) can be identified as mine. Normally, my armies can be identified from a group by asking a very simple question, “Is there a Gondor force?”
Courage of Numenor
Courage of Numenor is a single-day 400 point tournament for Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game (as it shall soon be christened) held once a year in the South West region of Sydney. The low points cost is a boon not only to hobbyists wanting to start a new force (or adapt to a new style of play), but also to those who don’t want to worry about their enemy plopping down a dirty great big red dragon in front of them. It’s also a great tournament to try out new scenarios or amendments to the “Standard Six”.
For this occasion, I wanted to challenge myself. Last year I went with a Gondor infantry horde list, with Denethor, Beregond and Damrod leading as many warriors as I could muster. I quickly found out that the lack of Might on the board meant that I was losing priority/first move to cavalry elements and getting out manoeuvred and run down, or enemy heroes who were much better than fighting than a Ranger, a Guard of the Citadel or a mentally unstable geriatric would quickly mince through my shield walls. Time for something new.
Our very own Andrew Colman is on a hot streak of running all-mounted lists, and running them very well (as chronicled here) so I decided to run an all-mounted Gondor list! Now, I’ve never played an all-mounted list before, but I am always up for a challenge, so I immediately thought of a list that would combine everything great about Gondor into 400 points.
Step 1 – Leader. Ever since 1995 I have had a favourite actor. Ever since 2000 I have had a favourite book series, and a favourite book within that series, and within that book I have had a favourite character. When I found out that my favourite actor was playing my favourite character in the film adaptation of my favourite series I was overjoyed. Later, when I discovered this hobby and began to play with the figures, I found that the games designers had translated that character into one of the most powerful heroes of the game, with a special piece of equipment that combined with his stats made him a beast of a unit. Gondor’s first son, Boromir. I have played him in almost every iteration and possible equipment combination. All except one. At such a low points cost, I need a hero that can be both aggressive and supportive, to make sure that my small number of units can stay in the fight and bring their lances to bear upon the foe. I need him to bring his fancy tablecloth.
Step 2 – Theme. Even more important to me because it influences not only my force selection, but the paint scheme and conversion bits as well. I decided that this unit was going to be Boromir’s veterans and his bodyguards. Each Knight was going to have a shield that matched Boromir’s from the Fellowship of the Ring.
Step 3 – Warriors. As I’m going all-mounted Gondor, my force selection is rather limited. My troop options are Knights of Minas Tirith and giving Citadel Guards horses. I decided to go with a roughly even mix of the two, with the front line of five Knights backed up by 5 Guards with spears on horse. I threw three Longbows in there as well for objective-based scenarios and for getting horses out from under heroes.
Mustering the Force
Now that I have a theme in my head, it’s time to gather the pieces together. Thankfully, the wonderful plastic kits make conversions a dream. I had converted some mounted Citadel Guards with Longbows in the past, so I simply repeated the process here.
For the Longbow-armed Guard, I used Warrior of Minas Tirith bowmen and Knights of Minas Tirith, I cut both models at the belt and glued the bowman to the Knight’s legs. For the more complicated poses of bowmen where the bow is attached to the legs, I cut the bow off at the wrist, and attached a clean one from another model once I’d joined the torso to the legs. The spear armed Citadel Guard were even easier, just attaching a Warrior of Minas Tirith spearman arm (that come separately anyway) to the body of a Knight of Minas Tirith (who don’t have their weapon arm attached).
The cloaks were the tricky bits. With the exception of the leftmost Guard, all of them were done using the Hobby Machine Super Glue Method™. First, assemble the model as usual, then trace a cloak from a foot Guard model onto artists paper to get the size right. Then cut them all out and soak them in water so that they will be very flexible and be able to make the same of flowing fabric. Then glue the cloak to the model using superglue. While it is there, push it to shape, then – stay with me here – coat the entire cloak in superglue. Not too thick or it will form drops at the ends, but enough to cover the surface of the cloak. Once this dries, it will harden the paper, sealing in the shape and making the actual sculpting process easier.
Once the cloaks are completely dry, you can start putting green stuff (or your preferred modelling putty) on and start sculpting. I started with the upper portion of the cloaks, to help keep the cloak attached to the model and covering the seam where the paper leads onto the model itself. When sculpting cloaks it’s important to remember how the folds bunch up tightly near the shoulders, and then open up wider near the bottom. Think of them as giant M’s. The tool I use is a metal kitchen skewer, and the best advice I can give you is to be patient, remember you can always add to the green stuff – it’s much harder to remove excess once it’s cured, and always wet your sculpting tools. Nothing worse than dragging the putty and causing tears in your cloth (unless you’re making orc tunics, in which case, go for it but you’re going to have a bad time getting green stuff off your tools).
The Knights were relatively simple conversions, I simply used Instant Mold to press-mold Fellowship Boromir’s iconic shield. Since I am left-handed, I wanted to include a left-handed conversion. I took a Warrior of Minas Tirith bowman, did a torso swap like with the Citadel Guard, then cut and turned the head to be facing the other direction, repositioned the right arm (which was the ‘released arrow’ pose) to be carrying a shield and added a lance where the bow was. Done.
And now that the warriors were assembled, I could treat myself to Big Bad Bozza’s conversion. When he carries the Banner of Minas Tirith, he doesn’t receive any defensive bonus from carrying a shield, so I went through the process of removing the shield – and left arm – from the foot model. Thankfully, Boromir, Captain of the White Tower is resin so the process is much easier than if it would have been in metal. I cut away the shield, Horn of Gondor and left arm from the shoulder plates down using clippers (be very careful with resin. Clippers can remove more than you intended and can send very sharp fragments flying at you. Safety first at all times, goggles minimum) and a stanley knife. I then carefully carved off the cord that the horn was attached to. Then I carved the resin around the breastplate on his left side, and his tunic.
Whenever I put Boromir on the table, I want to make sure he bears as close a resemblance to Sean Bean as possible. That means using the best sculpt of Boromir in terms of actor likeness, Fellowship Boromir. I cut off the head and the horn arm from Fellowship Boromir on foot, and attached them to the resin model. Pinning is a great idea, but not necessary for these areas.
Since the spare Banner of Minas Tirith I had was metal, that definitely needed to be pinned, so using a spare outstretched Knight of Minas Tirith banner arm, I pinned both it and the banner to Boromir. I also wanted to fix the triple-jointed banner arm that the mounted model has. That was a bit more involved. I used the Mounted Banner Bearer of Minas Tirith’s right arm, cutting off the banner (but still leaving it attached to the model’s head) and using pliers, crushing the remaining pole bit above the hand into a pin shape, to sit the resin banner on top.
I made sure not to glue the banner to Boromir until after I had finished painting both. At this stage, the assembly is complete!
Painting the Army
This army was going to be something special, and needed a fittingly special paint scheme. You might be curious as to why I sub-titled this article How to Call a Bluff. A fellow hobbyist, Michael, had been singing the praises of transfers/decals after a very successful Adepticon in the United States where he walked away with the Best Painted award for his 30K Ultramarines. He and I were getting into a friendly banter about what was better, freehand or transfers, so I told him I was going to put my money where my mouth was and feature freehand extensively in my force. Thankfully, the Banner of Minas Tirith is going to be a fine centrepiece to my army, and I made sure to include as many freehand details on each model as possible.
My plan was, since it was called the Banner of Minas Tirith, it needed to feature Minas Tirith on it! It just makes sense. So, what I did was trace around the banner onto a piece of paper, then after looking through Google Images for a picture of Minas Tirith, copied the outline of the city onto the paper to get the right scale before painting the mini itself.
There’s a great article in the old White Dwarf issue 362 where it shows you a few techniques to get great freehand, and those tips are what I put into practice with painting the freehand on this force.
- Always thin your paints, it makes linework so much easier and if you need to fill in an area, use multiple thin coats
- When painting in freehand, always plan it out on paper first, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later.
- If your design is complex, us a series of dots on the extremities of the design to help you map out the shape, then simply paint the points onto the miniature and join the dots.
I paid particular attention to the horses in this force as well, since it was my first all-mounted list and horses are a big part of that. I loved researching the different breeds of horse, the markings, mane colours and patterns, etc. Taking that little bit of extra care with the horses really helps add to the look of the overall model.
With each Knight’s pennant, I took care to make them mini Banners of Minas Tirith, giving them the same colour palette and adding the same freehand pattern that is on the banner itself. (I don’t know what the pointy bits of the Banner of Minas Tirith are called.) I also painted a pair of sea bird wings on the shields for another focal point.
Here are some photos of the finished army in action on the day. My results were 2-2, which I’m not unhappy with, considering it was my first time taking all-cav. Against Andreas’s Gondor infantry horde, I fared rather poorly, and my dice rolls weren’t very helpful. Still, with Hobbitcon around the corner I have plenty of time to get more practice games in and maybe someday even be as good as Master Colman! (yeah right)
Also as a bonus, I took home Best Painted! So many wonderful forces there including Andrew’s all-mounted Harad, Andreas’ red Gondor force and Eric’s four-clan Khand chariots.