Thursday, August 11, 2022

The War Monster


War Monster for Saga Age of Magic painted miniature

I've always wanted to model a War Monster and last January I finally did it.

The incitement for this project was reading Saga: Age of Magic (2019) by Alex Buchel and Fred Machu. Saga has been one of my favourite rule-sets since the first edition sprung on our hobby in 2011. Age of Magic adapts the second edition for fantasy skirmish games. One of the strengths of the book is that the authors give their imagination free reign when it comes to units: besides great dragons and giants, there are rules for fielding the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse or Hern's Wild Hunt. But most intriguing for me were the rules for one gigantic beast who swarms with drivers, archers, and crew. I was hooked by the requisite dimensions for the model: a base between 8 and 12 inches long. Since Saga games usually occur on a 3x4 foot board, this single miniature would occupy a huge part of the available real-estate. A real monster!

Rules from Saga: The Age of Magic (2019)

Of course, it wasn't Saga that first gave me the idea for the great beast. One of my favourite books when I was a small child was Steven Kellogg's The Wicked Kings of Bloon (1970). This priceless gem of a book features two obnoxious brothers who go to war with each other by arming and armoring great dinosaur-like monsters. The brothers' struggle for domination is brought to an abrupt end when their dinosaurs decide that they'd rather cuddle than fight:

Illustration by Steven Kellogg from The Wicked Kings of Bloon (1970)

And then, of course, there's White Dwarf #100 (April 1988). This special anniversary edition featured the work of the German modeler Michael Immig, whose incredible dioramas captured the attention of John Blanche when they met in Hamburg. Michael's "Fighting Dinosaur" is more than a model - more than even a work of art. It is a shamanistic fetish constructed out of chestnut shells, mouse bones, old buttons and fir cones (not to mention an Airfix Brontosaurus and innumerable Citadel miniatures).

White Dwarf #100
I could never emulate the complexity and beauty of the "Fighting Dinosaur". But I did take from it the idea that a great beast's howdah should be a ship-like construction, complete with look-out tower and different decks.

Ultimately, I decided to do something simple. I wanted a model that could be used for different settings: an orcish beast for Saga, a piece of moving scenery in Warhammer 40K, an exotic adversary for Star Wars skirmish games.

To ensure a variety of different miniatures could stand (or even fight) on the howdah, I tried to make it broad and easily accessible, without many railings, walls and other accessories that might get in the way. I didn't want a diorama so much as a functional model.

The beast itself in a plastic dinosaur from Amazon. I added a few choice details with greenstuff and brass chain, and then primed him black. The painting was dead simple: I brought out the colour with successive layers of drybrushing over his rough scales. 

The howdah is an amalgamation of balsa wood and popsicle sticks welded together with industrial quantities of superglue and greenstuff. I think I could sit on it and it wouldn't snap.

Overall, I'm pleased with the results, especially when it's loaded down with Krapfang's Orcs.

Painted miniature War Monster for Saga Age of Magic

Now I just need to see how it plays in a game of Saga...

Wednesday, August 3, 2022


For those of you who might be interested in my other writings, I recently had a couple articles published in Watkins Mind, Spirit, Body Magazine

My print article on Zen koans is available in the Summer 2022 issue (pictured above). Who would have guessed I'd ever share a table of contents with Lady Gaga?

And there is another article (with no paywall) on the Watkins website about my dad's death last summer.

It's a real honour to be published in Watkins. The magazine grew out of Watkins Books, which is the oldest esoteric bookstore in London (and one of the oldest in the world) - being founded in 1897 by a friend of the theosophist Madam Blavatsky.

If you're curious about my writings about meditation and Buddhism, my author's website is

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The First Eldar Miniatures in WH40K Rogue Trader: Part 3

I hope you enjoyed last week's guest post by Geriatricus Maximus. I didn't. What a grouch. 

For the final installment of my tour through the RTO4 range of original Space Elves, I thought I'd start by taking a look at some of the other fabulous painters who have tackled the range before. Honestly, I found it intimidating to try to paint these miniatures precisely because there are so many talented people who have turned their hand to them and produced stellar results:

Illustration of Yriel from
The Book of the Astronomicon (1987)

  • The first stop on our tour must be Dave Perry's Eldar. Steve Casey at Eldritch Epistles did a huge service to the hobby by presenting Dave's work in a series of stunning posts. Dave was a member of Games Workshop's Design Studio and 'Eavy Metal team. His Eldar (to quote Steve Casey) are "an absolute riot of yellow". I could stare at them all day. They are the Van Gogh sunflowers of the Warhammer world.
  • As a lovely contrast, take a look at the "Starry Night" Eldar painted by Frank J. and posted to DakkaDakka.
  • Another treasure captured by Steve at Eldritch Epistles is a handful of Eldar from Bryan Ansell's personal collection. They demonstrate the incredible variety of colour schemes that the Eldar attracted even from their earliest days.
  • I'm quite partial to Subedai's Eldar at The Lost and the Damned. He used a cool palette that catches the eye, and his work on the helmet markings is exquisite.
  • I also enjoyed the Eldar painted by Dutch Law at Berman Blog. Orange and teal is a striking combination of colours. And the strange effect is enhanced by the alien pallour he gives to those without helmets.
When it came to painting my own Space Elves, I decided to go classic: blue bodies and yellow helms with black stripes. I suppose it might be too classic. But I was seduced by the miniatures glimpsed in the pages of Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1987), as well as by the profile of Yriel and Yriel's Eldritch Raiders from The Book of the Astronomicon (1988). If I was going to paint the original Eldar, I wanted them to look like the original Eldar.

*   *   *   *   *

First up is "Eoan Fireheart". He differs from all the other miniatures in the range (save for the heavy gunners) insofar that his armour is bulkier, curvier and more bulbous. I like the way he has removed his helmet but the lower breather mask has stayed attached to this face.

Eoan Fireheart RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Next comes "Capt. Aetolia Lightfoot". This is one of my favourite sculpts in the range: it looks great from every angle. As I've mentioned before, I love the way that it's hard to tell where the armour ends and the weaponry begins.

Captain Aetolia Lightfoot RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Third is "Ceido Sharpeye". Although this is a simple pose, I find it compelling: the couched shuriken catapult conveys caution and watchfulness.

Ceido Sharpeye RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

And finally, the last in the RTO4 range is "Kern Proudbrow". The languid but aggressive pose is 100% Eldar awesomeness. Thanks Jes Goodwin for giving us such amazing miniatures!

Kern Proudbrow RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

If you know of any other great paintjobs for these miniatures, please share in the comments. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The First Eldar Miniatures: Part 2 - Geriatricus speaks!

Back in my day, we didn't have "Aeldari" or "Asuryani" or even "Eldar". Hear that? Not even Eldar. We had SPACE ELVES. And that was good enough for us. Just plain old Space Elves. We didn't need fancypants names stolen from the glossary in the Silmarillion. That's because we had guts. We got by with nothing but Elves. In space. With shuriken catapults.

Original Jes Goodwin Eldar Space Elves 1987 painted

There were no good elves and bad elves. There were just elves. Sometimes they helped you and sometimes they raided your homeworld and incinerated your family. But we didn't bellyache about it or go around calling them "Drukhari" or nuthin'. What a bunch of lightweights you guys are. When a bee stings you on your knuckle, is it a Dark Bee? Was it seduced by Slannesh? Yeah - that's what I thought. Go make a Tic Tac video about it.

Aspect Warriors? Just keep talking, Einstein. Ask a proper Space Elf about their aspect, and before you can say "Jiminy Cricket", you'll find a pointy chainmail slipper lodged three feet up your intestinal tract.

And for Chrissakes, don't call them "Guardians". Our Space Elves didn't guard shit. They were mercenaries. Or pirates. Or bounty hunters. If you want a guardian, read the newspaper and stop bothering me.

So now you understand. In the good old days, we didn't have rap music. We had precisely one record, and it wasn't even a record. It was a 7" flexi disc of Sabbat playing Blood for the Blood God. We'd play it over and over again while talking about how AWESOME the SPACE ELVES were and how they'd certainly kick the ass of every other army in the 40K universe if only their stats were better.



This is the second installment of my tour through the original RTO4 range of twelve Eldar, er, Space Elves. Our first miniature is "Alesia Wildfire". Like many of these Space Elves, he or she is pleasantly gender non-specific (and armed to the teeth).

Alesia Wildfire RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Next is "Cmmr. Inghen Keentongue". It's not clear what "Cmmr." is abbreviating. Commander? Commodore? Centimeter Mister?

Cmmr. Inghen Keentongue RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Third we have "Caetra Darkflight", who demonstrates the correct way to shoot from the hip. Knowledgeable readers informed me in the comments on last week's post that Caetra is carrying a laspistol (at least according to the Citadel Miniatures Blue Catalogue). I don't know about you, but that seems pretty big for a laspistol.

Caetra Darkflight RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Our last miniature today is "Irbic Trueshot". This is a lovely sculpt that showcases the organic lines of the original Eldar. I mean Space Elves.

Irbic Trueshot RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Thanks for dropping by - next week, we'll finish off the RTO4 range!

Friday, July 1, 2022

The First Eldar Miniatures in WH40K Rogue Trader

Original Eldar first Space Elf miniatures

The first Eldar miniatures were sculpted by Jes Goodwin and released by Citadel in September 1987. There were twelve models in the range, which was labeled RTO4 Space Elves and later renumbered to RT401.They're an astounding achievement of design: The peaked helms, the organic lines and the heavy armament! In one fell swoop, they made "space elves" an instantly recognizable race while also highlighting the newness and strangeness of their values.

Illustration by Tony Hough (1987)
The genius of WH40K Rogue Trader was that it accomplished two different things at the same time. On the one hand, it shamelessly borrowed concepts, tropes, characters and conflicts from pre-existing settings. All these stolen goods gave Rogue Trader a welcoming familiarity. We recognized parts of Star Wars (armoured space troopers, a frail and psychic emperor, laser swords) or Dune (navigators, personal shields, assassins). We especially recognized the main races, because they were lifted en masse from Tolkien.

But on the other hand, Rogue Trader did a wonderful job of defamiliarizing the borrowed elements by giving them a twist. And nowhere was this twist more potent than with the Space Elves.

The Space Elves of the Rogue Trader universe were not the benevolent nature-lovers of The Lord of the Rings. Rather, they straddle good and evil. Their capacity for malice didn't fracture them into two different races (like the High Elves and the Dark Elves of Warhammer Fantasy). In this sense, the original Eldar resemble humans: both races are capable of moral ambiguity. Unlike humans, they seem to be motivated by boredom more than greed. As the Rogue Trader rulebook tells us, the Eldar trade, adventure, and fight "simply as entertainment":

For many Eldar the peaceful, idyllic monotony of the craft-worlds becomes so dull and uninspiring that they are driven to associate with other, younger and more hot-blooded races. Aside from the traders and merchants, there are some Eldar who throw themselves wholeheartedly into alien society, becoming adventurers or mercenaries... The most famous, or rather infamous, mercenaries are composed of renegades from Eldar society; the psychotic, the malcontent, murderous or evil...

Both the Rogue Trader rulebook and the Book of the Astronomicon (1988) make it clear that most of the Space Elves appearing on the gaming table are either pirates, raiders, or mercenaries. These are not the guardians of craft-worlds, but a wild bunch of killers.

Well, enough talk - let's look at the miniatures! Here are the first four from the RTO4 range of Space Elves...

First is "Aedui Starborn". A simple, classic design. An early sign that Space Elves are badasses is that he (and many of his colleagues) are armed to the teeth with two guns. The crossbow design in the shuriken catapult recalls the Eldar's origins in fantasy settings.

Aedui Starborn RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Second we have "Belgae Strongwill". Why bring a rifle when you can carry a vehicular laser cannon?

Belgae Strongwill RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

"Gaedhil Quickshadow" is next. If you can tell me what weapon he (or she?) is carrying in the left hand, please leave a comment. I see that weapon all over the place in early Rogue Trader minis, but I've never been sure whether it is a shotgun or a lasgun.

Gaedhil Quickshadow RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

And finally, here is "Sgt. Mael Nightwing". I am particularly fond of this miniature because of the strange way that the casing for the weapon blends into his (or her?) gauntlet. It's a subtle touch that you see in a lot of these early Eldar sculpts: a melding of implements into armour. 

Sgt. Mael Nightwing RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Stay tuned for more of the original Eldar next week!

Happy Canada Day!

Friday, June 24, 2022

Where Did Oldenhammer in Toronto Go?

Attentive readers will have noticed that there was (another) gap of a year during which Oldenhammer-in-Toronto went silent. That's because I am incapable of chewing gum and walking at the same time. To be precise, I am incapable of working on two pieces of writing at the same time. And in the last year, I've had some urgent writing projects that got in the way of my beloved blog.

The good news is that these projects are (1) finished and (2) went pretty well.

My first book was published last November: The Garden of Flowers and Weeds: A New Translation and Commentary on the Blue Cliff Record. This is a book about Zen and meditation. It's based on one of the great works of medieval Buddhist literature, called "The Blue Cliff Record". It might sound dry, but the Record is actually a pretty funny book. There's a lot of absurdist humor (and even a couple fart jokes). Translating the book and adding my own commentary was one of the most delightful tasks of my life. 

I have no idea how sales are going, but I suspect they're pretty modest. On the upside, the book has been received well by critics. In the past few months, The Garden of Flowers and Weeds won a Gold Nautilus Award, a top prize from Bookfest's International Book Awards, a Bronze Independent Book Publishers Award, and a Silver Benjamin Franklin Prize. Honestly, that's more praise then I could have ever wished for or expected.

If you want to support a brother, please consider buying the book!

I only have one regret. Before I had found a publisher, I asked Zhu Bajiee, the fabulous illustrator and grandee of the Oldhammer movement, if I could commission him to create some illustrations from the stories of the Blue Cliff Record.

Zhu produced a series of superb pen and ink drawings. I think they might have been his best work, and that is saying something. I had really hoped that my publisher would use the illustrations in the published text, but it was not to be. This was a crying shame. However, at least I got to share Zhu's work on my website.

As the book was going to press, another writing project got in the way of this blog. My friend Nathan is a filmmaker, and he asked me to write a full-length script for a Cthulhu-adjacent movie. Our previous collaboration was a short animated film called The Ikon (2019) that premiered at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. I've never written a full-length script, so it took me many months to complete. The movie is party about non-Euclidean horror and partly about the more common horror of caring for an aging parent. Stay tuned for more information about a movie tentatively called The House on Clareview.

Still from The Ikon (2019) © Nathan Saliwonchyk

And then, of course, there was Covid. I don't think anyone had a good pandemic, although some were much, much worse than others. I experienced what I think a lot of you did: a grinding sense of anxiety and stasis as the pandemic stretched into indefinitude. I will add that during the past two years, I sustained some grievous personal losses, although (thankfully) none of them were directly related to the virus. As the dust settles, I'm grateful that I and Mrs. Oldenhammer-in-Toronto have made it out in one piece. And we now have a beautiful puppy:

I hope you're in one piece too. Thanks for reading and letting me update you on what's been going on while the blog has been quiet. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The First Rogue Trader Miniatures: Part 3

This is the third post dedicated to Citadel's first Warhammer 40K miniatures. I, of course, am not the first Oldhammer fan to take up the challenge of painting the rare miniatures in the RT1 range, and I'd like to pay some tribute to those who inspired me.

There are at least three others who have painted the full set of 14 miniatures:

  • In 2018, Jason Fulford at Rogue Heresy completed the range and presented his superb work. I love his imaginative colour choices and the way he paints faces. My particular favourite is his rendition of the "Ground Combat Trooper" (aka Abbadon). The blue-glass faceplate is a masterstroke.
  • Goblin Lee finished his set in 2015. His work nails the authentic feeling of Rogue Trader. Highlights for me include his "Dark Elf Space Trooper" and the "Imperial Bodyguard" (get a load of those pants!).
  • Giuseppe Chiafele's work on this range is archived at the Stuff of Legends. If you haven't seen it before, take a long look! Giuseppe is a professional and it really shows. I very much like the way he painted all the Imperial Troopers with the same colour scheme -- it's a nice change from the mercenary mishmash that I (and most other painters) employ when tackling the range. I wish I knew whether Giuseppe did these minis on commission or whether it's from his personal collection.
  • Then, there's Axion's work at Magpie and Old Lead. I don't think he's done the complete range, but some of his work on individual models is not-to-be-missed. Check out his exquisite work on the "Piscean Warrior" or the "Space Goblin".
  • Finally, check out Dave Stone's version of the "Piscean Warrior" - a strange, deep-sea paintjob that I just love.
Now to my own work. Here are the last five miniatures from the RT1 range...

First is the "Pirate". As I've mentioned before, this is a reworking of "Cedric", a fantasy C01 Fighter from 1986. Both were sculpted by Bob Naismith. Personally, I'm sad there weren't more adaptations from the fantasy line to Rogue Trader - it adds a Buck Rogers-esque flavour to things. I really love this miniature for the dynamic pose and quirky details.

Space Pirate RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

And now the original Space Elf: the "Dark Elf Space Trooper". This miniature is like a piece of concept art showing the first rough ideas for the Eldar. With the small head, huge backpack, and narrow legs, he (or she?) resembles a hornet. I took the trouble of creating a triple view of this miniature because it's hard to capture the strange dimensions of the sculpt by Bob Naismith. Although it is flawed, I wish there had been other miniatures made in this line so that the ideas could have been developed more fully. In the event, responsibility for the Space Elves was taken from the veteran Naismith and given to fledgling sculptor Jes Goodwin because the management at Games Workshop thought that Space Elves wouldn't sell.

Dark Elf Space Trooper RT1 1987 Citadel First Eldar miniature

The "Imperial Heavy Trooper" would later become "Faststar John" in the RT7 range of Mercenaries. He's another sculpt by Bob Naismith. I've got a deep personal attachment to this miniature because it was one of the first painted Rogue Trader miniatures I ever owned as a kid. My older brother painted him. He gave him to me after I agreed to go out and buy him some fried chicken.

Imperial Heavy Trooper RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

The hits keep on coming! We've already had the first Space Elf, and now we get the first Space Ork miniature -- known in this range as "Space Orc with Blaster". At this early stage of the game, not only were Orks simply called Orcs, but Bolters were called Blasters. Space Orks wouldn't deviate too far from this original mold -- the mishmash of gear, the spikey helmet, the heavy boots and the metal shoulder-pads all started here. (I'm giving you a triple view so you can catch all the orky details).

Space Orc with Blaster RT1 1987 Citadel First Space Ork miniature

And finally, the last miniature in the range: the "Imperial Heavy Infantry", also known as "Space-Dout Sam" in the RT7 Mercenary range. I'm lukewarm on both this miniature and my paintjob. In another sign that this was very early days in the world of Warhammer 40K, he appears to be carrying an M16.

Imperial Heavy Infantry RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

If you know of anyone else who has tackled some of these miniatures, please post about it in the comments. I'd love to see some other versions. Thanks!