Thursday, February 22, 2018

Consider the Solid Base Miniature... aka Chaos Goblin Mutants part II

Here are the final five C27 Chaos Goblin Mutants produced by Citadel and sculpted by the Perry Twins in 1984 (I profiled the first five miniatures in my last post).

One of the reasons these are such engaging sculpts is because they are made in the old style, with solid bases that are part of the miniature and sit flat on the table. These are sometimes called integral bases or broccoli bases. But whatever you call them, they are the mark of a truly vintage Citadel miniature. It was in 1985 that Citadel permanently transitioned away from solid base miniatures in favour of slotta-base miniatures (which, of course, have a tab on the bottom that slots into a separate plastic base).

I suppose you wouldn't know on first glance that my Chaos Goblin Mutants are solid base, since I've mounted mine on 20mm bases so that they'll blend in with the rest of my collection. But to my eye, they have an unmistakably solid-base feel: a rounded, three-dimensional quality that stands in distinction to the flat style of sculpting that accompanies many slotta base miniatures. This flatness arises from the fact that the sculptor has to work within the constraints of the mold. Since the mold is chiefly occupied by the long, lateral span of the miniature's slot, the rest of the model has to follow that line.

Now before you reach for your pitchforks and torches in order to run the slotta base out of the village, remember all the good things it has done for us. In fact, the case for the slotta base was first made in the pages of The Citadel Journal Spring 85, where Citadel introduced the change. The Journal points out that there are several advantages to slotta bases. First, they save a lot of metal, which should make the miniatures cheaper. Well, perhaps, but the consumer never noticed these savings. For example, the costs of a single solid-base Citadel wizard in 1984 was 40p, whereas in 1985 a slotta-base wizard would run you 60p. But, money aside, there are technical advantages to slotta sculpting. As The Journal said:
...freeing the model from the base allows are sculptors to use a whole new range of positions and other features. Having an integral base on the miniature has always imposed certain restrictions about the way the arms could be positioned, for example, whilst cloaks had always to be modelled so that they reached the ground.
You can see some of the drawbacks of solid-base miniatures in my own Goblin Mutants. For example, the wings of the Winged Goblin are joined to the ground in a single mass. So I accept that slotta bases freed us from the compact, trunk-like designs of the solid base. But slottas also imposed a new tyranny: laterally designed miniatures where all the limbs spread along the axis of the underlying slot. The best miniature designs transcended the limitations of slotta-sculpting, but many mediocre designs did not (ahem, cough, cough, Marauder Miniatures).

So what do you think: Slotta or solid? CDs or vinyl? Scotch or bourbon? Well, as you're mulling that over, here are the Chaos Goblin Mutants...

Wings, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

Above is C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant "Wings" or "Wingback" (depending on the advert). I love the devilish details: the cloven hooves, the horns and the evil expression.

Hopper, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

Here is "Hopper". Not to be confused with the sheriff of Hawkins, Indiana.

Beast, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

Here is "Beast", not to be confused with the X-man, the lover of "Beauty", the trojan horse, the novel by Peter Benchley, the novel by John Crowley, the novel by Ally Kennen, the South Korean boy band, the British sit-com or the villain from He-Man, Master of the Universe.

Long Neck, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

Above we have the mutant "Long Neck". I'll give you three guesses what his mutation is.

Plague, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

And finally, my very favourite, the runt of the litter... here is "Plague". I always relish an opportunity to paint eczema

Thanks for looking!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Chaos Goblin Mutants part I

The C27 Chaos Goblin Mutants were sculpted for Citadel by Alan and Michael Perry in 1984.  They are ten solid-base models, each with a splendid sense of character. Sadly, it's an underappreciated range -- perhaps owing to the fact that they weren't originally designed for Warhammer at all, but rather for role-playing games. That's certainly what the advert for them in the Second Citadel Compendium (1984) suggests:
"Mutated monstrosities of vile appearance, should be enough to surprise even the most zoologically aware adventurers."
And scholars of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay know that there's a three-legged mutant goblin in a circus freak-show ("Doctor Malthusius' Zoocopeia")in Shadows over Bogenhafen (1987). In fact, this scrawny and unfortunate gobbo plays an important part in kicking off the action when he makes a break for freedom. After that, Mutant goblins did make a couple sneaky appearances in Warhammer Fantasy Battle. We see a two-headed fellow getting trepanned on the cover of the Orange Bible, i.e. Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd edition (1987):

Notwithstanding this star-billing, Mutant Goblins barely made it into the game itself. They snuck into Warhammer Armies (1988), but only as an afterthought in the Chaos Ally Contingent. And after that, they sunk from the rules. 

I guess they really are "scorned outcasts", as per the description in the box above. Well, I like my outcasts scorned, my creatures unwholesome and my whims heeded. Let's take a look at these blighters!

Spiky Shaman, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

First up is the C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant "Spiky Shaman". Undoubtedly, it was this evil-eyed albino that first brought the Chaos taint on his goblin tribe. Because he craved personal power (or perhaps because his clan was seen by the neighbouring orc tribes as a delicacy), he turned to worshiping the Ruinous Powers. They next thing you know, there are spikes growing out of your back and people start calling you "sir".

Twins, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

Above we see "Twins". I tried to give each of his faces a distinct personality. To me, they look a little like Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau from the Odd Couple (1968).

Mace-tail, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

Here is "Mace-tail". His friends call him that because he has a mace for a tail. Goblins are very literal minded folks. I like this model's tusk like teeth. It's details like that that make this range so much fun.

Horns, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

Above is "Horns". I'm no great shakes at free-hand painting, but I did enjoy giving him and his friends a simple chaos symbol ("The Arrows of Chaos"). This particular miniature was beginning to get some lead-rot when I painted him, giving the final product a pebbly-texture. I hope he doesn't decay further now that he's safely entombed in a few layers of acrylic and varnish.

Three Eyes, Citadel C27 Chaos Goblin Mutant, sculpted by the Perry Bros, 1984

And our final miniature today is one of my favourites, "Three-Eyes". Besides the third eye, I love the skull-like face that the Perrys gave him -- no to mention his skulking demeanour.

Well, I hope this was enough to surprise even the most zoologically aware adventurers. Next week we'll look at the last five miniatures in the range. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the work of other painters who have tackled these mutants, like JiNNai and Goblin Lee and Don Hans.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Emperor Palpatine, Ahsoka and Maul

Here are my painted versions of the latest three miniatures released for Star Wars Imperial Assault: Emperor Palpatine, Ahsoka Tano and Maul. 

I can feel my enthusiasm for Imperial Assault dying a little bit more each day. When it first came out in 2014, I couldn't have been more excited. Star Wars was finally getting the deluxe war-game treatment: good sculpting, innovative rules, and the support of a tried-and-true gaming company in Fantasy Flight Games. I invested a lot of time, energy and love into collecting, painting and converting the miniatures.

It quickly became evident that the situation wasn't perfect. The miniatures were made out of cheaper, bendier plastic. The game play focused on unknown Rebel characters rather than the beloved heroes from the movies or TV shows. And new figures arrived at a glacial pace, leaving lots of holes in the cast (In fact, because Imperial Assault coincides with a raft of new movies and TV shows, charismatic new characters appear in the Star Wars universe much faster than the sculptors sculpt. As a result, with every year that goes by, there's a bigger deficit of miniatures. It reminds me of Tristram Shandy, who wrote his autobiography at a slower rate than he lived his life, so that the longer he lived, the further behind he lagged in his writing).

Underlying all of these problems is Fantasy Flight Games' rigid approach to gaming. They keep each miniature closely bonded to the rules, with character specific cards and counters. Miniature development is slow because the miniatures are subordinate to games development. 

But, even with these downsides, Imperial Assault seemed worth the investment -- especially since it was the only game in town if you wanted to paint a lot of Star Wars miniatures. But Fantasy Flight Games has just continued to disappoint me, and now I feel pretty listless about the whole thing. The quality of miniature became inconsistent. And the slow pace of new releases stuttered to almost nothing in the past year. For instance, the only character from the original trilogy released in 2017 was Emperor Palpatine.

And then Fantasy Flight Games announced that they were producing a new Star Wars war-game with better quality miniatures. Star Wars Legion should have been excellent news. Thirty years ago, Games Workshop showed how much fun it can be when a company releases many different games set in the same general universe. The hobbyist's opportunities for creativity multiply as he or she re-purposes, converts and assembles miniatures in various combinations. Mutually complementary games means more miniatures, more variety, and more reward for the miniature painter (who can paint one miniature and then use it in two, three, or four games). And so, at first, I thought that Star Wars Legions was the answer to many of the problems be-deviling Imperial Assault.

Nope. Fantasy Flight Games decided that they would make Legions in a slightly different scale than Imperial Assault. They are just different enough that setting miniatures from the two games together looks awkward and silly. The message was clear: There is only one way to enjoy our products: in silos. 

That, of course, is their prerogative. But that's where I check out. I like this hobby because painting gives me a sense of freedom and plenitude. I feel like a rich man when I paint a Skaven and can then use him for Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Advanced Heroquest  and Mordheim (not to mention D&D, Descent, Frostgrave or any number of generic fantasy games). That a gaming company would do its best to foil that sort of fun seems sad. More to be pitied than scorned.

So I just don't know what more I'll paint in the Imperial Assault range. I guess I'll just play it by ear. But, to quote Catullus, my love for the game has cacked it, uelut pratiultimi flos, praetereunte postquam tactus aratro est.

Emperor Palpatine, painted miniature sculpted by Niklas Norman, 2017

For all my whinging, I did enjoy painting Palpatine. I love his face, with its bluish pancake make-up, red-rimmed eyes and yellow teeth. Jeepers, the man rules an entire galactic empire but can't find a dentist. The sculptor, Niklas Norman, created an ambiguous expression that a painter can pull into a grimace or smile. I went for the smile. I always thought that Palpatine was a hundred times creepier when he looked happy.

Ahsoka Tano, painted miniature sculpted by Adam Martin, 2017

Above we have Ahsoka Tano, the erstwhile Jedi from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. I'm pleased that the sculptor, Adam Martin, opted to give her more realistic features, rather than giving her a cartoon-like proportions that mirror her appearance on the animated shows (In contradistinction, see the miniature for Hera Syndulla -- her sculptor, Gabriel Comin, made her look much too much like an animated cartoon).

Ahsoka Tano, painted miniature sculpted by Adam Martin, 2017

In general, Ahsoka is a lovely miniature, with a dynamic pose and good detail. I did, however, have to replace her bendy-lightsabers with copper wire.

Maul, painted miniature sculpted by Cory DeVore, 2017

Above is the miniature for "Maul, Seeker of Vengeance". He's sculpted by Cory DeVore, which means that each of the three miniatures in this post had different sculptors. There are so many different sculptors in Imperial Assault that there's no consistency and you never know what you're going to get. And what we got here is an awkward and unimpressive pose: bum thrust out, arms extended, torso tilted. Get this man a chiropractor. I honestly don't know how you screw up Darth Maul, who's such a naturally terrifying figure... but somehow they managed to do it.

Oh Imperial Assault, you break my heart.