Saturday, October 1, 2016

More News! (Alliance trolls, Caesar orcs, mystery Strelets)

Here are a few quick news items to complement my last news post. First, Alliance released previews of their first troll set.

This earlier preview shows that these will be large enough for scales larger than 1/72. They look pretty good, plus 8 large minis for less than the $15 Alliance sets tend to retail for is a really good deal! Now we just need to wait for images of the "balrogs" they promised.

Second! Caesar released these preview shots of their next orc set.

Via Michigan Toy Soldiers.
The heavy blacklining makes the detail look a little exaggerated, but I think these are compatible with Caesar's now sort-of classic set (which now seems OOP). Pretty nifty! The old set was heavy on the primitive-looking orcs; these aren't exactly civilized, but seem to be a better mix of armored and unarmored. Note the chieftan/shaman dude in front.

Last bit of news: As noted in this forum thread, Strelets has a new "campaign" (i.e. historical era) listed on their site. This one is mysteriously called, er, "Mystery." There's nothing there currently, but such a heading invites speculation. The aforementioned thread suggests Strelets may be jumping into fantasy or some other non-historical genre, which seems like a natural conclusion. Of course we'll have to see, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

New Alliance minis!

We've been awaiting these sets for a while, but Redbox just recently put up previews of many of their new sets. Check out the new "Modern Amazons" and "Cimmerians."

The "Modern" part seems to simply mean the opposite of "Ancient" or "Hellenistic," as these have a more generic look that Alliance's previous Amazons. I had half a notion that "Modern" might mean something like "appealing to more modern, edified ideas about women in fantasy;" I think it's safe to say that's not the direction Red Box took the line. These are still pretty heavy on the cheesy, chainmail bikini side of things.

But let's look at the figures:

It's always hard to tell with the low-contrast red that Alliance uses for their preview shots, but the figures are certainly consistent with the battle-stripper look of the box art. They don't seem too egregious, though, and may be adaptable for more sanely dressed female fighters. And I can see that this previewed, super-sensible figure is in the middle of the bottom row of the first set, so maybe they won't be so bad. But I'm not really thinking too much about that now, because holy smoke, unicorns! That's right, the cool Amazon mounts that were previewed ages ago have materialized, and they're more bizarre and wonderful than I expected. Stags! Felines! A gorram dinosaur, for goodness sakes! Here's hoping Redbox puts out an "Amazon mounts" or "Exotic mounts" set, similar to their wargs set. It could see a lot of use for all kinds of modeling beyond fantasy mounts.

Let's move on to the "Cimmerians," Howard-inspired barbarians with a definite Chaos look to them:

The box are features a generous gamut of barbarian archetypes, from bare-chested Conans to horsey steppelords to the bundled-up Viking type in the middle. The figures are similarly variegated.

Two foot sets, unlike just one for the Amazons, presumably because they've already released an Amazon foot set. Again, a mix of shirts and skins here: I actually like this, since more variety means more use from a single set, but they'd certainly make a ragtag unit! Also, lots of horns, spikes, and oversized weapons, perfect for fantasy Chaos warriors. Note the shaman-guy in the bottom left of Set 2.


Normal mounts this time, though unsaddled. Again, pointy bits and crazy arms galore.

So far I like these. The Cimmerians could see a lot of uses in fantasy gaming. The Amazons disappointingly seem once again to be a little heavy on the cheesecake, but the crazy mounts make up for it. I haven't seen them available on Hannants yet, but I look forward to it!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Guards and Bandits and Bondic

No I'm not dead, real life vs. hobby time, etc. Let's move on:

I finally got a chance to take some pics of my next project, these bandits and guards.

The bandits are a mix of Hat's reissued Airfix "Robin Hood" figures and Zvezda's medieval peasant levy. The guards are mostly Caesar medieval soldiers, with a couple Accurate knights (acquired in a trade with Mike) thrown in. Most are out of the box, but I indulged in a few mods.

Fantasy guards are often depicted with polearms and crossbows for some reason, so I tried to select the Caesar figures that were so armed. This only left a few available poses. The answer: headswaps, plus some knifework to remove scabbards and the like for variety.

The bandits didn't need as many mods, but some of them that would otherwise have been wielding scythes and similar peasant weapons got armswaps (a scythe-wielding bandit seemed very strange!). Here you can see my new fascination in use. Normally when doing mods like this, I'd use wood glue to fill any gaps. But lately I've been experimenting with a newish product called Bondic, and I'm pretty happy with it.
Bondic is a non-adhesive bonding agent that's sort of magical. It's a solution with various plastic elements as the solutes. These plastics tend to form a solid, except the solution prevents them from doing so almost indefinitely. Zap the liquid with a UV light (the orange device in the pic above) after applying it with the pen-like tip, though, and the solvent evaporates. [edit: I didn't have this exactly right. See my comment below] The result is a solid mass of plastic in about four seconds where there once was a liquid. Magic!

I've found all sorts of household applications for the stuff, but the relevant use is for filling gaps in modded figures.

I also made up this bard-type figure, using an Imex pioneer figure for the torso (Sean did something similar, but I can't find the post right now).

You can perhaps see that the gaps around the arms of the gray Zvezda figures have some clear plastic around them. The base of the tan Hat fig also has some to fill the visible part of the hole in the washer I used as a base. That's the cured Bondic in use. The big advantage Bondic has over glue for this sort of thing is ease of control: you can add as little as you need, it tends to flow into crevices, and you can always build up applications if you need more. It's also a lot more durable than glue, as it's solid plastic. Just remember that it can't be used to glue things together like adhesive, but for filling visible gaps it's hard to beat.

I also took some shots after priming, just so you can see how it looks painted. No gaps!

I'm still in the middle of a big freelance job, but hopefully I'll have more time to work on figures soon. Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Using "Magic Water"

Hey all, before we begin, I thought I'd officially announce something a few of you have already noticed: I've spun off Heartbreaker to its own blog. Now I've got a place all on its own to share my quite unqualified thoughts on RPG design and homebrewing. I've already got a firecracker of a screed posted by way of introduction, followed soon by some hopefully more measured thoughts. I've got a link on the sidebar, so you can always see when there are new posts just by visiting this page. Or feel free to follow the new blog!

Today's topic: water. As though two hobbies weren't enough, my dad and I have started to build a model railroad. Ostensibly it's for my son, but let's not fool ourselves: this is a hobby at least as much for the adults as for the kid. We actually were model railroaders when I was growing up, and in fact my love of figure painting comes from painting HO scale Preiser people for our layouts. Anyway, this time we're trying a few things we've never tried before, including modeling water. Prudently I decided to make a little diorama to give making water a go, and it occurred to me that miniaturists and wargame terrain makers who read this blog might get something out of my experiment.

The key product is Magic Water, a two-part resin specifically designed to model water. I bought my package at a local hobby shop, and you can also order direct from the manufacturer. It's $35 for the regular size (a smaller size is available for miniaturists), and the guy who makes it is the only distributor, so you aren't going to find a lot of discounts. But it won't shrink or yellow, dries clear, and doesn't eat styrofoam, which makes it superior to similar two-part resin products.

So here's how it went:

If you're wondering about the white ridge in the middle, that's my bad attempt at modeling rapids; more on that later. You can see that the rest does indeed dry clear and looks very wet and watery.

I made a 1 foot square base out of two layers of extruded styrofoam. I used a box cutter and a dull breadknife to cut the foam and shape the terrain before gluing the two layers together. I used joint compound to seal everything; this was a misadventure, as the compound had gone bad, something that I didn't realize could happen. So you know, if joint compound smells like rotten eggs, don't use it, and throw it out right away! In addition to being gross and perhaps dangerously unhygienic, this wasn't even entirely necessary, but at the time I didn't realize Magic Water wouldn't eat foam. It did serve the purpose of sealing the gap between layers, something that a bead of clear caulk would also accomplish. This is necessary because Magic Water is very devious about finding any gap or cranny to flow into while it cures.

This photo show how profound the illusion of depth can be with this product, as the layer of Magic Water is only a few millimeters thick. I painted the shore and part of the riverbed brown and used black for the rest, blending together the two colors along the outer edge. This does a good job of simulating shallow water near the banks and deeper water in the middle of the river.

I mixed the two parts together in a disposable cup as per instructions. Mixing is pretty tedious; the instructions say to mix three times, five minutes at a time. I dammed the edges of the river with green painters tape (which turned out to be wholly inadequate; next time I'm using perforated metal plates and clear caulk. Be sure to do your pour over some kind of drop cloth in case of leaks!). I then poured along the the middle. Magic Water is self-leveling, so you don't need to do anything to spread it around; in fact you should ensure that your pour surface is completely level so it doesn't pool. You may see some bubbles; I believe the instructions say these will pop on their own, but you can also pop them by blowing on them gently with a straw while the resin is still liquid.

The instructions say the resin will cure completely in 24 hours at 70˚ F. My setup was in a basement near a door during a spate of somewhat chilly weather, so it took more than twice that time. Do wait at least 24 hours before seeing if it cured, and use a toothpick or other fine instrument to test it. Fully cured Magic Water is totally hard and not at all sticky, and you don't want to handle it before it cures lest you leave fingerprints.

Magic Water resembles clear, still water when it cures. I experimented with stippling some clear acrylic gel to create some ripples. The effect isn't too bad for a first try but could be more natural. Apparently you can create some larger wave effects with these resin products by blowing with a straw around 8 hours into the cure time, as shown in this helpful video. I also tried modeling larger rapid waves with the acrylic gel, but unlike the ripples it never dried clear. I probably should have used smaller layers instead of one big glob of the stuff.

Messing with the acrylic gel left some unsightly brushmarks on the Magic Water. Fortunately I was able to erase them with a layer of Future Shine, as this admittedly obscure photo hopefully shows. You can see those brushmarks on the right; on the left they have been removed. The Future Shine does leave a sort of border, so you may have to cover a lot of water surface for a realistic effect.

Mini figure posts coming soon, as well as more RPG stuff at the new blog. Do stay tuned to both!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Heartbreaker Next, plus blog blogging

I've gotten into D&D 5th Edition lately, aka "D&D Next," and since I find it hard to encounter a new system without messing with it, I've been doing a lot of homebrewing. So today's Heartbreaker breaks the thread of recent installments, as I'll instead show off some of what I've been doing.

But first! Those of you with blogs know of the carbuncular irritation that is referral spam. I thought it had largely subsided here at my humble micro-acre of the web, but like Hydra, or fever blisters, it always seems to come back. It appears that the only way I can filter it out is installing Google Analytics. I kind of hate to do this, since I believe it means installing cookies on visitors' computers. Rest assured if I do go down this path, I'm not trying to spy on you or steal your data. I'm just trying to make blogging a little less annoying for myself, and possibly do my part to put a stop to these guys. If you have concerns, do let me know.

Also! I may spin the Heartbreaker stuff off to a different blog in the near future. I know I said I'd keep everything in house, but if I'm going to do more homebrew stuff, I'd kind of like for it to have its own space on the web. I'll link to new Heartbreaker posts at this space if I start a new blog.

For now, new Heartbreaker stuff below the fold. But first, how about some news? A few upcoming sets have caught my attention. New producer "Linear-A," which seems to be the crew from "Linear-B" breaking off their relationship with Strelets, have an upcoming set, "Folk of Judea," with lots of great looking civilian figures. They've also announced a set of "Silk Road" figures.

Strelets has another neat civilian set in the pipeline, "Norman Army Camp." Lots of interesting poses to look forward to.

Brief RPG design stuff below the fold!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Big Tree and the Big D

See, I told you I'd pick up the blogging pace. Two posts in one month; it's an Easter-liturgical-season miracle! I've a couple new minis to share, plus some fellow mini bloggers I'd like to spotlight at the end. Read this entire post, I say!

Let's start with this bloke:

It's a Reaper Bones "Spirit of the Forest." The poor fellow remained untouched except as a repository for unused brown paint for too long; I actually think this is less dignified that mouldering in the "lead mountain of shame" (or in my case, the "plastic tor of chagrin"). He deserves much more respect than that.

A closeup of some details. A lot of the really great paintjobs of this figure feature charming red toadstools, but I thought that sort of thing looked a little too cute. I went with more natural earth tones and greens for a more naturalistic look, at least as naturalistic as a pile of animate vegetation can be.

From the back. Lots of details adorn this figure, and I'd have gone mad trying to distinguish all of them. I focused on fungi, leaves, and vines, and let drybrushing do the rest.

Comparison with Sven, who remember is one inch tall. Reaper's larger minis always seem like they are looking down on my 1/72 figures, which I like a lot. A subtle effect is that the treeman's head and fists are a lighter shade of brown than the rest of him; it's the same color that you see on the vine around his right foot. I think it helps those features pop a bit without looking like they were deliberately highlighted.

Now the next surprise project. Remember this fellow?

He's ready.

It's a big demon from the World of Warcraft boardgame, with a trident borrowed from a Mines of Moria troll. What was holding me back was all the detailing on his armor. "Sure," I thought to myself, "how hard can it be to paint the raised areas a different color?" Ugh. After the initial rough highlighting months ago, it probably took me two hours of futzing with red paint, then gray to cover mistakes, then red to cover the mistakes I made trying to cover the mistakes I made before, in a maddening circle of persnicketiness (By the way, Autocorrect thinks "persnicketiness" is a totally legit word, but has reservations about "boardgame."). Eventually I had to choose between settling and going insane; I think I made the right choice.

Here's a closeup show the extent of the detail work. It also shows how my "magic" blackwash, while good enough for the tabletop, isn't going to win me any prizes. I've done something I thought I'd never do, which is buy some actual quality hobby paint, in this case a dropper of flat black from Vallejo. I'm hoping it makes my washes a little smoother and less splotchy.

Here's the comparison shot with Sven.

Worst prom photo ever.
And here he is with the treeman, for some reason.

Caption contest.
I mentioned blog sharing, which I wanted to spotlight as I've recently updated my blogroll. Most of those guys don't need me to promote them,  but a few stand out as special friends here at Cheap Fantasy Minis. First is Sceavus' 1/72 blog. Sceavus contacted me a few weeks ago to share some very cool fantasy conversions he's done, and I thought he should blog about them. Do check them out! Here's an example:

Next is Automato's Stroke of Meh blog. He's got some great D&D boardgame minis painted up, among other projects. Despite his self-deprecation, he's a great painter; much better than I!

Finally, here's Umpapa's blog. Umpapa does more modern/scifi stuff and less fantasy than I, but we're both interested in finding non-historical options for 1/72-20mm scale. Plus he's a pretty good modeler too!

These are folks who I think deserve some special attention, but everyone in my blogroll is great, and folks like Sam, Paul, and Kris have been really supportive. Really, everyone who has ever commented here or at one of my posts elsewhere, or who's bought something from me, or sent an email, or linked here: it's great to know that my ideas are interesting to a few people! You all really do make hobby blogging worthwhile. More stuff coming soon, I hope!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bugbearable puns

I know these puns bug you, but just bear with me.

Here is a small troupe of bugbears. These are various D&D minis and game pieces, modified in various ways. The one mod not mentioned in the linked post is the second-from-left, which was carrying a bizarre hafted weapon that terminated in a fist which itself was holding a second dagger. Maybe those who know their D&D lore could explain it, but I just don't know. At the last minute I thought it was too goofy and hacked and repinned the blade so it looks a little more normal.

Comparison time. The bugbears are a little smaller than what's shown, since they stick out from the background a bit. My 3.5e Monster Manual says bugbears are supposed to be 7 feet tall. That comes out to more like 30mm. These blokes are more like 8 feet tall or taller, but I think that's fine. If they aren't obviously bigger, they're otherwise just another flavor of orc.

Here's a final shot, including the other two D&D bugbears I've painted so far.

"Oh sorry, wrong room number."
I'm hoping the spate of sluggish posting here has ebbed for now. I've got one other surprise project completed, and I may soon have another to show off. Plus more Heartbreaker RPG stuff, and the results of that poll to contend with. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 7, 2016

My Giant Ego

Hello completed-project-town. It's been too long!

Hill giants, or possibly ogres. I was never too sure of the difference. They are mostly Tim Mee cavemen, mostly with headswaps from some Warhammer ogres. Conversions were described previously.

Tim Mee bods, Warhammer heads. Because the heads had some large gaps in the back, I had to do some sculpting, which I think turned out well. The back of the rock hurler's noggin in particular looks pretty good, I think.

These two are a little different from their Brobdingnagian brothers above. The one on the left is an unmodded Tim Mee caveman, the best sculpt in the set, I think. On the right is a World of Warcraft boardgame ogre with a Warhammer head. The berserker-rage head-uptilt was sort of an accident, but I think it works.

The ettin, or two-headed giant, is a Reaper Bones sculpt. More complex than his monocephalic comrades, but a lot of fun to paint. I don't know why it's carrying fish on its belt.

Comparison with Sven.

I'm fairly pleased with these. One regret is that my usual black magic-wash looks a little sloppy here. If I used a brown wash they might look a little neater. Another issue is the figures, and here we see the difference between toy-quality and hobby-quality minis. The Tim Mee bods are great figures, but many lack a lot of deep detail. The point of the magic wash is to bring out those details, so with such details absent, the wash often just sort of flowed and pooled. I think the Warhammer heads and the Reaper ettin look a lot better since they are just better models, even if they are plastic. Still, that's the tradeoff between price and quality, and speaking as the Cheap Fantasy Miniaturist I have no regrets!

Unusually, I don't have a new project cued up. I have lots of options but no clear ideas. So I'll let you guys decide!

A poll should appear above; if not you can find it here. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Heartbreaker: Attack!

It's another installment of Heartbreaker, my amateur RPG design sub-blog here at CFM. Remember, 1/72 fantasy news first, then under-qualified RPG-design musings below the fold.

Today's news is again from the 1/72 miniatures wall at We've been following upcoming sets from Alliance, Red Box's fantasy line and one of two manufacturers of plastic 1/72 scale fantasy figures. Here's a short but dense blurb with some more news, run through Google Translate:

"The promise of fantasy sets - it Amazons, Barbarians, a la Conan, trolls (4 sets) and Balrogs and orc Catapult."

We also get a new shot of the aforementioned trolls:

Good stuff! We already knew about the new Amazon, barbarian, and troll sets, but the "Balrogs" and orc catapult are news to me. One imagines the Balrogs as larger demon figures, like from the Lord of the Rings movies that Alliance is clearly borrowing from, but I suppose they could also include smaller human-sized devils. The catapult will also be interesting. I'm looking forward to more pics!

Now the RPG-design stuff. Just click the "Read more" link below.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Year's News

Belated Happy New Year! Auld Lang Syne, etc. My new year's resolution is to paint those darn giants and bugbears, something I'm sure I can do before December (they say it's healthy to set obtainable goals).

I was going to do another Heartbreaker post, but I'll save it for later as I have a few news items to share. First is a note I got from Hannants' nifty watchlist feature, saying that Caesar Miniature's elves are back in stock. These were clearly the best 1/72 plastic elves on the market, much better than the weird, gangly specimens from sole competitor Alliance, but they were out of production for years and getting hard to find. What was once lost is found! They've also restocked Caesar's nifty undead set, and they still have their goblins, ratmen, lizardmen and zombies sets in stock, but their sets of dwarves, orcs, and adventurers are sadly missing and rather hard to find. That said, seeing how the elves were eventually restocked, we may eventually see those sets again. In any case it's good to see Caesar is still dedicated to their fantasy line.

Next is not exactly news, but I wanted to share a couple somewhat recent 1/72 releases that I thought were well-suited for fantasy gamers. The first are these Roman Senators from Strelets.

Pic from Plastic Soldier Review
Dudes in robes are always welcome. They could be wizards, NPC patrons or, for the "Julius Caesar Act III" figures, even assassins.

Next are these fellows from Red Box.

Pic from Plastic Soldier Review
"Russian War Monks," in infantry and artillery flavors. The linked reviews do a good job explaining why Russian Orthodox monks ever had to take up arms, but for our purposes, more dudes in robes! I see these guys perhaps as cultists, or maybe as some wizardly order. Maybe some of those muskets could be modded into magic staves!

Speaking of Red Box, my last item is a teaser pic from Red Box's Alliance line, posted on the 1/72 wall at

Those Turkish cavalry figures are from an upcoming historical set. But hey look, trolls! Big trolls, big enough for you "normal" fantasy miniature fans reading this. I don't know any more about them, but I just like seeing that Alliance is still cranking out fantasy ideas for their line.

So there you are. Lots of cool stuff available, or soon to be so, in the world of 1" tall plastic fantasy critters. Hopefully I take time to do more painting soon as well. Happy 2016!