Monday, 15 August 2016

Roll dem bones

I’m back, bitches! It’s been a ridiculously long time since my last post. All I’m going to say about that is I’ve been doing some 1:1 scale terrain building and chasing the money to pay for it.

I’ve recently been suckered by General Francisco Deano into providing a faction for Mordheim. It’s somewhat ‘after my time’ and I know almost nothing about the game, so he gave me his Skaven wish list and I had a rummage in my loft among the miniatures I had as a teen. ‘Morr’ on Mordheim in another post, but going through my old stuff got me thinking about how I got into wargaming, way back in the twentieth century. As an early teen I liked making things with lego but I was looking for something more challenging. Then a bunch of things seemed to come together at once: I saw Jason and the Argonauts for the first time and was wowed by the infamous skeleton fight at the end, and about the same time I happened upon a copy of White Dwarf in my local W.H. Smith – issue 95, in which Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd Edition was launched. Excited by what I saw in White Dwarf, on a shopping trip with my mum I found a branch of Games Workshop and spotted that the ‘Skeleton Horde’ box set was at a price that my paper round covered! I snapped it up and got busy with some Humbrol enamals nicked from my uncle, oil paints borrowed from my mum, and a knackered oxhair brush. I originally wanted to do some kind of ‘Clash of the Titans’ game but, when I discovered other people at school were getting into wargaming too, it was easier to fit in with what everybody else wanted to do and I found myself drawn into the usual sub-Tolkein fare instead.

Twenty-five years later, I’ve dumped a lot of things along the way but I kept all the miniatures, even through the long period when I was too busy building my adult life to bother with wargaming. When the humble Shogun Tora Kamikaze convinced me to take up gaming again, I switched scales and to historical games and let the old lead mountain be. But my life is keeping me too busy at the moment to keep up with my 15mm Chechen war project, which is heavy on the terrain building, and my 6mm medievals project, which requires a gazillion figures. Nowadays, my gaming friends and I work on the assumption that whoever puts on the game will provide all the figures so, while rooting through the old boxes, I thought that maybe I could work on a small-scale skirmish game until I have more time to work on the big stuff again.

The idea took hold but I couldn’t bring myself to produce another generic fantasy game. It’s not that I hate them, but I’ve been there, done that, and have no nostalgia for it. Then I started thinking about all the plastic skeletons I had. I decided to go right back to where it all started for me and make the ‘fantasy ancients’ game I always wanted. Ancients is a period none of us have dabbled in before and shifting from an ‘anything-goes’ cod-medieval setting to a one loosely based on Greek myths made me, as a gamer who now generally prefers historical games, feel more comfortable.

Now that long preamble is out of the way, here’s the bit you’ve been waiting for. Here’s how I got from this…

…to this:

Step one: I prised all the old miniatures off their bases and dunked them in a bath of Dettol. A few broken skeleton legs, a day and a migraine later (do not inhale Dettol!), this is what I had:

They were soaking in the bath of water above to reduce the smell of the Dettol. It didn’t work.

The next step was to cut off some of the old weapons, which were too medieval for my liking, drill through the hands with a pin vice drill, and insert some 50mm Northstar spears. The spears are held in place with superglue.

Here is the first batch:

The bases are Renedra’s 25mm diameter wargaming bases glued to their 25mm diameter paved effect bases. I find Renedra’s bases to be quite thin and difficult for my sausage fingers to get hold of, but glueing two together makes them more hefty. However, the paved bases are slightly larger so I file away the excess after glueing to make the two bases flush with each other. The shields are scrounged from a box of Victrix Athenian Hoplites. There are a whopping 48 figures in each box, so I can spare twelve shields.
Here are two batches with a coat of Humbrol matt white spray primer. The two skellybobs at the front are a separate project. They’ll be back another time...

The next step: blocking in the colours. They are Vallejo’s Ivory for the skellingtons, Bronze for the shields and Oily Steel for the sword blades and spear tips, DecoArt’s Tan for the spear shafts and FolkArt’s Butter Pecan for the bases.

Next, some washes. I used a thinned wash of my favourite colour, FolkArt’s Dark Grey, on the bases, and a slightly thinned wash of Winsor & Newton’s Peat Brown ink on the skeletons, the reverse of the shields, swords and spear tips. I didn’t bother with washes or highlights on the spear shafts; they’re so spindly, you can’t tell.

Where the ink left patches on the skeletons, I drybrushed them with ivory to again remove them. I also drybrushed the bases with DecoArt’s Tan and, here and there, with Americana’s Bleached Sand.

Next: the decals! I've never, ever done decals before so I paused for a week at this point, putting it off. The decals came from Battle Flag, and very nice they are too. Decal solvent is a must to get the decals to fit the curve of the shields. I messed up most of them, applying so much solvent or working the decals so much that they tore in places. Fortunately, that turned out quite well here but it’s something I need to get the hang of before I move on to my Hoplite miniatures.

After leaving the decals to set overnight, I drybrushed a little Vallejo Bronze here and there over the shields to cover up some of my worst mistakes, then added a final wash of Winsor & Newton Peat Brown ink to the rim around the front of the shields, which helped to hide the edge of the decals. Here they are, almost ready:

The last step was to weather the weapons and shields. For the rust, I dabbed Americana’s Burnt Orange sparingly on the sword blades and spear tips. For the verdigris on the bronze areas, I used DecoArt’s Ocean Green and some dabs of Inscribe's Turquoise as highlights (I know, I know – I have no loyalty to any paint manufacturer. I just buy whatever I can get my hands on). Here are the miniatures, ready to varnish:

The verdigris is quite bright but, after a coat of Humbrol matt spray varnish, it goes considerably darker. The shields also lose their shine. This may be a problem for my Hoplites, but I think it looks OK on skellybobs:


This was a quick, enjoyable project that has eased me back into wargaming again. The next project is a unit of satyrs. More on that in my next post…


  1. Great bunch of skellies and I have enjoyed looking through your terrain builds.

  2. An enjoyable post or

  3. I love these figures!! and plus you reminded me we are supposed to be playing Mordheim

    1. It’ll never happen. You’re even slower than me…


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