Friday, October 30, 2009

A Gaul-ling embarrassment

...In which our protagonist rather sheepishly unveils the 10mm Gallic "army" that he's been "working" on for the last three years.

By putting this picture at the top of my post, I can almost pretend this army looks good!

First off, I'd like to thank everyone who gave such positive comments about my 1812 Napoleonic French. I think they certainly raised the bar for this blog... so now, just to show that we have absolutely no commitment to quality here at Mike's Leadpile, I present something much worse.

Why does this pic look so much yellower than all the others? Why didn't I take the time to fix it? We may never know...

Basic Skimpetus

I'm somewhat embarrassed about this Gallic warband, for a variety of reasons. I almost didn't blog about it; but, as you might've guessed from reading this, I ultimately decided to go ahead with it. Why? I figured it was time to make a return to 10mm. And I wanted to get a second blog post in this month. Petty? You better believe it.

This also happens to be my first force for Basic Impetus (BI). I was inspired by JET aka Jason over at Geektactica, who manages to churn out a great-looking Impetus army with seemingly no effort every couple of weeks. By comparison, it's taken me the aforementioned three years to come up with something much worse.

WTF is going on in this picture? Sadly, your guess is as good as mine.

The sad truth is that these Gauls weren't even intended for BI. With my tastes leaning towards huge armies in small scales, I was seduced years back by the endless hordes in serried ranks promised by Warmaster Ancients (WMA). As it turns out, WMA never quite made it past the 'impulsive purchase' stage for me, and the multiple 2,000-point armies I bought for it proved vastly beyond my attention span. I had painted up a few units from each army to begin with, and had even completed a few more on occasion, whenever the bug bit. Even so, I never got even one army close to the playable stage.

Five figures on a 60 x 20mm base! Back when I was trying to paint armies for WMA, I'd stick a dozen on 40 x 20mm. Which explains, I think, why that project flopped.

Luckily for me, making a "force" (I'm not going to glorify a few dozen badly-painted Gauls with the name "army") for BI doesn't require a lot of figures-- which, under the right circumstances, also means not a lot of effort. A quick glance through the wobbly pile of storage boxes in the corner showed me that I had enough minis to make about 20 or 30 different forces, and indeed, had enough painted figs to make a good start on several. Since this was meant as a lazy side project, I opted to start with the Gauls, as a fortuitous lack of 40x20mm bases when painting up my 6mm Successors meant that this bunch was already rattling around loose. Ready to go!

AIM 10020207 - "10mm Celtic Warriors", from AIM's Carthaginian collection. This is quite an old range, lacking the sharp, painter-friendly details of many modern 10mm figures. Nevertheless, their proportions are fairly good, and there are many decent poses, even if some of them are quite susceptible to breaking.

Recycle, Reduce, Rebase

A closer look at my chosen band revealed many of them to be in sorry shape. My painting standards had swung from one end of the spectrum to the other over the years that I'd been "working" on them, ranging from best-efforts, to products-of-impatience, to guinea pigs for new techniques. Many of them had scratches from the indifferent handling they'd received when I needed their original bases, despite the thick coat of too-shiny varnish that most of them were burdened with. An intensive touch-up effort was needed to bring them up to my current standards.

Pendraken AG1 - "Warband". A lot of Pendraken's older figures come in weird poses; at least with this bunch you get three weird poses.

The good thing about standards, of course, is that they can go down as well as up. And when you're trying to keep a lazy side project on the lazy side, this is exactly what needs to happen. Instead of touching up the minis, I simply looked the other way and based them as-is. (note: I mean "looked the other way" in the figurative sense; the author in no way condones the use or attempted use of superglue while actually looking the other way).

With paintjobs like these, I should have turned off the "macro" setting on my camera.

The Spoils of War

Celtic warriors were renowned raiders back in the day, always on the lookout for good plunder. In war, they even stripped the armour from their dead opponents. Actually, as anyone who bothers to do their research should know, pretty much everyone in the ancient world stripped the armour off their dead opponents, and used it too. The notion that each culture had its own unique military equipment is, generally speaking, a fallacy perpetuated by devious manufacturers of wargames miniatures, in order to get us gullible saps to buy more figures.

Pendraken AG3 - "Command". Can you believe they actually sell a pack of 30 figs containing 15 each of these two poses? Can you believe I actually bought one? Bah!

But I digress. As I was trying to say, much as the ancient Gauls proudly plundered shields off the battlefield, I have shamefully plundered shield designs off the internet for my miniatures. Okay, so it's a poor analogy and no justification for a morally reprehensible act on my part; but here I am, freely owning up to it and promising never to do it again.

A comparison, showing Celtic infantry from (L to R) Old Glory, AIM, and Pendraken. Also shown is my disgusting shield-design piracy.

The shield designs in question are from Little Big Men Studios (LBMS), a great company that produces rub-on shield transfers for an immense selection of miniatures, including a few in 10mm. Alas, Celtic designs are not numbered among these (or else I would have bought some. Honest).

Gallic warband, showing AIM, Pendraken and Old Glory figures mixed on the same base. I used to tell people they wouldn't mix; I guess I was wrong.

Horse Whispers

My attempt at maximum laziness failed when it came to the cavalry contingent of the Gallic force. Any horse larger than 6mm is a horse I don't want to paint. On the other hand, if I am going to paint it, nowadays I want something worth painting well.

AIM 10020213 - "Celtic Cavalry". I found the spears on these figures quite fragile; the top section in these examples has been replaced with wire. Unfortunately, this is not an easy solution, as the white metal used by GFI (the current producers of AIM figures) is very hard and resists drilling. These horses are also quite low on detail; eyes, nostrils, and even musculature have been faked with paint.

Once again I had a couple of choices, having a fair collection of both AIM and Old Glory (OG) cavalry. Neither of them, unfortunately, proved ideal: it was those dratted horses making things difficult, as ever. The AIM horses were nicely proportioned, but lacked detail; they didn't even have eyes or nostrils sculpted on them, which would make painting a pain. The OG horses, by comparison, had better detail, but were crudely cast, and -- putting an end to any thought of using them as is -- were hugely out of scale. Emphasis on HUGE.

Old Glory ANT-105 - "Gallic Cavalry". The three riders differ greatly in equipment, ranging from a bare-chested, to helm and tunic, to chain cuirass, crested helm and cape -- light, medium, and heavy. Shown here are the brutal OG horses, many of them suffering from rear "mono-leg" syndrome.

Luckily this was a problem I'd attempted to address years ago. Since the OG riders are cast separately from their horses, I'd also accumulated a large herd of riderless AIM horses to replace the unsuitable originals. Not the cheapest solution, as the horses on their own cost as much as cavalry with riders. I suspect I wasn't thinking things through when I bought them!

AIM (or GFI?) 12029906 - "N Scale Horses, Bare", from the WWII range. These are slightly larger than the 10mm AIM horses, but also have more detail. The standing horse at right is also part of the pack, but as they wouldn't have mixed in, I didn't paint any.

Ultimately I ended up doing a mix of 10mm AIM cavalry and 10mm OG riders on GFI's N-scale horses. I should mention that OG's "Grand Scale" cavalry, while ostensibly 10mm, ranges from large to very, very large. Think Goliath riding a Clydesdale. The Gallic cavalry is actually less grossly out-of-scale than most, which is why I decided they'd be okay to use.

A medium cavalry element, mixing AIM single-piece figures (with the larger shields) and OG riders on AIM horses.

Mix Master Mike


Surprisingly, differences in poses and size didn't really make anything stick out too sorely, in either the infantry or the cavalry. Then again, maybe it isn't really surprising. People and animals come in all sorts of different sizes, and Celtic forces weren't exactly know for their uniformity or discipline. What did come as a surprise was the different ways the minis took paint. The Pendraken and OG figures, with stronger detailing and deeper recesses, took a heavier coat of ink when I shaded them. In practice, this means that their details, particularly fingers and face, are visible from a longer distance; it also means that they appear darker, even when painted using identical methods to the AIM figs.

The general's cavalry element.

Once upon a time I also had some Magister Militum (MM) Gauls for comparison purposes. But you won't see any here, as I've long since sold them off. Suffice to say that MM infantry mixes very well with Pendraken, but MM cavalry doesn't mix with anything. Their horses are similar in size to AIM's, but much with a much chunkier (read: ugly as sin) style of sculpting.

Old Glory ANT-104 - "Gallic Cavalry Command." The carnyx horn carried by the fellow in the middle is quite large, but otherwise the riders are nice. OG horses remain as atrocious as ever, unfortunately.

May the Force be with You

So that's my Gallic "force" after three years of work. (Well, five weeks of work spread over three years). But it's still not done. While I've finished all the elements for the 1st century BC/AD Gallic list for Basic Impetus, I've got so many Celts in the leadpile that I've decided to expand. I'm already well on my way to morphing the Gallic force into an Ancient British force (with options).

Go Go Gallic Force!




...And that's my embarrassing little side project. For those who'd rather hear about the Borodino project (which is probably most of you, as I can't imagine people come here to read this other crap), fear not: the next bunch of Russians is already in progress. I'll have it painted and ready to show within... ohhhh, let's say three years or less.

-Mike

5 comments:

  1. Well I think they look great. And the basing is awesome as ever. Why can't my basing ever turn out good?

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  2. Don't be so hard on yourself Mike, given the relatively poor 'ingredients' you were given, I think you've done an excellent job, and the results are very inspiring, particularly the idea of mixing and matching horseflesh - I think the cavalry look pretty spiffing!

    I guess it's just one of those projects that somehow just don't meet expectations, and become 'onloved', so never seem right....I just wish I could boast failures as good as this!

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  3. I think they look great too, a nice looking army by anyone standards i reckon.

    Steve.

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  4. Yeah, the cavalry are probably the only unit I gave any recent attention to. They look okay, I guess; but they'll never be my favourite metal children ;)

    (Un)Luckily, I've got enough unpainted Celts left to give it a second shot. And a third, and a fourth, and a fifth...

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  5. Personally, I think the army looks great. I admit that they aren't up to the standard of many of your more recent projects, but they're a lot better than you give yourself credit for I think.

    I admire anyone who has the attention span to paint that many Gauls, with lots of different shield designs ta boot. I barely finished my meagre collection (for the Carthaginian army) before pulling my hair out and giving up.

    Anyway, I am currently trying to find time to take my 15mm medieval army up to 400 points so that we can play some more Free Company vs. Italian games.

    Have you ever considered trading away some of your excess models for other stuff?

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