Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sword and Sorcery

27th August 1982, 3 days after my 11th birthday, a innocent little children's book was first published in the UK. A book, that at first glance, might have seem "one of a kind" and strange to many. And not many would have thought that this little book, the first in a series of 59, would soon become a publishing phenomenon - and how it would form and shape a hole generation of kids, there imagination and joy for fantasy gaming.
I speak of course of Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson'sThe Warlock of Firetop Mountain and their Fighting Fantasy-series published by Puffin Books.

I'd be laying if I said I was first in line to pick up this book. Being an 11 year old danish kid, I had just started talking english lessons in school, and was just capable of saying: "My name is ..." and trying hard to learn the verb: "To Be". I remember it being quite a struggle actually. All the new sounds and tongue-twisters was quite hard learning, and the difference in grammar was significant. Back then, the international (british/american) exposure on a danish kid from the country side was .... "insignificant". Nothing like today's kids. It's now harder learning them to speak proper danish, that english, I'm afraid :)

So, it would be another 2 or 3 years before I actually got introduced to Sword and Sorcery. The danish publisher Borgen didn't name the series Fighting Fantasy, but had the name change into: Sværd og Trolddom (meaning "Sword and Sorcery") - and for many years I actually thought that it was the original title of the series.

Now why this rambling about Sword and Sorcery? Well first, like for so many other fantasy gamer's, collector's and miniature painter's, the Fighting Fantasy book series awoke a deep interest for fantasy reading, gaming and role-playing. That happened to me as well and I'm pretty sure, that if I hadn't been introduced to these gamebook in my early years - fantasy miniatures and fantasy gaming would probably never had become an interest of mine - and I've would probably have kept on building and painting Spitfire's and Messerschmitt's.
Over the years, I'd always put blame on Dungeons & Dragons for my geekiness - but now that I'm really think of it Fighting Fantasy is probably as much to blame.

Secondly, I might have thought that I'd put Fighting Fantasy behind me, but "suddenly" an old interest has awaken. Mainly due to two events.

First, a wonderful book called "You are the Hero, A history of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks" written by author Jonathan Green - which landed on my desk back in September.

This book was brought to life by a successful Kickstarter back in late 2012 celebrating the 30 years of Fighting Fantasy.
I have to admit, thought - that I totally missed out on the Kickstarter campaign. As said, Fighting Fantasy and game-books haven't really been a part of my hobby the past 20+ years. Though, I did pick up Ian Livingstone's thirtieth anniversary book: "Blood of the Zombies" for the iPad - most out of nostalgia as I actually never played it through (yeah, yeah! I admit it, I didn't survive) - but Fighting Fantasy would again fade into oblivion.
Just till I heard of Jonathan's books on Facebook (of all places :)) - and I was delighted finding out, that the book had reached its goals and found its audience. So when it went up for public sale, I got first in line  - keen to join all the brave sons and daughters of Allansia that made this book possible.

The book gives you a detailed insight to the history behind the Fighting Fantasy (FF) series and gives all the details and little stories that goes behind every single book and the FF-spin-offs. The book is written with such love and passion. Jonathan is such a great story-teller (having lots of books under his belt) and with contributions from the two founders Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, most other co-authors, publishers, editors and leading artists added the book is such a pleasure reading.
But that's not all. The books is packed full of exceptional art work and wonderful reprints of book covers, internal illustrations and maps made by fantasy art legends. Many of the original covers (and covers from the side-kicks, RPGs, novels and magazines) are printed in a full colour A4 format. The book also including brand new art by iconic Iain McCaig, Russ Nicholson and Matin McKenna.

These cover re-prints are a pure eye candy - here's a glimpse of what treasures you can find inside this tomb:

FF cover art by Chris Achilleos (Temple of Terror)

Internal art by John Blanche (Steve Jackson's Soercery! series)
Terry Oakes

Russ Nicholson

This book should be laying on every fantasy miniatures gamer's or painter's coffee-table, even with those without any actually interest in Fighting Fantasy - cause this book is a piece of art and it's worth every penny.

The second reason for this new/awoken interest is a more personal one. My wife and I are trying hard stimulating and motivate our oldest into do more reading, but as he finds that anything without a LED-display and an on/off switch, is a time-waster and old fashion, and it hadn't been easy for us making him think otherwise.
During a summer-clean-out I then came cross my Fighting Fantasy collection including a few of my danish edition's and out of nostalgia I handed them over to him - as I hoped, they would have awaken his interest for reading (and perhaps fantasy gaming), like it awoke me nearly 30 years ago.

From my collection: Starship Traveller, Deathtrap Dungeon,
Island of the Lizard King and Caverns of the Snow Witch.

However, it didn't had the immediate effect I was hoping for, but then our 7 years old spotted them, and he was "sold" just by the looks of the covers.

So, he and I have put our daily dose of Captain Underpants aside, and have completed: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Citadel of Chaos and Forest of Doom and are now deep within Port Blacksand (reading The City of Thieves) - half an hour each night - just before bedtime. Haven't made the job easier (all that adrenaline kicking around) but it's been joyful. He cheats as hell, but haven't well all been there, but with Forest of Doom, he already gave up the standard Skill 12, he gave himself and played it with a regular score of just 9.
And guess who sneaks into the room now and join us? :) So, it might not have had an immediately appeal, but the stories still have their appeal - old fashion or not. And the other night he ran of with Starship Traveller, a few dice and a pencil - milestone #1 reached :)

However, it also has a downside, as it also awoke the collector gene in me. The danish publisher "only" translated and released 24 of the books - ending the series be releasing: Heltenes Slagmark (Armies of Death). Back then I borrow most of them from the public library, but also collected a few - but around 1989-90 I started picking up the original english ones.
So, I got most books from Firetop Mountain to Creatures of Havoc (but left out most of the Sci-Fi ones) - after that I lost interest/found other interests, I guess. Looking at it now, it seems I stopped reading FF when Ian and Steve stopped actually writing them. So, what did I miss out on (if I missed out on anything, that is)? Which books, should I start looking for? What adventure is your favorite?  I know I need go finding Steve's original Sorcery! books (if not for the stories then for the Blanche art) and also Jonathan's contributions - but what else should I look out for? Don't say "all", please - not "all" ;-)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Collecting John Pickford: White Knight have released their Dwarf Artillerists and Inventors

White Knight Miniature Imperium have recently released their Dwarf Artillerists and Inventors all by John Pickford. A must-have fore any Renaissance Dwarf fan (or Pickford fan ;-))

The new releases are:

  • Dwarf Artillery Crew set
  • Dwarf Hackbut and Crew set
  • Dwarf Inventor With Snipergun 
  • Dwarf Inventor With Handgrenade

WKD-50: Dwarf Inventor With Snipergun

Check these cool new releases out at WK's blog (and now you are there you might like to check out the wonderful Sea Elves sculpted by Mark Evens and MickDarpa's Human Zombies).

Monday, August 11, 2014

TFF Legacy Team 2013 - Halfling Chef

I had the honour of getting a copy of the little resin Legacy Team reward Axiom/Exoditejon have had made for the participants of their annual Legacy-Team-event at talkfantasyfootball.org. The Chef and camp fire are sculpted by John Pickford (shouldn't you already have guessed that :))

Painted my copy a few months ago but yet again couldn't make up my mind regarding how to base it. Have about 50 unpainted halflings, and as I like unified bases I had to make a decision. Went for a country field look with long grass and flowers.

TFF Legacy Team 2013: Halfling Chef

And yes, there's a small change made to the camp fire. Originally it was a roast football, but for my fantasy needs a chicken is better :)

And just as I finished this, I found this here in my mail box:

A metal version of this beauty. Apparently, Axiom ended up with an empty slot in one of his Beast Face Miniatures master moulds, and had this made. What better use of an empty slot in a mould can you imagine? I just looooooove metal :)

Thanks, Jon - guess I'll have to paint a second one now - and two Chefs for a Halfling Warband ain't one too many, really :)

Collecting John Pickford: Latest news from Iron Mask Miniatures

As posted back in June 2014 Iron Mask Miniatures/Gary Price's Kickstarter is soon to be fulfilled. I posted pictures of the WIP halflings back then and promised coming back when the Dwarf Queen has been done.
And what a beautiful girl she is. Another spectacular sculpt and will play the dwarf-queen-role in many game settings, just fine.

Here she is - in all her glory:

Iron Mask Miniatures: Dwarf Queen (green)

So the final 4 sculpts to fulfill the Iron Mask Kickstarter - ended up looking like this:

Iron Mask Miniatures: Dwarf Queen and Halflings Kickstarter Add-on's

An exceptional finish, and look much forward seeing them cast up in shiny white metal.

And speaking of Kickstarter fulfilments. A few weeks ago I received the last two campaign bonus figures. The wonderful Milady de l'elfe and the brute Ogre Captain Jussac.

Iron Mask Miniatures: Milady de l'elfe

Iron Mask Miniatures: Jussac, Ogre Captain

My box of Iron Mask goodies also included 2 sets of Special Hands and a set of Heavy Rapier hands, all to be used for personalizing your Dwarf Musketeers.

Set 1 - Crossbow, hat, torch, bottle, tankard closed and pipe

Set 2 - lantern, bomb tankard open, lace handkerchief and goblet. There should have been a scroll hand as well, but unfortunately it missing from my little set (had 2 goblet hands instead), but pretty sure Gary will include one with the next shipment.

Heavy rapiers

The trained eye will see there's a hat holding hand here and will also know that all current dwarf heads already have hats on, so to make up for that a new bare head has been made - or actually 2 - and another 2 with hats on, so 4 new heads in all.

All these new items has been added to the living Collecting-John-Pickford-wiki - Iron Mask section including this little (or could probably call it big) gem - the Mk. I Jussac, Ogre Captain.
The Ogre Captain's Hat had to be re-sculpted due to casting issues, and the plume was then made a separate piece, but Gary have kindly donated one of the successful master cast of the Mk. I version.

Collecting John Pickford: Ewal Dvergar Crossbowmen and Infantry Command Group

Old news, some might say, but just noticed that I forgot posting pictures one here of the crisp new casts I've had made for me own little venture - the Ewal Dvergar.

Back in February, I showed you the greens of the upcoming Crossbowmen and Infantry Command - and about 6 weeks ago I finally got metal casts of what I believe are the best Dvergar I've had made, till day. I love all of the Dvergar in the range, but I'm soooo impressed with the level of details one these.

Ewal Dvergar: Crossbowmen

Ewal Dvergar: Infantry Command

Should you like following my little venture, I suggest checking the ClaMiniature-blog regulary, as it seems I forget telling about it on here :-)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Collecting John Pickford: Puck's Dance

Back in 2007 the Frother’s Unite Community ran their 4th Pro-Am Sculpting Competition. The theme for this competition was, as always, a very open theme trying not to limit the sculptor's creativity. The theme for this 2007 Competition was: "The Unseelie Suspects or the dark side of faeryland" and sculptors where to do fantasy characters, spirits and creatures with inspiration taken from the classic folklore and fairy tale without going Disney.

John entered this competition and was competing in the "Satyrs and woodland spirits" category. For this category John did a entry called "Puck's Dance" - a diorama piece with roots in classic English folklore and Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" - but with the usually little twist of evilness and humour that is seen on many Pickford sculpts. Puck was inspired by Neil Gaiman's "the Sandman" - in here Puck aids the Norse God Loki in kidnapping Daniel, and am playing a small role in the death of the Sandman.

Entry commentary: 
The main figure is Puck, dancing on a rock, his true nature revealed from behind. With him are Peaseblossom on lute and Mustard Seed on trumpet, who provide the music for Puck's dance. 

They do not care that they are disturbing the inhabitant of the rock, and are therefore neighbours from hell. It must be early morning as he has not yet brought in the milk from the doorstep. ©Frother's Unite

The Frother's sculpting competition concept has that the winner/winner's and selected runners-up are moulded and sold through Frother's for a limited period of two months. After that, the miniatures faith are up to the sculptor.

John didn't win his category, as it was won by Kev White's lovely Oberon, but Puck's Dance was moulded and cast in limited numbers. Unfortunately, I wasn't around in time to get myself a copy. After the limited sale on Frother's the rights went to White Knight (WK). White Knight has then released the two characters Peaseblossom and Mustard Seed - both available in his Hors Série - line - but he has never released the entire "Puck's Dance" - diorama. Such a petty, I'd say - and I've been nagging him over and over again releasing it - but with no luck .... till

... 6 weeks ago when WK surprised me with an offer of letting me have Puck's Dance and put it in production, cause as he said: "It's more chaotic anyway, so makes more sense in your range than in mine"
For me, it was one of those offers you can't really refuse, so I gladly accepted his strict license terms and signed the 50 page contact ...., in blood - and I've just donated the first kidney. Hopefully he can wait a bit for the second one :-P

So, here is the master cast I've got from WK, and I will now try and give it a proper release:

The 2007 FU!-UK Sculpting Contest "The Unseelie Suspects" - Puck's Dance

The trained eye will see it's now after breakfast, as the little Milk bottle on the doorstep has been brought in. The little bottle might have been lost in transit or it was still sitting in the master mould, when the master's were spun :-?

Here's all the diorama pieces:

And here is Puck, will work great as a stand alone piece as well :)

And that's not all. It actually came with an additional head piece. Puck head ain't a separated piece, but think it's an easy conversion - should you like replacing the awesome head he already has.

Hopefully Puck's dance will become available Autumn 2014 - so interested keep an eye out for the Claminiature-blog

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The 4A Mad Hatter's

The 2013/2014 Brush Slave League season has come to an end and we have found our new champion as this years league was won by bas_2312. Well done Bas, it's so well deserved.

For this our last round I also manage to finish a team. Was working on a themed team based on old Heroquest plastic miniatures, but as I dropped one of them into the wet palette, due to some not-so-tacky Blu-tack, I had to come up with something fast.

Luckily, I have had my John Pickford sculpted Four A Miniatures chaotic dwarfs sitting here on the bench in a 90% done stage. Have been sitting here for some time, as I've never finished their shields and bases, so "now" was a good time to do so. And all four miniatures was ready, just-in-time, for our final "Round 8".

Ended up looking like this:

Four A Miniatures: Resus Redgrave

Four A Miniatures: Erik Brokentusk 

Four A Miniatures: Lupus Crackedhelm 

Four A Miniatures: Hiargh and Lowargh

And here is a family photo of all five "dwarfs":

++++++++++++ EDIT ++++++++++++

Axiom asked: "How do they look against your own Ewal Dvergar?" Well, I'll let you be the judge of that :)

Ewal Dvergar mixed with Four A Miniatures