An Old Dream, Long Remembered: Childhood Goals in Dark Times

A new, grand goal.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
-JRR Tolkien

Fair warning, this is minis lite: This is something I plan to do, not currently have ready! It reads more like an essay. This is the beginnings, the first steps…the first stones that start an avalanche. It’s not going to be for all of you! And that’s okay. Its a bit depressing too, at first.

It has been a rough year for all of us. Between Covid, Lockdowns, Quarantines, Restrictions, one could get tired of it all. I can be tough to cope.

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Buckle up Frodo, you got a long way to go!

For myself, especially, and for the first and last time I’ll mention on this blog, it has been a particularly close run thing. My mental health has taken serious blows, and it brought myself closer to the brink then I’d like to admit. Let me be perfectly blunt. I’m happy to be alive. I’ve come out of the darkness with a pretty renewed sense of purpose, drive, and motivation to not let the little things pass-me-by.

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Sometimes a hard-lesson is the only way to learn what matters.

In the midst of all of this, Games Workshop quietly announced Quest for the Ringbearer, a supplement for the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game. Having received my copy yesterday, I finally got a chance to sit down, and read it. A pretty good supplement, barring some minor spelling errors and potential rules gaffes. The campaign is akin to the journeybooks of old, but updated for the most current ruleset and party to some of the more balanced versions of the included scenarios I’ve seen.

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Finally, worthy tomes exist to replace these great but long since out of print epics

If it was just that, I’d have been happy, but included were a couple additional treats; a full fantasy Fellowship campaign modification, and most crucially to me, an up to date way to fight ALL of the Fellowships battles using all currently released books. This is something brand new, and very exciting!

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This, and the Gondor at War book, complete the whole Trilogy of epic content.

Indeed, it brings me back to a childhood dream of a much younger version of me, twinkles in his eyes and full of naivety as I fought battles across my living room floor. I wanted to do the books AND the movies justice, nailing the feel of both. A full Fellowship playthrough, with bespoke terrain, painted armies, and good company.

I dreamed in my youth of taking the Fellowship, all parts of it, across Middle-Earth on an adventure to end an age.

For the first time in living memory, I have both the drive and willpower to see it through. I have the collection my thirteen year old self couldn’t even dream of owning. I have many good friends willing to go on an adventure, lending me their Sword, Bow, or Axe to the cause. From Bag-End to Mount Doom, from Rivendell to Rohan and Gondor, to the Black Gate itself.

I'm Going On An Adventure! | Know Your Meme
Adventures are better with friends!

It fills me with joy and excitement, something that can be difficult to muster in this age of uncertainty. It could take years for me to complete such an undertaking. It could see missteps, mistakes. But yet my excitement holds true. I work best with a goal, however distant, in mind.

The man I have become these last few years isn’t the one I thought I’d be, better or for worse. But for the kid I was, that happy go lucky pre-teen who broke the seal on the Return of the King Starter Box back in 2003….I’ll follow Frodo and Aragorn’s journeys across Middle Earth. A dream, now a future.

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And its WORTH fighting for.

I hope you good folks out there can forgive a man getting a few things off his chest, and finding hope in the smaller things in life. I don’t like to dwell on such unhappy, if motivational topics, and your regularly scheduled dose of wargaming content will continue on Wednesday evening! But in the mean time, Happy Wargaming where-ever you might be, and may you find some inspiration in the strangest places!

Into the Mines!

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Not the best paint job, but they’ll do for a demo game!

So its been a while! I’ve found myself with more time off, and the Clubhouse is letting me run a demo game for the Middle Earth SBG! I’ve always found the easiest and most fun scenario to learn with is Balin’s Tomb, from the fellowship, as you get your heroes fighting impossible odds, and almost every basic rule gets covered! I’ve long had the Fellowship set, back from the Mines of Moria release, but the models are frankly not great, full of soft detail that is both difficult to highlight and shade easily. A much better painter can make the sculpts work, but I can’t do them as well, so I decided to just bang them out in a sitting, so I could carry on!

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“You have my sword!” I painted this years ago, and it shows. I just tidied it up and tried to make it look less terrible. I failed. But, I have many poses of Aragorn, so this will do in a pinch!

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“You have my bow!” A bit better here, I painted this today and it shows, its a lot cleaner and tidy. Still a terrible sculpt though, and I look forward to doing a better Legolas model.

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“And my Axe!” Not a bad job here, could be better but looks like a good Gimli to me!

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“If this is truly the will of the council, Gondor will see it done.” I love Boromir, and this is actually the best of the models in the set. Didn’t do it justice but I’m very happy with it.

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“I will help you bear this burden.” Not a terrible sculpt, but my hamfisted earlier painting left a lot to be desired. Like Aragorn, I just tidied him up a bit.

This leaves just the Hobbits, a difficult task but it will prepare me for the masses of goblins required for the scenario!

For those who are hoping for some 40k content, my Clubhouse is starting a Kill-Team Campaign, and I’ll be posting batreps from that. As well, my friends are coming up for a game, a 3000pt slugmatch, which I’ll be sure to take many pictures of!

Until next time, may the grace of the Valar protect you!

 

Theoden rides to war!

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“Ride for ruin, and the worlds ending!” I hope I even slightly did the sculpt justice.

I know I said I was going to work on Khamul, but I haven’t yet figured out a way to make the mask look convincing! And since the Theoden model was so tempting, I decided to get it out of the way to encourage me to keep up with my Rohan backlog.

I primed in grey, which made the layer of ulthuan grey go on fairly well, and it is a convincing white I think, and the rest of the paints went on easily. The armor proved to be a challenge. Most of my paints are Army Painter, and I lacked something darker then the barding, which I did in oak brown, but not being black. A mix of matte black and oak brown in a 1-2 ratio did the trick! On one hand it might be hard to replicate, but since Theoden wears such bespoke heirloom armor I figured it was worth it. The gold inlay took a fair bit of time with my shaky hands, but I painted late at night when my nerves are typically at their best!

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A terrible picture for showing off, but a cool pose that all the Morannon Orcs will see thundering at them!

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The detail on the shield was hard, but worth it.

I did the foot model at the same time; This is good because in the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game a model can either dismount or have the mount shot out from under them, and you need a model for both occasions! Luckily Snowmane( His horses name) will usually run away so I don’t need a third model for that, since Theoden is molded on and would be tricky.

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I actually really enjoyed painting the foot model, almost as much as painting the mounted version!

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I chose to use the helmeted head, to contrast with my old, helm-less model that I’ll use at Helms Deep.

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My suspicions that a wash would work really well on the sharp detail was correct, and made the scale mail really pop!

All in all, really happy with it. It is weird, once I stopped trying to compare my painting with everyone else’s and painted simply for the joy of it, it has stopped being a chore, and is now something I look forward to! If now I could conquer my hobby butterfly tendencies I might get something done. Sure, it won’t win any awards, but it looks good on the tabletop and in front of my Riders of Rohan will look sharp!

Until next time, Forth Eorlingas my fellow hobbits!

 

A Sword Day! A Red Day! Ere the sun Rises!

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DEAAAAAATHHHH! I will not apologize for my excitement!

Today was a good day. Theoden’s riders rode through the night to my local gaming store,(although, local for me in my rural area means an hour and a bit, roughly!) The Giddy Goblin in Hanover, Ontario, and delivered the Pelennor Fields box-set! Unfortunately, in a situation happening globally, demand has outstripped supply, and while most GW locations have received their Armies of the Lord of the Rings rule-books, the Goblin, as a local retailer, didn’t get theirs on time. But, that barely dampened my enthusiasm, as seeing Lord of the Rings kits on shelves again was a day I never thought I’d see! I did buy a box of Haradrim Raiders on a whim, as I didn’t have any.

Most of the box has been seen before, and if your anything like me, has been thoroughly spoiled on Youtube anyway. But like everyone else, the detail on the Theoden miniature floored me. The pictures, painting in the typical GW style, don’t do it justice, and make it a bit too “bright”, if you know what I mean. This isn’t a slight on them at all, after all I paint like an Ork on seventy-five cups of coffee. But the realistic scale of the model takes to a more subtle approach.

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A bit too stark, if you ask me!

In the flesh however, it looks amazing, and feels true to WETA’s original vision.

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A really dynamic and action filled pose!

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The detail on the barding and shield is crisp, and should take well to a wash!

Even the foot model looks amazing!

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Don’t have Theoden with a helmet and a shield, so this is a nice addition.

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They even put the double-fuller on the sword! Never seen that on the metal models I think!

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The shield is, again, gorgeous.

I’m really happy with it, and its a great return to Middle Earth, after almost 10 years without a release(barring the hobbit stuff). Once my rules arrive I’m going to play a few games, see how the game it-self has held up. The rest of the contents are things everyone has seen before, and since I already had a Witch King on Fell-Beast, I’m going to try my hand at converting my new kit into Khamul the Easterling, one of the named Nazgul. I’ll post as soon as I make progress on that front. I do need to pick up a can or two of primer to basecoat my models, so painting will take a bit to get started.

And, as I need a Lord of the Rings based send-off, Forth Eorlingas!

 

Medic! And a sneak peek at next months big project!

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40k Battlefield Medicine; Or, how getting killed in one go is probably better then getting that in your arm!

Another day, another Vostroyan done. This medic is for my command squad, and while the medics aren’t terribly useful he looks fantastic, and thus has a place in my army. He is younger then most of the other veterans in the command team, and his mustache has yet to grey with age. I might revisit him in the future, add a few more details, but when one has 80+ Guardsmen to finish, that’s a problem for later. I’m finding the vostroyans actually fairly easy to paint, as the amount of sharp detail in the cast takes really well to shades.

The plan is once I get to the Infantry Squads is to do them in batches of 5, that way it should only take 2 days per squad. I’ve never batch painted before starting on my kill team, so I’m fairly new to it as a concept, but after getting the Catachans fully painted and played them, it felt GOOD. Playing with a painted squad was awesome, and now imagining a whole army has really been a shot in the arm motivation wise.

But, the Vostroyans are by no means the only project I’m working on. The Vostroyans have been my focus for the past half-year…the big project has been something I’ve been working toward since I was 12!

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This scene still gives me goosebumps.

40k was not my gateway drug into war-gaming. That honor lies with the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game! As a young boy watching these movies was life-changing, and the game was actually surprisingly popular with kids my age in my hometown. A trip to a Games Workshop got me the Warriors of the Last Alliance box( my confusion as to why there was all these “Space Marines” and “Empire State Troops” all over was hilarious in hindsight), but honestly I had no idea what I was doing until my folks got me the Return of the King starter box.

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Many a good time was had in this box of wonders!

To my 12 year old self, being able to fight the battles of Osgilliath and Minas Tirith was an experience I’ll never really forget, despite getting half the rules wrong. Many a battle was fought on the living room floor, and many an Orc was badly painted. I even got a box set, I forget its name, but it had a massive amount of Good forces, and it felt to me like my own little mustering of the Free Peoples.

It was the beginning of a journey that still continues to this day, despite my focus shifting away from it as popularity of the game ebbed and finding people who played it became harder and harder. 40k took hold after it became apparent that people had forgotten all about the good ole LOTR SBG. Soon, Guardsmen replaced Warriors of Minas Tirith, and that which should not have been forgotten…was lost.

I made one very good decision during this dark time, when it seemed GW had forgotten us. I kept everything. 40k Armies came and went, but my little(but growing!) stash of Lord of the Rings models lay just out of sight, occasionally coming out for a quick jaunt in Balins Tomb, but the big battles of yesteryear were a distant memory. As more models disappeared from the webstore, my trips to ebay to find recruits for what I thought was a dying game was a weekly habit.

But, unknown to me, there were some that resisted. Things like the Great British Hobbit League kept the torch alive. Eventually, I found out that I was not alone! And with the Hobbit on the horizon, everything looked great!

Then came bitterness. It started well, new plastic kits! A good starter box! But, it came at a cost; Finecast. Casts that were amazing in metal became flash ridden, horribly fragile miniatures. Swords that once could be bent simply snapped off. All at a massive mark-up in price. It helped that the movies weren’t as good, and I felt less need to keep up.

I, along with many other people awaited the inevitable. A long wait, with an answer we already knew. The game was dead.

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But like the quest of the Ring, from such dark times did hope arise! Forge World, Games Workshop boutique line took up the torch, and while the Lord of the Rings left shelves, new miniatures were coming out again. But, it was still only for the Hobbit, and I could feel little excitement for it.

Then, something happened that this blogger did not expect; Games Workshop announced that the The Hobbit Strategy Battle Game was to be rebranded as The Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game! Battle Companies, a mini-game from the past akin to Kill-Team, re-emerged. Hope was kindled.

And yet, no-one expected what was announced next, least of all me.

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Middle Earth is back, baby. New plastic heroes, rereleasing old OOP(out of production) models, and the hated repack of 24 man troop boxes into 12 is being undone. I haven’t felt excitement like this since watching Return of the King for the first time. And, my childhood dream of fighting the Battle of the Pelennor Fields comes ever closer to being a reality. I’m ready, my full strength gathered. Men of Rohan, of Gondor, waiting patiently for the paint brush. Hordes of Orcs and Uruks in their serried ranks await the same.

At around the same time this was announced, I decided that if I was going to do this, it would be a movie style refight, as opposed to the book. And for that, I needed the Army of the Dead. Ebay saved the day here.

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“The way is shut. It was made by those who were dead. And the dead keep it.” (Also, whoever painted this army, daaaaaaang did they do a good job. No bath of Simple Green for these boys.)

The cost was insignificant; people sell the banner alone for outrageous amounts of money on eBay. and with more Army of the Dead then I’ll ever possibly need, all that remains is the noble Rohirrim, the beleaguered garrison of Minas Tirith and the vile Orcs and their allies. Of course, it won’t be a full scale refight, even my collection pales in comparison to what would be required to do it justice. But even a small part of the battle would be the culmination of a life’s dream.

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“Is it time? Time at last?” Yes, my lads, it is.

So, in closing, don’t worry there will be still loads and loads of 40k content; My friend is working a pace at his Tank Company and he has given me permission to share it with the internet. My Vostroyans will be worked on at a steady rate as well. This just means they’ll have to share with Gondorians, Men of Rohan, and Orcs. Many, many orcs.

Instead of my usual sign off, I leave you with this

“Theres some good in this world Mr.Frodo, and its worth painting for”-Samwise Gamgee