Friday 25 June 2010

Lord of the Rings minis from White Dwarf 70 (October 1985)

 ME-44  Uruk-Hai - Orc Guards

A little leg-repositioning, a little weapon removing, sticking a spear on the helm, a gurning goblin face shield and ta-da, gone are the Tolkienesque eye and sensible armour, and in it's place the mad raving Hieronymus Bosch-esque vision of none other than Citadel art supremo John Blanche.

In many ways this (is/was) a quintessential 80s Citadel miniature, cool "come get some" pose, huge shoulder-pads with spikes, boots with turn downs. Also I'm guessing the global population of orc miniatures outweighs the rest of fantasy-dom put together, so it's a popular choice. Later in the series we get to see this miniature converted by another classic Citadel staffer. There's something about making the miniature 'your own' and also Citadel saying 'it's not just for Tolkien fans' in showing off these conversions.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Eye of the Dragon vs. Hobgoblin Ale

 Success at last! After years of scouring local charity shops, I finally picked up a Fighting Fantasy book - Ian Livingstones Eye of the Dragon - for the bargain price of 30p! It's the first non-Puffin published FF book I've bought. To celebrate I purchased a bottle of Hobgoblin Ale from Wychwood breweries. I like beer, and I like Fighting Fantasy. But which is best? There's only one way to find out... fiiiiiiiight!

So I open the bottle, pour out a glass admire the warm nutty citrusy notes and note the dark ruby colour. Time to  roll-up a character using the book-dice (similar to the technique used in Sorcery! of little dice printed at the bottom of the page)... Skill: 10, Stamina: 23. that's really good! Luck: 7, not so good.

Some random stranger called Henry (!) gives me a map and a deadly poison that will kill me in 14 days if I don't return with his treasure. The background  story name-checks a bunch of early Fighting-Fantasy locations, Firetop Mountain, Fang and Darkwood Forest. Setting out to the aforementioned Forest, I find a hut, search it, find an axe with a mysterious inscription on it and head down some gloomy stairs into the dungeon complex below. Swigging the ale I immediately notice the clean, dry, nutty flavour, and that I'm standing at a T-junction with absolutely no indication of which is the correct direction, the rats and wall slime aren't helping either.

Deciding to head left, barge into a locked door and enter a room with a mirror in it. Avoiding a mirror, I end up in a room with a wishing well, where I'm offered the opportunity of losing a Gold Piece to make a wish but not to nick all the gold. I sit down and drink some more Hobgoblin ale, noting the sharp citrusy bite whilst pondering this quandary: the instructions don't say how much gold I started out with, so I don't know if I have any to make a wish with. I decide to ignore the wishing well deciding that it's some kind of weird meta-gaming trap. A bit further on, I stumble into a Medusa and passing a Skill test manage to run off. Facing yet another oak door I end up accidentally releasing the Queen of Spades from what looks like a playing-card prison, and she gives me 5 gold pieces for my trouble, and I return to the door-laden corridor from whence I came.

After easily dispatching three Giant Rats in a kitchen, very nicely illustrated by Martin McKenna (see below), I find a healing potion in a cupboard. It's time for some more ale and a brief spell pondering a dungeon ecology that has Medusas in rooms almost directly after rooms with mirrors and why there's a kitchen. Whilst savouring the beers nice digestive biscuitty finish I leave the room and head down the corridor.

Perhaps it's the effect of half-empty bottle of 5.2% (vol) beer or the fact that yet again I'm faced with  a paragraph asking me if I want to open a door or not, but I'm getting a little irritated with the door corridor, door corridor pattern, it's like a 10 year olds first dungeon. Thank goodness that when I open the door there's a dual-weaponing Goblin to vent my anger upon. In a furious beer fuelled fighting frenzy I loose 2 Stamina, but gain 1 Skill from stealing some magic chain-mail from the goblins corpse. The celebratory quaffing of ale reveals the nutty flavour giving way to some very subtle bitter dark-chocolate notes.

Somehow I find I've staggered into in a marble room with gold footprints and a disembodied evil laugh. I didn't think I'd drunk that much! What on earth is going on? It's like I've ended up in a Dali painting. Cautiously I stand on the footprints and I'm  automagically transport myself to the woodsmans hut right at beginning of the adventure, with no items and -4 Strength and Stamina.

Cue much fist-waving and yelling "Curse you Livingstone!".  I spend the rest of the night drinking Wychwoods finest until I pass out, deciding that when I've sobered up I'll have to find Henry, get the antidote and tell him to go get the treasure himself. Final result: Beer:1 Fighting Fantasy:0

Monday 21 June 2010

Lord of the Rings minis from White Dwarf 69 (September 1985)

ME 11: Gandalf the Wizard
Gandalf remains an archetypal wizard character and the miniature  has a life in both RPG and wargaming, so is a prime candidate for a Tabletop Heroes photoshoot. Here we have Gandalf the Sky-blue, painted by Stuart Parkinson with some wicked-cool drybrushing on his big bushy beard. It's a nice sculpt that captures a lot of Tolkiens descriptions - the bushy eyebrows, Glamdring at his side. The pose is reasonably neutral, he could be admonishing a fool of a Took, deciding which route to the nearest pub in the Shire, or about to fire lightning down on some Nazgûl, which makes it very useful for gaming.

Interestingly the Citadel sculptor has given Gandalf the pointy 80s shoulder-pads of magic, supported by the likes of the Emperor Ming and a whole range of Dark Elves and Chaos Sorcerers, and almost any wizard drawn by Tony Ackland. Slightly strange because pointy-shoulder-pads tend to signify evil, perhaps Gandalf has a dark-side we never quite uncovered.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Blog banner!

Finally got kicked into gear to 'design' (and I use the term in the loosest possible way here) a header image for the Realm of Zhu blog. Inspired by Dave Kings recent retro-restyling over at his 80's Citadel painting / collection blog Kings Minis where he's gone for a really nice interpretation of the 80s White Dwarf  'Eavy Metal (TM) logo.

I opted to totally rip take inspiration from the logo on John Blanche's box-art for Warhammer 1st Edition, not much to do in terms of witty alteration, except update that epic catch-all strap-line "The Mass Combat Fantasy Role Playing Game" to reflect the blog contents!

Saturday 12 June 2010

Lord of the Rings minis from White Dwarf 68 (August 1985)

ME 13: Frodo the Hobbit

Just one photo from the Lord of the Rings minatures range this time. What's this then? Frodo on a pony. Never happened. Nice pony tho', obviously a Shire horse. Have we mentioned the 80's Citadel designers love of puns before? I think we have. Shire horse for a hobbit, get it? Oh how they must have gaffawed over their green stuff

But yeah, Frodo not once rode a pony. I suppose that's a problem with creating a formula, 3 figs 1 mounted, 1 standing, 1 mount, and then sticking to it, is that there are certain incongruities in the range. Damned useful for gaming tho' - especially as you can have a mounted and dismounted version of your general, commander, unit leader. or character. Unless you're playing a LoTR game of course, when you'll never ever need a Frodo on a pony.

The really nice brushwork (what is that - high wargaming standard? pro?) is by Lindsey le Doux Paton. The earthy tones of the halfling against the dark horse make a nice dramatic contrast. I'd be tempted to have done that horse "bay", and kept the colour scheme all neutrals. As black Shires are more expensive than bay ones, someone called "le Doux Paton" can obviously afford to show a little more panache with their horse, or perhaps this signifies something about Frodos accumulated inheritance from Bilbo.

Saturday 5 June 2010

Lord of the Rings minis from White Dwarf 67 (July 1985)

ME 61: Sauron the Dark Lord

Sauron doesn't really appear in the Lord of the Rings, and we're certainly not given a description of him, so we get what is essentially a wraith on a giant ornately carved throne (there are naked figures entwined with entrails, like somehing out of Dante's Inferno), surmounted by the Eye of Sauron. As a diarama peice or dungeon furniture this is a very cool mini, but not really useful on the wargaming table. The back of the throne is a giant backbone with shoulder-blade bones, making it an impresive miniature 'in the round'. I quite like the uncredited paint-job here, the rust and blood colouring giving the whole thing a suitably hellish intestinal feel.

In this issue we were also treated to a small black and white collection of other miniatures from the Range photographed by Richard Harcourt (thanks Rich!). Top row: ME 34 Merry, ME 34 Bilbo, ME 34 Pippin, ME 82 Gollum, ME 34 Sam and ME 34 Frodo, with a ME-25 Ranger of Ithilien. The second row comprises ME 83 Tom Bombadil mounted on Fatty Lumpkin and Standing, ME75 Knight of Dol Amaroth (standing only), and a mounted/standing pair of ME 12 Aragorn: Strider the Ranger.