Tag Archives: Grenadier

Some thoughts on Age of Sigmar (and a Grenadier Troll)

Lots of people seem to be trying the new GW Age of Sigmar game. I decided to let the dust settle and see how people found it before making any comment. Many of the reviews I’ve read are from people willing to cast aside their old GW prejudices with a genuine want to enjoy and engage with AOS.  A new game that players can get in on from day one – a fresh start so to speak.

I’ve found that both positive and refreshing, two words often missing from the closed ranks of gamers, some of whom are all too fearful and suspicious of change within their favourite rulesets or game worlds.
Admittedly these suspicions have sometimes proven correct when armies that people have invested serious money and time in have been rendered obsolete or unplayable by simple codex changes between Editions but at least AOS is a clean broom at this point.

I couldn’t comment on how AOS plays as I’ve only given the rules a cursory glance but the reviews by people who have all mention either a lack of balance between opponents, low complexity or a sense of ‘can you remind me again why we started playing this?’

Whereas they all seem to agree that the game is lacking depth, hardly surprising from a 4 page ruleset, the real worry for GW should be the apathy some players have felt towards it MID GAME.
As a company they rely heavily on player’s enthusiasm for their game worlds and systems, encouraging them to come and play regularly in their stores and pushing new models for players to add to their forces.
This becomes an impossible task if players can’t even get half way through a game without caring anymore. I’m sure GW have plans to rectify the short comings of the rules with additional updates. Keeping players interested in the system as a whole will be the real test. Time will tell.

As far as the models go I certainly wasn’t the first out of trap to notice that the majority of these models are basically Space Marines without Bolters. I found that disappointing but not unexpected. Everyone else seems to really like them.

What is a shame, although again not in the least bit surprising, is that with the arrival of AOS Warhammer Fantasy Battle has finally expired. The spasms of it’s 8th Edition death throes were seemingly it’s last.
I’m sure most gamers have a soft spot for whichever Edition of WFB they first played when they entered the hobby, even if they haven’t actually played it since those days. But hey, 33 years and 8 Editions was a bloody good production run and I don’t think it’ll sink into obscurity any time soon. If something as wearing to play as 3rd Edition can create a movement as well populated as Oldhammer I can only assume the later, less clunky versions will still have active fan bases for years to come too.

For now I’m giving Age of Sigmar a miss. The starter set seems reasonably priced to begin a new game and start afresh, something that GW haven’t attempted for many years now, but the game system seems seriously flawed. The models alone could warrant the £75 price tag but despite the large number of miniatures in the set I’m not keen on any of them.

As much as I’d love to be counted in I can’t bring myself to overlook any of this to take the plunge. Sorry GW I’m out.

Anyway, as the title implies I’ve also finally gotten around to painting the third troll in my collection to finish ‘The Triumvirate’. He’s painted up to match the other two trolls I’ve done and will eventually form a unit in the Nick Lund Orc army that’s planned as my main project for next year.

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Fantasy Warlord – A review of sorts

Back in the early 90s there were a couple of failed coups on Warhammer’s dominance of fantasy wargaming. These attempts came not from inexperienced ‘enfant terrible’ but by big names in the gaming world at the time:-

Nick Lund (Miniature Designer who’d worked for several manufacturers and was chiefly known for his distinctive style of Orcs, Trolls and Ogres) wrote Grenadier Miniature’s ‘Fantasy Warriors’.

Gary Chalk (Illustrator, Model Maker, Writer and ex Games Development Manager for Games Workshop) and Ian Bailey (White Dwarf contributor, ex Head Buyer/Financial Director of Games Workshop) wrote Folio Work’s ‘Fantasy Warlord’.

The latter of these two works was probably the least successful attempt from both a financial and gaming perspective to rival Warhammer so we’ll have a look at it.

Fantasy Warlord saw publication in 1990. Due to poor reviews in the independent press it sat on retailer’s shelves collecting dust in droves for the next few years. At the time I was a Sales Consultant in a City Centre Games Store. Part of my job was buying the RPG, miniature and wargame stock. Fortunately I didn’t buy this product, the Store Manager did. The ten copies we had remained untouched until they were heavily discounted to get rid of them. Other retailers in the area told the same story.

Despite it’s notoriety at the time I never read it and I doubt my gaming friends and colleagues ever did either. I’ve often wondered if the bad press it received was really justified. So I recently bought a copy off eBay for a quid and flipped through it to find out.

This isn’t a review of the nitty gritty game mechanics but more of an overview of the book in general, to see what really happened and if it has anything to offer now. Here goes. All illustrations, photographs and text reproduced below from Fantasy Warlord are copyright of Gary Chalk and Ian Bailey and have been used without permission.

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It has been said that the cover illustration was garish and I have to admit it’s not the strongest of Chalk’s works. Beyond that my first impressions on flipping through were of a well presented professional offering. It’s a soft back A4 book with 192 pages plus reference sheets and templates. This was clearly aimed at the Fantasy wargamer who would have been playing Warhammer 3rd edition.
The paper and printing quality are comparable to similar products of this period and from what I remember it retailed in the UK somewhere around the £10 to £13 mark. Time, effort and considerable money had been invested into it’s production. Further reading about it revealed that Gary Chalk apparently lost a considerable amount of money and suffered immense stress over it’s failure.

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The books starts out with a quick introduction to the usual mechanics of wargames – dice, scenery, what armies you would want to play etc before moving on to the rules.
As far as the gameplay each game turn seems overly complicated with eleven (yes, you read that correctly ELEVEN) phases –

1. Compulsory Moves
2. Order Test
3. Issue Orders
4. Reveal Orders and Charges
5. Charge reactions
6. Normal Movement and Reaction Movement
7. Automatic Moves
8. Missile Fire
Are you still there? Good…
9. Charging Home and Evading
10. Combat
11.Post Combat Morale

Combat uses a D100 instead of the ‘buckets of D6’ familiar to Warhammerists. Commanders issue orders to troops with differing morale classes using order counters.
Magic Users can cast one spell at any point in the game turn as long as they aren’t attached to a unit in combat.

Another note of interest is that there’s a whole section on character creation used to create characters to lead your army. There are skills and attribute tables for Warrior Heroes, Priests, Warrior Priests, Magic Users, Thieves and Discipline Masters. This seems very fantasy RPG, character classes were of course a part of just about every fantasy RPG at this point in time.

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The system does seem overly complicated but without actually playing it (which I have no plans to do) I can’t comment further on just how claggy it would become with several units in combat. Warhammer 3rd edition, well know as the worst version of that game from a playing perspective, does look rather easier to grasp.

This game was a reaction to Games Workshop’s perceived ‘dumbing down’ of fantasy gaming. I’d like to know how many playtesters they involved in the process and the amount of market research done as no one seemed to have checked just how big a mature gamer market there was out there.

The book is full of Chalk’s distinctive illustrations, mostly in black ink but with some colour plates. People who have ever read a White Dwarf pre issue 100 or Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf series would instantly recognize his work. A lot of these drawings are placed rather randomly within the book and often don’t actually relate to the adjoining text. Some are lifted from previous games that Chalk illustrated. Illustrations of a Gorgaz (Lone Wolf) and a mounted Slann (Warhammer) are just two obvious examples, there are plenty more.

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Clarification of the rules are shown by photographs of actual miniatures on a wargames table in mocked up play. As these are purely for illustrating play situations most of these are a bit on the small size and in black and white so we can’t see the paint jobs.

The photographs that are colour are mostly ‘staged battle shots’ and have some wonderful old miniatures well painted as you’d expect from Chalk. 

What I find do find strange is that a lot of the miniatures photographed for the book are made by Citadel, part of the very same company the authors, as apparently disgruntled ex employees, were trying to compete with. Alternative Armies had the rights to produce the official miniatures to this game so why weren’t they used from the start? I understand it would have been a limited range at the release of Fantasy Warlord but still, if you’re trying to compete wholesale with Games Workshop you wouldn’t put photographs of their products in your book.

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The second part of the book is an entire background for the game – Vortimax. This is 47 pages detailing the world and it’s inhabitants. All the standard fantasy races appear to be present with some incredible detail on the kingdoms of mankind. The world seems influenced by Lone Wolf’s Magnamund, Clark Ashton Smith’s Swords and Sorcery stories with hints of Warhammer around the time of Orc’s Drift and McDeath – before WFRP solidified the concept of the Empire as the major powerbase of mankind. This is a neat piece of work which I will be plundering ideas from to use in my own Swords and Sorcery RPG setting I’m sure.

So in conclusion if this was 1990 and you had wanted to use Fantasy Warlord as your wargaming ‘go to’ or as an alternative to Warhammer you’d be disappointed. The reviews of it as a wargame were probably correct.

I doubt anyone will ever want to play this game but as a piece of gaming nostalgia I would wholeheartedly recommend picking up a copy if you can find one cheaply. It’s rammed full of Chalk’s illustrations, has a few nicely painted miniature pics and more importantly has a mass of well written fluff that could easily be incorporated in to your own campaign – be that a wargame or an RPG. It certainly hadn’t been done on the cheap as a cynical cash in on Warhammer’s success, this was a real labour of love, albeit misplaced.

So what happened to the authors? Last time I’d heard about Gary Chalk was in a wargames magazine in the late 90s before my gaming hiatus. He was living in France and making made to order wild west buildings. I decided to have a look what he’s up to now and it appears he’s still living in France and illustrating the latest versions of Runequest and Lone Wolf amongst other things. It’s good to see he’s still in the business.

Ian Bailey seemed to go to ground after Fantasy Warlord and didn’t come up on my radar again. A quick Wikipedia search reveals he hasn’t really continued to be part of the gaming industry although has carved a successful career in other industries and educational posts. 

Grenadier Barbarian Shaman

This chap has sat around on the ‘half painted shelf’ for way too long so I decided to pull my finger out and get him finished to free up space  – which we all know is to make room so I can put another half finished miniature in the spot he occupied. He is of course a Mark Copplestone Barbarian Shaman.

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Originally part of the Grenadier Fantasy Warriors range from the early 90s, the moulds are now owned and produced by Mirliton in Italy.

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This one came from a job lot of Barbarians on eBay so I assume he’s an older casting rather than a modern Italian import – not that it makes any difference.

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Grenadier Storm Giant vs Ral Partha Elves

I’ve been trying to concentrate on painting regiments rather than single figures lately. The reasoning is hopefully I’ll manage to have at least one completed small army/warband by the end of the year.

This kind of painting can be quite tiresome for someone with my time constraints – I average less than two hours of painting a night, and don’t paint every night. You have to hang in there through a fair few rounds of paint before a regiment finally pulls together and starts to look like a completed unit. At my current rate this can take weeks. That’s nothing like twenty years ago where I could whip out a unit and make a decent start on another all in the same weekend. No distractions or other commitments back then, just paint/base/varnish/repeat…

Occasionally it’s been nice to take a step back in the middle of all this block painting and get the brush onto something a bit different. Although it’s important not to get too sidetracked by individual figures when trying to paint armies it’s only early April so there’s still plenty of time to get a sizable force of regimented troops painted and based if I (mostly) stick to the plan.

So with that in mind this is the converted Grenadier Storm Giant I blogged about last year. He was painted and based over four sessions or so, time spent not just on him but around waiting on regiments to dry etc.

He’s painted up as a typically grubby giant, stood with a pair of 25mm Elves to give an idea of scale – Tom Meier sculpts from Ral Partha. All of these came in the same job lot of lead off eBay.

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I have plans for this old boy to join an Orc warband consisting entirely of Nick Lund sculpted Orcs, of which I’ve currently collected about fifty, with plans to add more throughout the coming year for my next fantasy project.

Trolls

Long time no posts. All the usual reasons for that of course but I’ve still been painting and have lots of projects lined up for the future.

Here’s a couple of trolls I’ve painted using Vallejo Game Color paints and inks.

First up is a Reaper ‘Bones’ troll. Reaper’s Bones range is well known to everyone so I’m sure there’s no need to expand on that too much. However the sculpting on this model reminded me of 1985 buying my first Citadel troll by the Perry Twins  – Rattlebones Bowlegs.

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The original Citadel C20 troll range held a fairly diverse set of characters of which 6 Perry Twin sculpts and 2 later Marauder models became my completed unit of 8 trolls for Warhammer from the early 1990s onwards.

Looking at the Reaper miniature, thinking about the C20 range (and seeing the prices those original castings now go for) got me thinking about alternative troll models.

In about 1993 a work colleague sold me a small shoe box of random lead miniatures he’d collected himself and acquired from an older cousin. The contents were a true delight of Citadel (pre and early slotta) and Grenadier models – many complete with random daubings of Humbrol enamel paint as expected.
Amongst it all was a Nick Lund troll sculpt with shield and stone war hammer. Although I had Lund’s Black Orc Mother Crusher miniatures as a regiment in my orc/goblin army this figure didn’t fit trollwise with the C20 range so always remained unpainted until lost in 2003 with the rest of my collection.

So with a desire to have a few different looking trolls but remembering the past I purchased an identical shoe box troll off eBay cheaply (minus shield but what self respecting troll would use a shield anyway??) and he painted up quite nicely in the same vein as the Reaper one.

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This lead me to buy another Lund sculpt from eBay but he’s still at the undercoated stage so it’ll be a while until I form the traditional triumvirate of troll…

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Grenadier Storm Giant

I bought a job lot of old lead on eBay and this old boy (minus most of his left arm, broken off at the bicep) was amongst it.
I’ve previously owned this figure, purchased from a small model shop in Stockport circa 1989/1990, although both the shop and my original model are now long gone of course. Back then on removing him from the blister pack I was disappointed with the sculpt and nearly 25 years later I still felt the same as he sat stripping in Dettol.
He’s supposedly a storm giant, hence the wind blast from his hand and the big beard reminiscent of billowing cloud – all good from the front. What disappoints me is the back of the figure. He appears to be dressed in a playsuit rocking a ‘utility belt’ à la Batman – a distinctly odd combination for a storm giant I feel.
Anyway, as this latest purchase was missing his left ‘wind blast’ arm it seemed a perfect opportunity to get the green stuff out and do a quick conversion and make him more of a ‘standard giant’.
As he’s quite gangly in proportions he reminds me of the old Citadel C28 Giants so I wanted to emulate them in his weapons and equipment – tree branch style club and rough improvised shield that was an old wooden door.

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Whilst trying to bend his right arm out from his body to accommodate the club I managed to snap his right hand off – the joys of old metal and a ham fisted modeller. The bracer now hides the re-glued join at the wrist.
I tried to fill his visible panty line in with milliput superfine because I’d mixed some for something else but that didn’t quite work out properly. A quick paint over with GW Liquid green stuff seems to have helped. The standard green grey milliput still visible on his left shoulder and texture on the base are remnants from his previous owner that dettol hasn’t removed.

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I’ll get around to painting him eventually, with full length trousers now at least.

Grenadier Barbarians

Mark Copplestone’s Barbarians still look as great today as when they first appeared over 22 years ago.

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Luckily, despite the sad demise of Grenadier Miniatures in 1996, this range is pretty much still fully available from various suppliers who have the rights to the moulds.

You can find them very easily as new figures on ebay however people do try to sell original 1992 figures as ‘rare’ or ‘OOP’ with price tags to match. £35 for 9 figures on ebay as I type and a single second hand Barbarian Shaman figure (the one with the skull mask holding a  flint dagger above his head) sold for over £5 a few weeks back. The exact same figures can still be bought new for about £2 each and that’s usually including UK postage.

Second hand versions can bought for sensible prices, well below £2 a figure if you sit tight and be patient. Definitely no need to pay over the odds!

Although the figure on the bottom right of this picture came with a job lot of second hand Grenadier Barbarians it clearly isn’t a Mark Copplestone sculpt at all. He has more of a Nick Lund feel about him both facially and in his gait. Unfortunately his previous owner had removed him from his base/tab so I have no clues about his real origin.