Monday, August 26, 2013

New, short term project

Over the past little while, Ross MacFarlane has been posting again about his long-running, infrequently occurring skirmish games based loosely on the Prince Valiant comic strip of our youth.

He also posted a short and sweet set of semi-skirmish rules called Stout Hearts and Willing Swords.  Now there is nothing like the combination of evocative photos of nicely painted figures and a fun looking set of rules to get me sidetracked into a new project. 

So away I go. 

Last year some time I bought a set of Emhar's 54mm hard plastic Vikings on a whim. And somewhere in the depths of my garage lurked some Marx 54mm Vikings in bright red plastic. A little spelunking and I had a collection of figures I could get going with.

The Emhar Vikings are quite nice. They are, to my eye, historically accurate.  And the detail on these figures is quite nice.  There are fewer shields in the kit these warriors carry than I'd prefer, but they'll work for skirmish games for sure.

Emhar 1/32 Vikings, with minor conversions and weapon replacements
The Emhar plastic is quite hard.  The figures cleaned up quickly with a sharp blade, but there were a few problems worth noting.  First, several of the weapons were either broken or badly distorted, out of the box.  The archer (back right) had a mangled bow and broken bowstring.  I replaced the bow with 1/16" brass (perhaps a little thick) and carefully trimmed away the bowstring where it crossed his face and body.  That was easier than I feared it would be.

Two of the figures had flimsy and bent swords.  I replaced these by hammering and filing that 1/16" brass rod into replacement blades (the figure I think of as "The Warlord" in the front right, and the guy in the front with the club and sword).  In this photo, the swords are just slipped into the holes I drilled in the hands, so one is drooping a bit...

"The Warlord" with replaced sword blade
All the way in the back is a figure carrying an axe and a javelin (or short spear).  He originally held a dagger/saex in that upraised hand, but he look under-armed and I wanted more spearmen, so I drilled out his hand and hammered/filed a spearhead onto another length of wire.

Three of the figure have pre-drilled hands to take long and thin-hafted axes.  Very nice, but those axe hafts are relatively thin, brittle plastic.  I used them anyway, but nearly snapped one when I dropped the figure.  I worry about their longevity, but I can probably swap out the hafts for thinner wire if I need to. For now, I'll handle them more gently.

A long deep dive into my garage yielded the Marx 54mm Vikings I remembered buying years ago.  There are nine unique poses, most of which are (mostly) historically accurate.  I'm not too worried about historical accuracy for this project really, but I did decide to remove the horns from various helmets, and to trim the heads of various axes from "meat cleaver" shape to something more Dark Ages.

The assembled Marx Viking horde
In order to get a few more poses out of the collection, I did a few weapon swaps.  One figure carries two axe (note the trimmed axe head) and an oddly leaf-bladed sword.  I decided to leave the sword alone rather than swap the blade, but I may revisit that decision.  Swapping both weapons for javelins added another light warrior to the tribe.

Sword/axe pose, converted by swapping both weapons for javelins
This figure has a quasi-Norman's really more appropriate to the Hundred Years War...but I have yet to find a glue that will hold pieces of this slippery Marx plastic together securely, and I lack any replacement round shields, so I've left them.  Again...I'm not too worried about historical accuracy for this project.  I'm looking for a fast and furious "Dark Ages" bash more inspired by Hyboria and Prince Valiant than strict history.  This figure, curiously, comes with a stumpy dagger.  I swapped it out for a great big thrusting spear to get an alternate pose.  Eventually, after this pic was taken, I replaced the dagger blade with a brass longsword blade.

"Norman" shield and dagger man, and his spearmen alternate.
The figure on the right is the stock chieftain pose from the Marx set.  All in all, a very nice figure.  The variant has had his helmet wings removes, and a long spear swapped in for the sword.  The left hand resting on the scabbard hides enough of the top to let me convince myself he's got a sword in there if I don't look too closely.

This spear is deliberately long.  I may make him a standard bearer before painting begins.

Marx Chieftain and his spearman alternate
The whole collection is going to be based for skirmish games.  I prefer round steel bases for this, and use fender washers almost exclusively.  They're inexpensive, and ferrous enough to stick reasonably well to adhesive sheet magnet.  I found these boxes at The Container Store some years ago, and use them to store my figures whenever I can.  I'll line the box with sheet magnet and they'll have a secure home.

The collected horde, on their fender washer bases, and in their storage box.

Painting began right after all of the mold line trimming, weapon swaps and basing was finished.  I decided to do this collection six figures at a time.  That's a meaningful chunk of the twenty-four figures I have, and still not overwhelming.

At the advice of Rob Dean (of The Sharp End of the Brush), I bought Liquitex white gesso and their flexible brush-on matte varnish.  Starting with the gesso, painting in acrylics, then finishing with their varnish yields a tough, flexible paint job that will resist cracking and peeling over soft plastic figures, according to Rob.  He's painted hundred of such figures so I trust his advice.  I'll let you know how that goes.

But...even after washing my figures carefully with dish soap, rinsing well and letting them dry thoroughly...the gesso refused to stick to the Emhar plastic.  It beaded up and wouldn't cover.  Oh well. These figures are hard plastic.  I'm not worried about flexible paint on them.  A quick coat of spray primer stuck very nicely (thank goodness...I thought I might be doomed to toss these very nice figures).

Painting is underway.  Lots of muted colors, lots of off-whites for cotton cloth, lots of different browns for wood and leather.  And soon, lots and lots of chain mail.

I'll post much better pictures as the painting progresses.

First steps toward a painted collection.  I'll get better photos up soon.
Until then, I hope this was a fun read.  If you have any questions about these figures, conversions, or whatever, please feel free to ask in the comments.


Ross Mac said...

Nice work, especially on the spear heads! The painting seems to be going well also, I look forward to seeing the finished figures. trimmed the wings? How is a chieftain supposed to fight valiantly with his wings clipped?


ps Rattle? or Stout Hearts?

Will Scarvie said...

Ross, you are absolutely right. I meant to reference Stout Hearts and Willing Swords. I've editing the post. Thanks for the catch!

Glad you're enjoying the work. I credit "Carmen's Fun Painty Time" blog for learning a bit about fashioning brass into miniature weapons. Check out his post here:

And...I only trimmed the wings on the alternate version of the chieftain :-)

Monty said...

Great stuff! I've got some Emhar 1/72 Saxons and love them. they can be re-positioned to a certain extent, as the plastic is posable, allowing arms and heads to be bent into different positions.

Will Scarvie said...

Thanks Monty,

Those Saxons are really nice figures. I hope Emhar decides to release them in 1/32 at some point, as they did with these Vikings. But it's been a while since the Vikings came out, and no sign of the Saxons. My guess is that these Vikings didn't sell well enough to justify the tooling for more releases.

But, I can always keep hoping!

Bill Hupp said...

Nice work. Those old Marx Vikings are very serviceable, particularly with your changes. You may want to look at the Conte Vikings, Saxons and Normans. That is a new project for me and I am planning to use the SAGA rules.

Will Scarvie said...

Thanks very much, Bill.

The Conte figures would be a really great addition. I'm having a lot of trouble finding any, however. The Conte site says there are a couple of sets still available, but I wrote to them to confirm, and never heard back. The site hasn't changed in two years or more, so I worry that their "in stock" information is dated.

If you know any place where I can buy any of the Norman, Viking or Saxon sets, please do let me know.

Bill Hupp said...

Will, the OTSN show is coming to Chicago next month. I'm sure there will be some there. I will look around on line too.

Will Scarvie said...

Sooo...I'm not sure this is what you meant...but are you going to that show? And...would you mind hunting for me? Drop me a line at wscarvie at gmail dot com, if I'm understanding you right. Thanks.

Phil said...

Looking good, love the spear heads!

Will Scarvie said...

Merci Phil,

They're quite easy to make. There's a link a few comments up to an article on how to do it.

Kenneth Van Pelt said...

Stop on by and see my Vikings game. Yours is looking splendid. I will follow with interest.

Will Scarvie said...

Kenneth! YES!! What a great post. Thank you for sharing it.

You know those "reinforcements" I mentioned at the end of the most recent post? They in fact, just those Reamsa and Cherilea figures.

They're a good bit taller than the Emhar and Marx figures (60mm vs 54mm) but I think once they're painted they'll serve just fine. Perhaps they're just well fed?

I also enjoyed your recent ACW posts very much.