Ballads of War 1x44 & 1x45

When we thought we had things under control, new twist of events:

If you notice the first sentence in the first panel, you may recognise the 'turun' expression meaning 'fate', like in Túrin Turambar. OK, last time I get pedantic about Quenya, promise :D

Thing is that this is the moment we realise this whole story spins around Brent (well, that's in case you didn't notice until now; hey, you had some hints). Besides, we also get the right impression about Eldar. These are not the friendly, hospitable Elves we see in the Lord of the Rings. These are some bitter space thugs who think themselves way above all other species, including of course mankind, which they deem hardly better than dirty apes. So they have absolutely no remorse about ordering an attack on civilian population, if that gives them any military advantage.

High Farseer Ellinderelion has decreed death upon Brent, but he understandably doesn't feel too happy about the idea. What will happen?

Remember that the comic is 48 pages long and we've reached page 45. It is my intention to publish the three remaining ones next week, so stay tuned if you wanna know how this part ends...
If you want to catch up, all the previous stuff can be found HERE.

Beware! The end is nigh!
(Oh, I've always wanted to say that)


Twice a horror

I'll need a couple of flashbacks to get today's work full explanation. Some time ago I talked about the Fury of Dracula game. After that, a friend of mine got the game, but he's under certain... condition. He can't stand plastic minis, he always favours metal over pastic. So he got some 28mm minis from the Empire of the Dead ranges by West Wind Productions and commissioned me to paint them.

I painted the hunters, but we were still missing the masterpiece in the game, Count Dracula himself. We both agreed we couldn't find a better mini than the one made by Otherworld, which is truly fantastic. So I finished the game kit :D

Clearly in a hurry

But the end of this project was nothing but the start of another one. A twin project, you could say, as my pal, as a counterpart to the commission, gave me away the other remaining minis from the box we didn't use for his own kit. This way, he told me, I wouldn't have to suffer playing with plastic :D
So, you know, when we ordered the Dracula to Otherworld... we ordered two :)

Among the minis I had available then, it was easy to find candidates for the hunters...

Well, sir, a girl doesn't enjoy gentlemen rushing on her this way
Do we look manly (and Victorian) enough?

So here we have another full kit for the Fury of Dracula, ready to ravage all over Europe:

No need to hurry, sir, the train is delayed

Well, if we count the original 20mm plastic minis from the game, this is the third set I paint, this is becoming a habit, isn't it?
Don't ask me why, but I suddenly feel the urge to paint a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen :D


Ballads of War 1x42 & 1x43

This is where things begin to get wild...

All the relevant stuff has already been said, I'm afraid. You know all I had in mind for the Eldar set of mind. I'm just decorating it with some Art Nouveau. Oh, I would have loved to develop that part much more. Rough thing about comics is that you really need to speed up and tell a story, so backgrounds usually need to be reduced to the minimum expression (unless it serves a purpose). It's the compromise you need to reach if you want to see it finished. But I would have enjoyed so much replicating particularly Mucha, but maybe Klimt and others too, turning their works into Elvish wall paintings. Of course I also had Gaudí in mind for some crazy architectural details all over the ship. It's a shame, but it all had to be set aside in order to actually get the comic finished. Sigh, it is what it is.

The important thing today is that we have serious spoiler alert! A mere glimpse of things to come (well, eventually to come, if I had ever finished it all, ahem). These brief images were things that were to be intertwined in the story. Some of them are obvious, some of them are not. If you are really interested in all this crazy stuff, I think I can briefly tell you the whole plot as it was in my mind when we reach the pages in which I quit the comic. But for the moment I'll just leave it all to speculation, mwahaha :D

You can of course find all previous pages HERE as usual :)


Raggedy rugs

Change of plans. My urban market is under re-evaluation. You may remember my plans on a rug merchant. First things first, I needed the raw material, the stuff that is going to be sold, i.e., the rugs:

You can get them from the post I was talking about
EDIT: I've been happily led towards the original source of the rugs, hooray!
Go have a look! :)

My original idea was using the Wolsung stalls by Micro Arts, but I couldn't find any proper way of the rugs fitting the structure. Either they covered the whole stall, either they didn't look anything like a market. No worries, I'm good at improvisation and developing new plans as difficulties arise. Follow my train of thought. I got this image stuck in mind:

Real fabric merchant in Afghanistan
 That was my aim, something small but motley, with the cloth/rugs/merchandise all over. Most definitely I was in need of something different. The MDF stalls would have to wait, I designed a very simple way of achieving the same effect.

A couple of cards and these plastic pieces from some childhood toy

This is going to be way much modest, of course, but hopefully sharing the same spirit. Just the simplest sales stand ever. I thought of painting it all brown and rusty beyond any measure, like my other 40K stuff. But on a second thought I realised I could also use it for my modern 28mm games set in Afghanistan (if I ever come back to that; well, now I have a new incentive). So I used some more colour, though keeping the weathered, rusty theme.

If you still don't see where I'm going with all this, don't worry. All my plans tend to be confusing
Now I had to stack the rugs. I picked some of them and with some scissors and glue managed to more or less make them look piled up ready to be sold:

I could have used even more, but I think it was enough for my purposes
Well, if you get to look close enough you may advert the rugs are just paper, but I didn't think it was worth of simulating the whole rolling with greenstuff or whatever. At tabletop distance it works just fine.

This is it, one of the most efficient results I can recall, given that it's essentially been at zero cost. Now I have a dual purpose scenery element, useful both for my RT stuff and any Afghan (or whatever) skirmish I can plan. But don't worry, I promised the MDF stalls and I'll get some things for them! All in due time.


Ballads of War 1x40 & 1x41

New funny speaking people joining to the party!

I wanted High Farseer Ellinderelion to look as lordly as possible, and I wanted to depict him really old looking. An aged elf, if you can conceive that. He had to bear presence, gravitas. I won't tell much of him now, as it's better that you see his development in future pages.

I would have loved to show more of the command table the Eldar are using to control the battle on the surface of the planet. It was planned to be totally holographic and would have served to better understand the situation on the ground, with tiny floating icons of the military units deployed, that kind of subtle visual aid. Unfortunately it was totally beyond my abilities with the brush. All the experiments I tried before I actually got it onto the paper were blurry smudges of white and blue, impossible to understand a single thing on them. That's something I need to learn how to do.

More Quenya Eldarissa chit chat. The Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo greeting was too good to let it go, of course (if by any chance it sounds familiar to you, it's what Frodo says to Gildor Inglorion on their first meeting at the Shire). Another fun fact coming from that very chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring: the name of the ship, Menelvagor, is not made up; it's the name Elves use to refer to the constellation of Orion. Yup, I'm recycling everything I can. But the name was absolutely adequate for a warship so, once again, to good to ignore :D
Mon-keigh is of course a GW word. Clumsy attempt of phonetically tie the term with monkey, as the term Eldar use to talk about all other 'inferior' species, particularly mankind. I prefered to keep the word even when the Eldar are talking each other, hence the clarification. Tough thing is that I had to decline it for a sentence, so I treated it as a plain word.

We now learn that the Farseer and the Harlequin are aquaintances and that he had also met El'Kais before. Hmm, sounds like a story to tell...
Another revelation, Brent does speak Eldarissa! Well, that's a surprise. Apparently he fought in alliance with Saim-Hann back in the day. For some of the then-40Kplayers it was kind of shocking, but those were the things that happened in the old days of RT-2nd Ed, and in fact it is what is happening now again in the game. Not sure though of what the Inquisition would thing about an Imperial soldier learning Xenos language, hmmm... (Once again this is not an idle piece of information, I scarcely do random things. Let it be shrouded by mistery for the moment...)

It is worth to note that Ellinderelion shows his surprise at the fact that the mon-keigh "speaks". Only after that he reckons that he speaks his language. How much it is said with such few words ;)
Best thing is that, while the Farseer is aghast, the Harlequin is pure joy. Life is but a comedy for him, he really celebrates every new surprise.

Well, that's it for now. As usual, HERE you have all the previous stuff. I'll go prepare the next couple of pages!


Colourful furs of Twilight

With this batch I can declare this project finished (for a while!). The last group I had remaining consisted of some Dhogu, a tribe of nomadic scavengers wich in fact are quite different from the other minis I painted before, starting for the fact that these have fur!

Given my previous experiences with the Skerrats and the Muppet effect, I knew from the beginning I had to try a different approach, in a paler scheme. My options were basically two: going for greys and cold colours (kind of the 'official' pattern) or just the opposite, a warm palette. Given that I've reached this point with the gaudiest colours imaginable, it looked quite obvious to me the path I had to follow ;)

However, I had to face the dilemma of how to confront this particular challenge. I had avoided all the earthy colours and possibilities so far, but this time I would have to inexcusably try some natural colours. However, I tried to oversaturate them, so the minis didn't look totally out of place alongside the rest. Besides, their clothes would serve the purpose of showing bright colours. Well, it sounded like a plan.

First mini, the Yirnak rider. This is the only cavalry mini I didn't use for the Wasteland mutants project, as it already had a rider. So the poor bloke is the only survivo, destined to its original purpose :P

Have you seen others like me?

The infantry proved as a nice challenge, chromatically speaking. I wanted to repeat colours as less as possible, but keeping the group into some visual coherence. Ifinally came to this:

Well, the Woodstock Festival fashion was unintended, ahem. I assumed they had to stand out if they were to be part of the same project I've been developing. So, instead of pale coats I favoured more colourful garments, kind of in the African mood I've talked about on earlier occasions.

Let's test my theory! Would they fit in the whole group? There's only one way to know! As I've finished all the Twilight minis I currently have (though I've been warned by my pal that he's commissioning me some more), it was time for a familiy shot:

Ouch, only now I realise I have used different colours for the bases edges
Ooops, looks like I still have some additional work to do! But for the moment I can call this a day and declare this (part of the) project closed. If any of these minis gets you attention, please don't miss the World of Twilight web. It's really full of pleasant surprises and a totally fresh take on fantasy settings :)

This is definitely not the last thing you've seen of Anyaral here, but for the moment it's time to get back to some of all my other abandoned projects. So more different stuff coming anytime soon!


Ballads of War 1x38 & 1x39

New revelations for our group...

I guess you may request some explanations. Short answer to your questions is 'yes, I did spend some time actually translating the dialogues into Quenya'. Ahem.

Long answer. The other day I recalled the origin of the word 'Eldar', tying the concept with Prof. Tolkien's work. So my intention was to fill in the blanks GW left about Eldar culture with even more Tolkien stuff. I said that the language of the Eldar is called Eldarissa, and also that for the purpose of this story I was using Quenya to represent it. Well, now you see that I meant it :P

It's an accepted convention in comic storytelling to simply translate any foreign languages in the balloons. But my approach is quite more movie-like, which is consistent with other stuff I have done in earlier pages (remember, the eagle on the Arbites helmet or the marines not having back banner). So I really wanted the reader to have an immersive experience. Yeah, back in the day I had that much time. Sigh.

Why Quenya over Sindarin? I originally had a more complex plan in which each Eldar Craftworld used a different Sindarin dialect (all of them essentially Sindarin, but slightly different in some terms) and then used Quenya as a lingua franca to allow communication between all the different Eldar branches. Of course that was literally too much for my poor comic, so I discarded the idea in a very early stage. One Eldar language was just fine for my purposes here. But I kept the concept and had intention to talk about that (in the metanarrative I was using, as in the examples you have already seen).

So again, once I decided to keep it reduced to just one language, why Quenya? Just mere artistic reasons. Quenya seemed more elegant as a choice, it felt more natural to me as the speech of a decadent, fallen empire, torn to shards but still wonderful, graceful in each detail. It talked more of the past than of the present. I guess it also makes sense in Tolkien's universe, and Quenya it's not called the High Speech without a reason. So it was settled. Quenya. I bought a grammar method (yes, they do exist) and, with the help of Christopher Tolkien's books and annotations on his father's work, it was feasible to me to get access to a reasonable vocabulary to express the ideas and concepts needed for the story.

I inserted some GW expressions: for example, Rillietann is the word they use for Harlequin (it sounds unsettlingly Sindarin to me, but I hope you'll indulge me for this time, hehe). If you wanna play the game, you may find some familiar lexemes also used in the Lord of the Rings. Full words as sinome or utúlie; dagor as in Dagorlad; or the lexeme in Ikenepalan (it doesn't show quite well in this declination, but in future pages you'll see the word Ikenepalantar to refer to the Eldar Farseer, which you may relate to the Palantir, you know, wink, wink).

OK, I've gone this far and I haven't even talked about what's happening in these pages. First thing is that I wanted to show a new dimension of the Great Harlequin. Let's face it, we have a character wearing a grimacing mask who apparently worships some Laughing God, and we have to believe that not only he's not insane, but he's some respectable guy with a truly important mission in life. We needed to see him in context. An alien context, right, but something that offers us real perspective. The man is really well considered among his own, to say the least. The somehow messianic vision the other Eldar have of him serves to relate to his position, to tell us that something bigger is going on around him. Well, the other option would be that the Eldar have real fear of clowns. Space coulrophobia. But well, for the moment let's stick to the first option.

These pages serve that purpose. You can see that I was unfortunately too busy translating stuff to a fictional language to pay real attention to how an Eldar ship should look in the inside. I'm afraid it looks too Apple, white plain surfaces, while it should look intrincate, in the fashion we now portray Elves in pop culture. The videogame lift makes me chuckle now, I guess I found it cool back in the day. For the rest I'm keeping it into Biel-Tan colours, white and green, with thorns and that kind of iconography.

Not much else to say. Just notice that they are talking about a new character, a Farseer Ellinderelion. You can bet you'll meet him soon...

Until that moment, HERE you can have a look at the whole story so far :)


Playing 'Tail Feathers'

I've finally had the chance to try 'Tail Feathers'. I know the game is no news by now, it was somehthing to deal with from a long time ago.

The game is set in the world of 'Mice and Mystics' (you can see an example of that game in this very blog) and it can work both as an expansion pack or as an independent game, which is certainly something you don't see everyday. If you play it as an expansion, then it's considered an additional chapter of the story (If you are familiar with 'Mice and Mystics', the game is presented as a tale, in wich each game of the campaign is a different chapter of the whole story). It takes place within the main course of events and you can use the lead characters just as taking part in the confrontation here. If you choose to play it as an independent game, then it's just a battle among two warbands, one side being the mice and the other the rats.

As we just wanted to give it a try, we chose the one stand game. Yup, I haven't even painted the minis, sorry, it was just a test game. Won't happen for the second game, but the lead mountain is still demanding!

This is the display of the game
Both sides have infantry soldiers and birds. This board represents the warbands climbing on trees and warring over the objective on the central tree. For this game, the final goal was also to destroy the enemy nest.
The board is quite unusual, a piece of genius. Infantry minis can only move through the branches or tree leaves, but nothing out of those, the rest of the board being just empty space, the realm of the birds. If you look closer, you'll see different areas on the branches (the nude branch, bark, moss...). Those are the tiles. We'll see more of that in a minute.

First of all, you roll initiative each turn, and then you have alternate activation of your respective units. At the beginning of each turn, you will have to secretly select a mission from your deck card and allocate some minis to it. After the unit activation, you can try to accomplish the mission you chose that turn (it can be patrolling the area in order to take enemy birds down, attacking the enemy nest, rescuing a fallen bird... We'll have some examples ahead).

Let's go step by step. I'll be playing the rats. I got the initiative and moved my infantry from my nest through the tiles of my tree. But... how can the minis move from one tree to another?

Wait, Bob. You mean we're using this leaf as a transport?
Wooooo! I'm flyiiiiing!!
The leaves have two holes, one each side, so you use the gauge (right, that plastic branch also serves to calculate short/long range when shooting!) and spin the leaf using the gauge as the axis. It's quite a fun and cool system I had never seen before :D

Mice do the same. Wiiiiiiii
OK, birds. Birds can move along the whole board, the only thing they have to be careful about is the tree trunks. At the beginning of the player's turn, they have to choose if they're simply flying ahead or they're turning right or left, and position the mini accordingly. Beware! As this positioning is made at the beginning of the turn, your rival can assume what you are doing, and then plan an opposing strategy for his own birds. That's why, when the activation comes, you can choose to roll dice to change your positioning in the last minute. If you pass the roll, the feint has been successful and you can do a different movement. That gives you a high degree of fexibility to adapt your tactical decisions as the turn is taking place.

Movement is made using these gauges
Range attacks use the branch
Dice system is just the same that in 'Mice and Mystics'. Swords are close quarters hits, shields are defense and bows are long range hits. Cheese give bonus tokens you can use for certain options during the game, as we'll get to see later.
Birds can also engage in combat
If none of them are dead, they turn back and leave some... tail feathers ;)
Another combat. What would you call a dogfight between birds? Birdogfight? Hmmm
Chirp chirp chirp
 Once all your units have been activated, it's time to accomplish the mission you chose for this turn.

In this case, trying to hit a bird from the ground. Unsuccessful
At the beginning of turn 2, our respective airborne troops reched the central tree.

Rodent infestation!
A close turn to avoid stomping into the tree!
Swoop attack! Quite a thing, trust me
Reinforcements incoming!
 Here you can have a general overview of the battle so far:

The birds begun to fall down on both sides...

Ehhm... Black...hawk? down
Blackcrow down at the most
The rats take the central objective after taking the mice down
As the bird goes by, the rat character jumps on it, now it's a transport unit!
Mice unveil their mission: They put the rats nest under siege!
Both nests have a number of damage points each (can't remember exactly right now, 11 maybe?). Destroying them is easy, you have to follow the regular combat rules, but the nest doesn't roll any defense die.

I talked about cheese tokens earlier. You receive them when you roll a cheese on a die or with a number of other events during the game. When you collect eight of them you can retrieve some of your fallen warriors in previous turns. You place them in the Reserve space and in the next turn they can go back to their nest.

Just in time!
Surprise attack!
But the mice had also neglected their own nest...

Another aerial shot:

Now things look like less crowded, don't they?
The bird manoeuvres so the rat character can jump on the enemy nest
In the meantime, mice have wiped the rats out
So the bird leaves the mice infantry and flies to attack the rat on the central tree
The other bird tries to defend the mice nest against the rat attack
This is how it all looks like
The rats recovered some infantry and took back their nest. They also got contro of the central tree and the objective. The whole fight was on the mice nest, where a bloody battle was being fought.

This is all happening so fast
The bird kills the rat on the central tree
At that point, the rats nest was 11 points strong and had no attackers on it. The last defender rat used the Siege mission to attack the mice nest, only 4 points strong now. Things were really, really tough for the mice...

Right, this all would look definitely better in colour, I know, I know
In an unsuspected twist of events, mice take the enemy bird down
Finally, when it all looked lost, the last rat succumbs
Right, it looked like there was no hope for the mice and that their nest was under constant siege. However, they managed to eliminate all the rats, so the victory was finally for them!!
I had not enough cheese, so I couldn't retrieve my troops. In the end that was the key to my defeat, though I was putting all the pressure on my opponent. I think we made some mistakes (I noticed that I should have been taking more cheese that I really took during the game, for example), but that's part of these testing games. We had an enormous amount of fun and I cannot but recommend the game.

'Tail Feathers' is different than 'Mice and Mystics' in several ways. First of all, the approach. While M&M is entirely narrative and it's all about storytelling and adventure, Tail Feathers provides quite more a wargame-oriented experience. About the similarities, of course there are a lot. The game system is essentially the same. Profiles, dice, combat... it's all the same, which makes the gameplaying really smooth if you come from M&M. However, if you don't, the game stands perfectly on its own. Rules are easy and quickly apprehensible, not many special features, and it has a solid way of developing the events. It has quite unique elements, such as the mentioned leaf transport (it was really mind blowing for me, so fresh and original) and, as you can see, provides a really balanced experience, in which both sides have their options for victory.

We still have to play it in the campaign mode, as part of the larger M&M tale; looks promising. But before, I have to paint the minis! Well, it looks like I have some work ahead...