Tag Archives: Saga

It Came from the Lightbox: Monsters

Kragnos painted up in like a day or two. Very satisfied with him.

These Skaven bastards are what had me jammed up for, like, a month. I bought and built them ages ago when the kits were first released (during WHFB 8E) and never got around to painting them. Decided to do them on a lark, to go with the Saga Skaven I’d painted last year and boy was that a mistake: I had to paint an army of Morats to find momentum on them again.

Saga Ghost Romans

Ghost Warlord 4

I finally dragged out the lightbox (the great thing about having a lightbox is the vast improvement in quality it brings to your pictures, the terrible thing about having a lightbox is that taking pictures becomes a bit of a production), so I probably should get around to posting the results.  Might as well start with the GHOST ROMANS.

As I’ve said before, one of the goals with these guys was, “Get them done fast,” so even though they’re a lot rougher than what I normally paint, I’m satisfied with them.  Not counting the Warlord, the whole lot took me about 3-4 days to do, which is something of a record.

The specific inspiration comes from Cornwell’s Saxon Stories; one of the novels’ leitmotifs is the idea of England as a post-apocalyptic world.  Artifacts and architecture of the Roman world that came before are scattered throughout the land: dilapidated Roman forts are frequently used for shelter, Uhtred makes his home in London in a Roman villa the fyrd believes to be haunted.  This is also something the most recent season of Vikings touched on, too.

So, I got a bug to get some cheap, plastic Warlord kits, paint them quickly, and run them as the restless, wrathful spirits of Roman legionnaires, bestirred to wreak vengeance and death on the barbari who’ve inherited and wasted their legacy.

Here’s the whole mess:

Ghost Romans

  • Warlord
  • Hearthguard x12
  • Warriors x16
  • Levies x12

That 3/2/1 Hearthguard/Warriors/Levies is how I always initially think about Saga lists (for good or for ill).

Ghost Roman Warlord WIP

I’m extremely pleased with the Warlord.  He’s a Warlord Imperial Prætorian Guard and a Gripping Beast Dark Age Warrior with some cutting, sculpting, and pinning.

Ghost Warlord 1 Ghost Warlord 2 Ghost Warlord 3

All of the unfortunate Viking dude is held up with that arm, so there was a lot of reinforcement going on.  The sculpting isn’t quite what I’d like it to be, but it holds up okay… especially with the quick and dirty paint job on them.

Ghost Praetorian

The Hearthguard are Warlord’s Imperial Roman Prætorian Guard; the idea is that the helmet crests would make them stand out.  In play, that hasn’t worked as well as I’d like: I got them mixed up with the Warriors more than I’d have liked.

Ghost Legionary

The Warriors are Warlord Imperial Roman Legionaries.  Initially, I’d planned to do them with the Early Imperial Roman Auxiliaries, but thought they looked insufficiently “Roman,” which is kind of stupid, but what kind of hobby is this if one can’t be stupid about it?

Ghost Velite

Finally, the Levies are Agema’s Republican Roman Velites.  I wanted to do a bunch of guys with the wolfskin, because it’s really distinct, but it turns out that it’s 1 wolfskin per 2 models, so I decided not too.  If I ever do another unit, I’ll do them all with wolfskins, so I’ll have one with and one without them.

It’s interesting to note that the Agema guys are way out of scale with the Warlord guys.  I came up painting Citadel minis, so I like the squat, broad, distorted, heroic minis that Warlord does… the Agema guys feel like they’re more realistically proportioned and in a larger scale.

Ghost Roman Comparison

All of these are nominally 28mm.  The Velite is half a head taller than the Legionary and the Prætorian, and he’s hunched over.


Here’s how I painted them:

GW Celestra Grey basecoat
1:1 wash
– GW Drakenhof Nightshade
– GW Biel-Tan Green
GW Celestra Grey heavy drybrush
5:3:1:1 wash
– GW Waywatcher Green
– GW Guilliman Blue
– Water
– Matte Medium
GW Celestra Grey drybrush
P3 Morrow White light drybrush

GW Steel Legion Drab basecoat
GW Tallarn Sand overbrush
GW Ushabti Bone drybrush
Wash 2:2:1:1
– GW Agrax Earthshade
– GW Seraphim Sepia
– Water
– Matte Medium

So, it’s a little more complicated than a quick drybrush, but fundamentally, that’s what’s going on.


I decided to do the warband before knowing what to run them as: Casey suggested I run them as either Irish or Pagan Rus, since both of their boards looked like they played in a way that could be articulated as “spookily.”  Since I’ve already got a bunch of Celtic Warriors, I went with the Pagan Rus.

Pagan Rus are, apparently, very good.  Possibly too good, which means I might need to rethink that, but we’ll see.

Bayeux for the Bayeux God!

Norman Archer Levies

Bayeux for the Bayeux God!

You ever paint a model that you kind of hate, but you need to run it so you just power on through it, hoping it’ll be over with?

Yeah, I had to do that 24 times with these bastards.

I don’t like these models.  I just don’t.

The flash was crazy town on these guys.  Not quite so bad as with the Crossbowmen, but certainly in the same neighborhood.

There are too many of them, and they’re too mediocre to sink a lot of effort into, and I feel like it really shows.

There’s also a weird sculpting choices here that probably wouldn’t bother a lot of folks, but I’m a fussy pain in the ass so they bother me.  The greatest of these are the eyes: I ended up painting the eyes on half of them and not on on the other half.  The result: half of them look like they’re insanely constipated and the other half look like they’ve been stung by bees.  Bees.

Anyway, I had to get two units (12×2) painted.  It is accomplished.  That was a lot of painting, so they’re going up here, by gum.

Norman Archers 1

Norman Archers 2

Norman Archers 3

Norman Archers 4

Norman Archers 6

Norman Archers 5

Next: to paint 8 mounted warriors so I can swap them in for either the foot warriors or one of the levies.  Then, I begin waiting for Fireforge to release their Mongols, which look holycrapamazing.

Bayeux for the Bayeux God!

Norman Warlord

Bayeux for the Bayeux God!

Before/after/during painting the dragons, I’d been working on wrapping up my Norman warband for Saga.  I painted this dude in late October, but didn’t get around to photographing him until now.

Although I’m very happy with the horses I painted for the Hearthguard, horses aren’t quite so uniform.  I especially wanted to do something different for my Warlord, who should naturally stand out as much as possible (despite my having him on a normal cavalry base).

Somehow, I ended up settling on this coloration:

Dorian Gray Conformation

Not a huge departure from the horses I’d been painting, but enough of one.  He’s lighter, and has some color transitions on his tail.

Norman Warlord 1

Norman Warlord 2

Norman Warlord 3

Norman Warlord 4

Norman Warlord 5

I actually did some wet-blending on the tail and mane that I’m pretty satisfied with.  My wife though the mane looked odd: I painted it to match the tail (because it’s not shown in the reference picture I was using).  She pointed out that there’s probably a very good reason that the tip of the tail was brown, and that mane probably wouldn’t have that problem.  I told her that was horseshit. :rimshot:

She’s not wrong, but I remain content with the results.

Norman Warband – Fully Painted

Norman Warband

I can now play Saga fully painted.

(Or rather, I’ve been able to play Saga fully painted for a month, but only just now got the chance to take pictures.)

Norman Cavalry

Bayeux for the Bayeux God!

I mentioned the other day that I was kind of intimidated by the fact that I’d have to paint a fair amount of cavalry for this warband.  I’ve never painted horses before, and I know that they’re one of those things that, when painted badly, looks really bad.

After looking around for some approaches, the one really key piece of advice I got boiled down to “get reference material; horses don’t actually look the way we picture them in our heads.” Which is to say, there’s (almost) no such thing as a single-color horse: there are always spots,  socks, transitions, etc. So, that’s what I did.

I settled on this picture: mostly chestnut, with a white stripe on her forehead, white stockings, a black mane and tail, and grey around the muzzle and knees.

Horse Sample

If I felt more adventurous or confident, I’d have done a few different variations… but this was my first attempt.

All of these are Conquest Games Norman Knights, which share the clever design of the Norman Infantry and are still pretty cheap (15/$32)… but do require some determined green-stuffing around the neck and along the rump.

So, here’s the horse:

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I’m pleased with how the horses turned out. They’re not perfect, but they’re perfectly acceptable.  They painted up super-fast, too, which is never a bad thing.

Here’s the whole unit of Hearthguard/Knights:

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The technique I used on the horses was:


  • GW Rhinox Hide basecoat
  • GW Mournfang Brown heavy overbrush
  • GW Mournfang Brown very thin layer touch-up
  • GW XV-88 drybrush
  • GW XV-88 very thin layer touch-up
  • Wash
    • 3 : GW Agrax Earthshade
    • 2 : Water
    • 2 : Matte Medium
  • GW XV-88 very thin highlight

When I say “very thin” here, I ain’t kiddding around.  The paint’s nearly translucent, and I might do a couple of passes.

White (spots, stockings)

  • GW Zandri Dust basecoat
  • GW Tallarn Sand layer
  • P3 Menoth White Highlight thin highlight

Grey (muzzle, stockings)

  • P3 Cryx Bane Base basecoat
  • P3 Cryx Bane Highlight layer

Black (mane, tail)

  • P3 Thamar Black basecoat
  • GW Dark Reaper drybrush
  • GW Russ Grey drybrush


  • GW Steel Legion Drab basecoat
  • GW Tallarn  Sand layer
  • GW Zandri Dust highlight

Norman Crossbowmen, Flemish Mercenaries

Bayeux for the Bayeux God!

I’ve made excellent progress on painting these Normans: this past long weekend (opportunity) + the need to distract myself from shutdown/furlough stress (focus) went a long way towards checking boxes and getting minis ready for varnish.

For context, when I started painting these guys, the list was:

  • Warlord – Mounted
  • Hearthguard x8 – Mounted
  • Warriors x8 – Crossbows
  • Flemish Mercenaries x8
  • Levies x12 – Bows
  • Levies x12 – Bows

Now that I’ve played the game a bit, I’m swapping out those Flems for mounted Warriors… but I’ll need to pick up the models, etc, so they’ll be the absolute last thing I do with the warband. In the interim, the Flems are being used as regular Norman Warriors, split into two units of 4.

The backbone of the models I’m using are from Conquest Games, with missile troops coming from Perry Miniatures. I’ve also got a couple of Gripping Beast figures in there, too, but just a few.


The first models I worked on were the Crossbowmen.  These are Perry Miniatures Crusades Mailed Crossbowmen (CU23) I’m not crazy about them; overall, I’ve been kind of disappointed with the Perry metals: insane amounts of flash, detailed where I want simple, and simple where I want detailed.

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Flemish Mercenaries

Reading the kind-of-woeful Saga forums, I got the impression that I had to run Flemish Mercenaries.  They’re hard as balls to kill and provide much-needed foot troops for some of the scenarios (because the Norman battleboard strongly encourages mounted troops).

I’m no longer convinced that they’re quite right for me: they don’t generate Saga dice and with two units of levies and one unit of crossbowmen… I can’t swing it.  I have to drop either archers, crossbowmen, or flems to get a unit of warriors I can get dice out of: and the battleboard tells me that’s these guys.

Anyway: I painted them differently.  Normans will be red and yellow (like this guy), levies will be drab… these guys are from somewhere else. I felt like doing this dark, rich blue with grey and white.  I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Most of these are Conquest Games Norman Infantry, which I cannot say enough nice things about. They’re cheap as balls (44 for $32!?!), have just the right amount of detail, and are very cleverly designed.  (Gripping Beast’s plastics have arms that attach at the shoulder, which that requires green-stuffing; Conquest’s Normans have an unusual design that attach midway up the bicep… or just where the arm pokes out of the mail shirtsleeve.  It’s inconvenient for indiscriminate kitbashing, but makes for very clever gap avoidance.)

Two of these guys are from the Gripping Beast Flemish Mercenaries pack, ordered before I learned that I could download the rules for the unit from the forum.  I hate these figures, and am only using two because I ran out of Conquest Normans with spears held up and not thrusting. They’ve got terrible proportion, are ugly as sin, and have worse flash than the Perry figures.  (There’s less flash, but what’s there is sooooo much worse.)

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05-2013-10-14 15.05.30

SAGA – Rambling


Back at Historicon, I picked up some stuff for Saga (I almost don’t even want to link to the Studio Tomahawk site, it’s so bad).  Somehow along the way, I managed to get some figures assembled for it (it’s really only been two and a half months?) and have gotten in a few games for it with Casey.

Directionless rambling about the game follows.

Bayeux of the Bayeux God

We’ve played through all of the two-player scenarios (except the wagon-based one) at this point, and although I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the game in any way, I do think I’ve gotten a good feel for it.  

Although I don’t think I love the game, I definitely like it a good amount.  Since I’ve been trying to find a skirmish game I don’t hate, that’s definitely a victory.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game, I won’t try to summarize the rules: you can find overviews at The Wargamer, Boardgame Geek, and RPG.net.  For me, it’s attractive because of the relatively low model count and the fact that the rules are simple, but have some depth.  Yes, there are lists of fiddly damn rules like the ones Warmachine and Malifaux use to turn me off, but they’re scoped to the entire army rather than specific models… and in practice they end up guiding the way the different armies play rather than being building blocks for combos (if that makes any sense).

And the game plays really pretty fast: we’ve done games in 30-60 minutes with extensive digressions into how The Shield is one of the greatest American TV shows produced and how the finale of Breaking Bad didn’t quite deliver.  As 40K games seem to take longer and longer with every new book, “fast” is a value.

Almost all of our games have been unbelievably close, too.  Like, down to a final roll of the dice. It’s very swingy.  When we started, at 4 points, I asserted that it was a game about who could roll dice better… though at 6 points (where it’s actually  supposed to be played) I don’t think that’s the case.

Model count is fairly low: there’s effectively a hard window of between 25 and 73 models (and that 73 models would come in a wildly impractical list).   I’m putting together a list that’s two of each choice: 2x Hearthguard (4 each), 2x Warriors (8 each), 2x Levies (12 each).  My Warlord puts it at 49 models.

This, combined with the relatively low overall cost of historical miniatures, means the game is kind of bullshit cheap.  The rulebook’s almost as expensive as an army.  The Tapestry has a great article about to get several armies out of just a couple of purchases.

I’ve turned to Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories for motivation and focus with a great deal of success: despite the books basically being about Saxon Conan the Barbarian (UHTRED OF BEBBANBURG) who rampages across Britain screaming “KILL! KILL! KILL!” (seriously; I think those are actually his first words in Sword Song), the books portray a people (Vikings and Danes) much more believable and interesting than what you get if you start and end with “The Immigrant Song.”  I’ve really enjoyed them.

11th Century Norman Knight

I initially put together some Anglo-Danes, but swiftly ended up putting together a Norman warband. I’m not sure I remember why I made the shift, but I’m glad I did.  Now that I’m digging in on painting them, I’m finding that all that chainmail paints very quickly, and I feel like I can get away with a more regimented, standard paint scheme with Normans than I could with a less organized force.  I’m probably wrong here: as far as I can tell, none of these people had uniforms, but I’m more comfortable painting models uniformly.

The game came up on RPG.net OGO, and someone brought up a photo from a Viking reenactment group’s website as an example of the sorts of colors used during the Dark Ages.


I’ve used this as a bit of a guide in painting: colorful, but not bright and colorful,  I don’t think I’ve gotten specific colors 100% on this, but what I’ve got is close they’re close (I think), and believable.

Also significant: horses. I can’t say that I’ve ever painted a horse before, which is a little surprising to me. I can probably attribute that to loathsome ratmen and all their vile kin not really having much of a use for them beyond eating.  I’ve done some research, though, and I am pleased with the results.  They’re not perfect by any stretch, but for a first-timer they’re absolutely sufficient.

Anyway, I’ve made really great headway into painting up those Normans: I’ll post some photos in the next couple of days.

Wednesday Workbench

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It’s not that I haven’t been hobbying, it’s that I haven’t been hobbying much.  That changed over the weekend, though: I’m on a roll.  (Let’s hope that momentum sticks around to and through when I’m told I have to stop working.)

Those are the same Flems from last time; they’ve seen some headway.  In fact, they’re almost done.  Just need to focus on them and wrap them up.  I distracted myself, though, by finally figuring out an approach to the horses that was good enough.  I’m not in love with it, but I’ve never painted horses before (I know, right?), and I don’t want to let perfect get in the way of good.  They’re 15 minutes of work away from done.  Riders to follow (and I expect them to go quickly).

Medieval Man-at-Arms

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I picked up Saga back at Historicon, and I’ve been looking forward to putting it on the table and rolling them fancy dice around it.   The plan was, initially, to use Gripping Beast Saxon Thegns as Hearthguard, Gripping Beast Dark Ages Warriors as, um, Warriors, and one of those sweet Aenglish models I got from one of Tre Manor’s Red Box Games Kickstarters as my Warlord. (Worrying about Levies later.)

I’ve had some Saxon Thegns on my workbench basically ever since.  

When one of my several August trips was postponed, I jumped on the chance to power through converting and painting a new unit for the NoVA Open.  When I finished that with time to spare, I chugged some crazy juice and decided to paint a model specifically for the Capital Palette. I’d had Captain Whistlelock prepped, so it was on.

The plan for him early on was to paint him up using Rush heraldry.

1-Rush Banner

It’s anachronistic: unless I’m turned around (possible), this is Tudor-era, quite some time after Normans and Vikings were stabbing each other over rule of England.. but who cares?

He came together quite quickly.  Because I was doing him for competition, I went with more and thinner layers of everything. I also gave into the impulse to keep highlighting lighter and lighter basically everywhere.

The metallics are my usual lazy drek, but fortunately there’s not much metal, so it’s tough to spot.

The only stumbling block I hit was with the shield. I’d printed out some decals with the horses from the above image at ~4mm wide, hoping to use them as a guide to get the shapes roughly the same. Well, that didn’t work out at all… so, after a moment of panic, I put on my big boy painter pants, did a couple of test freehands, and then did them on the shield.

I’ve never really done much in the way of freehanding before: mostly just fake text on books; never shapes like this. They’re not perfect (and boy does it show up close, like in these pictures) but they’re really, really good for a first try. I’m super-proud of them.

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It was worth the effort: not only was I pleased with him, he was able to place Silver in his category (Historical – Small).  It wasn’t the most competitive Historical category (single figure / small is usually the most competitive category, but there was so much amazing 54mm figures, especially in the historical group), but still: that’s a huge achievement.  This is probably the biggest win I’ve had, yet.

(I think he looks best in the lighting in that picture immediately above.)

I’ve had some difficulty getting a good HDR glamshot, however. This is thwarting my using him as a permanent Facebook profile pic.

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This also means that I’m pretty leery of carting him around to game with: particularly because that dang sword’s broken off twice. Just means I’ll have to build and paint another one.  I’ll get over it.  (In fact, I’ve already done the first half of that.)

I will say that this means dire things about how quickly I expect to bang out Hell Dorado minis.