Saturday, May 20, 2017

And now for something completely different... 15mm Dwarves

Twenty years ago, I got sucked into the De Bellis Antiquitatus (DBA) and Hordes of the Things (HotT) craze while I was at U.W. Madison, finishing up my undergrad degree. DBA and HotT shared the same system. They were quick play rules for miniatures that allowed one to build an army with less than fifty figures and complete a game in an hour. Indeed, at the old U.W. Wargamers Club, we'd typically play eight to twelve games a day.

I had tried 28mm fantasy miniatures before, with 1st Edition Warhamste... Warhammer, and TSR's Battlesystem. Alexandre Bubel and I even put together some respectable recasted armies when we worked for Devir Livraria in São Paulo, so that we could give kids a visual focus when we taught them about this new-fangled role-playing thing. But I'd never been able to paint up more than a half-dozen regiments or so and, since I was then living in a 30 meter square kitchette off Av. Paulista, with a wife, kid and a cat, playing fantasy battles in 28mm the "Grand Manner" was nothing more than a pipe dream.

But DBA/HoTT was another kettle of lead entirely. A game system that I could play on a coffee table, with armies and terrain that could be hauled around in my backpack?! And it's even geared for 15mm figures AND you can easily play campaigns with it?!! And the rules only cost five USD and come with over a hundred army lists?!!!

Sign me up!

With Phil Baker's marvelous system, I could not only complete armies, I could collect them. And collect them I did, because at around this time (the spring of 1998 or thereabouts), I wandered down to The Last Square and discovered Black Raven Foundy's beautiful line of large 15mm fantasy figures. Karl, the shop's co-owner, had bought them on a whim, knowing how DBA/HoTT was taking the local community by storm. I saw them on the spinner in the back of the shop and it was love at first sight for me. These figures were so detailed and beautiful that they looked like they had been sculpted in 28mm. Indeed, AFAIK, the folks at Black Raven were the first to make 15mm figs in the Games Workshop "Heroic" style. I immediately bought three packs of elves -- cavalry, pikes and longbows -- and started painting them that night.

The next year, I was back in Brazil, doing my master's at the National Museum in Rio. Throughout my master's and doctorate, I continued to paint 15mm fantasy figures and play HotT (generally solitaire), but around 2005, my tastes changed to collecting picoscale (3mm) science fiction and WWII stuff. My 15mm collection got locked away in a dozen hat boxes and it was largely forgotten, until this year.

In December of 2016, however, "The Jim Jones Cocktail Hour" (real name witheld to protect the not-so-innocent) from the infamous Frothers board, said he'd be coming up from Australia and wanted to know if I'd like any figs from Eureka. Seeing as how I'd been planning to do a Colonial Portuguese game for some time and Grumpy in Australia is the only person who sculpts Colonial Portuguese (in 15mm), I asked if he could get me some of Grumpy's figs and he very cheerfully complied.

This got me thinking in 15mm again.

So in February, when Tim Porter told me he'd be coming down to Rio and wondered if he couldn't bring me some stuff from England, I asked him to bring along some of Mark Copplestone's beautiful 15mm barbarians and dwarves.

Both Tim and JJCH are true gentlemen gamers in the old-school British style and they remind me of why I got into wargaming in the first place, back in the days of make-do proxy figures (usually 20mm plastic Airfix) and homebrewed rules. Back before official rules, official figure sets and "collectors' models" costing over a thousand pounds. Back when you'd toss a book on a table and call it a "hill"
and invite a bunch of mates over for a beer and some laughs. So it's appropriate that they seem to have gotten me back into 15mm, again. (Not that I plan to neglect God's True Scale (3mm), mind you...)

So, I'd been geeking out on Greg Stafford's Glorantha mythos for some time and I decided that I wanted to do an Iron Age rip-off... er, homage to that. I'd use all the figs I had painted up that didn't quite fit into my regular fantasy set-up to do this, plus the newly acquired Copplestone stuff. On the one hand, I'd have the Evil Empire  -- an Iron Age version of the Lunar Empire -- and on the other, the rugged barbarian alliance -- a take off on the Sartarites.

The Imperial troops were already mostly ready: a bunch of Foundry Imperial Romans acquired back in the 20th century. To them, I added a sinister scrum of chaos wizards and their mercenary barbarian retainers (who I figure come from this world's version of North Africa) as the Imperial College of War Mages. They will also be getting a group of "civilized" dwarven auxiliaries in the new future, complete with bear-mounted cataphracts.

The core of the "Army of the Free" would be my newly acquired Copplestone barbarians, backed up by hordes of Celtic warriors acquired decades ago (mostly Argentinean recasts bought on a trip to Buenos Aires in the late 1990s). As allies, they'd get my Copplestone Dwares and a Black Raven Foundry Wood Elf contingent.

Well, after a couple of weeks of repainting, touching up, rebasing and straight-up painting, the first parts of this project -- the dwarves, elves and the core of the Imperial Army -- are ready to go.

Unfortunately, I have had to use my iPad  to shoot the following photos, which is less than ideal. Still if you look at the elves and Romans and compare them to the dwarves, you can see how my painting style has evolved over the past two decades. Next post will highlight the Elves and Imperial troops.

This is a fun project which you will be seeing more of. Great thanks out to Tim and JJCH for making it happen!

 These are old Black Raven Foundry dwarves, here posing as the Clan Chieftain's picked warriors.

Old Reaper Shadowcorps dwarven berserkers, led by a Copplestone captain.

 Kind of a bad shot, but here's the dwarf chieftain. A Copplestone figure.

Here's the whole clan.

Two different shots of the stars of the show: Copplestone dwarfs. These are, without a doubt, the best 15mm dwarves I have ever seen. This is definitely what I imagined when I read LotR 40 years ago, for the first time. I love these guys! Thank you, Tim (and JJHC, for getting me back into 15mm)!

One more shot of the clan's main battleline: Copplestone dwarves.

Dwarven standard bearers. Again, these are old Black Raven Foundry.