Author Archives: Steve

Angmar orc banner

Still working my way through the hordes of Lord of the Rings minis, I have been painting up the odd orc here and there for my Angmar army. This fella is one of the oldies that I managed to snag on eBay. He came with one of the old magazines from the early 2000s and is easily my favourite of the orc banner bearers.

There’s not much to say on this guy. I’ve been alternating between varying shades of green, grey and pink for the orcs’ skin tones, using the film and various pieces of artwork as inspiration. For the freehanding on the banner, I used a pic of an Angmar logo I found online and tried to recreate the logo. I’m not sure if this ‘iron crown’ symbol is used in anything other than one of the LoTR videogames, but I liked the design and thought that it would be easiest of the lot to paint.

Anyways, that’s all for now. Take care and catch you next time.

Hobby update (5th September)

I’ve been keeping up the momentum with the Minas Tirith models, finding a decent method for painting the warriors that means I can get them to a tabletop-ready stage fairly quickly. I also started working on Denethor, a model that I found on eBay for a couple of quid. The bases are done first, following one of Duncan Rhodes’s videos for making urban bases, and the models themselves take little time to complete. In the pic below, the warriors have just dried after a Nuln Oil washe, after which they were drybrushed with Leadbelcher to bring up their silver colour again.

While the washes have been drying, I’ve been putting some work into Cirdan for my Rivendell army. I decided to keep him in line with the grey sashes and green cloaks that my other Elves have, tying him in to the rest of the army. He is a very detailed miniature, making him ideal for drybrushing and achieving some highlights very easily. Cirdan seems to contrast very strongly with the wood elf warriors that I have been painting for Gildor’s warband, as the wood elf models have bugger all in the way of actual recesses, and annoyingly flat faces that I find hard to highlight!

That’s all for this hobby update, anyway. Thanks for reading, and take care.

Angmar Cave Troll

These last few weeks I have been painting up more of my Lord of the Rings minis, including a few more Elves and Orcs. I have just finished work on my cave troll for my Angmar army, a hefty beast of a creature that adds some heavy hitting to the army.

He was easy to paint, being based with Mechanicus Standard Grey followed by a blue ink wash. The rest of his features were standard Leadbelcher and Steel Legion Drab; as for his belly, this was achieved through drybrushing Rakarth Flesh (my favourite of all paints) across the blue flesh. I thought this achieved what I was looking to do in terms of painting his undersides, including blending in with the blue flesh towards the bottoms of his arms.

I gave him the snowy base to fit in with the rest of the hordes from the North, and there you go. A fun model to paint, and less of a pain to actually glue together than I initially anticipated!

In other news, since getting an additional shelf for my model cabinet, I took the opportunity to pick up some Minas Tirith models in some sort of competitive mood to fill the damn thing haha. I’ve always liked the models for Denethor and Boromir (two of my favourite characters in the book and film) and I would like to explore some of the units that the army has to offer.

Anyways until next time, stay safe and take care.

A more recent progress update

It’s been nearly 2 months since I posted last, and I have been using the time to work on writing projects. I’ve had 5 pieces published in the last couple of months, so it’s been getting off to a great start.

In recent weeks, I’ve picked up a paintbrush and started working on my LotR armies once again. A recent addition to my Angmar force has been the lovely cave troll, as I felt they needed some muscle in the army. I managed to get him primed this afternoon before the thunderstorm, and after filling in his belly with plastic putty. I’m surprised he is still holding together; Army Painter’s super glue is mighty strong, I’ll say that much.

So far, I’ve given him a blue ink wash and I intend on giving his belly and underarms some fleshy tones when he dries.

As for the troops, I am still painting orcs and elves. The orcs just need alternating between colours to give them that variety; the elves are a massive line of identical troops that I’m trying not get bogged down with. I like the effect when they are all together though, they do properly radiate light, as elves should!

The model at the front is Cirdan, a minor hero for Rivendell. I actually found him on a genuine model shop site, brand new, for £8. I snapped him up instead of being ripped off by everyone on eBay, and have been painting him in similar colours to my troops. I love how much detail he has as a model, and always looks so dignified no matter what haha.

There are a number of extra models that I purchased during the last few months for LotR that I will show in subsequent posts. I also managed to finish my mounted Witch-king, but still need to take the pics for that one. It’s been relaxing getting back into painting and modelling, and not feeling so much of a chore as it kind of did in June. A rest has done me good I think, and I look forward to checking out all of your work that I might have missed.

As always, take care and catch you next time.

Taking a short break from posting

This is just a brief post to keep everyone up to date, as I’ve been quite inactive on the blogging front. It’s been quite a busy time, and with everything that’s going on right now I’m feeling a bit burnt out, so I’m going to be taking some time off from the blog.

While I’m still enjoying building and painting minis, I haven’t been doing as much of this of late and life has been keeping my hands full in other regards. In order to shed some weight off my shoulders, I made the hard decision to do away with my minis-based Instagram. I wasn’t really enjoying it the same way I enjoy blogging.

Image by JOYUMA, from Unsplash.

I’ve also been getting back into the habit of writing fiction, which is where a lot of my free time has been going lately. It just feels like now is the perfect time to give that a go, as I have been putting it off for years and years. In the meantime though, I’ll continue to be around and reading everyone’s posts. I just won’t be posting much myself for the next month or so.

Anyways, thanks for reading and I’ll catch you at some point.

Dreadaxe Gaming: Mass Effect Legendary Edition (ME3 so far)

I defeated the rogue agent in the 1st game, survived the suicide mission in the 2nd (doing so with a full crew surviving, thankfully), and I’ve just begun to take on the 3rd game in this trilogy. The Mass Effect Legendary Edition contains some of my most played games to date, titles that kept me sane during difficult times nearly a decade ago, and offered enough variation to keep me coming back for repeat playthroughs, whether it was for the sake of choosing a different character class or picking an alternate solution during a mission.

The Reaper threat is upon the galaxy and they have launched their assault on all organic lifeforms. Most worlds you visit are warzones, crawling with mechanised servants of the machine overlords. Once again, it is up to Commander Shepard to push back on these ancient machines and unite the galaxy in resisting their imminent destruction. The story moves at a more urgent pace than the previous games (understandably, considering the events) and you feel the characters beginning to lose hope as they are faced with the bleakest of situations; tensions mount, desperate alliances are forged and entire planets are engaged in warfare.

While I played 1 & 2 to death, ME3 is my least-played of the three. I completed it once when it was originally released in 2012, even firing through the optional multiplayer mode with a buddy of mine because it was so damn addictive. The game retains the dark edginess of ME2 while leaning into some aspects of ME1’s RPG roots with a more extensive way to level up your skills, allowing the tailoring of your characters to fit a particular role.

Players can still choose Shepard’s responses and tailor their attitude towards the situation, with the paragon/renegade morality system making a return, as well as the ability of having your character form a romantic bond with one of your companions. There feel like less dialogue options this time around, with some conversations only offering a flirtatious or aggressive response as the choices, which can make scenes a little strange. That aside, there are plenty of ways for you to influence to story, and heaps of callbacks from decisions you might have made in the previous games that have carried over with your character, so the experience has more of a weight to it.

I didn’t like the planet scanning in ME2; ME3 continues to allow you to pilot the Normandy in the galaxy map segments, but you can scan as you fly, speeding up the process. The combat improves on ME2’s, taking the fast-paced, and frankly bullet spongy combat from that game and making movement more fluid, with enemies less like indestructible blocks of marble. Moments when a gunfight is in full swing and Shepard and co are mixing gunplay with tech and biotic powers are just chaotically glorious to behold.

Combat is the slickest it’s felt in the series, with the addition of a combat roll and a refining of the cover-based shooting that ME2 featured so heavily. It’s no Gears of War, but its functional. My only problem with the combat is the almost horde-mode mentality of some of the battles, making the story grind to a halt as you painstakingly chip away at waves of enemies until the game says you’re allowed to proceed. As I said before, the enemies are not as tanky as the last game but when there’s a wave of 20 of these bastards flanking you and throwing grenades with near 100% accuracy, it can be a lot to deal with.

For any small issue I have with the Mass Effect series on the whole, I’d happily supply five positive points in its stead. I don’t think 3 is the strongest in the series, though it does have the most polished combat and powers system, coupled with some of the most intense story beats of the series.

I think bringing back the trilogy in its complete form was a fantastic idea, and though my dear old Xbox 360 has long since fallen into disrepair and unable to play the original discs, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to blast a path through these games again on my current setup. The modern gaming industry has turned me into more of a pessimist than ever when it comes to new releases, and while I’m not always on board with remakes & remasters either, it’s safe to say that I am with Mass Effect.

Angmar: The Wolves of the North

‘…the wolves that had once come ravening out of the North in bitter white winters were now only a grandfather’s tale.’ The Lord of the Rings, Prologue, pg.5.

I’ve been reading The Lord of the Rings for the past month and I’m halfway through the first book of the Two Towers. So far, the wargs (and just wolves in general) have featured a lot more than I initially thought they would, with even mention of a ‘chieftain’ at one point. The odd line here and there alludes to the evil realm of Angmar and the wolves that would roam from the hills in packs, and such lines are enough to give a chill of dread.

When putting together my Angmar list, I was mainly looking at models that I thought looked cool rather than what’s ‘in’. I’ve always had a fondness for the wargs, and running them as a pack of wild wargs rather than orc-bearing cavalry fits in with this theme of the vicious wildlife from the north lands. I don’t want to go too spirit-heavy with the Angmar army, though the army bonus leans into this method of playing, but instead have a mix of things.

All the wargs have 10″ movement but the rest of their statline is quite similar to that of the orcs; defence 4, courage 2, though their strength sits at a 4 while the orcs have a strength of 3. The chieftain has Heroic Strength and Heroic March with the rule that only fellow wargs can benefit from their Heroic Actions. The chieftain seems like they would be quite decent in a scrap, with a strength value of 6 (same as a cave troll) and the Terror rule which puts up a bit of a hurdle for the enemy to charge them.

In terms of painting, the wargs were built up on layers of Steel Legion Drab mixed with Zamesi Desert, using lighter drybrushing strokes as the layers went on. The faces and paws were Eshin Grey with a brown wash, and some Dawnstone drybrushed for that highlight/fuzzy appearance on their snouts. They were fairly easy to paint and pretty relaxing as well actually.

With the wolf warband done now, I can focus on the remainder of the orc hordes for Angmar, and also finish up some more of my Elves for Rivendell. As always, thanks for reading, take care.

Dreadaxe Gaming: Mass Effect Legendary Edition (ME2 so far)

Mass Effect 2 is a different beast from the first. It moves with more urgency, there’s a larger team to recruit and get to know, and loads more of the galaxy to explore. With the Legendary Trilogy released this month, I have had the joy of blasting my way through these games for the first time in nearly a decade.

While I gave a slight plot overview in the previous post, I’ll be delicate here because a lot happens in the opening couple of hours. Suffice to say, Commander Shepard is roped into investigating the disappearances of several human colonies on the edges of space this time around. It’s up to the player to assemble a team of new operatives and familiar faces from across the galaxy to help the mission.

What set this game apart from other games I owned back in the 2010s was the ability to import your character from the first into the second (and eventually the third). This meant your character and their decisions- big and small- could be carried over and expanded upon in subsequent Mass Effects, changing aspects of the experience between playthroughs. Some characters might survive or die in one game based on your decisions, with that effect being felt somewhere down the line. It’s also interesting running into an NPC from ME1 that remembers who you are or how you treated them in the past, or if you were responsible for saving or killing their colleagues.

I like the amount of choice that you’re given in here, with your armour being customisable this time around as well as your ship having upgrades available for crafting. There’s a heap of content in the form of side quests and loyalty missions, as well as all the gathered DLC too. You feel like you have control over readying the crew of the Normandy for the final push and that every side quest is worth it, even if it’s just for a couple of damage or armour upgrades.

The combat in ME2 has always felt more sleek and loose compared to the slight clunkiness of the first. The guns don’t always feel like they pack a punch though, and I find that overall the enemies tend to be more bullet spongy. The vehicle sections are gone and surveying planets is done from the comfort of the ship, which is neither a positive or negative change really; the Mako was quite infamous for pissing off players of ME1 but I find scanning planets over and over again instead to be more annoying sometimes.

All in all, Mass Effect 2 is a great game that’s just hampered by one or two odd design choices. It’s difficult not to weigh it against its predecessor, but I think it stands well on its own two feet and delivers a darker story on a much grander scale, one that is all too happy to remind you that your choices have consequences.

Plus, all the DLC is woven into the experience as well. What more could you want?

Gildor Inglorion

A month or so ago, I mentioned that I was bringing a warband of Wood Elves into my Rivendell army, which is the benefit of bringing Gildor Inglorion along. The Noldorin Exiles mentioned in the Middle-earth Army Book are meant to represent the Elves that Frodo, Sam and Pippin encounter in Chapter 3 of the Fellowship of the Ring, where Gildor inadvertently scares away a Ringwraith that is crawling at the Hobbits.

The Elf warband led by Gildor gains increased movement, making them fall somewhere in between cavalry and normal infantry in terms of movement. They can also take a host of lovely upgrades that I’ll touch on in another post, but their main benefit is their speed.

Gildor has a sword and Elven cloak, along with a decent stock of Will points and one spell, Immobilise, all for the tiny sum of 70pts. This is a pretty good deal, considering that one of Rivendell’s problems is models with high points cost, so having a hero below 100pts who can lead a warband of 12 troops means he and his Wood Elves can slot into a list without causing too much hassle.

The model itself was fun to paint; I stuck with the colours from GW’s site because they looked pretty cool, and the mix of greens and greys was what I was intending on painting the Wood Elf warriors with. The only part I’m not massively pleased with is the face. This was an unfortunate moment when I discovered that Gildor’s face is actually quite flat and lacking in many grooves to get a wash into. Despite thinning my paints, he was looking like Leatherface at one stage, and I had to strip it and start again. He’s still not 100% where I want him to be, but I fear that more tinkering would lead to catastrophe.

That’s all for now, anyway. Thanks for reading!

Dreadaxe Gaming: Mass Effect Legendary Edition (ME1 so far)

Mass Effect 1 was one of those games that got me through some tough times. I got into it a few years after its original release in 2007, by which point the second one was out as well, and they were among my most played games on the Xbox 360 at the time. These games fought off hours of boredom and I guess even loneliness as well, keeping me occupied late into the night and waking me early in the morning to play again. I pored over the first game the most however; although I had played RPGs before, I hadn’t played anything like this or indeed any BioWare game until then.

Now it is 2021 and the series has been scooped together into one package with all DLCs (bar one, which thankfully most consider to be the least important of the lot anyway); ME1 has had a visual facelift to bring it closer to the 2nd and 3rd games, along with some other tweaks to the combat, driving, and loading times. I’ve quickly fallen back into the routine of playing a few missions, talking with NPCs, upgrading gear and inspecting everything that I can find to the point that I don’t even realise how much time has passed. It’s not just the nostalgia of the game itself that’s hitting me, but I feel like I’m back in my old flat in 2010, becoming absorbed in this sci fi universe for the first time.

The story follows Commander Shepard (male or female, your choice) as they hunt down a rogue Council agent called Saren, exploring worlds, piecing together a crew and doing whatever work the Alliance throws your way. While the main story revolves around the hunt, side quests pad out the experience and provide some world-building, as well as opportunities to earn more XP and gear. Mass Effect has a reputation for being a cinematic game, and you are asked how you want to respond to events in the form of dialogue and actions. This also builds Shepard into a character of their own, allowing the player to shape them into a noble and patient hero, a temperamental child who punches folk, or someone in between. These narrative moments fuel the game in a big way and become as addictive as the combat.

The changes to the HUD and the Mako’s aiming system are very welcome, and you can feel that the combat has been tightened up to a certain degree. I’ve only been playing through as an Engineer class but have found the combat abilities to be responsive and much more effective than I remember them being, though the aiming of said abilities can feel hit or miss at times. Also, the squad members have never looked better, and the way that they weigh in on events that occur as you play is one of the little bits of magic about the Mass Effect series as a whole. Tinkering with loadouts and armour takes on a life of its own too as you find yourself in pursuit of those sweet higher numbers!

Is it perfect? No. It’s easy to forget that this is no remake; there are sharper visuals and general quality of life improvements across the board but it still handles like it did over 10 years ago- that’s not necessarily a bad thing- but it is worth remembering when playing. I’ve been having issues with squadmates ignoring commands, or getting left behind and trapped at automatic doors, something I only notice when I have wandered solo into a deadly gunfight. There’s a handful of audio problems such as distortion and warping of effects that are too high in the mix (Saren’s ship, various generator noises, etc) and they can become quite ear-shredding when they are on a constant loop.

Minor gripes aside, I’ve been having a whale of a time replaying Mass Effect 1. I think that BioWare have made slight improvements where it matters and maintained the integrity of the experience, though there are little annoyances here and there. This remains one of the most engrossing games that I’ve played and is packed with interesting characters, intricate galactic politics and explosive action. It really is worth checking out if you are a longtime fan on the brink of picking up the trilogy, or a newcomer who missed out the first time around.

Thanks for reading, and take care.