Monday, January 31, 2011

Prospero Burns - Grievances Galore



I just managed to finish reading Propero Burns and I wanted to say what I thought about it as a Space Wolf fan and get it off my chest. First off I think it was a very good novel. It was well written and plotted, and frankly any Black Library novel about the Space Wolves is always welcome.

I have been following the reviews of this book closely and most of them are favourable and I understand why after reading the book. Dan Abnett knows his craft and knows how to write a gripping novel. That said, my thoughts about this book are ambivalent, because although I did enjoy the book as a novel I was a bit disappointed with it as a Space Wolf book. So I will play the devils advocate on this and tell you why I am so disenchanted with it.

My first problem with this book is a matter of personal taste. I do not like the fact that for some reason they all have a face with a developing snout! I prefer the subtler Space Wolf Codex and the Lee Leightner approach to this by far, where the Space Wolves develop these features when they succumb to the curse of the Wulfen. I also do not like the idea that all the wolves hide their faces behind masks. Whether it is to hide these features, or to ward off malificarum or just to look more fearsome makes no difference to me at all. But as I said this is a matter of personal taste.

My gripe with the book does develop with the writing technique Dan Abnett uses to describe the Space Wolves. He describes the Space Wolves through the eyes of a third party. He uses a scholar by the name of Kasper Hawser and we see everything through his eyes – and this is where I have an issue with it.

Personally I don’t mind Kasper Hawser as a plot device to further the story, but to be honest I do not care about Kasper Hawser, I don’t feel anything for him and I am really not interested in what he thinks, what he fears, his problems, his anxieties, his doubts, his relationships with others etc, etc.

Why? Because this is a book about the Space Wolves and not about Kasper Hawser. I wanted to care about a Space Wolf character and not Kasper Hawser. I did not need Dan Abnett to use Kasper Hawser to TELL me what the Space Wolves are! I wanted Dan Abnett to SHOW me what the Space Wolves are through their actions and reactions, their conversations and dealings with others and among themselves.

I wanted him to take a Space Wolf character, anyone and there are quite a few, and experience the world through the eyes of a Space Wolf, not through the eyes of a normal man. I don’t need Kasper Hawser for that, I need Bjorn or Bulveye or Wyrdmake. Due to their genetic make-up, Space Marines see and experience things in a different perspective. The Space Wolves’ perspective is more different still because their senses are sharper and depended upon more; so their reaction and approach to things would not necessarily be the same. We cannot experience this through the senses of Kasper Hawser.

Unfortunately the book is set in a world of Space Wolves revolving around Kasper Hawser, but to its defence it is still a good book about the Space Wolves, but this is where it gets worse. Why? Because frankly, you can take the basic plot structure of this story with the central character (ie Kasper Hawser) and modify it for any period in the 40K universe and it would still be a great story about Space Wolves! You could even adapt it for the current time line and use for example Logan Grimnar instead of Russ etc; but you cannot take Leman Russ out of the 30K period and this is the tragedy of it. This was supposed to be a book set in the Horus Heresy. A book about Prospero burning. A book about Leman Russ and the Space Wolves of his time. I think it is safe to say that we mostly get a 3rd hand view of the Space Wolves during this period and very little of the rest.

This was an opportunity to show Leman Russ in all his glory. It was an opportunity to flesh the character out in a way only a brilliant author like Dan Abnett could have done. The few scenes with Leman Russ were excellent and I honestly felt our Primarch jump out of the pages and stand before me. Abnett did nail Russ’ character but he only scratched the surface – another tragedy. There was so much potential here that it breaks my heart to read so little of our Primarch in this book. I wanted to read about the relationship between Russ and his brothers – his rivalries, his jealousies, his gripe with Magnus and how this feud began – Who sowed the seeds? Russ is not a man to give respect freely – with him you have to earn it - the council of Nikea was a chance to see who Russ respects and how he acts towards them. How does Russ react when he is in the presence of the Emperor? We will not know by reading Prospero Burns. This was the book to do this in; this was the time for Space Wolves fans to read about Leman Russ – unfortunately the opportunity was lost and has passed us by!

There were other things in the book that were not addressed and do bother me, but compared to the above are secondary.
  • The actually Battle of Prospero was painfully short and spanned mostly around – guess who – that’s right – Kasper Hawser.
  • We see very little of the Silent Sisters and the Custodes during the battle and even less of Valdor. Now who would you have preferred to see fighting – Kasper Hawser or the Custodes – I wonder? What’s in the book is all we have.
  • Abnett directly uses Kasper Hawser as an outsider to take us into the Sixth Legion, but he could have easily used another Astartes from a different cultural setting to the same effect. In fact, come to think of it, I would have preferred one of the Astartes of the Traitor legions as the main character - an antagonistic one. At least it would have been a better literary device to connect to the bigger picture gong on behind the scenes with Horus and his rebellion.
  • A lot of the book could have been used for a better look at Terran Space Wolves that were absent except for one who was indistinguishable from the other Fenrisians. I would have like to see the differences between the two types of Wolves - and all the tension and confrontation that comes from being different but having to live and fight together - is it harder for them to trust each other if they harbour suspicion or resentment? All that flavour is lost.
  • What about Lorgar and his Word Bearers. Did they try to infiltrate and sway the Wolves with the lodges, and if so how did they go about it? Why did it not work?
  • And what about the beloved 13th company? Not even an honourably mention!
  • And what about Horus’ manipulation in the matter? How did the Warmaster actually go about it? We don’t know, but we do know a lot about Kasper Hawser- over a hundred pages from the beginning just to start with.
If the Space Wolves are so popular within the gaming community, it is simply because we – the fans – have made it so. We breathe life into the Space wolves with our models, our games, our discussions/arguments/debates and brawls. We ensure the Space Wolf longevity in Games Workshop’s products and publications with the money we put into to the hobby. This is our hobby and the Space Wolves belong to us. We are the heart that beats life into them. Games Workshop is just the skeleton – the infrastructure around which it operates. On this premises and this alone I think we Space Wolf fans deserve (and this is just a bare minimum) a modicum of respect - and more important still – and modicum of consideration.

So when a Black Library author writes about our chapter, I would appreciate it if he gave us what we as fans want to read about, instead of just giving us what he wants to write about. If you don’t like writing about Space Wolves, then write about a chapter of your own invention. I don’t want to set rules and restrictions, because if I did any writer worth his salt would not abide by them, but I do think he should strike a compromise. This is fan fiction after all. The author has the good fortune of making some money and fame by writing about something that exists because of the fans’ dedication – not the other way round. Prospero Burns was a good novel but it was not what I wanted to read about in a Horus Herersy novel about the Space Wolves.

In the end Prospero Burns was a missed opportunity.

As I have already mentioned in the beginning, if you go around the Internet reading reviews and comments about this book you will find that the majority are all favorable. To be honest there is a minority of Dan Abnett fans and apologists who don't think it is his best work either, but most of the criticism regarding this book tends to pop up with Space Wolf fans.

I think this is a very interesting trend and it says something about the book I had not realized before. Prospero Burns, in my opinion, is
not a book written primarily for Space Wolf fans. It is a book written primarily for Horus Heresy and 40K fans in general. In effect it is not a Space Wolf book, but a Horus Heresy book with Space Wolves. What do I mean by this.

Propero Burns is a psychological thriller of sorts about Kasper Hauser, and the Space Wolves are a very, very elaborated backdrop. This is how Dan Abnett gets away with murder so to speak. This is how he writes about Space Wolves without writing through them. Knowing his reluctance to write about Space Marines and especially Space Wolves, maybe this is his only way to engage. The fact that Kasper is used to provide an insight into the sixth is obvious but not the focus of the book. The focus of the book is Kasper 's manipulation and his journey in discovering the plot into his use. The world of the Space Wolves is a backdrop in which this unravels and it has been skillfully used at the same time to bring understanding into who and what the sixth are. For this I am grateful but not satisfied.

This is the main reason I say it is a good book, but a missed opportunity. This is why Dan wiped out the Terran Space Wolves with a swipe of the pen, this is why there is so little of Russ, this is why there is no 13th Company, this is why the Battle of Prospero is barely an honorable mention, and this is why the only developed character is Kasper Hawser. Simply because everything I have just mentioned is not necessary to tell the story of Kasper Hawser.

I think this is why, as Space Wolf Fans, a lot of us were disappointed or unsatisfied. We were expecting to relate to a Space Wolf character, but instead got a protagonist many of us don't care for or cannot identify with. To be honest, while reading the book I couldn't wait to get past all the Kasper Hawser stuff and get to the Space Wolf stuff. A lot of us Space Wolf fans wanted Prospero Burns to give Leman Russ the same treatment Lorgar and Magnus got in their respective books. Word Bearer and Thousand Sons' fans got to know and understand their Primarch deeply and learn aspects about them that were not immediately apparent. Not so in Prospero Burns. The only character we get to know really well is Kasper Hawser. This to some of us Space Wolf fans might have left a sour after taste.Therefore, this to me was all space that could have been used better, or to be fair - used differently.

The same is not true, and doesn't hold, if you are a Horus Heresy fan or a Dan Abnett fan/apologist in general. To them they get a good psychological/action thriller featuring the coolest chapter this side of the Astronomicon. Why on earth should the Horus Heresy or Dan Abnett fans complain and why should they bear grievances!

In their eyes they got the whole deal and maybe this is why they say that 'we don't get it’ or ‘we have missed the subtle references that all come together at the end’ or that ‘we were just looking for war porn and found something deeper’ and other conclusions to this effect.

Nothing could not be further from the truth. I like the added depth Abnett has given the Chapter, in fact it's one of the things I actually like about the book and gives the history of the Wolves more dimension - History is all about changes after all. I could have lived without any battle scenes if Abnett had made an effort and developed the characters of Russ and one or two of the Space Wolves instead of focusing on Kasper Hawser.

This is why I am so ambiguous about this book. I just don't know what to make of it really. Am I happy we have a book detailing the Space Wolves of another era - yes. Am I happy that it is not really a Space Wolf book but a Kasper Hawser book - no. So to be as objective as possible I would give this book a 7/10 as a
Horus Heresy novel, but only a 5/10 as a Space Wolf novel.

Although Abnett is an excellent writer, I honestly hope he does not write anymore Horus Heresy books with the Space Wolves in them, unless he is willing to make the effort he did with
Horus Rising and give us a character treatment like he did with Loken. Then again, I'd better listen to some advice given to me by one of the Moderators in the B&C forum and not hold high expectations when it comes to Black Library publications and just take the book for what it is and be thankful we have something.

What's a Space Wolf fan to do? 


Farewell and good health,

       NR

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Wolf Guard Diorama - Part 2

Hi everyone,

I have just finished painting up the Wolf Guard in this diorama.  It was harder than I thought it would be.  Since it is the focus point of the diorama it had to be done well, but I wanted a more realistic look than the over-highlighted look (which I like by the way).  So I opted for less highlights were possible and more battle damage.  I also chose to paint with metallics rather than make it look like metal with non-metallic paint.  I was hoping it would give it a grittier feel to it.



The next step is painting the blood on the chainsword and adding some dust effects when it goes into the diorama.  Does anybody know what colour orc blood is?

Now I have 3 orcs left to paint up and the diorama itself.  Unfortunately I cannot start the stand until I receive the wooden base, even though I have all the parts, so I will start the next figure which is the Orc being strangled.

Farewell and good health,

       NR

Friday, January 21, 2011

Feel The Love Power

Hi one and all ,

Today's entry will continue the levity I began in the April Fool's thread I opened last year by going into how I came up with the idea and how I made it. For those that haven't seen it I decided to play a little joke down at the Fang (Bolter & Chainsword) just to raise spirits a little, especially with the advent of the the new Blood Angels Codex. I wont go into detail about what I wrote in that thread but the link is below. Give it a look-see,some of the posts are hilarious. Just note that I have removed the pics from the B&C site, so you wont see them in the thread.  The link is:

I'm SICK of SPACE WOLVES!

Well the idea came to me about a year ago. I knew the 1st of April was approaching, and every day on the B&C, members were grumbling about the new Blood Angels Codex for some reason or another - including myself. Seeing how useless it is to complain where GW is concerned I decided to make myself remember that this is just a game and that it should be fun, so I decided to farce it out on my own reverential notions towards what I hold dear in the hobby - Space Wolves. If I can playfully make fun of them and not take that seriously then all the rest would be a breeze.

The idea for the model came to me while I was having a drink at a bar after a gaming night with some of my fellow gamers. I happen to notice an add for Johnny Walker Scotch Whiskey with that I8th century gentlemen in the top-hat and walking stick...and it just came to me, there and then, between one drink and another.

The next day I looked through some of my plastics to see what I could use for this conversion. The head is the 'Something about Mary' Space Wolf head, the legs are from a normal Tactical marine and the rest are parts of the old Space Marine plastics (the mid nineties plastics).



As you can see all the converted pieces are made up of Greens Stuff, with the lighter green parts being a mix of Green Stuff and Milliput. This mixing gives the Green Stuff more workable properties. Especially when it comes to smoothing after it has cured.

The top hat was the most fun part to do. First you have to make the rim. This is simple piece of card cut to shape to resemble the letter 'O'. Give it a coat of super glue or cellulose to make sure it doesn't warp when you use water while working with Green Stuff. The yellow ribbon on the top hat is just a piece of plumbing tape. The gluey side was treated with alcohol to remove the stickiness and cut as a thin ribbon and glued on. The rest is just Green Stuff sculpted to shape.

The walking cane is just a Space Marine backpack banner cut off and tapered down. I cut off the fingers of the old power arm and re-built then with Green Stuff after attaching the cane. The heart and flower symbols on the leg are Green Stuff with milliput shaped and sanded down. The petals of the flower where added after the sanding.


The flowers took the most work. First, I drilled a hole through the hand and inserted a bunch of fine electrical wires (which you still can see at the bottom painted as the stems). The wires were then wrapped in Green Stufff and modeled to look like wrapping paper. The flowers were made in layers and left to cure before the top layers were added. To make the flowers, first push a rounded piece of Green Stuff into position (I do this for the whole layer in one go). Let it set for 10 to 15 minutes and with a hobby knife or scalpel, push the point in and push out gently, making sure the blade is damp or covered in a thin coat of talcum powder or Vaseline. Do this for the whole outer circle first, and progressing inwards with the inner concentric circles. It is simpler than it sounds.

Te tuxedo is just a piece of rolled out putty cut to fit, but first you have to sculpt in the shirt and sash. The tie and buttons are the last thing to do and as you can see are just simple shapes that give the idea of a tie rather than sculpting every single fold.

The whole model took me three days to model, in between work and study.



There is nothing special to the painting either. The blue is the common Space Wolf blue, which at the Fang we call baby-blue. Two or three thin layers were applied over a white undercoat and highlighted progressively by adding Skull white with nearly white lining along the edges. Very simple and basic. Then I got some Fenris Grey, and thinned it down to wash consistency and carefully lined in the grooves and in between connecting armour parts.

The pink is actually Humbrol acrylics magenta (5058). I used this simply because it was the only pinkish colour I had available at the time. As with the baby-blue, I just added white progressively for the highlights. The flaps of the tuxedo have a base colour mix of 50% white + 50% magenta, and highlighted progressively with white as well.





All the red began with Mechrite foundation red and highlighted with Blood red and white. The flowers received a red ink wash (the old GW inks) at the end of the highlighting process to remove the chalkiness of the white.

The decals are actually the original Space Wolves' ones. As I've said before, I am proud to say that I am a first generation Space Wolf player. I had an army of Space Wolves during the Rogue Trader days (before 2nd), simply because I always like the name Space Wolves, as well as their artificially grafted fangs (back in the day). I thought this decal would look fitting for this model, especially wrapped up in the heart.

Well that's all for today. I hope you all liked it and enjoyed the prank. If you have any questions please leave them in the comment section and I will answer them as soon as I can. I have to get back to my army projects and diorama, especially the army painting which I took a slight rest from because it was getting monotonous.

Farewell and good health,

      NR

Monday, January 17, 2011

No Talent Required - Quick Hair Sculpt

Hi to one and all,

I known my posts have not been so frequent lately, but after painting grey for the past month I decided to take a small break and concentrate on other projects, two of which I will be posting here. In the meantime, getting back to Space Wolves, I have been working on my first pack of Long Fangs; adding a few tidbits to make them look wolfier. Well since I was asked how I did the hair on some of my models I decided to elaborate and show how no talent is really needed to make quick and effective looking hair.

Part One - Tools and Materials
As always you will need some putting and sculpting tools. I use greenstuff for this type of work, mixed 3y:1b, but you can use any type of putting really as long as it keeps detail when worked up.

For hair I use only two types of tools, a blade (with a filed down point) for straight grooves and a sculpting tool for curvy hair.


Part two - The models, Bulking Out and Sculpting Hair
Braids

Since I decided to alter the hair of two models, I decided to show them both. As Vikings, I like to add braids to my Space Wolves (in a very manly sort of way huh.gif, since this makes them more interesting. First roll out a piece of putty to the lenght required and fix them into place and flattened them slightly.


There is nothing difficult with braids if you know how to execute the pattern. I use the method below illustrated by a quick drawing I wiped up.

As you can see, all you need to do is impress diagonal lines along one side (step 1), then along the other side and connecting to the first (step 2). Now with the sculpting tool (anyone) elongate the impressions of one side as in third diagram (as illustrated by the red lines). At this point all you have to do is tuck in the sides of the braid and add the top and bottom parts which are not braided.


Bulking out the Hair
This is probably the easiest part. Just take small blobs of putty and literally bulk out a part of the hair or a section, depending on the pattern you want. Now leave it to cure for ten to fifteen minutes. This will give it time to stick to the surface and allows it to retain detail better.

Just remember - don't try to do all the head in one go. This is one of the so called 'secrets' of miniature sculpting - work a part and let dry, then another part and let dry and so on. Like all epoxy putties gently heating can speed curing time down to a whopping 10 minutes. Just be careful you don't distort or melt down the mini.



Sculpting Hair

Like everything else on this scale, you only need to give an impression of hair and not sculpt out strand by strand. Remember these are only for table-top gaming use. They don't have to look perfect, just cool.

So, I like to use the rounded blade tool for impressing in straight hair lines and the other for curvy or curving hair. Make sure the tools are either moist or covered in a thin layer of talcum powder. This is to ensure the putty does not stick to the tool avoiding you accidentally pulling it off or distorting your work. Do yourselves a favour and don't use petroleum jelly; there is really no need...and nobody will ask why you need Vaseline so often msn-wink.gif.


I will say this for completeness sake, even though there is no need, but you are going to need a steady hand for this. Make sure you are comfortable and calm (drink a cup or two of camomile tea if necessary). Remember you can always smooth it up again and re-try it.



When the section you have done is dry, it is time to do another part. Just follow the the procedure above again. As simple as that. I will let the pic tell the story.



Part Three - Details and Wavy Hair
If you want to add more movement or form to the hair you can sculpt thicker patterns into the hair or add extra rolls of putty before impressing the finer lines. The pics below demonstrate both methods. The second pic has a small blob of darker putty added on top.


When it comes to curving the hair, it gets a bit tricky. I use the the sculpting tool (not the blade) for this. With the point I slowly cut in the lines and then with a swaying motion - slowly curve them up. Just make sure the tool is moist or with talcum powder. It is harder to explain than do, if that is any consolation.



Part Four - Conclusions
Naturally, you can other details like top knots, flowing hair in the wind, mohicans etc, etc. Just follow the simple procedures I mentioned above - Bulk out and let cure for 10 minutes, simplify patterns, let the section cure before adding more sections or detail.

I would have loved to do a vid tutorial but at the moment I am not in a position to do one, but here is an excellent vid for you to look at that gives more ideas on how to approach this topic, especially with regards to tools and texture.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUepjZzgfJc

As always, if you have any questions, comments or if you would like to share your own ideas, please post them in the comment section and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Well that's all for now. I have to get back to my ill-fitting Long Fangs and finish them up.

Farewell and good health,

       NR

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Side Projects - Horus Heresy Game

Hi,

In between projects or as a side project while I wait for a piece to set or dry,  I like to do something that is not demanding, easy and quick.  I do this in order not to waste the time I have at hand, which is, unfortunately, a bit limited at the moment. 

Also, as a wargamer, I like to play with painted miniatures, so I decided to paint up the playing pieces of my new board game - Horus Heresy.  Below is a selection of the pieces I have painted up with block colours and some drybrushing and a wash or two.  Nothing special, but when you are actually playing makes all the difference in the world.




These are just some of the loyalist forces I have painted while I was building up my Wolfguard diorama.  I'll post up the Traitors and Titans when they are done.

As a small note on the game, I have to say it is very good. Being a 30K fan, I played the old Horus Heresy board game to boredom.  I have the same plans for this one!


Farewell and good health,

       NR

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Wolfguard Diorama

Hi one and all,

I have decided to start chronicling (in brevity) my 40K dioramas on this blog from now on. This particular diorama was started last year. After I decided what I wanted to portray as a story in the diorama, I started about the arduous job of sketching out the scene, finding and ordering the minis and parts I needed and slowly but surely put the thing together.

Well, to cut a long story short, I just finished modelling the orks and began the Space Wolf Wolfguard when I heard the earth-shattering news that Games Workshop was revamping the Space Wolf range. I decided to stop the diorama and wait until the new kits came out....and I am very happy I did so!

Now that my new army is going on quite well and steadily (something I never had the discipline to do before), I decided to work on a side project just to vary a bit. It can get very weary just painting grey all the time. In fact, initially I was going to build some other chapter just to get the chance to paint in other colours, but then I remembered this long forgotten little diorama and thought it was a shame to leave it half done. Anyways, my first diorama on this blog should justly be that of the greatest Chapter to have ever soared the stars!

The centerpiece of the scene is the Wolfguard Battle Leader strangling an Ork with his bare 'power gloved' hands. The first picture below was how it was going to look before I decided to halt the project. Naturally it was not yet ready at the time.

This is how it turned out with the help of the new GW SW plastics. It is nearly ready. All it needs is a bit of smoothing up and a grey enamel undercoat. The enamel undercoat is applied to bring out the imperfections and naturally allow me to fix them.




he Orks were really fun to do. In fact my second diorama will be about the Crimson Fists and the Rynn's World incident, and I think I might add an Ork or two, even if just laying dead.

The ork being strangled was the most difficult to plan. In Maltese we say 'Qis mitt darba u qaghta' darba', which means literally 'measure a hundred times and cut once'. If only it was that easy! The fitting changed constantly, especially since I measured everything before I modified the Space Marines' legs. Well in the end it turned out well, and I certainly learned a lot, especially about Space marine legs and how awkward it is to rescale them.




The other Orks were not hard at all, and I enjoyed every moment of it. These brutes are full of character in themselves, so it takes little effort to re-model them and retain that savagry that so distinguishes them. In fact, besides the re-positioning I only modified some of the clothing to make it more dynamic and realistic.





Well, that's it for now. I will add more, shorter posts of this diorama as I gradually work on it. That way anyone interested can see it evolve. I wanted to post some of the rough sketches and the initial positioning with blue tac, before I actually begin to cut things up. Just to give a full picture, but when I started this I didn't even have an account on Blogger, and I didn't chronicle my work. But when I start my second diorama I will endeavor to take pics and post from the beginning.

So, until Russ prefers Pinacaladas to good old Fenrisian ale, keep playing Space Marines!

Farewell and good health,

       NR

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