Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hypothetical Hordes: Elfquest

A few months back, I wrote up a post exploring how one might put together some Hordes of the Things armies for Avatar: the Last Airbender. This time, I'll be looking at a different setting--the World of Two Moons, home of the Elfquest comic series.

(For background on Elfquest, here are the Wikipedia page and the TVTropes entry. Or you could read the comics themselves, which are freely (and legally!) available online. For purposes of today's discussion, I'll just be looking at the original series, though some of the later series would provide additional army possibilities. The story centers around the adventures of Cutter, chief of the Wolfriders, a tribe of elves who are forced to leave their forest home, and who encounter quite a number of other elves and other people along the way. Note that the elves of Elfquest differ significantly from the Tolkein-derived elves who inhabit a number of fantasy worlds: they tend to be somewhat slight of stature compared to humans, have pointy ears and four digits per hand, inhabit a wide range of biomes, not just forests. Some individuals exhibit a variety of psychic powers which border on magic, most notably telepathy, healing, occasional shapeshifting, and the ability to mold certain materials such as wood and stone. They are also aliens--their ancestors crashed on the World of Two Moons some millennia ago, where they were set upon by the natives of this world: humans.)

Anyway, on to the armies. Spoilers are entirely possible from here on out; you have been warned!

The protagonists of the story, the Wolfriders have one main problem from a Hordes of the Things standpoint--there aren't very many of them. As in, maybe a couple of dozen, max. So the ranks are going to have to stretch a little thin here. Fortunately, they have all these wolves handy, and despite the name, they're not just for riding, so we have some dismounted options as well. Possible troop types include:

  • Heroes. Pretty much a must. Cutter should definitely be deployed as a Hero General, and it might be possible to throw in his buddy Skywise as a second Hero. (Basing them together would be a reasonable option too, if it weren't for the numbers problem.)
  • A Cleric--namely Cutter's lifemate Leetah, who's a healer, and provides some magical defense at times. This will be handy from a balance standpoint as well, since Heroes can be kind of vulnerable to Magicians. She's actually from a different tribe, the Sun Folk, but we'll get to that in a minute.
  • Shooters--Strongbow and maybe one or two other tribe members who demonstrate some missile capability. Probably no more than one stand of these. Everyone else is:
  • Warband/Riders. Depending on whether they're riding their wolves or not. Probably two or three stands worth of these.
  • Beasts--additional wolves without riders. Use these to fill out the remainder of the army.
  • Lurkers--Having a cleric does cause one slight problem, in that the 3-point cost means you'll need another odd-numbered point cost to make up 24. In this case, I think the best option is some Preservers--tiny butterfly-winged humanoids (elvenoids?) who hang out in wooded areas and enjoy spitting preservative webbing on anything that sits still for too long. (While they can fly, I don't think they really have the endurance or the mass to be real Flyers, and besides, lurking suits their behavior much better anyway...)
Stronghold: The Holt--a grove of trees which have been shaped into dwelling places and protected by magically-enhanced thorns and such.

The first new group of elves encountered by the Wolfriders, the Sun Folk are dark-skinned, desert-dwelling farmers who have faced no outside threats in generations. While not really army material (many of them may not know which end of a sword to pick up) they are included here for completeness' sake. A few more adventurous examples may be found in other armies.
  • Magicians, Heroes, and Clerics. Savah, the Mother of Memory, certainly has a great deal of power, though it's difficult to imagine her using it for offensive purposes. Like her student Leetah, she might be better classed as a Cleric. Her other student, Rayek, has the temperament to be a Magician, but perhaps not the level of power required--at least when we first encounter him. He might be better off as a Hero.
  • Behemoth--the Sun Folk have a few tamed zwoots--big, bad-tempered semi-cameloid things, which sometimes carry a couple of riders. As possible Behemoths go, they're kind of on the small side, though.
  • Hordes. As the most ineffectual foot unit, this is probably the best match for the majority of the Sun Folk.
  • Wolfrider allies--any of the above listed. After some initial misunderstandings, the Wolfriders end up on pretty good terms with the Sun Folk, and would most likely come to their defense if the need arose.
Stronghold: Village of rounded pastel-colored adobe buildings. Sun Folk architecture seems to have taken the teapot as its model...

These enigmatic and vaguely sinister elves live within a mountain--only a few ever venture into the outside world, borne on the backs of giant birds. A number of them can levitate or even fly using their innate powers as well, hence their name. They claim to be the true heirs to the original High Ones (the ancestral elves) and are about as close as Elfquest gets to the Vestigial Empire trope.
  • Magician: Probably the Magician as far as Elfquest goes, we have one of the most famous villains of the series: Winnowill, who demonstrates a number of unpleasant uses for elf-magic, including some ranged psychic attacks. Though Lord Voll is nominally the leader in Blue Mountain, it's pretty much inevitable that Winnowill is going to be the general of any Glider army.
  • Flyers--Elves mounted on giant birds. Ideally there would be exactly eight of them, as the Chosen Eight are Winnowill's primary minions and the ones with the greatest access to the outside world. (Clearly the success of this army will depend on its ability to roll well for PIPs, what with all the aerials and the magician...)
  • Hordes--Human servants drawn from the Hoan G'Tay Sho tribe, who worship the Gliders.
Stronghold: Magically-operated door set into a mountainside.

The last group encountered by the Wolfriders, the Go-Backs inhabit the far north, where they are locked in an age-long war with Trolls over the Palace of the High Ones (the ship which brought them to this world.) Noted for their low levels of magic capability and higher birthrate. (For elves, anyway.) Troops include:
  • Hero General--Kahvi, the chieftess of the Go-Backs.
  • Knights/Riders. Mounted on elk or reindeer.
  • Warbands. Go-Backs on foot.
  • Blades & Wolfrider allies--during the final phase of the Troll War, precipitated by the arrival of the Wolfriders, the two tribes acquire plate armor and improved weaponry, which would justify them being classed as the generally superior Blades.
Stronghold: A sort of lodge, partly underground, partly constructed of wood. 

Besides the elves, there are two other groups to consider:

The setting of the original Elfquest series shows the human inhabitants of the World of Two Moons at a basically Neolithic level of technology. None of the tribes shown seem to have much by way of domestic animals, nor do they exhibit any of the elven magic or psychic abilities. Therefore, human armies would be pretty simple:
  • Heroes--particular champions.
  • Warbands--the bulk of the human forces.
  • Shooters--one or two stands of humans with bows, slings, or javelins.
Stronghold: village of simple huts.

Squat, green-skinned, skilled at metal-working and preferring to live underground, the Trolls of Elfquest are more like orcs and dwarves of other settings than the usual fantasy troll. Along with the Preservers, their ancestors were brought to this world by the High Ones. Troll armies might include:
  • Spears--well-trained guards of King Guttlecraw. Could potentially be Warbands or Blades as well, but Spears would offer some variety, and polearms of sorts do seem to be among the common Troll weapons.
  • Shooters--Trolls with crossbows.
  • Artillery--At one point a crew of trolls is shown operating something like a ballista.
  • Sneaker--enslaved rockshaper and Troll handlers.
  • Hordes--low-grade cannon-fodder Trolls.
Stronghold: Extensive network of caverns.

With that, I will end another look at "Hordes of the Things armies I will never build." If there are other fantasy settings you might be interested in seeing me cover at some point, let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Back in Byz-ness

Way back in June I painted up a sample stand of Strelets medieval Russian cavalry as the first of a "Byzantine" army. Since then, Orion has released a couple of sets of Byzantine infantry, and I have bought some of said infantry. And now at last that first stand of Byzantines has some company:

The first new unit I completed was a second stand of the heavy cavalry. As mentioned, these guys are Strelets--specifically the standard-bearers from this set with the flag swapped for a lance made of brass wire, and a couple of archers mixed in. The kite shields on the lancers are another addition, from the Zvezda Russian foot. It's a good thing these guys are up on horses and not standing next to anyone else, because they're definitely typically Strelets, proportions-wise. (Especially compared to the infantry, their heads are massive--it's like a watermelon next to a grapefruit.)

Originals are on the right; new guys on the left.

Another angle.

Next up are some infantry. These guys are from the recently released Orion Byzantine Infantry (10-13th Century) set. (So recently released, in fact, that Plastic Soldier Review still hasn't reviewed them!) As with many Orion sets, these guys had a lot of flash on them. Some parts of the sprue get it worse than others--the archers, which will be showing up later in this post, were on the good end of things, but these spearmen took a fair bit of carving. Still, I think the results were satisfactory. The one odd thing about these guys is their foot gear--they appear to have some sort of lacing that goes up to the knees, which is molded on the figure but very difficult to paint as-is--the detail is just too fine. I ended up painting a sort of simplified pattern over it, but I can't decide whether the end result is more "argyle socks" or "fishnet stockings"...

Front view.

Back view, with another angle on those leggings.

After that, it's back to horsemen--light cavalry this time, armed with javelins or perhaps a sort of light lance. These are intended to be something like trapezitoi, but may be less than perfectly historical, since they're converted out of HaT El Cid Spanish. I did a little carving on these guys--the Spanish have these baggy trousers (or possibly ankle-length tunics) which I cut away in an attempt for a tighter-fitting look. I think I could have cut even a bit more, and I may try that with the next stand when I get around to them. A sort of light padded or leather armor has been painted on over the original tunics as well. Also, by this point you may have noted that I'm trying for a consistent color scheme for this army, and similar shield designs as well...

Finally, the archers--again from the Orion set, and actually much the same as the spearmen, right down to the argyle socks. These guys are still waiting to receive the full basing treatment...

All in all, this puts me almost halfway to a Hordes of the Things or DBA army. I'm currently hoping to have some version of the army ready by February, but we'll see how that goes...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gloating and plotting--2013

While I don't hold much truck with New Year's resolutions in general, I'm always happy to talk about future projects. (After all, it's way easier to talk about things I'd like to paint than to actually paint all of them.) So in that spirit, I have a list of painting goals for the new year. (Goals might be too strong a word here--"intentions" might be a better choice, though of course the road to a mountain of unpainted miniatures is paved with such...)

But first, the gloating! In this case, just a quick tally of what I got done in 2012:

  • In 20mm:
    • 15 cavalry (an eclectic lot)
    • 165 infantry (mostly orcs & Bronze Age)
    • 7 chariots (mostly two-horse Mitanni & Assyrian types)
    • 6 other figures (baggage train, odd fantasy creatures, etc.)
  • In 40mm:
    • 20 cavalry (11 hussars & 9 cuirassiers)
    • 1 infantryman (new standard-bearer)
This probably glosses over a few other random bits and pieces of things done here and there, such as touch-up on a couple of NQSYW flags and artillerymen. Onto the plotting! These are things currently on the radar, which I'd like to get done in 2013:
  • In 20mm:
    • Hordes of the Things/DBA Byzantine army. I painted up a sample stand of lancers back in June, and nothing since then. In the meantime Orion has released two sets of Byzantine infantry, which I suppose goes to show the benefits of procrastination patience when it comes to building obscure armies in plastic. And since I preemptively spent some of my Christmas money on some of these infantry (as well as some Hat El Cid figures intended for light cavalry) this one is on the front burner at the moment.
    • Further expansion of the Bronze Age project. I'd like to add to my current small contingent of Habiru, and I have some more "Phoenician" archers, Robin Hood conversions, and chariots in the queue as well. And since I'm currently planning to run a Bronze Age game at Cold Wars in March, hopefully I'll be able to make time for some of that before then.
    • "With Fire And Sword"/17th century Poland and friends. I painted up several stands at the beginning of last year before getting distracted, and it's something I'd like to get back to at some point.
  • In 40mm:
    • Second squadron of Wachovian cuirassiers, plus flag and commander. This will probably wait until after Cold Wars unless we get a warm spell sometime in the next couple of months.
    • Begin the Wachovian 2nd Infantry regiment. I have a company of grenadiers earmarked for these guys which has been sitting around for quite a while at this point, but if we get some casting done this summer, some regulars might not be out of the question either.)
And if there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that at some point I'll end up painting something not on this list. In fact, just the other day, I was considering how I might put together an Amazon army for 20mm Hordes of the Things...