Tag Archives: grim skull miniatures

Grim Skull Miniatures – Chaos Egypt Sons Terminators Conversion set

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OK, there are a lot of minis lately. The reason is now I have about two hours a week, mostly in the evenings, to do hobbies, and I try to do things that are not involving toxic things, such as plastic glue or oil paints, since I prefer to stay close to my daughter.
So now is the time to finish all those older projects, and more importantly, learn new techniques.

I’ve featured a lot of Grim Skull stuff before on this blog; I do like the aesthetics of their models, and some are actually cheaper than the official Wargaming minis.

This particular set features the Thousand Sons Terminators. The latest WG Scarab Occult terminators look great, don’t get me wrong, but these guys rock. The whole Egypt theme is taken to the limit with the intricate embellishment of their power armor, and more importantly, the animal-head helms. Even if I did not like the back story of the Thousand Sons this would be a must-have set.

 

I used a set of Forgeworld WH30K Cataphractii terminators, I grabbed cheap on Ebay for the conversion, but I think any terminator would work. (The WH40K Tactical Dreadnought Armor looks a bit different, and I think is slightly larger.) The arms were from a big bunch of spares I also got from Ebay for cheap. (Keep an eye out on parts; you can get a big box of everything for almost nothing, and these provide endless sources for conversions. Ironically I suspect some of the weapons are from a Space Wolf Terminator set.) You will notice there are only five figures instead of six- one of the guys I gave to a friend to play with. (Here’s someone using both WG terminator and Grim Skull sets together for size comparison. The Forgeworld Cataphractii Terminators are noticably smaller.)

They were painted the Thousand Sons cobald color (which is not really cobald), and used AK Interactive’s True Metal gold and brass to paint the gold parts. The intricate patterns meant lots of fixing errors… I chose not to paint the tabards. I don’t particularly like the idea of loinclothes on a power armor, plus I was getting to the end of my ropes with the figures. Nevertheless I might come back later and paint them.

Again, my skills as a figure painter are not exactly stellar, but here you go. At least there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Grim Skull Miniatures – Master Of Crusade (Abaddon the Despoiler)

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There is a cottage industry providing models for tabletop games; they look similar to the original characters, but not too similar (or have different names) so that copyright law is not breached. I personally applaud these companies; they provide models and conversions that are unavailable for a more reasonable price. (The new Abaddon miniature by Games Workshop is over 40 GBP… a small sprue for the price you can buy a 1500+ part plastic model.)

Competition is good is what I’m trying to say here.

Abaddon is the one character that has not been treated well by Games Workshop and Forgeworld. There is one old figure which is both ugly and tends to lose his arms, resulting in the “No Arms” meme. And pretty much that’s it; since the early 90s Abaddon was essentially deserted by GW; only now are they issuing a new model.  There is a Heresy-era figure of him as the First Captain of the Sons of Horus by Forgeworld, but it is not yet Abaddon the Despoiler, just an angry guy in a terminator armor with a top knot. There is also a heavily OOP version of him, which can be bought for about 1200GBP, so I think we can safely ignore that. (If you see this model featured here you will know I won the lottery.)

The name itself of the character is full of meaning; Ezekyle (Ezekiel) and Abaddon are both important characters in the Bible.

Since I’ve read The Talon of Horus by Dembinsky-Bowden I actually wanted to have a decent Abaddon figure. The book does a really, really good job describing him as an interesting, three dimensional, complex character you can actually relate to, so obviously I wanted to have a miniature of him. He also seems like a swell guy, just like that other one. What makes him compelling is that he is the ideal Astrates: charismatic, ruthless, master strategist, fearless -it’s just he fights against the Imperium. I think he become this ideal after he followed his primarch into his rebellion and then took up a bit of soul-searching. It took him a lot to grow up into this person, and not many loyalists have the opportunity to do so. I think the space marines who rebelled and survived (without falling to one or the other chaos entity) actually walk the same path as a person growing up from childhood, and hence they do become much more mature, nuanced beings than their “for the Emperor!” buddies. Failure, disappointment in your idols, choice, the will and ability to determine your fate -these things are needed for you to become a well-rounded personality. (Unless, of course, you get possessed by a daemon and grow penises and horns on your face.)

 

Enter Grim Skull Miniatures. They first came out with a 28mm model who is not Abaddon, of course, but fits the archetypical Abaddon image with the Talon -the power claw of his father, Horus-, the daemon sword Drachn’yen, and his usual topknot that he is known for. A 54mm version of the miniature features a Mohawk instead of a topknot, and it is substantially larger… had it been issued when I bought “my” Abaddon, it I probably would have bought that instead of the original version simply because of the amazing detail comes out better in the larger figure. (It is on my wishlist, but I’ll probably have to pass on it; after all I just had a daughter. The days of spending on hobbies are behind me.) I’m not sure why this Abaddon features this hipster haircut. It is possible that Grim Skull realised something  about topknots writers and artist should have at Black Library long time ago: you can’t shave the skull and have a large topknot, as Abaddon supposed to be doing. All that hair has to come from somewhere; and unless he has exceptionally dense hair, it is not a realistic option to have the rest of his head shaved.

 

The power armor is incredibly well detailed, and only someone with much better skills than mine can bring out the maximum out of it. The ornamentation is well done, the armor has a lot of cracks and battle damage…It perfectly re-creates the various artworks of him as the Second (and true) Warmaster. The facial expression is pretty good, too; he looks “changed”, he looks intimidating, but not totally twisted; his features retained enough of his humanity not to make him look like a simple screaming monster.

The daemon sword looks very much like the pictures of the weapon on various artworks; painting it to look good is not an easy exercise in layers upon layers of glazes.

He has a loincloth for whatever reason, which is an incredibly impractical thing to have on an armor (alongside the tabards various Astrates chapters prefer). Besides getting caught in, well, everything, it gets dirty very fast, and it will also get destroyed in the first few seconds of action. (I tend to leave it off in my figures for this reason.) Replacing it must be a constant choir, but I’m not going to judge his fashion sense.

The trophy racks on his back sport skulls (but no helmets); all in all, the figure is an excellent rendition of the Abaddon we see on the paintings.

Painting black armor can be a challenge, since an uniformly black surface is not exactly interesting to the eye. I used Abaddon black (surprise) as a base, with a black ink coat after; the edges were carefully highlighted with midnight blue, and very bright blue in smaller amount. (Yes, highlights are everywhere.) Abaddon’s skin was painted with a rotten flesh base with a couple of light brown filters; the flesh on his head was done using red and brown glazes. I added a few patches of necrotic skin using Vallejo Engine Oil…

The eyes were painted gold (since his eyes were supposed to be bleached gold for staring into the Emperor’s light), but this does not really show well on a figure; the skin is too light for that, and the eyes are too small -there is not enough contrast. It would look better on the larger figure. The bronze edges were done using AK Interactive’s True Metal gold.

The sword was painted using various shades of purple and blue in thin glazes. The trimmings on the armor were painted in various shades of gold and bronze. I positioned the sword in a slightly different angle – it makes the pose look a bit more natural than if he held all his weapons at a chest height.

All in all this is an excellent miniature.

And finally: Eisenhorn facing down a bunch of heretics:

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Grim Skull Miniatures – Hive Bringer (Typhus)

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There is a small cottage industry focusing on producing figures and other accessories for popular tabletop games. Warhammer 40K is no exception. One prominent company producing resin alternatives and conversion sets is Grim Skull Miniatures; their Hive Bringer (khm… Tyhpus) is the subject of this review.

I mostly choose characters with interesting, intriguing fluff, but honestly Typhus is a d”ck, and there is no way around that. The miniature looks awesome, though, so in my shopping basket it went.

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Games Workshop has a newly issued (plastic) chaos-corrupted version of Typhus, so there are definitely choices out there. Their Typhus looks really nice, but I really can’t be bothered about the silly little deamons crawling all over him… I mean I know it’s a silly table top game, but there must be some limits.

This particular figure by Grim Skull is absolutely gorgeous. He holds either a scythe or two sickles (these held in reverse, John Woo style), and he definitely looks corrupted. The detail and definition is simply superb. All the cysts, boils and blisters are lovingly re-created, alongside with the horns sticking out of the cracks of his power armor.

The figure comes with a base which is similarly well detailed with the assortment of maggots, skulls and horns.

The assembly is a breeze; you have to attach the arms, the shoulder pads and the weapon(s). If you elect to use the sickles, the position of arms is less than important; however to line up properly with the scythe, you have to be very careful to make sure the arms are in the correct position.

The really cool part- at least I found it fascinating- is that one of Typhus’ hands is bare… you actually get to see the skin of a corrupted daemon prince under the armor.

As with most figures, painting is the difficult part- and I do admit I’m not an excellent painter. (My main interest is armor models).

I found that glazes are great to produce an uneven, dirty and grimy looking surface. Previously, with Mortarion, I used glazes over black primer; this time I decided to use a similar approach over white primer. I used several shades of brown and green glazes (prepared using Lahman medium and acrylic paints) to give the armor a stained, corroded look. The parts of the armor I wanted to appear bronze received a green base; I chose two green colors that are close to the color of oxidized bronze. Later on I realised I should use a dark, metallic tin color, and layer bronze and oxidised bronze colors onto it.

The blisters and pustules were painted with a yellowish/pinkish color, and received several orange-ish/reddish glazes; it managed to convey the inflamed, blistered, sick skin.

I used some Vallejo diesel fuel stains and engine oil to simulate stuff leaking from our corrupted Astrates. In short, this is a great looking miniature. I do not play WH40K, but I do enjoy occasionally paint the minis I find compelling. Some I want to paint because I like the character’s back story, and some, because they look cool; Typhus belongs to the latter group.

(I did a pre-Heresy version of him, too.)

 

Grim Skull Miniatures: Mortarion

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The world of tabletop gaming has given us better and better detailed miniatures over the years, along with increasingly detailed universes through media like books, comics and computer games. One of my favorite is…

 

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Warhammer 40K. The picture above will make it clear why.

 

There are enormous gaps in the “official” miniature offerings in the available fractions, and also what is available tends to be somewhat expensive. A lot of smaller companies spotted these gaps on the market, and started to produce similar-but-not-quite-the-same miniatures that are not available from either Games Workshop or Forgeworld, usually for a friendlier price.

Mortarion did receive an official figure by GW, and another by Forgeworld, but I did not like either of those versions. The WH30K (pre-Heresy or Herey era) Forgeworld model did not really resonate with me, and the daemon prince figure looks very different from the man he used to be, twisted and bloated beyond recognition. In case of Mortarion it is an issue. True, the Primarch of the Death Guard Legion had fallen to Chaos, and has been turned into a Daemon Prince since the Horus Heresy. However the lore makes it clear that he is the one Primarch (alongside with Magnus, possibly) who remained as close to human as possible. Grimm Skull Miniatures has issued a Mortarion model that can be used both as a pre-daemon prince Primarch before or during the Heresy, or as a full-fledged daemon-prince (essentially the same figure plus two big, leathery wings). Yes, you can say it’s just lazy marketing. However since he is the most human of the daemon princes, and fans still debate if he could even return to the side of the Emperor again, as his red brother did, there IS a good argument for Grim Skull Miniatures’ choice.

The figure- as all of Grim Skull Miniatures figures I’ve seen so far- is very well sculpted and detailed. These figures are close enough to the “official” GW/Forgeworld aesthetics, but they also differ enough to look novel and unique; frankly I quite like how most of their figures look. The overall outline of power armor mixed with twisting and turning organic shapes look the way I imagine the Chaos-touched warriors. Talking about Magnus: there is also a figure that looks suspiciously like the Cyclops, only Grim Skull took him towards the Maya/Aztec aesthetics instead the ‘traditional’ Egyptian. (I’m not sure what to feel about the overemphasised feminine figures though, but if you like Tau pin-up girls and sexy female chaos space marines, here’s your chance.)

Mortarion, or Morty for his friends, looks exactly like his description in the Horus Heresy books. A gaunt man in an ornate, baroque power armor, with a cape covering his head, and censers hanging from his armor on chains. He has his power scythe Silence, however he does not have his handgun, Lantern. This is a glaring omission of the model; the gun is a prominent feature of the Primarch. Otherwise I do like it better than the pre-daemon Forgeworld figure, or the daemon prince GW model; he does radiate a sort of dark, solemn majesty with his ragged wings and elaborately decorated, corroded armor.

He comes with a pretty nice base to stand on with a broken pipe leaking who-knows-what. (It must be something corrosive because there is a skull in it.) We do get two such pipes; I used the extra with another Death Guard figure.

The assembly of these figures is usually a breeze. I did not like the original pose, because Morty looks like a particular shepherd the way he holds Silence. I turned his arm a bit to make it look more dynamic, although the attachment point is not designed to hold the arm well at this angle. (A scythe is an unbelievably impractical weapon at any rate; at least he should have straightened it, a’la revolting peasants. I think the Death Guard really puts style over effectiveness, when it comes to weaponry.)

The big issue, however, was the wings. There are simply no attachment points where they can be glued to, and the surface touching the back of the figure is so small, it was difficult to secure them even with small wires drilled into them.

The painting stage is usually where these models are made or ruined, and I have to confess I’m not a master painter. My main interests are armored vehicles, so my skills at blending and painting small details by brush leave much to be desired. I don’t particularly stick to the “Games Workshop School of Figure Painting” with the high contrasts and very fine layering/glazing, either. Since I have the daemon prince version, I did not paint him in clean, pre-Heresy colors; he got the full grime, rust and corruption treatment.

I used Vallejo’s black primer as a first coat, and used Lahman medium to create glazes in various browns and greens. I kept adding the glazes in very thin coats until I liked the greenish-brownish hue.

The bronze parts were painted using True Metal gold first (on larger surfaces I dry-brushed it on to keep the black as shadows in the recesses), and then followed it with several layers of oxidized bronze green colors as glazes. As finishing touch I reapplied the gold on rivets, thin edges, and other surfaces where the oxidised metal would be rubbed off.

The different pipings on the armor were painted with dark blue glazes to create a slightly different color without too big of a contrast.

I was uncertain of what colors the wings should have: they look like a cross between an insect’s wing and a bat’s. I did not want them to stand too much out of the general effect, so they got mostly the same treatment as the rest of the figure. The wings received a purple glaze, and the insectoid wing structure was shaded with ochre and brown oil paint blended into the base dry; it does look slightly iridescent and chitinous.

The tabard/cloak Morty is wearing got a similar layering treatment, only in this case I used a white base and added mostly brown colors. As a chaos prince of Nurgle, the god of disease, he can’t really be expected to have a spotless, white attire. (Having one at all is pretty silly since it would get caught in everything and anything.) I added further highlights, shading and discolorations using oil paints. After weeks of drying it is still somewhat shiny… This is a good lesson on getting out the linseed oil out of the oil paint before using it. (Just put a blob of paint onto a piece of cardboard and wait a few hours… Next time I will not skip on this step.) Right now I’ll go with the “can’t you see it’s leather??” defence. It turned out a bit darker than I would like, but there it is. As I said I’m not the best of figure painters.

The base was painted similarly to the figure: several layers of dark grey and brown glazes over black primer, then a little steel and gold True Metal paint drybrushed on here and there. The rubble got a bit of a rust and dust pigments, and the bronze areas got the same treatment as Morty’s armor.

Overall I really like the results -even with my admittedly limited skills managed to make it out into an impressive renderition of this

Grim Skull Miniatures: Chaos Rotten Plague Rhino conversion

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I quite like the Warhammer 40k universe and regularly paint the odd figure here and there. The cost of larger vehicles unfortunately is very high, especially the resin Forgeworld offerings; when it comes to decide between a small Imperial Knight or a 1/35 T-54 with full interior that is considerably cheaper, not surprisingly I go with the latter. (Let’s not even mention the $4001200 battle titans.) It’s a shame, really, because there’s an awful lot of interesting stuff out there by both Games Workshop and Forgeworld.

There are alternatives, though. Mostly Ukrainian and Russian companies started to produce “alternatives” for the miniatures; they are cheaper, and more importantly, a lot of times much better than the originals. (I’ll paint a not-quite Abaddon and not-quite Mortarion figure soon, too.)

I’ve done a review of the set on ModellGeek some time ago; since then I have been working on and off on the painting of this model.

This particular conversion is for a (not quite) Death Guard Rhino, which is corrupted by the Lord of Decay- hence the pustules and blisters and cysts (not to mention the tentacles, horns, talons and other… things that stick out of this vehicle). The price is reasonably low, and it requires a Games Workshop Rhino or Chaos Rhino as a base vehicle. (I bought a built one on ebay quite cheap, and just cut it to pieces.)

The model arrived in a very nice black box; quite professionally packed. It does not contain many parts, and the assembly is really straightforward. You essentially need to replace the side, the top and the front armor plates, and the folding door on the back. (You can buy tracks separately from the company if you feel like replacing the kit tracks as well.) The fit is relatively good, but filler will be necessary between the side and top panels; fortunately in this case you can be creative, and form additional horns, protrusions, etc. to mask off the seams. The right side- where the open hatch is with the skeleton inside- is quite deep, which necessitates some surgery on the interior side wall. You will need to cut the metal door with the frame out, so that the resin piece can fit into its place.

The victim

Some of the original kit is still visible, and the contrast between the old and the new parts is quite large. Perhaps texturing these regions with some putty would help; this is what I did on the lower front plate. There is so little of the original vehicle still visible, and the contrast is so large, I can’t help to think it would have been better just to make the whole vehicle out of resin, instead of creating a conversion.

The set does not provide a commander’s cupola; I used the plastic parts that comes with the Rhino. This is not an ideal solution; the cupola that came with my kit did not fit because of all the tentacles and whatnot on the top. It also looks quite out of place since it is not visibly corrupted like the rest of the model; you would expect every part of the Rhino to be uniformly touched by the Warp. I simply reused the hatches only, and made a couple of tentacles and cysts out of green stuff.

The folding door is also somewhat weird. In a vehicle like this you’d expect that most internal space is taken up by indescribable horrors spawned by the Warp -after all, a lot of it is sticking out from every opening. Yet the inside of the folding door s perfectly clean, not to mention the crew compartment, which is unchanged from the original vehicle. Interestingly the door has the exhaust pipes on them, which are apparently open into the crew compartment.

The assembly took about an hour. I have base-coated the whole tank with Tamiya Hull Red, and then went on creating as convincingly rusty hull as I could. Yes, I understand that it’s made out of adamantium, but when it comes to a fictional metal vs demonic corruption, I think the demonic corruption wins. The Rhino is rusted and that’s that.

The painting was a long process; mostly trial and error. As I’m mostly painting armor vehicles, I definitely need to learn the “miniature style” painting with high contrast and nice blending of colors. My WH40K models tend to be painted and weathered like a scale model of a real vehicle.

First step: the base color of the ATC. Obviously it needed to be rusted. I realized very long time ago that painting something with a color named “rust” will not give a realistic result; what you need is layers upon layers corresponding rust colors, making sure they are positioned where you would expect to see them. To begig with thick armor plats tend to have deep red/brown colors; thinner parts and the edges tend to have lighter rust colors, like orange or even yellow. So this is what I did.

And what colors did I use exactly? Well, what can be more realistic than actual rust? I ordered actual iron oxide pigments available in three colors -deep brown, red and yellow (Ochre), and using these I mixed up various shades of rust. I used a sponge to apply the mixture: dab the sponge into matte varnish, dab it into the pigment mixture, and into a cloth so that most of the pigment actually comes off, and then use this on the surface of the vehicle. It’s important you don’t add too much at a time, but build up the effect gradually. I used mostly the darker shades; yellow directly only was used on edges. As you can see it from the photos the contrast between the yellow and the rest is pretty high; this was taken care of later. This was deliberate; I wanted to have some contrast left after I finished the weathering, and subsequent steps had the effect of lessening the contrast. I used several brown and yellowish filters on the hull to blend the colors together, and then rubbed metallic pigments onto certain areas. (Focused on the edges mostly, but I rubbed pigments onto the “wounds” where the metal opened up as the horns were pushing out, and also on parts of large, flat areas.)

The tusks were pained with buff first, then ivory was blended towards the tips, making a nice, soft transition between the colors. The boils and whatnot were first painted with blood red, then using brighter and brighter red and orange colors mixed with lahmian medium I added somewhat translucent layers on top. At the very end I put a yellow dot off-center onto each, then a final layer of very translucent orange to blend the colors together. Once everything was finished I went over the boils with a clear, shiny varnish to make them look wet.

The bones were first painted by white (to make then stand out), then went over them using a yellowish white (well, bone-colored) paint. The effect was further helped using dark brown washes with diluted Citadel inks, which acted both as filters (modulating the bone color), and as washes (forming shadows on the surface).

The top of the vehicle looked like a gigantic wound, so I used bright reds and orange to make it look like raw flesh. The underlying areas were painted a deep, angry red, with brighter and brighter reds (later oranges) layered on the protruding areas. Since the organic matter seemed to sweep over the metal parts, it was painted in a more brownish red to provide some transition. I accentuated the effect using bright red inks; some of the overhanging tissue was only tinted with this mixture (applied in several coats).

I was not sure what the spikes were representing, so I kept them rusty.

There were tiny, oblong shapes all over the hull; I took them as mites or other parasites, and painted them bright green- to give some contrasting color to the model.

The tentacles were somewhat of a dilemma. After considering green and flesh colors, I decided on purple. The base was dark purple (tentacle purple by Citadel’s nomenclature; the actual inspiration for the paint scheme), which was highlighted using pink purple mixed with lahmian medium to blend it in easier, to make the color somewhat translucent. Some of the thicker tentacles had suckers on them, similar to an octopus’; these were painted carefully with bright pink. Once everything dried, I covered them with heavily diluted purple ink in several coats until they looked as if the brighter colors were underlying tissue showing through a translucent skin. The effect was surprisingly good considering I was improvising.

The triple-skull mark of Nurgle was painted first with a light, bright green, that represents heavily oxidized bronze, and I added some very dark metallic bronze colors on some areas somewhat randomly. (I tried to make sure mostly the parts that are jutting out would be painted; after all we’d expect these parts to be rubbed clear of the oxide.)

The holes on the exhaust on the top were painted with a very bright green, again, to provide some contrast. The exhausts on the back were blocked with some run-off. Since we’re talking about plague and Nurgle here I decided on a green paintscheme; I tried to emulate how other paint lava and other hot materials which seem to be emitting light on their own.

The goo was first painted with the lightest, brightest green I had, and darker and darker greens were blended onto this surface, making sure that the original bright green was still visible in the deep crevices, and that the color gradually darkens. The idea was that as the goo cooled, the colors darken; hence the large dark green surfaces. The rims and the interiors of the exhaust pipes were pained bright green to simulate the green light they reflect from the radioactive/infectious goo.

Well, pretty much that’s all. I really enjoyed the painting process although it took an awful lot of time. I’ll get a couple of Death Guard marines, I’ll paint up Mortarion, and I’ll have a little happy family of plague bearing Space Marines on my shelf in no time.