In part one of this series, I discussed why and how I decided to get into Mordheim all these years after the game went out of production. In part two, I’m going to get into the meat of the hobby involved and talk about my warband – The Squeaky Blinders.
Deciding on a warband
From the moment I decided to build a warband, I knew that I wanted to do Clan Eshin Skaven. Not for a lack of interesting alternatives, mind. Mordheim has so many of my all-time favourite Warhammer Fantasy factions, such as Middenheimers and Witch Hunters. I even own an unpainted, unbuilt Undead gang collecting dust in one of my boxes of miniatures from my youth, complete with awesome metal Zombie sculpts, perfectly sinister Dregs and the most Von Carstein Vampire you ever did see. All perfectly viable options, but none that hold a candle to Skaven.
Despite my Age of Sigmar army sitting in a permanent state of 80% completion1, the Skaven will always be my first and dearest love in the Warhammer Fantasy setting. They’re everything you want out of a villain – selfish, vicious and hateful little creatures. Industrious and ambitious – backstabbing is more of a way of life in the under-empire than a means to an end. But in the same breath, they’re kinda.. strangely.. endearing. Skaven are a cowardly but occasionally brilliant race with a penchant for self-preservation and a (deeply misplaced) belief in safety in numbers. They have a ‘life finds a way’ approach to science and industry; their machinery and weapons can approach science-fiction levels of advancement at times, but at the cost of being fatally – but often comically – unreliable. Games Workshop even found a way to make their speech seem fittingly ratlike. I just love them.
On the face of it, Mordheim seems like the perfect setting for Skaven. Aside from the fact that Wyrdstone is quite literally just Warpstone – the Skaven’s favourite energy source/recreational drug – Mordheim’s bleak, post-apocalyptic Victorian fantasy setting just really really suits the Skaven. After all, what was it that caused The Black Death in the first place? Rats.
With my faction chosen, it was onto the planning step. I felt like a Mordheim warband – being anywhere from 2 to 20 miniatures – is a small enough project that it’s worth trying to push the boat out a little, hobby-wise. It felt like the right time to try and really pursue a concept or aesthetic.
For some time now, I’ve been wanting to try my hand at Blanchitsu again. For the uninitiated, Blanchitsu is a style of miniature conversion and painting that is inspired by the art and miniatures of the indomitable John Blanche. I made my first (and previously last) foray into this style a couple years ago with a unit of Chaos Cultists for my Heretic Astartes army. I used Flagallents from Warhammer Fantasy and a ForgeWorld Renegade Guard upgrade kit as the basis for the miniatures and painted them using mainly Sepia tones, washed out green-beige colours and desaturated oranges. I was pretty happy with them, and I enjoyed the process a lot. Still, as time passed and subsequent projects came and went, the opportunity to expand on this approach never really presented itself again. Until now.
With this project, I wanted the gang to invoke at least a little of John’s baroque horror essence. My Skaven warband would have to look grim and intimidating, of course, but they needed that something else as well. Some little aesthetic twist that would give them their own, unique identity and personality. But what?
Mustering the forces
I started looking into what miniatures would be suitable for a Skaven warband. I wanted to have the option to run a little bit of everything over the course of a campaign, so I knew I’d need suitable models for an Assassin Adept, Sorcerer, a couple Black Skaven, a couple Night Runners, a Rat Ogre and a number of Verminkin and Giant Rats.
My first port of call was the Spiteclaw’s Swarm warband from Shadespire. In addition to providing a number of cool scenic bases that would suit Mordheim just fine, the box contained four Clanrats and a Stormvermin model that were actually pretty perfectly posed for Clan Eshin. One Rat was in a sort of ‘just landed’ pose with a pair of daggers, while several of them were either in motion, preparing to counterattack or simply scurrying along. They were monopose, but seemed simple enough to convert and repose. I ordered two boxes, as I figured I could probably make two different Clanrats from the bodies of each of them.
With my basic Troops taken care of, I started looking at how I was going to convert my Heroes. I considered trying to pick up one of the old Skaven Assassin miniatures – I absolutely adore that old sculpt with the twin swords – but I was ultimately turned off by how little I could customise a monopose metal miniature. Instead, I turned my gaze to one of my favourite Skaven miniatures of all time – Queek Headtaker. While a little overdressed for an Assassin (the trophy rack would at least would have to go), Queek’s pose was just so full of motion and the sculpt so full of character that I couldn’t not take him for my Adept. Immediately, I saw him atop the scenic base piece from Spiteclaw’s Swarm, with either a brace of Warplock Pistols or a pair of Fighting Claws in his hands.
I was on a bit of a roll at this point and started to think outside of the box a little bit. I would need an Eshin Sorcerer – a Grey Seer sort of equivalent, I’d guessed. This was sort of an exciting opportunity, as a haggard spellcaster is the perfect place to exploit the Blanchitsu factor of this warband. I had a look at some of the Skaven characters. The Grey Seers were.. an option. I lingered on the Plague Priests for a while too, until I remembered the Deathmages Necromancer. I had previously considered this model as the basis for a Nurgle Sorcerer for my Maggotkin army. His hunched pose and tattered robes were perfect for my purposes, but it was his spindley, clawed fingers with long clawlike nails that really sold it to me – I wouldn’t even need to convert the hands! He’d need a tail and a headswap, perhaps a smaller staff, but he was by and large good to go.
The next kit I looked at was the Giant Rats, Rat Ogors and Packmasters. While it’s definitely showing it’s age a little now (those sparse looking sprues), there was an awful lot of good content on there for a Mordheim gang. Aside from the obvious Giant Rats and Rat Ogres, there were a few head and weapon options from the Master Moulders that seemed perfect for conversions – one of the hooded heads in particular seemed a perfect fit for my Sorcerer.
This left just the Black Skaven and Night Runners for my warband. I’ll admit right now that I sort of copped out a little on the Night Runners – for those, I simply picked up a blister of Gutter Runners. These are kind of old sculpts from the era where Skaven looked a little bit.. simian, but the poses are nice and the faces are mostly covered by cowls anyway. In hindsight, I realise now that my blister didn’t even contain the best looking one of these, but I was happy enough until this realisation dawned on me 20 seconds ago, so I can’t really complain now, can I? These Gutter Runner models are a couple mm smaller than the plastic Clanrats, but given their lower weapon skill and faster movement speed, I rationalised this as their particular builds being better suited to scouting than foot soldiering.
Finally, the Black Skaven. Fortunately, I already had one really kick-ass looking Stormvermin miniature – Spiteclaw himself. I didn’t want him to take any attention from the Adept though, so I’d need to cut him off his plinth and just put him straight onto a 32mm base instead – giving him a sort of mad, on-all-fours scrambling pose that I thought looked pretty cool in it’s own right. I had actually planned just to leave it there at one Black Skaven, but I stumbled upon an unopened Mordheim Black Skaven blister pack (containing Black Skaven 1) on eBay for a not unreasonable amount of money and bit the bullet. I kind of liked having another vintage looking Skaven miniature in the gang, and it helped to sort of normalise the difference in faces between the Spiteclaw plastics, old Clanrat plastics I had lying around, Gutter Runners, Master Moulder head and so on. With enough era-variation, nothing looks especially out of place.
With that, the forces were mustered and it was time to start building and painting!
Meet The Squeaky Blinders
First and foremost, I put all of my miniatures together – doing all the relevant building, converting and sculpting necessary. After everything was built, I went and painted them – one at a time at first, and then in small batches of 2 or 3 towards the end as I built up confidence. As the painting process was effectively the same for each of the miniatures, I’m going to focus on the conversion work for now, and then talk about my painting method afterwords.
So let’s begin at the beginning – with the test model.
As far as building went, this miniature was pretty much an out of the box member of Spiteclaw’s swarm. However, I did think that the flail wasn’t quite Eshin enough for me and swapped it out for a dagger from the plastic Clanrats kit.
Okay, okay, so, elephant in the room – you’re probably wondering what’s with all the flatcaps, right?
In the planning phase of putting these miniatures together, I had started thinking about what it was that I was going to do to make my warband look ‘unique’. While trawling eBay for bitz, I came across a little pack of 12 ‘pork pie hats’ from the Empire State Troops kit. I kind of liked the idea of outfitting my Mordheim gang with this ye olde looking headgear, and snapped it up quickly. I started headcanoning the idea that the hats were a sort of initiation for the gang, and that new recruits were not fully-fledged members until they assassinated a mark and took his hat for themselves. Nice.
The hats took a little while to actually arrive in the post, however. In the meantime, I was putting together my gang, converting the base models, etc. While all this was going on, my fiance and I were watching the Peaky Blinders on iPlayer. All of a sudden a massive source of inspiration hit. Something clicked.
“The Squeaky Blinders.”
Pork pie hats were suddenly woefully insufficient. Only flat caps would do. The idea of a gang of Skaven running around the ruined streets of Mordheim with razor-blade-enhanced flat caps was just too perfect. The flat caps could also double as a WYSIWYG representation of every models free dagger, too. Just.. too perfect.
The only real downside to this idea was that I couldn’t find any company selling flat cap conversion bits online for neither love nor money. If I wanted flat caps for my rats, I would have to sculpt them myself.
Now, I’ve gone through my fair share of green stuff in the past, though almost exclusively for gap filling. I’ve gotten quite creative with my gap filling of course – but I’ve done very little in the way of sculpting actual things from scratch. Thankfully though, flatcaps aren’t exactly the most complicated shape to sculpt. Effectively, the process was to make a little oval, flat on the bottom and more bulbous towards the rear, then I pinched in the front to create the peak of the cap. Next, I drew a line around the base of the hat for the trim, and little half oval on either side to create a couple side panels. The final touch with a tiny little blob of green stuff on the top of the cap with a tiny cross in the centre for the button. Hey presto, you’ve sculpted yourself a flat cap! Now, it’s just the small matter of repeating that process another dozen times.
Next up, I wanted to just get in there and paint my Assassin Adept, Kill-Killian Murphy.
Murphy was made from Queek Headtaker, with both of his weapon hands replaced with a pair of fighting claws. I didn’t bother attacking the trophy rack on his back – this looked great for a Warlord, but not so much for an Assassin – and instead cut away at the joint and smoothed it over with some green stuff. In order to give him a little more presence as the boss man, I put him on Spiteclaw’s base – which happened to be perfect for his leaping pose. I couldn’t help myself but put the little robed rat from the Rat Ogres frame on the base as well – it doesn’t really serve any purpose, I just thought it looked cool.
I started sculpting his hat when it occurred to me that putting a hat on an already helmeted head was really stupid looking, so I started looking for a suitably bad-ass looking head. In the end, I settled for one of the spare Sergeant heads on the Stormvermin sprue – this featured a suitably animated expression and grizzly looking eyepatch, which just felt perfect for my Assassin Adept. With that, Kill-Killian Murphy was complete.
Murphy was followed by one of my favourite models in the gang – and one of the few not to wear a flat cap, for that matter. Eshin Sorcerer Ratsputin.
I must admit, I really laboured over whether to give Murphy a pair of pistols or a pair of fighting claws; the latter was a good, practical option that would still work with the pose, but something about a flatcapped Rat-man leaping from a vantage point with a pair of pistols really did it for me. After so much huffing and hawing, I begrudging decided on the Fighting Claws – if only because dropping a pair of pistols saved so much gold that it let me fit another Clanrat model into my starting gang. I couldn’t get Warplock Pistols out of my brain, however – and I was able to satisfy this with my Ratsputin conversion.
As previously mentioned, Ratsputin was converted from the Deathmages Necromancer miniature with a Master Moulder head from the Rat Ogres frame. I also added handgun from the Empire Pistolliers set (I got set of 10 of these on eBay for a good price – you never know when you’re going to need ambidextrous handguns for Mordheim), a tail from a Clanrat coming out from under his robe, and I replaced the top of his staff with a banner-topper trinket from the Stormvermin sprue.
I have to say, I am extremely pleased with how this particular conversion turned out. The covered face, tattered robes and outstretched blackpowder handgun (a completely unplanned addition that really worked out in my favour) all just scream Mordheim aesthetic to me. It didn’t even matter that this one didn’t have a flatcap; unofficially, I refer to him as “Polly Gray-Seer” anyway.
Black Skaven Skabber was the inevitable Spiteclaw conversion. The big swooping cloak and dynamic scrambling pose has such a great sense of motion – like every other model in that warband, he does a great job of looking like he belongs in Clan Eshin in his pose rather than his garb.
Still, he had a little too much presence on his little perch, so I took him down to ground level instead. While this didn’t look bad, I couldn’t quite get over the idea that he was still just.. Spiteclaw a little lower down. It was around then that I noticed something on my cutting mat.
In advance of The Scouring of Stirlingshire, I had recently made a small adjustment to my Witch King on foot – I cut off his morningstar and replaced this with a flaming sword to make him match my Witch King on Fell-Beast miniature, in an effort to keep things strictly WYSIWYG for the event. Given that neither my Witch King on Horse nor my Witch King on Fell Beast minis had the flail, it just felt.. extraneous. In any case, the hand with the weapon was still sitting there on my cutting mat, and it got me thinking.
At first, I had considered cutting down my Spiteclaw’s halberd and replacing it with the Witch Kings extremely menacing morningstar. I liked this idea – it was fun and the concept of using oversized Middle-earth weapons parts to fit more naturally on these heroic-scale miniatures really tickled me. However, no sooner than I had glued this part onto the miniature did my brain juices really start flowing. I started thinking – what if I took the other half of the halberd shaft and used that instead of the flail, giving him a pair of nunchucks?
I generally subscribe to the notion that the Clan Eshin is not exclusively made of up of Ninjas and Assassins – that many members are simply regular foot soldiers, and that it’s perfectly fine for my warband to quite simply be a gang – it’s still a really fun nod to the fluff to have them wielding exotic weapons from Araby like throwing stars, sai and nunchucks. Something about the pose of Spiteclaw – scuttling across the ground on all four – just really felt like it worked well swinging a pair of nunchucks, and the model finally felt ‘right’.
While Skabber was came from an ultra-modern Skaven Shadespire sculpt, the bones of Black Skaven Rikket come from a now very old Mordheim Black Skaven model.
I didn’t actually plan on this conversion, originally. In fact, Rikkit was added halfway through the painting process (note his absence in the ‘unpainted gang’ photo from my last post) after I spotted him on eBay for a halfway reasonable price. As previously stated, the base of this miniature is a Mordheim Black Skaven – making him my only actual Mordheim miniature in the whole gang. Ultimately, I just really liked the look of the sculpt – while the head was a little dated (albeit one of the better designs of the era) – the rest of the miniature looked pretty good. In particular, I really liked his very Mordheim-esque light armour attire and chunky warplock pistol. The only parts of this miniature that I didn’t especially like were his overly chunky looking sword and short, fat tail.
As I removed Skabber’s traditional Stormvermin halberd in favour of a Nunchuck, I decided to bring a bit of balance back to the world and give this weapon to the slightly less traditionally garbed Rikkit. To do this, I clipped off the sword and hilt from the miniatures hand, and with a hobby drill I made a couple of small holes on either side of the hand – not wide enough to insert a halberd pole, but not deep enough to effectively pin it either. I carefully sliced both sides of the Halberd from my spare Spiteclaw’s hand and then very carefully whittled the end that was cut into a bit of a pencil tip. Doing so gave me at least a little more surface area than trying to super glue the halbard to my metal models hand flush, and produced a much sturdier bond that would be less prone to snapping off.
At this point, I couldn’t help but notice how bare this Black Skaven miniature looked next to Skabber. While I did like that he was dressed in a slightly less by-the-book Stormvermin attire, the lack of cloak was extremely jarring – they didn’t look like they were representing the same class of Hero at all. There was only one thing for it – I had to rip the cloak from my spare Spiteclaw and somehow get it to work on Rikket.
This turned out to be a surprisingly doable task. Unassembled, it was easy to get at the cloak – while admittedly, there was a good bit of body to cut away at, it wasn’t nearly as hard to get at as it would’ve been on the completed miniature. I managed to get the cloak away without too much trouble, even preserving a little bit of the front clasps. There was a bit of messiness on the underside, but all of this was high up enough that it would probably be concealed when attached to the new miniature. Fortunately, attaching the cloak proved to be reasonably trivial as well – in a stroke of luck, the cloak fit around the neck of the Black Skaven miniature well and even looked to blend in reasonably well thanks to this weird square collar of cloth around it’s neck. It didn’t take too much cutting to get the cloak to fit nicely, and there was very minimal sculpting needed to blend it in. Everything was going well.
The final modification I made was to his tail. I really hated the short, stumpy tail – made once again all the more jarring by comparing it to Spiteclaw’s long, and slender modern design. I had a look in my bitz box and found a spare Blood Bowl Skaven Team Blitzer miniature. His tail was long with a vicious blade attached to the end, and perhaps most importantly was angled such that veered immediately to the right and then up – in another stroke of luck, this was the exact tail pose I needed to not get in the way of the newly attached cloak. A little cutting and trimming later, the new tail was attached and Rikket was ready to go.
The final hero models for my gang were a pair of Night Runners. Not really much to talk about, conversion wise here – like I said previously, this pair were pretty much taken straight from the blister. Their flatcaps did prove to be slightly more challenging than the rest however, largely due to their diminutive size. The old Gutter Runner miniatures really are that little bit smaller, though a lot of this is just down to having slightly better proportions than the plastic kits they were contemporary with.
Getting onto the basic Troops, and we have my second Verminkin model, Kritch. This one is something of a departure from the rest of of my Verminkin in that he doesn’t contains nothing from the Spiteclaw’s Swarm kit – he’s just a straight up Clanrat with a spear and a flat cap. Being the only member of my gang (so far) with a Spear, I figured the hunched over and somewhat ponderous looking Clanrat sculpt actually suited him fairly well. Besides his flat cap, I also made his base – I only had so many of the scenic bases from Spiteclaw’s Swarm – using a bit of wood from the Goblin Town set and a Green Stuff World ‘Flagstones’ roller, though I modified the heights and slants of the stones with the side of my X-Acto blade afterwards.
As a final touch, I snipped off the peg used to attach his spear arm and – using a little green stuff to fill the ensuing gap – attached the arm at a little more of an angle than usual to give him a slightly less static looking pose.
I couldn’t tell you why, but this particular Verminkin has gotten the most ‘Likes’ on both Instagram and Twitter of the whole gang. Go figure.
On the other end of the pose spectrum from Kritch is Vermkin Sleekit – another stock pose, but this time one from Spiteclaw’s Swarm. Man, if this pose doesn’t scream Clan Eshin Clanrat, I just don’t know what does. Not much to say here – there was absolutely nothing in the way of conversion going on (other than the hat). The sword-wielding tail is really cool on this mini though and I definitely might pinch that part in future upgrades for minis that develop the tail fighting Skaven skill. I decided to give this miniature the dubious honour of the name ‘Sleekit’ (after the Scottish term) on the strength of it’s awesome pose.
Skrapper was the first Verminkin that needed a headswap, having came stock with a helmeted head and a pair of fighting claws. Thankfully, I have an abundance of broken Clanrat and various Skaven bits and pieces lying around from my Age of Sigmar Skaven army project, many of which are bare Clanrat heads. The fighting claws that this mini came with were cool enough, but I didn’t like how they confused matters from a WYSIWYG perspective, and I really didn’t like closely they made this lowly Clanrat resemble the pose of my Assassin Adept, so they had to go. I replaced them with the triangular shield from another Spiteclaw’s Clanrat, plus a meaty looking butchers cleaver.
Not my most elegant conversion, if I’m honest. The leaping forward pose doesn’t quite work with the shield and cleaver, especially at certain angles – this miniature is a nightmare to photograph. That being said, if you can picture a victim at his feet, scrambling backwards on all fours, the pose makes a lot more sense. Context really is king, sometimes.
Verminkin Ratchitt is sort of a Frankstein’s monster of Spiteclaw’s Swarm and the standard Clanrat bits. At this point, I had decided that I really wanted another Round Shield in the gang, but I really didn’t want to double up on standard Clanrats – the pose might work great for a single miniature, but as soon as you double up ‘that one hunched Clanrat’ in the warband becomes ‘those two [or more] low-effort minis’.
My solution here was to use the legs from the light-footed advancing Spearman Clanrat from Spiteclaw’s Swarm and attach them to the upper body of a classic hunched Clanrat. Of course, in doing so, the weapon arm looked completely off – so I replaced this with the more dynamic looking flail arm from another of Spiteclaw Clanrat. At this point, it started to occur to me that my warband was actually conspicuously missing Clubs – so I chopped off the flail at the chain, cut away the metal hardware and recombined the weapon into a club – making sure the leave enough space to put the hat on afterward.
When his flatcap was sculpted and put on the head, the ‘pre-swing’ club pose had actually morphed into a somewhat more relaxed looking pose, with the club being rested behind Ratchitt’s head. I really the swaggering kind of attitude this mini now gives off, and it really works well with the Peaky Blinders gangster theme – and it was entirely by accident!
Finally, we have the Beasts.
There’s not a lot to say about my Giant Rats – Nibbler and Gnasher – other than that I picked my two favourite of the larger Giant Rat sculpts on the Rat Ogre frame. The Rat Ogre, Ratsack, however, has had a bit of modelling work done to him.
Most of this work was purely utilitarian – while not the oldest Skaven kit still in production, the Rat Ogre is.. not the greatest miniature to put together. Thanks to robust ball joints, there’s a wonderful degree of subtle pose-ability in the waist, arms and head, but at the cost of some pretty colossal gaps. Thankfully, I’ve sculpted my fair share of fur by this point, and fixing these gaps was as simple as stuffing the joint with green stuff and sculpting some rough patches of fur to mask this. Additionally, while the miniature itself – it’s dimensions and overall look – hasn’t aged too badly, there’s still some serious derpface going on on the head. To correct this, I decided to pick the face with the least derpy looking mouth/teeth, and then cover the face with a green stuff cowl. This worked great for twofold reasons – it helped mask the not-so-good looking face, but it also served to up the grimdark factor of the miniature. I don’t know by tattered cowls are so terrifying on large beasts, but they totally are.
Of the three ‘back’ options for my Rat Ogre, I went for the gross sort of sack looking things. Aside from just straight up looking gross, I head-cannoned the idea that Ratsack doubles as a portable sort of incubator for giant rats, and all giant rat beasts employed by the gang originate from the growths on his back. Awesome.
Painting the Squeaky Blinders
So, that’s all of the Squeaky Blinders covered – at least those of my initial recruits. I’ll no doubt return to the Blinders once our Mordheim campaign kicks off in earnest.
I had a lot of fun painting this gang – thanks to the low model count, the project never really had a chance to get old; despite no two miniatures being exactly alike, every model did have fundamentally the same features – cloth, fur, skin, teeth, leathers, metallics. As I made my way through the gang, I was able to pick up a bit of speed and eventually felt comfortable batch painting some of the miniatures without sacrificing too much in the way of painting quality.
The first step was priming. For this, I decided to use Krylon Camoflague Khaki paint. Not only do these make a good primer – they’re especially designed to stick to plastics, mainly for Airsoft weapons and terrain – the finish is ultra-flat and matt (easier to glaze over on that a more satin finish IMO) and the colour is a dirty looking beige – not as bright as Wraithbone, but light enough to glaze and wash over directly. Perfect for Blanchitsu.
In an effort to keep things looking desaturated and sickly pale, I wanted to pick a colour scheme for the cloth parts of my miniature that wouldn’t deviate too far from the flesh and fur. To that end, I basecoated the cloth in Vallejo Game Dead Flesh – a slightly greenish tinged beige colour that wasn’t a million miles off the colour of the primer, but just enough to distinguish things with the right shading. The arms, hands and faces I left in the primer Khaki, while the tail and ears were painted Vallejo Game Rosy Flesh. There were a few details remaining at this point – claws, boots and various other straps were painted black for a little variation, teeth were painted Vallejo Game Elfic Flesh and the metallics painted in Army Painter Gun Metal.
With all the basecoats finished, I’d give the entire model a wash with Seraphim Sepia. This helped get a good initial visual of the shading, as well as help desaturate everything again.
Usually I’d start laying and highlighting the green cloth areas, as these were often pretty prominent on the model. To do so, I layered up with Dead Flesh again, then followed up with a couple successively smaller layers of Dead Flesh mixed with Elfic Flesh in the raised areas until the mix was 3/4 Elfic Flesh. After this, I gave the whole cloth area a wash again with Seraphim Sepia to bring it all back together again a bit. This helped to blend my layering a little bit, as well as further tint the cloth to a kind of dirty Sepia with a suggestion of green. After this wash has dried up, I used what I consider to be my Blanchitsu Secret Weapon – Fuegan Orange wash.
First of all, one great piece of advice that I found on the internet for painting in the Blanchitsu style is that it’s a good idea to shade even your cold colours with warm tones. This might sound a bit intuitive, but this is how Blanche achieves that incredible consistent fiery Sepia tone throughout much of his coloured work. It takes a little bit of practice to get the hang of, but in the end it’s not too different to my usual practice of painting stonework – you can paint the stones any colour you like, really, as long as you shade and drybrush them with the same consistent colour, you’re going to get a consistent looking effect. For these purposes, Fuegan Orange is absolutely outstanding.
Fuegan Orange has some interesting properties that make it behave differently to most other Citadel Shades. For one, it’s a surprisingly opaque wash with really strong coverage – but still flows better and tints a little less than an ink would. This makes it amazing for pin washes and glazing, especially over colours that Seraphim Sepia would be focused on the recesses over. Secondly, it’s a far cry from a bright orange, or even a clean one. It’s got a kind of dirtiness to it, veering slightly towards the realm of Sepia. It’s not an Orange Shade so much as it’s designed to Shade Orange, if that makes sense. Both of these properties are extremely useful to us, given that we’re looking to maintain a consistent Sepia tint over a variety of colours and shadow-depth.
You can probably see where I’m going with this – I applied a little Fuegan Orange to the deepest recesses of the cloth. As the Fuegan Orange is still a warm tone like the Sepia wash, it manages to blend naturally with the rest of the colours and – despite being arguably lighter than the Sepia wash that it’s next to – the increased saturation and contrast of the paint gives a stronger suggestion of shadow thanks to the increasingly desaturated surface area. The colour of the cloth is still recognisable through the midtones, while the shadows approach a fiery sepia while the highlights go towards paler tone of sepia. At this stage, I decided to push the contrast a little stronger and used a combination of Vallejo Game Khaki and Elfic Flesh to pick out the sharp edges of the cloth portions and make them pop. As I was hoping for a more haggard look than usual, I did this by painting lots of tiny sharp lines into the edges of the various cloths to give more of a feathered highlight rather than just painting the edges.
The fur and flesh wasn’t a million miles off the method I used for the cloth, in fact it was virtually identical but for the base colour I was working from. I used Dead Flesh to layer up the muscles, fingers, protruding bones and ligaments and then highlighted with Elfic Flesh, followed by a wash of Seraphim Sepia. The difference in the surface and shapes of the flesh/fur and the translucency of the paints was enough that the colour still came out a little more brown and a little less green than the cloth despite my layering with Dead Flesh, but I did one final even thinner highlight of Elfic Flesh mixed with a tiny bit of Vallejo Game Leather Brown to accentuate it. Instead of shading the deepest recesses with Fuegan Orange, instead I glazed over all the various little tufts of sculpted fur on the miniature – such as on their cheeks and thighs. Much as it was for the cloth – this was more about creating a bit of contrast to pick out the detail on the miniature, and is more of a aesthetic decision than a literal suggestion that my rats has gotten into the Irn Bru. I did still paint my Black Skaven with black fur, however as I liked the effect of that visible denotation of status.
Speaking of the painting black, most of those sections were highlighted in a mix of White and Black paint, with corners highlighted an even lighter grey. I did attempt to paint a sort of pale thatching on the flatcaps for a bit of visual interest, and reduced the prominence of this with a Nuln Oil wash after before edge highlighting the trim and corners of the hat. At this step I also painted the eyes – these were already basecoated black, so I just did a tiny little dot of white to give them a little depth. I also made sure to fix any overpaint mistakes I did during the basecoats that the wash didn’t cover up, usually with a tiny little stripe of khaki to help redefine the eye shape.
The various pinks – ears and tails mostly – were layered up again with Rosy Flesh, followed by a finer highlight of Elfic Flesh before getting washed a final time with Seraphim Sepia. Doing this on the tails was pretty much a case of painting a whole bunch of tiny little stripes around the tail, no short cuts there unfortunately. While I was at this step, I also went back and picked out the teeth with Elfic Flesh. In a couple of cases, they still weren’t defined enough, so I threw another shade of Seraphim Sepia over them and – again – picked out the edges with Elfic Flesh.
Finally just the wargear was left. I did the wooden bits and pieces first – drybrushing of Leather Brown then Elfic Flesh for the shields, fine lines of Leather Brown then Elfic Flesh running up the shafts of clubs, spears and halberds. Finished off with a wash of Seraphim Sepia on both. The metallics were a little trickier. I wasn’t the biggest fan of how bright the metals looked and how that detracted from the desaturated palette of the models, so I opted to completely cover every metal surface with Typhus Corrosion. After this had dried I took some Vallejo Game Rust, mixed it with a bit of water and started putting drops of it into various recesses – this creates a more realistic rust effect in my eyes than drybrushing it over the Typhus Corrosion, as rust is more likely to form deepest in the various pits and recesses. In some places, I applied a second drop to make it seem like some areas had corroded worse than others. The final step was edge highlighting the metallics – I did this in a similar fashion to the cloth, feathering lots of tiny little scratches across the edges instead of a narrow straight line.
The basing was simple – Fuegan Orange in the deepest recesses, Athonian Camoshade and Seraphim Sepia over the rest. Once this dried, I drybrushed the surface of the bashes in Khaki and painted the base rim black. Job done.
With that, the paint job was concluded. I took the miniatures outside and sprayed them with Testor’s Dullcote. For a final, grim-dark touch I took all the finished miniatures onto a piece of card and flicked some watered down Blood for the Blood God onto the front of them with an old toothbrush, to create the effect of arterial blood spatter – this seemed fitting for a bunch of vicious assassin rats.
Congratulations and thank you if you’ve made it this far into my ramblings about the Squeaky Blinders. I’m starting to say this a lot, but this really was one of the most fun and rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on in the hobby. A faction that I love, a game I remember fondly, an aesthetic that I hold in reverence – what’s not to love? It’s been a fun learning curve, and I’m immensely proud of the miniatures that I’ve produced this time.
February can’t come soon enough – I can’t wait to get these guys onto the tabletop. And hopefully it won’t be too long before I can get a blog out about the next project on my painting table – the long-awaited Blackstone Fortress.
Until then, I’ll leave you with a nice group photo of the finished Squeaky Blinders. As always, thanks for reading, and happy wargaming!
1 Once you’ve gone and based, layered and edge highlighted 100 Clanrats, the hard part really is done with a Skaven army. At this stage, the only hold-up is just sort of waiting to fall back in love with Age of Sigmar again.