Sunday, 30 January 2011

Wargaming on a Budget: Those who can... Convert!

So last time I talked a bit about changing your scale, and this time I am going to talk about possibly my favourite aspect of the hobby: Conversions. Well I will be talking a bit about scratch building and scavenging too.

First of all converting is not for everyone. Its one of those things some people just seem to be able to do. Maybe I honed my skills with all the lego I played with as a kid, but I love looting bits from different kits and mashing them together for something new. Later, as I became involved in the hobby, I started doing some basic sculpting as well, and recently, started doing some scratch building.

Conversions can be an expensive undertaking, but if you are like me, then you should already have a nice fat bitz box to raid for parts and inspiration. Its surprising what you can come up with, even if its just the odd character, that's still a good six quid you've saved.

I will talk more about this in a future post but the key to making this all work out to you having saved some cash is planning. You need to have a clear idea of what models (and how many) you need to complete your army, and roughly what resources you have available.
Mordor Orcs, including converted banner bearer

Conversions can be as simple as doing a weapon or head swap. For my Mordor Army for War of the Ring I found that the average box of Orcs did not contain enough archers or Orcs with great weapons for my needs. Luckily I had a load of spare archers from other races, and simple started swapping some arms. Not only did this give me the archers I needed, it gave me more poses than the two that were provided in the box. I also converted Orc banner bearers as well as task masters and trackers, all so I wouldn't have to shell out for the metal blisters. This may seem really frugal, but even with the healthy Games Workshop discount at the time, I just could not afford the metals.

Converted Queen Beruthiel .
Made from a Barrow Wight, Arwen, and Green Stuff. 
These were largely minor conversions, but when you have 72 Orcs as one formation, you don't have time to spend hours on each model (I painted said 72 Orcs plus some characters and monsters in about 5 days. Speed painting post will come in the next few weeks).

Converted Ranger of the North. Head, chest and hair have
all been sculpted from Green Stuff. 
Next, sculpting. Green Stuff is fairly expensive if bought in the shops, but if you head online you can pick up large amounts for the price of a GW blister pack, so search around you will be suprised by the bargains you can find. I mostly find myself doing this for troop types that have no official model yet, or models that are so horrible I just have to make my own. My Queen Beruthiel, for my Easterling Allies was created from spares I had kicking around and some green stuff.

At times, I just can't justify buying a blister/box simply for a single model I need from the bunch. I needed a Ranger of the North to complete my 500 point Gondor force for a campaign I was taking part in. I really didn't feel like spending £8 on getting three of them, when only one would be used. I rooted around my trusty bitz box and found a Numenorean archer, and after beheading him started sculpted a new head. The model ended up being extremely characterful, and remains one of my favourite conversions to this day.

So how about something larger? Something perhaps not Lord of the Rings related? Something that saves me more than £8? How about this then?

Converted Imperial Guard Medusa
This is my converted Medusa for my budget Death Korps army. The project is on hold for the minute as Wargames Factory, maker of my cheap alternative infantry are currently undergoing some... changes. And as I need at least one more box of their Shock Troopers I am currently putting the project on hold.

Detail view of the turret and commander. 

The Medusa came about because I found an old Hellhound I had built years ago, minus the turret. I was wracking my brains as to what to do with the chassis of it and a Leeman Russ tank I had kicking about also with no turret (bloody turret gnomes stealing my turrets!). I decided rather than order pricey Forge World conversion kits, I would try scratch building. The Medusa was my first attempt at something like this, and proved to be both challenging and fun. The crew compartment was made from bits of base/movement tray provided with my plastic Napoleonic troops from Perry Miniatures and Warlord Games. It took some cutting and filling but I finally got the basic shape built. I then made the gun from spare bits from a Storm Blade (I got the bits from a friend) but it could easily be made out of bits of plastic or brass tubing and some plastic rod. Final detailing was made with plastic card and green stuff.

Finished and ready for a lick of paint
This saved me in the region of £30 (The full kit is some £51) and ensured that the spare bit off Hellhound found a good home. I applied the same techniques to making my command tank, a Leeman Russ Vanquisher  crewed by Knight Commander Pask. This conversion was more of a proverbial pain in the behind to pull off as the Leeman Russ turret shape stupidly fiddly to pull off. I managed it by using the actual turret from another Russ to use as a template (even tracing around it) and this just about worked out. I ended up covering the damned thing in armour plates, scrolls and stowage in the end so the unsightly bits are... well out of sight. Also the more astute amongst you will notice that the barrel of the Vanquisher cannon is made from a piece  of Battlefield Accessory. Another £15 or so saved.

Knight Commander Pask in his trusty Leeman Russ
The entire idea of this project was to build an Imperial Guard on the cheap and still be able to field cool minis that were way out of my budget.  Even the standard infantry were a fraction of the cost of the GW equivalent. A word of warning however if you intend to use alternative models, if they are not produced by GW they will not be allowed in a GW store. Since I don't intend to play in a GW that often anyway, this was no problem for me. 

All in all I managed to get away with spending something in the region of £40 on new models, reusing or converting spare bits I had lying around. I realise that converting, sculpting and scratch building is not for everyone, and it is rather time consuming (as is nearly every aspect of our hobby), but it can be an enjoyable endeavour in and of itself, and so it should not be over looked. I really recommend trying it out, as even just converting some characters etc can go a long way to save you cash. If you do need advice and help on the matter, I suggest heading into your local GW or checking online for ideas and inspirations. If there is enough demand for it I will post some pointers on the matter in the future. 
Converted Tech-Priest

In other news, my pulp rules, A Fist Full of Sixes, is practically writing itself, having been massively inspired (or ripped off) from White Wolf's old Story Teller System, and a copious amount of alcohol (yeah fell asleep writing them after much beer). I am trying to at least type up all of my drunken hand written notes by the end of next week and hopefully do some play testing the week after. Will let you all know how it all comes along. 

Until next time,

-Banchou Badger

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to seeing those new rules! As an addendum, though, I'd say that conversion is a great way of exercising your lateral thinking skills and forces you to come up with some kit swaps that you might otherwise not have thought of, so remember to keep an open mind and be prepared to look across the entire range for parts to use.

    Oh and hey, it's not like White Wolf doesn't still use the storyteller system so I wouldn't go around calling it old just yet lol