In building a set of troops for the Spanish Conquest, I came across a couple of blisters of 25mm Ral Partha figures called “Aztec Arrow Knights”. These were in my lot of unpainted lead for the period, sculpted by R. Kerr, and dated from 1988. The blisters held 6 figures armed with huge feathered arrows – think javelins with fletching. As I thought that they were interesting potential elite troops with unique weapons, I decided to add one of the two blisters to my Aztec forces, keeping the other in reserve for future painting.
As I discussed previously, I had been doing research on the Aztecs. I looked for suitable color plates or guides to paint up this unit. To my surprise, there is a bit of mystery and possibly even controversy about Arrow Knights. History provides little evidence in the codices as to their existence – though there are clues here and there.
Possible Arrow knight on the right?
Is there a giant arrow here?
I suppose it’s not out of the question that an elite unit of Aztec warriors specializing in launching massively huge javelin-like arrows could have existed. Perhaps there was some confusion with the atlatl (ot-la-t) a spear-throwing device? Just because old Ral Partha made these does not mean that they did exist – but for the purposes of my games and my Aztec Army – they do now.
Of course, painting them would be up to me for choosing the colors. The only picture that I found was from a computer gaming site – and it did not match any of the plates. I did like the markings known as “hawk scratches”. I decided that I would give the unit a coloration similar to the cuahchic elites – that being a yellowish suit of tanned hide that would have been worn over their quilted-cotton armor ichcahuipilli (each-ca-we-pee-lee).
It was fun to break into this old blister from Ral Partha’s “1200 A.D.” line. The figures were all in the same pose, but I figured that I could orient their arrows in slightly different positions, use slightly different colors on each , and give different shields to each for aesthetics and ease of tabletop identification and playability. A familiar challenge was that the arrows were all lead – and vulnerable to bending and breaking. I also wanted them to have two big arrows – one to throw and one to use in melee.
The problem with doing this were twofold. First, I did not want to sculpt 6 little extra arrows – and second the little 25mm hands were too small to accommodate even the arrows provided. My solution was to use some steel wire pikes I had gotten from Iron Winds Metals during my Rooman War Party project. I cut the pikes to size and used super glue to affix them to the arrows. They would be the “second” arrow, albeit without fletching or another obsidian head. I think it worked – and you can be the judge.
Early flesh painting May 4th
Moving on to headdresses and other colors
Next, I’ll share some close up eye candy shots of each, a scale comparison, and some group shots.
Arrow Knight #1
Arrow Knight #2
Arrow Knight #3
Arrow Knight #4
Arrow Knight #5
Arrow Knight #6
I am also adding a new feature here. I want to be able to share related posts on the larger Aztec project with folks who have not seen all of the previous posts. Additionally, I need a way to help me keep track of my progress! Therefore, the list of links below will accomplish both for me.
Posts on Units for my 16th Century Spanish Conquest Supplement for Feudal Patrol™ – “Civilizations Collide”
When I was young boy, the local TV station would show an old monster or horror movie on Saturday afternoon. Sometimes these were the of the 1960’s Japanese Godzilla et. al. genre, other times they were the B-movie sci-fi stuff from the 1950’s. Even the British Hammer remakes would be shown. Those were all cool, but the best ones were the classic 1930’s and 1940’s films like “Dracula” (1931), “Frankenstein” (1931), “The Mummy” (1932), and “The Wolf Man” (1941).
My dad would enthusiastically watch these films with us and I have really special memories of those occasions. Now of course every movie ever made can be had immediately, but back then you had to wait and hope that they would be coming on – and that made their rare showings quite eventful. The subjects of those movies have seen numerous remakes, but the originals remain classics and have had a huge impact on popular culture.
One of those influences was in the creation of games with monsters, such as Dungeons and Dragons (and others) – and the miniatures that were used with them – such as 25mm scale figures from Ral Partha. For US folks unfamiliar with 25mm scale – this is the common Ral Partha scale in the 1970’s and 1980’s and it means that each figure is only about 1″ tall.
I first was exposed to Ral Partha miniatures in 1982 – and have loved them ever since. Sculptors such as Tom Meier, Julie Guthrie, and Dennis Mize made fantastic creations that were true scale, not “hero scale” as many of today’s miniatures are. Ral Partha figures are still made today in Cincinnati by Iron Winds Metals. When I returned to the hobby in 2014, I acquired many of the old figures in various lots of figures on eBay. Among these of which I came into possession were several of the old classic movie monsters. They often were encrusted with the types of thick enamel hobby paint that was commonly used back then. I stripped many (with some damage), and put them away for future consideration.
That future consideration arrived this month. A local hobby store, Great Stories in Uxbridge, MA, has gaming and other hobby events that you can read about here. One of these events was “The Great Pumpkin Halloween Hobby Challenge”. The store had a pumpkin patch for figures to be displayed – and the only rules were that there needed to be a pumpkin (provided for $5 as entry) as part of the figure – and that it needed to be submitted by October 28th. I decided that my filed-somewhere Ral Partha monsters would make a nice diorama for the challenge. I dug into my stash, and found that I had 5 suitable figures, two werewolves, one mummy, one Dracula, and one Frankenstein’s Monster. I wanted to push myself with the mini-diorama – as I have been admiring many of those by theimperfectmodeler for years (check one of his recent dioramas here). I am nowhere near his creative league (he is award-winning) – but his work is inspiring and I wanted to see if I could accomplish something of which I could be proud. I decided to use an old DVD and card as a base and a Woodlands Scenics rock as elevation. The edge of the pumpkin patch would be on the DVD so I could line it up on the display at the store.
The effect that I wanted was that of having these classic monsters coming from off the pumpkin patch and moving to prey upon the unwary townsfolk beyond.
Again, these are 25mm figures so they don’t stand out like larger models. This is what we had back in the day! I will share details of each of the five models, and then the completed piece. As is my custom, I will list the paints and materials I used at the end of this post for those interested. I did use many Citadel Contrast paints as base paints.
The Dracula/vampire model was #01-014, a Tom Meier sculpt from the Personalities and Things that Go Bump In The Night line. The base had “Ral Partha 1976” on it. I probably over-cleaned it – but the details on it – especially the face – were not great. Trying to get the right skin tone for Dracula was a challenge – and the lack of detail did not help. I wanted Dracula to be the highest model on the diorama – like he was sending his evil minions forth. The rock had a nice place for me to place Dracula’s base as its size and shape were considerations as well (it was not a removable base).
The Mummy model was #01-020, another Tom Meier sculpt from the Personalities and Things that Go Bump In The Night line. It was also from 1976. This was the easiest to paint and I thought it came out as desired.
The Were Wolf (crouching model)
The were two werewolf models that I used. The first werewolf was in a crouch. This model was “Were Wolf” #01-061, (two words) – yet another Tom Meier sculpt from the Personalities and Things that Go Bump In The Night line. However this one was from 1979. I wanted to have this one climbing up the back slope of the rock, giving a little more depth to the piece.
The Werewolf (standing model)
This is the second of the two werewolf models that I used. This model is standing (and this one is wearing pants). It is “Werewolf” #98-003, (one word). This could have been sculpted by Tom Meier, Julie Guthrie, or Dennis Mize, as the Lost Minis Wiki is not clear on that. The sculpt is from the The Adventurers line and has 1979 on the base. I wanted this beast standing in the front of the diorama.
Often called “Frankenstein”, this is actually Frankenstein’s Monster (created of course by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The model is another one from The Adventurers line and has the designation #98-003. The detail on this was also fairly good for a model from 1979.
The pumpkin was a from a Reaper sprue -and had to be part of the contest submission.
Basing the models after painting them required a bit of landscaping. To fit better on the hobby challenge table, I made a field edge with Citadel “Stirland Battlefield” on the field and “Agrellan Badlands” on the rest of the ground. I added autumn leaves from 4Ground (now available from Warlord Games here) to the still-wet texture paints and some matte varnish droplets on the rock. These were placed as how I thought they would naturally collect – as well as to break up the form of the flat mini bases that were mounted on the rock. Then, I used a handheld hair dryer to dry the terrain (and crack the Agrellan Badlands a bit). I added some grasses from Shadow’s Edge Miniatures. These also helped to hide Dracula’s base a bit.
Once it all had dried, I removed the piece from the poster tack.
I then drove down to Great Stories to get it entered. There are a lot of nice pieces there, so we’ll see how it does – and of course most folks who will vote are not used to wee 25mm scale! It did mesh well with the edge of the pumpkin patch. At the least, I’ll have a Halloween decoration for many years!
Thanks for looking – and I always love getting feedback and any opinions in the comments section, so feel free to post there.
PAINTS, INKS, GLAZES, SHADES, WASHES, PIGMENTS, FLOCKING, GLUES AND MORE USED ON THESE FIGURES:
On the base:
Gorilla Glue gel
Woodland Scenics resin rock
Vallejo “Surface Primer – Black”
Citadel “Stirland Battlemire” (texture)
Citadel “Agrellan Badlands” (texture)
4Ground Loose Copper Foliage
Shadow’s Edge Static Grass Tufts
Vallejo Mecha Varnish “Matt Varnish”
Commonly used on all figures for mounting, priming, and varnishing:
Some projects take a while – and this one was over 33 years in the making. As background, my first introduction to tabletop wargaming was in 1983 at West Point. My classmate Dave Wood (USMA 1984) introduced me to Buck Surdu (USMA 1985). Buck had set up a fantasy tabletop war game on a gaggle of desks in the Department of Foreign Languages, and from then on, a whole new gaming experience was open to me.
Buck wrote his own rules, and he and Dave had units of all kinds for the game. One type that Buck had was a unit of “Roomans”, which he referred to as “Beaks” as well. They were of course of the marsupial macropod (large foot) persuasion – more or less humanoid kangaroos. Of course, the word play of Romans/Roomans is evident as well. They were armed with pikes, had great movement and combat capabilities, and overall were just pretty cool. I wanted to get some, and every time I went to a hobby store in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I looked for Roomans. I had hardly any luck.
Little did I know back then that Ral Partha had produced only one type of blister pack of “Rooman War Party”, with production starting in 1977. The original numbering of the blister pack was ES-44, and in 1978 and later years that was changed to 01-044. This set was in the “Personalities and Things…That Go Bump in the Night” line from Ral Partha. Each pack in 1977 came with one Rooman with a shield in front, two Roomans with shields on the side, and three assembled pikes on piano wire. By this I mean that the 1977 pack had pikes that were in one piece with streamers rolled up under the business end of the pike. Later, Ral Partha changed the pikes to a two-piece type, where the point of the pike had smaller streamers coming off and would need to be glued to a piece of enclosed piano wire. This latter type was the most prevalent type made by Ral Partha.
Let’s get back to my search. As time went on, I became very frustrated in my attempts to locate any blister packs of Roomans. Today, I’d just look on the company web site or call them – but back then – well kids there was no internet – and that would be a very expensive long-distance toll call to Cincinnati (especially from West Germany where I spent most of the latter 1980’s in the Army). Alas, I found just one blister pack of Roomans at a hobby store around 1986 or 1987 – and that was it!
I put them away, awaiting the day when I would find another blister pack – and then I could make a unit of 6 figures perhaps…that wait was indeed over 33 years.
Now I must fast forward to my getting back into the hobby in 2014 and discovering eBay. Wow! Surely I will be able to find some Roomans on eBay! So, I searched and searched, and was able to find 18 loose Roomans either singly or in larger lots, plus one original 1977 blister package over the space of 18 months or so. Most times, they were called Goblins or Orcs by the sellers. Almost all had very bad paint jobs that needed to be stripped. This left me with 24 original Roomans.
I have not seen any in quite a while except for a poor recast here and there. Buck knew some contacts at Iron Winds Metals, and we inquired as to the status of the original molds, but unfortunately they were either lost or destroyed. This was sad. But I was able to get pikes from Melissa Morello at Iron Winds Metals that matched the post-1977 type as most of the Roomans I got on eBay either had the wrong weapon type or none at all. (THANK YOU MELISSA!) Of course, I also learned how to make gravity molds during this timeframe and now can make my own castings of the original Roomans for personal use. Iron Winds Metals told me that they are bringing back Roomans under a new name “Rues”, but to my knowledge that has not yet occurred.
The Roomans I acquired on eBay needed a lot of work to clean and strip. Some were painted with what appeared to be a tough lacquer. I used a combination of several sequential applications of Simple Green, vinegar, hot water, and pewter polish to remove old paint. I also needed to use a lot of toothbrush scrubbing and picking with a needle to get the old paint off.
In August 2016, I gathered up my 24 original Roomans – and decided that I could not in good conscience open up my vintage 1977 blister given the difficulty in finding Roomans (let alone ones in an old blister pack). That left me with 21. I had two 1977-type pikes as well as the ones from Iron Winds Metals. I decided that I would incorporate the two old ones within the mob and use post-1977 style pikes to arm the remainder. One would be a leader, and the other 20 would form the mob or troop.
Yes, I said mob. A group of 10 or more kangaroos is referred to as a mob, a troop, or a court. Females (who are the only ones with pouches) are does, flyers, or jills. Males are referred to as bucks, boomers, jacks, or old men. Of course the term joey for the young is more commonly known. This means that my Roomans that have a shield in front are males (pouchless), while the rest are females (having pouches). Of course, being marsupials, and hopping ones at that, they have many unique qualities. If interested, here is a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo
My first action was to glue the 19 newer pike heads to the piano wire with Scotch super glue, and the Roomans to 1″ steel fender washers with wood glue. This size worked better as the Roomans bases were too big for a ¾” washer. I used a slightly thicker 1″ washer for the leader. I gently bent the arms of the Roomans and oh-so-carefully opened their hands to hold the pikes at different angles. Some of the hands were not well-cast, and I fixed these with Aves Apoxie Sculpt (a two-piece clay that sets up hard as a rock in a day) https://www.amazon.com/Aves-Apoxie-Sculpt-White-pound/dp/B0013UFM7M/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1473111581&sr=8-6&keywords=apoxie+sculpt .
After I let the glue dry and the clay set up, I primed the unit with Krylon “Ultra Flat White”. I used Elmer’s white glue to lightly affix the Roomans to large popsicle sticks for painting.
Now I needed to have a plan on colors. Buck always painted his Roomans green (he says that his are tropical). I wanted to check out real kangaroos and see their colors. There are two main types, the red and the grey, and the reds are larger. Therefore, I went with a scheme based on the red kangaroo.
My first action was to use a light coat of Citadel “Agrax Earthshade” to the models. I wanted a good reddish-brown, and I looked in my paint supply, and had a nice candidate in the form of a 1996 bottle of Armory “Red Brown”. I used this for the fur outside of the feet and the belly. For the belly, I used Americana “Bleached Sand”. I also used that color up to the jaw muscles and lower jawline to help accentuate the glare and demeanor of the figures. I also used this for the eyes and for the ears. I used another 1996 paint – Armory “Gloss Black” – for the noses and to finish off the pupils of the eyes. For the feet, I went with Americana “Ebony”. I also used this color for the tips of the ears. The jack figures had two anklets, and the jills had one. These I painted with Martha Stewart Crafts “Pale Bronze”. I am not sure why the jacks had more jewelry than the jills!
As I moved on to the other metallic – armor, tail spikes, shields, and pike heads – I paused to think of a good color scheme and theme for the unit that would tie it together. I particularly wanted a shield that would “pop”. Looking at Greek phalanxes, one usually sees a bronze shield with a pattern upon it. But these are not Greeks – they are Australians! I decided to use the colors and symbols of the Australian flag for the troop. For colors, I decided that the leader would have the red of the St. George’s Cross (in the Union Jack) on his pike streamer, with the rest of the streamers being evenly split between dark blue and white. The shields would have a dark blue center circle. There are a series of stars on the Australian flag. A seven-pointed star on the lower left quadrant represents the British Commonwealth. The other stars (four seven-pointed stars and one five-pointed star) represent the southern cross. I tried to draw a seven-pointed star, and that is nearly impossible. Additionally, the ones that I would use on the shields would need no be 1/8″ from top to bottom. My wife Lynn suggested I print them off from my computer. Luckily, I found some seven-pointed stars on the internet, and shrunk them down to size, and printed them off.
I used the “Pale Bronze” on the shields. For the tail weapons, pike heads, gauntlets, and armor (on the jacks) I used Tamiya X-11 “Chrome Silver”. For the shield straps and eyebrows, I used P3 “Bootstrap Leather”. I wanted the pikes to look like a hardwood – so I painted them with Citadel “Dryad Bark”.
I then needed to move forward with my Australian flag color scheme, For the leader’s streamer, I used Americana “Santa Red”. The other streamers got either a blue or white treatment with another of my older paints. For the dark blue streamers, I used Deka Lack “Dunkelblau”; for the white streamers I used Deka Lack “Weiβ” (Weiss). Both of these date from 1987 when I bought them when I was stationed in Karlsruhe, West Germany. I also used “Dunkelblau” on the shields’ centers. I then used Citadel “XV-88” on the bases.
I considered using some dry brushing on the figures at this point but decided against it. Basically, I wanted to darken the red fur and see if using a wash would do that and give some detail to the snouts and haunches of the Roomans. I mixed a 50/50 mix of two inks – Secret Weapons Washes “Just Red” and P3 “Brown Ink”, and carefully covered all the red fur sparing the lighter fur. I also used Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash” on all steel armor. I then added another coat of “Agrax Earthshade” to my sculpted bases to bring out the earthlike shapes of the ground. These washes really had a great effect and made the figures look like I desired, as well as bringing out important details that I feared to dry brush.
Let us return to the all-important seven-pointed stars that I printed off! I used my Exacto knife and carefully cut out 26 or so stars with the assistance of the 2.5 magnification of my Carson glasses. I used the best ones for the shields. I applied a light coat of Elmer’s white glue to the underside of each star with a Testors microsponge (this is a good use of this tool). I centered each star and ensured that each point was glued down.
Once the glue dried, I applied a coat of “Weiβ” to the stars and touched up the “Dunkelblau” around the shield where the glue seeped out. I then applied three coats of varnish sequentially – first Krylon “Clear Matte”, then two coats of Testors “Dull Coat”.
Lastly, I added some Army Painter “Wasteland Tuft” to give them the appearance of coming out of an Australian Desert.
I am more excited and happy with this unit than I had even hoped to be! The unit looks positively awesome and the stars help it pop. As I build more units with my self-cast Roomans I can incorporate the same color scheme (though I believe my 1980’s paint supply will run out!).
A final note of thanks – to Buck and Dave for getting me into this hobby – and especially to Buck for starting me on this Quixotic quest for a Rooman unit all those years ago! I look forward to rolling dice and pushing lead with you soon!!