Monday, May 29, 2017

I like big banners (and I cannot lie)

What are the defining characteristics that set apart an old school gamer versus a new one? Aside from being long in the tooth and (most likely) having a larger collection? Well for some there is the uncontrollable urge to grumble that everything was better way back when. But to be sure it seems the susceptible gamer tends to get this bug after about a month in the hobby. For others it is the rosy feeling of nostalgia that just makes old stuff better. And to be honest I can't stop loving the old Genestealer Patriarch, the Chaos Toilet and the entire Realm of Chaos range. Even when people manage to quite effectively substantiate counterargument. I will never stop loving my tiny Changer of Ways, even as my shiny new plastic one towers over him.

I like big banners (and I cannot lie), you other gamers can't deny, when a git walks in waving an itty bitty pennant or a round thing in your face...

Above all the Oldhammer part of me is informed by memories that were shaped poring over Warhammer Fantasy 3rd, Warhammer Armies, Warhammer Siege, Slaves to Darkness, The Lost and The Damned, Rogue Trader and - last but not least - Waaargh Orks. The Chaos part still gives me the urge to blend lots of pastel colors (even though I suck at blending). Waaagh makes me want to tell stories with my orks and orcs (and orruks). Rogue Trader gives me the urge to play on distant dusty outposts where (in keeping with the current fluff) it takes suicidal overconfidence to tag 'Marines Out' on the wall. The gritty, grimy Holy Roman Empire inspired Old World with its half timbered houses (occasionally roofed with a ship), continues to bleed into any other fantasy setting I play in (both on the tabletop and during fantasy RPG's).

For me a defining mark of the late eighties Games Workshop armies has to be the banners. No matter if you are in the far flung future or fighting in some imagined past there have to be banners.Small ones on your back, larger ones for the unit, flags for the commanders and huge army banners. I love to go through old White Dwarf magazines and books and see the large banners towering over armies, and tying them together. Never mind the physics of lugging the damn things around! I still have my first Skaven army banner from back in 1991 and it has seen some nice victories over orcs, undead and elves. It has long since snapped of the model carrying it, but that does nothing to degrade its 'splendor' (to me, as a paint job it could do with a lot of paint thinning and other improvements :) ).

This is one of my oldest Battle Standards. Proudly proclaiming (clockwise from top left) that the Grey Seers, Eshin, Moulder, led by someones personal rune (I think) and I've Forgotten Who are joining the fight. All centered around a colored representation of the Horned Rat of course).
As I'm currently obsessed with growing my Skaven horde (the Age of Sigmar background has made them even more interesting then their Old World counterparts) I felt the need to focus on banners. Unfortunately Games Workshop seems to be slowly edging away from them, but luckily the Age of Sigmar rules include all (slightly) older models and that includes army banners and unit banners in the armies that aren't completely brandnew (Stormcast, Fyreslayers and Kharadron units seem to do without). Now there are many ways to go about making banners. These days a quick and relatively easy way is to choose a (line) design on the internet (sample tattoo's are a great source), scale it to the right size and print it at about 20 percent transparency on slightly thicker paper. I might do a tutorial on this method in a bit but the net result can be something like these.

This was painted using an old Games Workshop design example.
This was a tattoo sample I googled. 
The second method requires a bit more skill. Print the design, grab a technical pencil and lightly draw it on a thick piece of paper or on pre-shaped metal or plastic banner. The old Skaven banner above is painted on metal paper (sort of a less wrinkly aluminum foil) it is a nightmare for holding paint, but you get the benefit of being able to bend bits after painting. These days I usually go for 120 grams (thick) paper. In both instances (as well as when you fill out a regular banner) the trick is to use thin layers of paint and preferably stay away from pure black and white. I usually cover the banner with the background color. Then I use a burnt umber to paint the design as the pencil bleeds through. Then I cover the entire banner up with the background color, reinstate the design with burnt umber and finally add a gradient (if I feel like it). The last step is coloring in the picture (like the zombie skull above). It works just as well on metal.

Another sample tattoo was used as the basis for this skull, lucky painting errors on my side gave it the groovy vampire teeth that accidentally fit ell with the army.
For my Skaven I decided to make two Skaven Chieftains with Battle Standard. They are very useful in game, you can plant a banner and stop your clan rats from running away. Alternatively they can backstab your general at an opportune time and take his place. GW has a single model and it is a bit limited for my tast in banners. In stead I opted to use a pair of spare Island of Blood/Spire of Dawn clanrats. They may be a bit scrawny for the chieftain role, but perhaps that is just how my general likes it (makes his seconds a bit more compliant).  To compensate for their smaller size I've provided them with 32mm bases and huge banners. This both helps identify them as special and fills my need to make big banners.

here are my two chieftains side by side with their battle standards. 
I took advantage of using paper for the banners by making the burned damage by careful application of fire. This caused the paint to bubble on a small part of the green banner, I solved that by cutting the bubble out and applying more fire. Here is a quick pre-fire preview of the green banner.

Step one: paint banner, step two: set it on fire, step three (optional): 'control, control, you must learn control!'
The designs of both of these banners was inspired by the Uniforms and Heraldry of the Skaven book Games Workshop produced a few years back. I make it a matter of principle to get hold of as many of these art books as are released over the years, they are a fantastic source of inspiration. Here are some work in progress pictures showing the progress of the red banner starting with technical pencil showing through the red undercoat.

Step one: draw design with technical pencil, step two: undercoat, step three: I skipped step three (paint design burnt umber), step four: color the design.

A bit further down the line, happily coloring in the triangles, don't worry too much about the edges.
Finish by cutting the banner to size and lighting it on fire.
Once applied to the miniature it ended up slightly to fresh looking. Careless application of multiple thin coats of Vallejo Dark Earth and Earth around the edges got it to its current grimy state.

From close-up it may not look like perfection, but it works on the tabletop (if you ask me). Adding grime helps too. 
And to finish this part off, here is a group shot of a selection of banner bearers from Clanrat units and my Battle Standards.

A collection of Skaven with banners from left to right: preformed plastic (Island of Blood), banner on metal paper (the black one), Battle Standard on paper (red),  Battle Standard on paper (green) and unit banner on paper (yellow). 
I know I should take a bit more time to decorate these with skulls, chains and whatnot, but I have to many projects going on at the same time, so I will be leaving the banners as is. In the end I think banners are a fine evening's worth of work to make an army shine and give it an individual character. I will leave you for today with this picture from my Moonclan Grot (Night Goblin) spearmen unit.

This night goblin banner is painted on paper. An important trick I forgot to mention in the longer text is to cover the end result in a nice glob of PVA glue. It helps protect the banner and covers the paper with a plastic like protective layer. 
And this parting shot of my Putrid Blight Kings (with Arbaal The Never Appearing on my Tabletop Due to a Lack of Rules and a Very Weak and Iffy Supplied Banner Pole (his name keeps on changing) and a lone pervert with freehand shield in the background).

I still love my Blight King's Banner even though I managed to make it so sepia and brown it looks like a big square stain when placed on the battlefield. 


  1. Yeah, you can't beat a good banner can you. There's nothing that says WFB 3rd like a ridiculously large banner, painted up with Death Metal designs.

    You have motivated me to do a little post about a couple of mine now :) It'll only be a short post though, as I think I've only got a couple ;(

    Great post Merijn.

    1. Thanks, nothing beats making your army look like a heavy metal album cover :) I can't wait to see a post on your banners if they match the skill you show on your models they will most definitively be worth it.

    2. Get ready to be disappointed :)

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