A Harryhausen-Themed Stop-Motion Monster Warband
I have always been an avid fan of stop-motion effects in film. Once the bread and butter special effects in the age before digital animation and CGI, they are now seldom seen. I grew up on films such as “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad” and “Clash of the Titans” wherein actors hacked and stamped in stilted sword and shield combat with bone-dry skeletons, or fought giant scorpions and colossal bronze statues brought to life.
When I saw the models from the Fractured Dimensions Infernal Minions Kickstarter by Brett Zeleznik, I couldn’t help but notice that the Cambian Lord looked very similar to the character of Caliban from the early 80’s "Clash of the Titans" movie. Coupled with a giant scorpion model from Pardulon Models that I had acquired, I suddenly had the idea to build a "Clash of the Titans" Harryhausen-themed warband for Song of Blades and Heroes.
The idea simmered in my mind, and I picked up several models for the warband over the course of the next year
The Cambian Lord (Fractured Dimensions), who was to become “Caliban”
The resin Giant Scorpion (Pardulon Models) dubbed “Fluffy,” one of the most realistic scorpion sculpts out there. Many of the Reaper and similar scorpion miniatures are very unrealistic in proportion and form, and often end up very comic compared to the real thing.
An Abbot Dol Warrior (Fractured Dimensions), very similar in form to the Cambian Lord model. This figure was to become Grimus, a minion of Caliban. (I said themed, not exact to the films!)
A Demon Type V model (Fractured Dimensions), originally a six-armed figure with a snake tail instead of legs and two options for the torso. I also aquired a Reaper Bones Medusa, but eventually opted to instead use the demon model for “Medusa” even though it required some conversion. The PVC material in Bones figures is too flexible in small models.
A Demon Type IV model (Fractured Dimensions) using the helmet and trident option became a flying Warthog monster called “Oinkos” who has been the bane of my opponents this campaign season. While not really a proper fit with the Harryhausen monsters, this model had the same absurdity of form and was thematically a classic in it’s own right.
Skeleton Warriors (Wargames Factory). I looked at several models, primarily looking for the greek style sword and shield. While there are others out there that fit the bill including some produced by Reaper and Otherworld, the cost or materials were negatives. As an added advantage, the Wargames sprues contained the perfect bow and quiver set for the Medusa conversion!
And finally a Talos (Mierce Miniatures), to represent… well… “Talos” a very classic Harryhausen monster of course. I don't have a pic of this fellow just yet.
All of these sat unbuilt and unpainted on my desk until the SBH summer campaign approached, and suddenly I had a week to put together my warband. In three evenings, I assembled and based the entire warband. The Fractured Dimensions models were all very well cast with very few mold lines to remove. The Medusa conversion was very fiddly due to very tiny pieces, and I was forced to drill and pin the bow through the hand so that it would not get knocked off during game play.
Contrary to much of what I have read about the Wargames Factory skeleton models, they were actually very easy to assemble, and work with. The legs are thin, but sufficient to hold up the model, though there is some flex. On the fourth evening of this project, I finished assembly and basing on three skeletons, and painted the warband to a satisfactory tabletop standard, with all of the painting except for a basecoat on the Scoprion model taking place that evening. Talos was not completed at that time, and will be featured in a later blog post.
The detail on the skeleton shields was completed in a follow-up hour of painting.
Overall, while I may yet touch up some of the models, I am very happy with the completed result given the short time frame, and they look great on the tabletop as "Caliban’s Cursed."
I created the warband as an "evil" team, allowing Medusa to shoot into combat, and used the standard SBH stats for the skeletons, Fluffy, and Medusa (with the addition of unerring aim to add a small amount of potency without making her overpowering).
Caliban, Grimus, and Oinkos all all received the mutant ability to represent the “Cursed” moniker. I have found it to be a flavorful (but negative) inclusion, since all but two of my mutation roles have been detrimental. I've been forced to use experience advancements to bring them back up to or near original stats.
Caliban was given the necromancer trait to raise more skeletons from combat casualties as the existing ones are destroyed. This is another skill that has proven very difficult to actually use in game. Oinkos has proven to be the brute of the warband. His big, flying, and long move skills make him dangerous in combat, and his primary use has been to quickly take objectives or as a mobile
combat support which he excels at. His brutish capability has, however, been offset as the campaign progresses by the fact that fully half of the warband are undead or animals and do not take experience or advancement.
"Caliban's Cursed" has definitely been one of the most creative, fun to build, and fun to and play warbands that I have put together in a summer campaign!
-- Jon, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member