Tuesday, July 1, 2014

28mm Mortal Imass Tribesmen - An Homage to Steven Erikson's 'The Malazan Book of the Fallen'


Here's one a little out of left field. Earlier this spring I came across these new wonderful Neanderthal castings by Steve Saleh (one of my all-time favourite sculptors) which are offered through North Star Figures. They are fabulous models, giving a real sense of the sturdiness and mass of these early proto-humans. 

Nonetheless, being the nerd that I am, I thought they would make wonderful Imass warriors from Steven Erikson's epic 10 volume series (yes, I did say 'epic'), 'The Malazan Book of the Fallen'.

Book One: 'Gardens of the Moon'

Right, so what are these 'Imass', I hear you say?


If you are not a fan of fantasy fiction you may want to click-away before unabashed sword-and-sorcery dorkiness ensues. 

Are we alone now? 

Ok, here it goes. Erikson describes the Imass (one of many races peopling his books) as an ancient, stone-age race of early humans who existed about 300,000 years before the events described in the novels. The Imass' mortal enemies are the Jaghuts, who are a race of mage-tyrants who wielded vast power, frequently using it to enslave or eradicate entire civilizations. What ensued was a series of apocalyptic wars where the Jaghuts, seeing themselves loosing ground, used ice magic to serve as a bulwark to limit the assault of the ferocious Imass. The Imass, in turn, knowing that they could not cross the vast, lifeless sheets of ice created by the Jaghuts (without starving and succumbing to cold), decided to create a mass ritual (the Ritual of Tellann) which would see the majority of their people transformed into undead in order to prosecute the war against the Jaghuts without fear of extreme elements or the necessities of life. Yup, pretty extreme stuff but the stakes were very, very high.

Here is a great painting by Jan Pospisil of what a mortal Imass would've looked like.
...and after the Tellann ritual which bound them as undead warriors. Painting by Niklas Tarpila.

Anyway, during the time in which the books are set, the T'lan Imass are described as huge, undead warriors, largely desiccated, wearing the remains of ancient hides, bone helms and armed with magically invested flint weapons. They continue their hunt for the now very rare (but still very dangerous) Jaghuts.

So when I saw Saleh's models I thought they'd make great mortal Imass, as seen before the tragic self-imposed ritual of Tellann which would steal their life away. 




From what I remember the Imass were supposed to have golden/amber skin and dark, coarse hair. I took a bit of liberty with the hair to make them a bit more interesting. I modified the leader model to be a Imass 'Bonecaster' shaman. I removed the original club from the figure and replaced it with a flint sword made of hewn plasticard and brass wire.  From his previously empty fist he now holds aloft the head of a recently defeated Jaghut (a decapitated head from a grotty 1984 demon miniature from Ral Partha). Pretty simple modifications but they worked out alright.

A Bonecaster shaman with flint sword and Jaghut trophy.



Other than Phil from Diary of a Gaming Magpie, who did this great Bridgeburner figure, has anyone else read these books? I admit they are a bit of hard sledding, but well worth the effort. If you are interested in the premise of the books but don't have the time to read them, I can heartily recommend the audio-book version as they have excellent production value and are a rollicking good listen. 

Anyway, that was a fun diversion, but now on to something different...

50 comments:

  1. Great looking bunch! The book series is completely new to me, but might be worth the look. Though 10 volumes does sound a bit daunting indeed

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    1. Thanks Samuli. One more thing I can recommend about them is that they are complete. No GRR Martin shenanigans - the story is complete.

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  2. Very nice work. Like these figures myself, but no reason to buy (yet!). The images of the Imass, remind me of Frazetta's imagining of Bran Mak Morn.

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    1. Yes, the artist says he was heavily influenced by Frazetta's work. I love that hi-fantasy style - reminds me of my teenage years reading Heavy Metal...

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  3. They look great Curt :)

    I haven't read any of those books. I might just have to get the first one to see what they're like - once I've finished the Wheel of Time series (2 and a bit books to go).

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    1. Give them a whirl Tamsin but keep in mind they are a commitment.

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  4. Excellent work, Curt!
    The book sounds very interesting but I'm still on a fantsy series and some historical books...

    Cheers
    Stefan

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  5. Great stuff Curt, I love their simply yet brutish nature. I haven't come across those books before, but they certainly sound an interesting concept...

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    1. Exactly what attracted them to me. I hope Saleh does some more.

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  6. I've been on the lookout for some nice Neaderthals, thanks for solving that issue. I've read Erikson's books they are incredibly powerful works but as you say, hard sledding.

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    1. Yes, these are great castings and I think you'd enjoy working on them.

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  7. What great looking models you have done. Recently finished The Wheel of Time books so need some time off any such reading but you never know

    Ian

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  8. I started reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen when I was about thirteen, but I lost track about five books in and planned to wait for the end of the series. Since then I've been super-busy and forgot. Time to restart!

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    1. They are complete now so feel free to forge ahead. I found I had to go back to the beginning to get the characters and context straight in my mind as there as so many things going on.

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  9. They are great books, if a bit long. Not that the length in itself is an issue, as I just can't pu them down when I start one, just that I have limited time to read these days (no longer have a train commute). I stalled about 6 or 7 in. Now I know there are only 10 to read, that may be the impetus I need to pick up the next one!

    Great minis, they really fit for the Imass!

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    1. My experience was very similar to your own. I got about 3/4 into the series and then my graduate work took over. Now I'm using the audio books to refresh myself before I strike out into the last few unread books.

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  10. Cracking work Curt, sounds like a great series of books!

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  11. Wonderful brushwork on these Neandertals, Curt. The basing is very well executed too. Best, Dean

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    1. Cheers Dean - I'm delighted you like them.

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  12. Those look brilliant Curt and a great adaptation idea!

    As to the books I'm a huge fan of the series and started reading them soon after they were released as I really like the gritty fantasy he does plus love epic fantasy. I had to stop just before Toll the Hounds because of my daughter being born and losing my bedtime reading time for quite sometime, but she's 6 now and I've began regular reading again, but catching up on other works that I'm behind on too. I'd have to say Deadhouse Gates ranks supreme in the Malazzan series so far with me, but the rest are great too! As to fantasy Martin(needs to do better then his last two books), Erikson, Esslemont and Abercrombe are my favourites. Jordan's wheel of Time was good up till book 5, but after that he lost focus and dragged the series on longer then necessary.

    Looking forward to seeing more!

    Christopher

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    1. Ah Christopher, I'm happy to hear that you're a fan as well. Why am I not surprised. 'Deadhouse Gates' is probably my favourite as well - the 'Chain of Dogs' storyline is just so well told, absolutely epic stuff.

      I'll have to check out Abercrombie when I'm through with these.

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  13. Curt
    Great looking figs. I haven't read the series other than to browse the back cover blurbs. I've become very picky in starting new "epic" series having been burnt by Robert Jordan and having realized that David Eddings wrote the same very entertaining series 3-4 times.
    Authors that meet the bar recently include Joe Abercrombie, Patrick zeroth fuss and Scott Lynch.
    Cheers
    PD

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    1. I highly recommend them Peter as the series is complete so no waiting in the wings.

      I heartily agree with your recommendation of Rothfuss - a great start. I really hope he can sustain it.

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  14. Great paint job, and I thought they were vikings!

    John

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    1. Yes, they do have a viking look about them (if a bit stout and lacking steel technology). I believe Saleh did a great viking set for Foundry so I think he may have been drawing upon some of those wonderful sculpts.

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  15. Love these Curt - very good use of nice sculpts. I particularly like the Jaghut head. Is this the start of a new series or just a dabble?

    Christopher - seconded on Deadhouse Gates - definitely by best of the lot! Is recommend the series - the first few books are excellent, but they sure get weightier as the go on (Book 10 looms on my to read pile still...)

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    1. Thanks Phil!

      This is more of an indulgence really. If I come across models in the future that seem to fit I may add them to the 'oeuvre'. As we discussed, I've found a very good Karsa Orlong...

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  16. Your painting is superb as always! I especially like the shaman as he in my opinion really catches the image of some lunatic semi-sorcerer.

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    1. Thanks Nick! That was just the look I was trying to reinforce. :)

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  17. Steve Saleh does lovely work. His Romans are wonderful. You've done a cracking job with these mate, especially the earthy tones. Hard to get the balance right with a limited palette but you've really nailed it.

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    1. Cheers Millsy! Yes, the limited colour range made me scratch my head a bit but in the end I just used various inks and washes to provide a some level of variation (the blonde and red hair colours help as well, I think).

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    2. ...and yes, I agreem, Saleh's Romans (and Ancient Greeks) are fabulous.

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  18. This is a really good painting work. And fantastic miniatures. I have been looking at them, thinking about my old "Conan" books...

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    1. Ahh, they would be great for a Conan setting for sure. They very much have a Frazetta look about them. Thanks for the comment Juan!

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    2. Yes, Frazetta. Perhaps with the figures from Haslefree...

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  19. Beautiful paint work dude - well done.

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  20. WOW! Curt.
    They look awesome Buddy.
    Beasties the lot of em.

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    1. Cheers Kev! They certainly are a brutish lot, for sure.

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  21. Fantastic, I never even thought of using them for Imass. I do have the vague intention of using the Warlord Games plastic Vet Imperial Romans to do my own take on a Bridgeburners/Bonehunters unit however thats way down the list of priorities.
    Its a shame no-one has thought to use the Malazan world for wargaming (as far as I know), as with the level of depth and complexity that Erikson and Esslemont put into it, its pretty much fully formed and ready to go.
    Great work Curt.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Ste! You're right in that Erikson's world is ripe with wargame potential. I've thought that 'Hail Caesar' would be a good ruleset to use for this as it has a sufficient 'toolbox' aspect to it which allows for various troop types that span large periods of our history (i.e. mass pike formations, romanesque testudo tactics, steppe cavalry, sappers, etc.) The trick, as I'm sure you're aware, is incorporating the magic as it can be a real doozy. Nonetheless, it would be a fun experiment to play with.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  22. Very nice . Not something I have painted any of in a very long time. Might have to bank a few for the winter.

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    1. Thanks Dave. Yes, they are a bit of an outlier period to be sure but the castings are wonderful.

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  23. Great work Curt! (as usual!). The conversion on the Shaman works nicely too! Are they based for any particular system?

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    1. Thanks Kevin. No, I really just did them up as a lark. I stuck to the leader-on-a-hex method I commonly more out of habit. This being said we are using them for a stone-age Rolemaster campaign we're currently playing. (Though I may also use them for 'A Song of Blades and Heroes' which I've heard good things about.)

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    2. You'll probably like SoB&H - simple, straight-forward system. Tim and I picked up a number of the Ganesha rule systems.

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    3. Yes, I've read several glowing reviews and TimB in Saskatoon quite likes the rules as well. I have a downloaded copy but have yet to give it a go. Perhaps I should get a wooly mammoth and a saber-tooth tiger and get the dice rolling. :)

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