Tuesday, 28 October 2014

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

When you talk about bear riders, everyone automatically assumes Dwarves. But to me, bears seem more synonymous with the woods. They use it as a toilet, for one thing.

So here we have a proxied Great Stag that happened mostly by accident. This conversion was no picnic.

Wood Elf Great Stag conversion, using Tsar Boris of Kislev's Bear
Just bear with me...

Our story begins, as so many of them do, with me being foolish on eBay. I found an incomplete Tsar Boris Ursus model for a tiny sum (£1 with p&p, or something equally irresistible). It was a nice model, back from the days when Kislev had a semi-army book and wasn't just a pre-End Times snack.

Tsar Boris of Kislev
Dasvidaniya, tovarich.

It was rather a puzzling incomplete model, as it had both parts of the bear's body, both 'gryphon wings', Boris' legs (which were sculpted on the bear), shield and furry hat. It was, however, missing the bear's head and Boris' upper torso (so if you think this is an odd conversion, think about what the original owner was doing with those pieces).

The first job was to get a head for the bear. Back in 2008, GW had a surprisingly poor range of substitute giant bear heads. What they did have, however, was the capacity to deliver any individual bits and bobs you wanted.

Let's all take a moment to think on those days.
... stop crying.

I had an inkling that a minotaur's head might do the job, so I hacked off its horns and reshaped the nose to go from bovine to ursine. I then sculpted some teddy-bear ears from scratch (twice - after finishing my first attempt I realised I had no idea what bear's ears looked like).

My options for the rider were somewhat limited (having a far more modest leadpile that today) - so I used the torso of a Marauder Miniatures eagle rider. It's a nice enough sculpt, and he certainly looks mean enough, but the fact that's he using a bow doesn't make him look very combat-orientated (like he's just sitting on top of the bear for a better view).

It served me well for years, but when the time came to review the Wood Elf army, I knew I was going to be switching riders.

Wood Elf Great Stag conversion, using Tsar Boris of Kislev's Bear
"Alas, poor Orcick."

It's another classic Jes Goodwin Wood Elf character, and looks a lot more fierce than his predecessor. I was initially unsure about the axe (although we're now in a post-Wildwood Rangers fluff, where axes are part of the armoury). But it was the severed orc head that sold me on it, as the model had developed a decapitation theme that would put a savage orc to shame.

The bear itself already had skulls around his collar and saddle, to which I'd added the metal back banner from the original Queek Headtaker (complete with severed hands and shorn dwarf beard - I love that piece). So clearly this Glade Captain is something of a scalphunter, holding aloft his latest trophy.

Wood Elf Great Stag conversion, using Tsar Boris of Kislev's Bear
Kiss my skulls.

He also has a fur cloak (chopped-up bits of a goblin cloak, plus some greenstuff), which helps to conceal the additional spear from the High Elf regiment (a hangover from the original rider, when I felt he needed some more melee weapons)

The biggest problem was the legs - Tsar Boris is considerably chunkier than the wasp-waisted Wood Elf and unless I wanted to hack away at the model, then greenstuff over the damage, I needed to find a way to make these legs fit.

Wood Elf Great Stag conversion, using Tsar Boris of Kislev's Bear
Clinging on to a bear would give anyone thunder thighs.

I believe the first incision was made by General Lefoa, trimming away at the legs until the archer elf would fit. The model I chose to replace him was even smaller around the waist. I gave him a couple of belt pouches (taken from the original Space Ork sprue) to make the middle appear thicker, and covered up some of the sides with a greenstuff cloak.

However, when it was all assembled and painted, the rider still had a very prominent pelvic thrust. I could have overlooked it, but it was driving me insane.

Luckily, there's a spell for that.

So I took the clippers to the front of his trousers (I wince even now to think about it) and by resculpting his golden belt with greenstuff, I think I've managed to get away with it.

Wood Elf Great Stag conversion, using Tsar Boris of Kislev's Bear
The boots are still massive, though.

Painting recipe, to my recollection:

  • Bear: Bestial Brown base, Brown Ink wash, Bestial Brown highlights
  • Tassles and saddlecloth: Goblin Green base, Green Ink wash, Goblin Green highlights
  • Gold: Shining Gold base, Chestnut Ink wash, Shining Gold highlights
  • Back Banner: Tallern Sand base, Brown Ink wash, Tallern Sand highlights
  • Skulls: I *think* it was a Rhinox Hide base with just a lot of Bleached Bone drybrushing
  • Elf hair: Leprous Brown base, Agrax Earthshade wash, Slayer Orange highlights
  • Trousers: Regal Blue base, Space Wolves Grey highlights
  • Boots: Dark Angels Green
  • Cloak: Shadow Grey base, Black Ink wash, Space Wolves Grey highlights
  • Tunic: Ironbreaker base, Blue+Black Ink wash, Mithril Silver highlights
    (this was an idea that worked out - I didn't want the tunic to look too 'metal' and the blue made it more silvery)
  • Blood effects: Blood for the Blood God (lovely stuff)
The severed orc head was a big decision. I haven't actually painted any common orcs yet, so didn't have a colour scheme for their skin (but I wanted them different from the savages). In the end, I went with Dark Angel Green with a Goblin Green highlight. It works quite well (and doesn't need an ink wash), so we'll see how it looks on a full regiment.

(it goes without saying that, if my common orcs have a different recipe for skin, I will come back and repaint it)

Wood Elf Great Stag conversion, using Tsar Boris of Kislev's Bear
The Unbearable Lightness...

So my Stag Bear Rider is ready to rock. It may not be the wisest choice for a Wood Elf character, but it sure does look fun - and hey, I get Monstrous Cavalry!


  1. Lovely.

    Bears are generally missing from Warhammer these days, although I can't see why. Where are our werebears? Our Panzerbjorn cavalry? Our Bear Back Riders of Yore? Where a niche exists, GW, you must surely come and plug it with giant plastic kits that cost £90.

    Also - best use of those Trish Morrison Minotaur heads I've ever seen. I've got three in the box if you want any more.

    1. Don't think I need any more minotaur heads at the moment, thanks (maybe one day, as a hood ornament for my Goff Battlewagon) - but yeah, those were nice minotaur sculpts (put in the shade by Mierce nowadays, but then what isn't?).

      GW have a sketchy history with bears: there was that laughable Dogs of War regiment, Beorg Bearstruck and the Bearmen of Urslo; followed by the equalling insipid Beorn from The Hobbit range.

      If it's armoured bears you're after, Scibor's the place to look. I might be gazing at them when I add Demigryphs to the Empire army (and then I'll gaze away, realising they're too expensive).

      All in all, I'll probably be building my bear cavalry using Schleich toys.