If you visited this blog before or follow me on some social media you know I have a soft spot for discontinued games, WHFB of course (it is still difficult for me to cope with the idea that « The World that was » is gone…) and, most of all, Confrontation.
This post is about a warband I just completed. I painted this so that a friend of mine (« Pigeon du Canal ») could play that wonderful game with me, at the same time it gave me a good motivationnal tool to dig in the pile of unpainted Confrontation minis I have acquiered over the years (but more on that later).
Confrontation has a great lore, very mystical, my kind of thing. If I have the courage I may tell you more about it one day.
Here I’ll try to focus on the background story of Azaël, the Necromanceress leading the warband I painted. All you have to know at that point is that Confrontation is set in a time when nations are waiting for the Rag-Narok, the return of the Gods on Arklaash (the « Earth » of Confrontation) for the end of times (and one hell of a war). The Gods were trapped away from Arklaash by Time, but Time itself is fading, so who knows…
In Confrontation there is a parallel between the skirmish format and the geopolitical reality of the universe (in the period I am setting my games in). With some noticeable exceptions (Kaïber – see below – being one), it is an age of low intensity conflicts and relative peace. Warbands and adventurers are travelling the continent and having their share of battles but for the most part the different nations are preparing themselves for the wars to come and there usually is no large scale conflicts. In that setting building a warband is not building an almighty force representing all the strenghts of a nation going to war, it feels more like assembling a D&D party (I never did that myself, but you get the idea) or a small troop dedicated to a single task.
My friend « Pigeon du Canal » chose to play undeads (I had enough many for different options) and I chose to build the warband « around » Azaël because of her backstory, which I found beautiful and inspiring.
There are many kingdoms and nations on Arklaash. One of the human nations is Alahan: chivalrous knights, great lords, powerful wizards, that kind of thing. Of course one of the lord of the realm fell to the Dark Side and started to practice the Dark Arts (ie Necromancy), which are quite frowned upon by the followers of « the Light ». So was born « Acheron ». This was centuries ago and at that time the dead legions of Acheron would have overcame the world if Acheron was not isolated from the rest of the world by mighty mountains. These mountains are not easily crossed I tell you, unless trhough the Kaïber pass.
Knowing that the people of the Light (two humans and one elven nations) built a mighty fortress (Helm’s Deep kind of thing) and are valliantly keeping the deads at bay in an endless battle. Of course Acheron has agents and followers all over Arklaash (there is no such thing as a frontier impossible to cross), but its armies are contained (for now).
This is for the setting, now to Azaël herself.
Azaël was a lowborn. She made here life as a dancer in Alahan’s capital city, but she had a talent for the mystical arts. She started to practice them under the tutorage of one of her lovers. As a matter of fact she was far more powerful than he thought (and than him). One day he accused her of being unfaithful (don’t ask, the story does not tell if it was true or not, you would have to ask her yourself, even though I would recommend you do not if you value your life). As he was going to « educate » her, Azaël released what she thought was a defensive spell and killed him on the spot.
That attracted the attention of some of Acheron agents in Alahan who recruited her as a spy. At the beginning she did not know she was dealing with the Necromancers, the deal was she would be a spy in exchange for teachings in the magical arts. As she made progress beyond expection she was given more important assignments and was promised to be taken to Acheron to train with great wizards if she was successful. She was also given a hidden tutor and protector: Melmoth, a crane warrior (crane warriors are long dead mighty warriors of all Arklaash brought back to life by the most powerful spells and who only live to see the day of the final battle, the Rag-Narok).
On her last assignment before being brought to Acheron Azaël, was tasked to spy on Agonn, a righteous knight from Alahan. As she spied on him she also fell in love with him. There she saw redemption. All Melmoth saw was a trial made by the Gods and he protected her against his own masters who wanted to « terminate » her.
One day she confessed everything to the man she loved, asking for forgiveness. Agonn was not forgiving, a follower of the Light he had a rigid conception of justice. He drew his sword and beheaded his lover.
Azaël did not die, instead her soul exploded in excrucitating pain and she felt a power surging inside her, keeping her alive (you should know that happens on Arklaash, the banished Gods use powerful individuals to project themselves into the world and prepare for their return). Melmoth saw what happened and saved the woman by bringing her to Acheron.
Since then she is one of the most powerful Necromancer of Acheron and one of the most feared agent of the Dark Lords on Arklaash.
I built the list to be Azaël’s personnal warband. The group of minions she surrounds herself with when she goes outside Acheron to do her masters biddings (and persue her own agenda, whatever that may be).
The small guys
Since she is a mighty Necromanceress I started with a bunch of skellies (do you want to know more?). These you can enlist at the beginning of the game or bring to the battlefield by casting a summoning spell, very useful. Then I added banshees (in the lore they are the relentless spirits of women executed for being unfaithful – true or supposed – by some of the barbarian tribes of Arklaash), I guess you get why it made sense.
As you can see I went for the « dirty » kind of undeads. The Confrontation usual aesthetic is a more mystical kind of undeads, often very clean with fine crafted artefact and nice heraldy. I may one day make a « Legion of Death » kind of warband, brilliant undead knights oozing style and magic. I did not want that for Azaël’s warband. I picture Azaël going around Arklaash pretty much alone, maybe in disguise with one or two living servants and her personnal undertaker, with Melmoth (who is hard to disguise) watching over her in the shadows. The « warband » I gave pictures undeads « fresh from the grave » (if I may say so), the guys she summons when she needs, from the closest graveyard, then let crumble back to dust when their purpose is fulfilled.
I wanted the paintjob to reflect this, so I went for dusty and rusty but very « material » undeads (not the spirit style we see nowadays in AoS). You’ll notice I used a lot of drybrushing which gives some kind of texture that reinforce the look I wanted.
The « second wave » (zombies & big guys)
Azaël also has the support of a bunch of zombies, including a mighty Wolfen (do you want to know more?) and a Gargoyle (my friend wanted some air support because he considers my shooters are too much a threat on the battlefield, which is true).
The zombies and the Wolfen are following the same « rules » as the skellies regarding colour scheme and techniques. I had much fun painting the Gargoyle, slowly taking life from stone. The Rackham Gargoyles are great sculpts, very graphic and I hope I did it justice.
When Azaël wants to use rapid courriers or harrassment techniques she can count on a small party of « horsemen »: two centaurs (undead of course) and a zombie horseman on a zombie horse).
Here you see two different generations of Rackham sculpts. The Centaurs are the older ones. They are kind of a pain to assemble and needed a little GS love. They are one of the reasons I fell in love with the Rackham range back then, so much character eventhough they may seem naïve sometimes.
The zombie horseman (the one holding his head in his hand) is a late Rackham sculpt. It is a « thinner » and more elegant sculpt, much more modern in a way. While painting him I couldn’t keep myself thinking about the horsemen of the Apocalypse. That is why I went for a very pale colour scheme for the horse: « And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him » (Revelation, 6:8). The Arklaash universe has its own pantheon and religions but I used many biblical references during this project. I think it is a way for me to reinforce their « medieval » aspect. I find medieval art very inspiring when it comes to deamons and spirits, undeads and ghosts, and so it is a strong influence here. The rider was the first reference, but you’ll find others down the road.
The last group of the warband is made of an Undertaker (priest of the Dark Gods) who can summon tenebrae creatures (Ira Tenebrae) during battle, quite useful these guys (more expensive than skellies, but far more resilient). Priests in Confrontation are a « kind » of wizards since Confrontation uses two separate set of « mystical » powers: magic and faith. In terms of game it feels the same but the rules to cast spells or miracles are different. Brings diversity to the game, which is always a good thing in my opinion.
The Ira Tenebrae were fun and simple to paint. The Undertaker on the other hand took me some time… I went for a « rotten flesh » coat to reinforce the coherence of the army (Azaël wears a rotten flesh skirt). Pretty happy with the recipe I came up with. I hesitated but in the end I made him blind (not solely out of lazyness). I like the idea that he is a kind of Doomsday Prophet and since I read Dune I tend to picture prophets blind.
The book he holds was a challenge in itself. I spent quite some time working on the colour of the pages. Then I decided to « write » an Alpha and an Omega (« I am the beginning and the end »). You’ll notice that one of the small spirit crawling over him is pointing at the end of the right page were I drew the Omega. It is another not so subtle reference to the « Doomsday prophecy » (which is very strong in the lore of Acheron and Confrontation in general): he holds a book picturing the beginning and the end, but he is an herald of « the End of Time ».
The mini I lacked when I started this warband was Melmoth, Azaël’s protector, advisor, tutor and faithfull « friend ». Plus, when you play Azaël and Melmoth in the same list you get some fancy bonuses. I did not have the mini though, so no Melmoth.
Then the #warmongers community did its magic and one day while talking with @nerodine (great guy btw, find his blog here) he told me he had a bunch of Confrontation minis he was looking to sell and among them was Melmoth. He offered a fair deal and sent me a nice package. I had the warrior I needed to complete my warband. Thank you again!
Yet another old Rackham sculpt. I just love the way he is looking down on his foe (I picture a defeated fool at his feet). I went for a relaxed pose of the sword to reinforce that « after the battle » feeling.
As another biblical reference and because of the story of Melmoth protecting Azaël from his masters and from her lover, thus helping her fulfill her dark destiny, I wanted to write « Ego te absolvo » (I forgive you) somewhere on the mini. I couldn’t find a right place to do so, so I dropped it, but I hear the sentence in my hears when I look at him. He is the forgiving servant of the Dark God, thus corrupting the kind words. His left hand pose makes me think of a « blessing » gesture, which reinforces the whole theme.
I painted Azaël last. I often paint the leader of the army last, to be sure he (or she in that case) embody the spirit of the whole army. Here she is, in all her dark glory.
I « sculpted » the base (except the skull which is from the GW box of skulls » in GS. First time I worked really seriously with GS. I wanted to emphasize the pose of the mini, which I always pictured in full invocating transe. I am pleased with the result, which is not perfect but a success for me nonetheless.
You’ll notice the same colours on the base as the Ira Tenebrae, since it is pure Tenebrae energy; and the same recipe for the flesh skirt as the coat of the undertaker. The metalic parts (pieces of armour and sword) are not rusty. She is the only one in the warband to get « clean » metal, for the sole purpose of making her stand out in the army.
The pale skin and grey hair all come from the idea that she is « dead and reborn », truly un-dead in the strictest sense (like a vampire if you like). The horrible scar left on her by her last mortal lover are still visible (on the neck and in her back). I did not go for brownish dried blood because I wanted to emphasize these scars and this episod of her life, that made her what she is now. The unforgiving « justice » of mortals created her and sent her into the arms of the Dark Gods. So blood is still flowing from her wounds as they will never heal and remind her of why she is who she is for eternity.
Last biblical reference of the warband, her spell book reads « Lc 5:23 », which is Luke: « Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? ». I thought « Rise up and walk » was appropriate for a Necromanceress.
Well then, here is the warband in all its decaying glory.
Well that’s all for folks. Hope you liked what you read, see you soon.
Banner picture: illustration previously owned by Rackham, other pictures by me.