Better late than never, eh?
I never owned the original Vlad and Isabella models from 1994. Back when they were current, I was more of a Necrarch man (ah, the follies of youth).
They never had rules in my beloved sixth edition (although it wouldn’t be too hard to cobble together a set: they’d be ‘special’ insofar as Isabella would have a couple of Lahmian powers and Vlad would have more magic items than were strictly proper).
By the time seventh edition rolled around and gave the Von Carstein family some decent rules (finally, you could fit all of them into 2000 points, and there was none of that OH SPECIAL CHARACTERS WHAT A BEARDMONGER talk around either), I was starting to fall out of love with WFB and the models had been superseded anyway.
So, what with one thing and another, there was no need to own them. It’s only in the last year or so that the completionist’s urge has take me and I’ve felt inclined to pick them up.
It’s been a while since I last did any painting (over a year in fact), so the first afternoon was a leisurely “try to remember how this works” affair. Here we can see the end of an hour or so’s work.
Colours were blocked out first, to get a feel for the overall composition, with the diffuseness of my old Bleached Bone and Ghostly Grey serving as early stage highlights on skin and clothes. Mannfred’s been wheeled out to serve as a palette reference: I also took the opportunity to refresh his paint job a bit, livening up his cloak lining and looking for opportunities to put some different colours on him. The goal was to have them looking a little bit better than the rest of the army; not so amazing and modern that they stand out, but good enough that they stand close inspection.
The day after, I started in on highlights.
My old leather jacket has been pressed into service for this bit – it’s worn to an off-white around the edges, and I’m mindful that pure black doesn’t really exist out there in the world, so its combination of brown-black and damage is perfect as a reference. The heavy travelling capes worn by the Von Carsteins all have a spot of edge highlighting to weather them a bit, breaking up those large areas of black and pushing them just over the quality boundary compared to the rough and ready army at large. It’s helped Mannfred’s “two thirds black” colourscheme look a bit less tosh, too.
Finally, there are the deets. The blood on Isabella’s chalice and Vlad’s sword; the gem on the Carstein Ring; everyone’s red eyes; and a bit of black lining on Mannfred’s mouth to put some detail back in.
I’m very happy with Vlad, and… mostly happy… with Isabella. There’s some sort of casting imperfection on one of her fangs, which didn’t show up until highlighting and shading really brought it out. I’m going to leave it there, partly because eighteen year old me left a lot of mould lines and so she’ll fit in nicely with eighteen year old me’s collection, but partly because I like the idea that she wasn’t the flawless beauty the Von Carstein propaganda claims she was. Anyway, check out Vlad’s sneer. That’s worth it, right?
I’ve also livened Mannfred up a bit further with a few layers of purple and grey glaze on his sword and staff, saturating them with Dark Magic (TM). The sword looks OK, but I kinda botched the staff; there are too many layers on there now to fix it without stripping the whole model, and it looks all right. If you squint. From three feet away.
Fortunately, I’m a three-feet-away kind of painter; unfortunately, I’m all about that “bases, faces and implements” approach. Get those elements looking right and the rest is easy. Mannfred’s not quite there. At least we have some new problems with his colour scheme now…
While I was picking out eyes and teeth and so on, I also took the opportunity to doll up Clarimonde and Romuald in the same style. Of course, under the harsh eye of macrophotography it becomes clear that Clari’s face needs a tidy up, but the main thing I wanted to show was the edge highlighting and the gold on what was previously undifferentiated black.
All that detail work was doing my crust so I started on the other two Banshees while I was at it. Ethereal stuff makes a nice break from detail work ’cause it’s mostly just slapping glazes together and making sure they don’t go absolutely everywhere.
I wouldn’t do the bases like this if I were painting these models on their own, knowing what I know now, but if you think I’m snapping all my brittle fourteen-year-old kitbashes apart to rebase them, think again, chummy.
The odds of my using all of these together are… well, I could do it in fifth edition, if playing a three thousand point game and not needing a level five wizard to ward off High Elven superiority. I’d be more likely to do it in seventh edition, where Mannfred the Acolyte is around to offer a cheap Loremaster and Vlad is a solid generalist Vampire Lord; he’s not the best at anything except Not Dying, but that’s honestly what I look for in a general. I wouldn’t do it in eighth, I don’t think: like fifth edition, that’s a “you need a level four wizard to handle other level four wizards” deal. Maybe if I can take Count Mannfred and Vlad, but who’d let me do that? Only a yoghurt.
I think that’s an unsung strength of the King of Editions and Edition of Kings: because caster level didn’t factor into what you actually needed to roll on the dice, you could play into a fourth level wizard with only a couple of level ones and still stand a reasonable chance in the magic phase.