Sunday, 1 September 2019

CITY SPOTLIGHT: Chris Burwood's Gharuki Forest Duardin

City Spotlight returns, with what (by a very narrow margin) may be my favourite Age of Sigmar army ever: the Gharuki Forest Duardin of Chris Burwood, aka Brad Gamma of the TGA forums (I may or may not have massive duardin bias).

Joe: Hi Chris, I can't thank you enough for gracing this blog with the Gharuki Duardin. Dwarfs/duardin and trees is such a unique concept, what inspired you to combine two such polar opposite flavours, and where did the idea for the army come from?

Chris: Before thinking up a duardin world built into gargantuan trees, I started with a completely different concept, an ice themed duardin army that would craft their weapons from an impossibly cold chamonite metal called "wyrklad". I wrote a lot of fragments of lore, maps, societal structures etc. and as I fleshed out the continent that these duardin called home, I scribbled down a forest called Gharuki Forest. I decided a small clan would live on its outskirts and would supply timber to the ice dwarfs. So far everything felt suitably dwarfy and traditional.

I already had a set of duardin warriors that I had painted green (my first purchase after returning to the hobby in 2016) and knew that these would not match the cool blue tones of my ice dwarfs, so on a whim I decided that I would make this small lumberjack clan first. I bought a Warden King and painted it to match the warriors, but I really went all in with the green. I loved the green so much that I decided to give the Gharuki clan much more of its own identity. The step to forest dwarfs was actually quite an easy one. Dwarfs already have a slightly druidic vibe to them, and their relationship with the earth, so to speak, can be easily tweaked to accommodate a fellow living thing that burrows into the ground. By making the Copperheart oaks in which they live to be the size of mountains, something afforded by the craziness of the mortal realms, it was simple to imagine a duardin society taking root in this more elven environment.

Before long I was writing short stories about industrious tinkerers navigating a bustling city, that spanned from the deep undergrowth of the forest all the way up to the glittering canopies, thousands of intricately crafted timber buildings carved into the sides of these oaks with glorious branch-like bridges connecting them all. Internal conflicts between the conservative Longbeards who preferred the cavernous root network and the wide-eyed Gyrocopter pilots of the canopy gave it all the flavour I would need to craft an army.

Of course my concept ended up being far from unique. Only a few weeks after coming up with the idea, I read Josh Reynolds' brilliant Eight Lamentations: Spear of Shadows, which contains a forest dwelling fyreslayer lodge who used brilliant craftsmanship and incredible heat to bend the branches of massive trees into highways and lodgings. Similarly at least Makeshifts' fantastic nature-themed Root King duardin popped up at the same time on The Grand Alliance forums, that really leans into the druidic.

Joe: You've really gone to town on the subtler elements of personalizing the force, from the amazing 3D printed shield designs on your Longbeards, to the brilliant kitbashed canopy corps - what's your personal favourite model or unit you've created for the Gharuki Duardin to date?

Chris: I do love the simple kitbashes I did for the canopy corps, my take on the Kharadron Overlords. I wanted to tone down their future steampunk vibe and the Gyrocopter helmets and blades were perfect, but they were not cheap! Needing a unique part from a £30 kit for each of my Skywardens was no joke. Not only expensive, but vanishingly rare. Its why I only did three of them. I will try to expand it to six one day though, I'll just have to buy another three Gyrocopters!

My favourite model is probably the captain of my Arkanaut Company. I used the bare Ironbreaker head to distinguish him from the rest of the unit, and it just ended up looking great.

Have to mention the drummer for my Longbeards though. Love that little guy. Maybe I just love painting bald dwarf heads?

Joe: Praising the 'Eavy Metal quality paint jobs you've achieved across the force goes without saying, but special attention's got to be drawn to the gorgeous shade of green you've chosen as their main colour. Green's the colour myself, and probably a lot of other hobbyists have the least practice painting, can you reveal your technique, or is it a closely guarded Gharuki secret?

Chris: Between my dwarfs, my orks and now Death Guard I am getting a lot of practice in with green. To me its one of the nicest colours to paint with. You can easily push it into the warm or cool spectrum by adding yellow or blue, you can desaturate nicely with red. If you use the Citadel line too you have almost every shade of green you could want.

I kept it relatively simple for the green that I used, the technique was:

  • Black undercoat
  • Warboss Green, 3 thin coats or until coverage is good.
  • Do the base colours of any armour detail (e.g. Retributer armor on gold detail, Caledor sky on gems etc.) so it can all be washed at once.
  • Wash all over armor with Nuln Oil.
  • Start bring back up with thin coats of Warboss Green.
  • Start highlights with thin coats of Skarsnik Green.
  • Add White Scar dots to very pointy bits (e.g. tip of shoe).
  • The only thing I'd change going forward is instead of white as a final step, I would use a 1:1:1 mix of Skarsnik Green, Screaming Skull and White Scar. Pure white is usually a bit too stark for a final highlight. But for ease and speed its fine.

Another important thing to note, is the green worked in combination with the other colours chosen for the models. For anyone familiar with colour theory, its a split complementary scheme of green, yellow (gold is yellow) and violet (weapon handles etc.).  For me this was a bit of luck, I learnt the theory behind why it worked well after I picked the colours.

I didn't use it on any of my dwarfs, but I think people should be more adventurous with Moot Green. I love it. I was painting at Warhammer World last week and both Chris Peach and Ben Prager (who actually runs the team that makes Citadel paints) asked me how I got this lovely vibrant green on some models I was painting, and it was just Moot Green!

Joe: High praise indeed! Right, I can't hold off asking about it any longer - the Gharuki's stunning Armies on Parade board. How/where/what why? Talk me through how the idea took root (sorry) and the materials you used to create it.

Chris: It seemed to follow naturally from the background to my army, to make a board with a small portion of a giant tree. I couldn't make a tree of the size I would describe in the cities, but I could do a smaller one on the outskirts of the forest and it would still be huge. A corner would be all I needed to sell the effect. Also, I thought it would be nice to outdo a lot of those sylvaneth or wood elf boards I had seen!

I spent about a month looking for an actual tree stump to use, of about the right proportions that I could carve up, but just couldn't find anything that suited. Eventually I opted to make one from scratch. I sketched some designs of how I wanted it to look. I knew I wanted walk ways to climb the sides of the tree, some sort of artillery position and for the entrance to dip slightly into the ground under the tree.

I built the core out of the tree out of dense extruded polystyrene, a whole load of inch think quarter circle layers, like making a weird cake. The bark was made from a huge pot of apoxie sculpt,  using a bark mould and some freehand sculpting. The building, barricades and promenades were made from a combination of textured plasticard and 3D printed parts (U have a Prusa i3 at home). The tiled pathway into the tree is just bits of plasticard carved into a patio pattern I found online!

Joe: The Gyrocopter landing pad you've made is possibly my favourite thing ever, and got me thinking, have you ever played a game on the display board, either on its own or slotted into a larger Realm of Battle board?

Chris: It's cool right? There is actually the Khazalid rune for H under the Gyrocopter, which was my wife's brilliant idea.

My intention was to build the other 5 squares to make a full board for some epic games, but it never came to be. Its already difficult enough to store that one corner! It would have to be for narrative scenarios too, because I would always want to defend that one corner. Maybe one day.

Joe: Do you  have any plans to expand either the Gharuki or the recent Freeguild project featured on your Instagram with the advent of the the new battletome? Maybe some allied Root Slayers or Ironbark Sylvaneth?

Chris: The Armies on Parade submission ended up being a nice bookend, but I do have some plans. I have 20 Irondrakes that have been sat on my shelf for a while, that I have conversion ideas for but they are not quite fully formed yet.

To be honest I am waiting for the Cities of Sigmar book to come out before I take things any further. I am by no means a power gamer, but certain city abilities might inspire certain play styles. The lore I have written for the Gharuki mentions that about 5-10% of the city population is aelven. I would love to add some Wyldwood Rangers or Eternal Guard once I have figured out how to dwarf them up!

I designed 4 distinct elements to what the army would be, The Root Guard, The Oakfire Arsenal, The Canopy Corps and The Emerald Forge. I didn't explore the final one, but it was going to be a chamber of Runesmiths called the Root Wardens, who use powerful runes to summon the spirits of the forest.

I believe my Freeguild project (The Aescenic College) as it currently stands is over. It was going to be lot of different warbands each headed by a wizard e.g. a Necromancer leading a curiously pale band of fighters, an Amber Wizard and his pack of gryph-hounds etc. But I didn't fall in love with the first 500pts, and its very difficult for me to move past that, especially when its competing with a hundred other project ideas! I will use them in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and maybe as some allies in a narrative game.

Joe: Thank you again for allowing me to feature such an amazing army. Before you go, if you could add one new unit, hero, or monster to AoS, what would it be?

Chris: If I had to add one unit to the game it would be a Freeguild unit made of a mix of races. Lets say 6 humans, 2 duardin, 2 aelves with a balance of genders, all linked by a loose Free City uniform. I think it would really help tie the more classic races into the Mortal Realms. I'm sure lots of people would hate it, and you can get most of the way there with conversions, but I'd be really interested to see what the studio would do with that. Failing that, a massive Anvil of Doom.

Explore the Gharuki Duardin in more detail and check out out more of Chris's amazing creations for Age of Sigmar and 40k on his TGA plog and Instagram:

If you've got a Cities of Sigmar force that you'd like to show off and chat about, then please contact me, I'd love to feature you on City Spotlight.

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