Saturday, 6 June 2015

From the Lead Pile - Melnibonean Madness

I thought I’d delve into the lead pile and talk about some of the stuff in my collection. You know the sort of thing, those models that are languishing in boxes that you plan on doing something with one day, honest!

Way back in the mists of time in the latter half of 1988 I discovered Games Workshop. On my first visit I bought a blister of Doctor Who Cybermen and a copy of the Spring 1986 Citadel Journal, both of which I think were in the long extinct bargain bin.

This was packed full of bizarre stuff for someone who had no idea what it was all about. It had loads of what would have been new releases shown and many of those images have stayed with me ever since, shaping what I like about miniatures and Games Workshop/Citadel Miniatures in general. One of the things that really stood out though was a two page spread covering the models in the Eternal Champion boxed set that I think had been released in 1985.

This article contained a brief description of each character and rules and stats for their use in Warhammer. The descriptions of these somewhat odd characters combined with the fantastic painted examples made me really want to get the set so the next time I got the chance to visit my local GW that was top of my list. The day I bought the set I also got the snotling pump wagon (I think a kid at school had one and I really liked it) and a blister of snotlings also inspired by what I’d seen in the Journal.

So that was my initial introduction to the characters of Michael Moorcock. I barely knew anything about him or his novels but the name stuck and a little while later I spotted his name mentioned a few times in GM (The Independent Fantasy Roleplay Magazine) and then an interview with the man himself when The Fortress of the Pearl novel was released.

I guess it must have been 1989 when I started reading Moorcock’s novels. I read all of the Hawkmoon books, that’s the four novels of The History of the Runestaff and the three that make up The Chronicles of Castle Brass and I probably got most of the way through the Elric saga. Anyway, Christmas ’89 rolled around and I got both volumes of the Citadel catalogue.

These were great and I spent many hours browsing through them and picking which 10 figures I might select from each page if I could have any 10! What thrilled me though was to find that GW had released a small range of Eternal Champion models beyond the set I had. This consisted of a set of personalities from the Elric novels, a range of Melniboneans and a small range of Pan Tangians. I think these were all intended for use with the Stormbringer RPG that GW briefly had a hand in.

As much as these caught my eye, so did a lot of other stuff and apart from a blister of Pan Tangians picked up from a model shop whilst on holiday in Blackpool I never got around to buying anything else.

Leap forwards in time now and we’ve got the internet and Ebay and all that fun stuff. I think I first started using Ebay around 2001/2002 and it was amazing to be able to get models that were now out of production so easily (more or less). I got caught up in collecting Rogue Trader era Space Marines initially but somewhere between 2007 and 2009 I remembered the old Eternal Champion range and decided I’d try and track down some of those models. The plan was to collect the range of personalities and then one of each variant of the Melniboneans and Pan Tangians.

I don’t think it took that long to collect all of the personalities. I’m sure I had them all by the end of 2009. Some were a little harder fought over than others. I think my meagre collection of Pan Tangians have all been acquired since 2009 as they’re not that common. I don’t think they were a popular range and they weren’t carried over into other ranges after the Eternal Champion Licence was dropped, or if they were they didn’t last long. The Melniboneans though did live on as High Elves so they’re a little more common.

The plan to just get one of each variant was soon scrapped as I’d got a few duplicates after buying a couple of small job lots. Instead I decided to aim to assemble some small units of 10 infantry and 5 cavalry. The idea was to get 10 archers, 10 swordsmen, 10 spearmen, 10 mace/axe men and then 5 cavalry with lances and 5 with hand weapons.

Back in 2013 I took a photo of my Melniboneans for my blog. By this time I’d got a few extra bits and pieces and was aiming for 2 units of archers and had split my mace and axe men into 2 separate units. I’d got a good chunk of cavalry and a few more swordsmen than planned. I hadn’t managed to get many spearmen together though as I just hadn’t found many and they seemed to be the most sought after by other collectors too. I was quite chuffed with my little collection though.

Well, the obsession continued. Now I was aiming for 15 man units of infantry and units of 10 cavalry having yet again ended up with some extras. But that didn’t last long either as I quickly ended up with more spare models so decided to go for a nice round 20 infantry per unit. I’d finally gotten some more spearmen and almost had a full unit. I’d also expanded my archers as now I was definitely building an army I thought I should have more of those. It looked like I was close to completing my collection but I lost my shit somewhat when I found a few original blisters of spearmen and two big-ish lots of archers on Ebay. I couldn’t resist! I think I picked up a couple of extra models just to round out a unit or two and then last year I decided to call it a day. Seven years of obsessive almost compulsive collecting and I was done. It certainly felt odd to stop and even now I get that wide eyed ‘must have’ feeling when I see a Melnibonean model on Ebay or a forum trading page, or even just an image on Google! It really had become a bit of an addiction.

The other weekend I finally stripped the last of my Ebay purchases after they’d been sitting in Dettol for several months. The jar had gotten very dark and murky looking and I was getting a little concerned whether long term exposure would be damaging to the metal in some way. Thankfully all was fine and like the other year when I’d laid out my collection to see what I had I decided to do the same again.

If I use the High Elf army list from Warhammer Armies (WFB 3rd edition) as a guide then I’ve got a pretty good sized army.

10 Silver Helms +3 elites        370pts
10 Silver Helms +3 elites        370pts
10 Silver Helms +3 elites        370pts

50 Archers +1 elites                700pts
20 Guard (spears) +1 elites     280pts
20 Warrior Kindred (spears)   240pts
20 Warrior Kindred (axes)      240pts
20 Warrior Kindred (maces)   240pts
20 Kith (swords)                     220pts

Just over 3000 points without characters and command elements. Proper old school 3rd edition army size!


With there only being a few suitable Melnibonean characters to use as heroes, in this case a mounted Elric, his cousin Yyrkoon and his friend Dyvim Tvar I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few suitable High Elf models. There’s also the Dragon Masters dragon and rider that’s very Melnibonean looking. Having collected all variants of the rider and enough of the alternative horse mounts I can also include those. I do have other Elven models that I could add but they’re a little more Wood Elf oriented and I’d like to keep this army as Melnibonean as possible. It also gives me an excuse to have a separate Wood Elf force.

If I’m honest this lot will probably never get painted as it’s a lot of work and I don’t have the time. But I can dream and plan all the same. The only description of Melnibonean troops I recall from the Elric books says they wear yellow armour. That’s not really how I see these models looking, but yellow could be interpreted as gold and that’s a lot more suitable in my mind. I think I’d go for a darker, slightly tarnished gold over a bright gold. I’d want these models to look ancient, a bit eldritch, something to reflect the darker nature of Melnibone. For the sake of variety, and taking a bit of an artistic liberty I’d paint one unit of cavalry (lancers with the demon face helms) in black armour like Elrics dragon armour. I’d do the same with the Guards, one of the units of spear armed troops (half of the unit also has demon face helms) to show their elite status.

As far as other colours go, I’m not too sure what to do. I think I’d use different colours for different units rather than going for an army colour scheme which could get very boring. The important thing would be to try and avoid making them look like High Elves or Dark Elves.

One thing lacking from this range of models is suitable command figures. I’m sure unit leaders could be picked out by some minor conversion, a head swap, a weapon change, the addition of a cloak or helmet crest. Standard bearers are generally pretty simple conversions but I want to retain the mono-pose nature of the units so I wouldn’t want to take the easy way out and just use spearmen as all of my standard bearers. The axe/mace armed models could be a tough conversion, as could the archers, although I do have an idea for the latter. The one real stumbling block for me would be musicians though. They might require some pretty serious conversion work and could well be beyond my abilities.

Even with a good sized collection of models and what could be a perfectly usable army I have wondered whether the insanity could continue. Aaaaaannd… it could! Whilst I’ve been very good and resisted the temptation to buy more models there are ways I could expand the force. Of course more dragons and archers wouln’t go amiss but there are other things. One option could be to split the unit of cavalry armed with hand weapons into two units of 10, one armed solely with swords, the other with axes. If I got even more of those cavalry I could easily clip off the hand weapons and replace them with bows to make a unit of mounted archers (yes, I know there are Elven mounted archers already, I have them but they aren’t Melnibonean!). The twin bladed swordsmen can also be converted by removing one sword, rotating the hand and fitting a shield. I’ve already tried it out on one model that was missing a sword. Maybe another unit of 20 there? I’m sure spears could be easily converted to halberds and at one point I did wonder whether the axe/mace armed models could be converted to carry double handed weapons, but that’s just lunacy. Artillery would be nice but I’d want to find a suitable war engine that looked melnibonean enough. I recall catapults launching Greek Fire being mentioned in the novels. Crew would also be needed and I’m not sure whether conversions alone would fit the bill. And what about a Melnibonean galleon?!

For now though this hefty little collection will have to sit with all the other nice ideas in the lead pile. Maybe one day I’ll get some of it painted, who knows?!


  1. I share your enthusiasm (if not collection) for these models. Would love to see even a unit painted up. In terms of colours have you seen the original WD adverts? I still like the dark colour scheme.

    1. Yeah the old ads are pretty emotive. Nice and dark. I've got a dark gold armour colour worked out that should be equally menacing, I hope. I've seen too many of these models get light and airy paint jobs for use as high elves. ;)

  2. Really looking forward to seeing you paint these. That is an incredible collection.

  3. That's a lovely (and enviable!) collection. As regards the 'yellow' armour, I'd chosen to interpret it as brass, as Moorcock is quite fond of brass imagery.

    1. Maybe the colour I have in mind is more brass than gold. Just need to find the time to try it out.

  4. Awesome collection - would love to see you paint it :)