Unit fillers, PART 1
Here it is, the short article about unit fillers. It is usable for modelers from most games where you have units larger than one model, for example KoW (Kings of War), WHFB, LotR WotR etc. Remember, this is written for fantasy/medieval themes, NOT high fantasy - in high fantasy you can use whatever crap you like, there are no borders and no stops and there are some exceptionally ugly and boring examples out there. Since most people play high fantasy, it is not strange or unexpected that most great projects actually have a high fantasy theme, but those who succeed, are the ones with an intelligent look on creativity and can impose creative restrictions on themselves.
Why use unit fillers
There are three main reasons:
1) Lazyness when painting - it can be easier to make a big rock with one guy standing on top of it, instead of having to paint, in this example, four regular rank and file models.
2) Cost. A small stone (becomes a large rock in our scale), or a tree made out of small twigs, is infinitely cheaper than three or four models from GW. If you were to use, for example, Mantic models, there's would be no need to make fillers for this reason. Then you'd be looking at reason 1 or reason 3.
3) Looks. It can look really nice with a filler or two. Especially when going with a theme.
In my Edheldu project, it first started as a combination of reason 2 and reason 3, but after a while, laziness somehow got into the equation: Since I had burnt so much time into the trays, I just didn't have the energy nor time to paint a whole bunch of elves, so in the end I scrapped some ideas and now I have a few extra elves laying in my model-box.
Examples of unit fillers
The easiest filler is generally to put a large monster in the middle of a unit. You could also do a *very simple* minidiaroma: The space used for four models instead get two models that for example carry something or perhaps are fighting or interacting. They could, of course just be normal, just spaced out - a typical reason 1 and reason 2 filler. Laziness and no money. If you have a more realistic theme, then I suggest a command group on a larger base (or bases within the bases if the rules take into account single, specific casualties like: I aim for your Banner Bearer, and I killed him - remove him!) - or some form of cliffs that clearly divide the force and you can lose a couple of guys without it looking too cheap.
This crazy ugly thing (made by unknown) is part of a unit of some sort of ugly warriors in WHFB. While I would never do such a thing, it is still technically interesting: It is cheap (I assume) and made of old parts and things found in the bin, looks simple enough and will be a piece of cake to paint - how could you paint such an abomination badly? If you have a somewhat more high fantasy theme, you could easily get away with doing strange creatures that take up waaaay to much space, but still look cool (as long as the creature is mythologically compatible). A better example would be this WHFB project, where the creator used the much cheaper LotR-models instead. And better looking:
A perfect example of using a large monster - that actually takes up almost half of the space of the unit, but still looks good. In this particular example, the monster is of course slightly more expensive than four of the regular warriors in the unit, but cost is, as stated earlier, not the only aspect of fillers and filling.
The guy in the following picture, in the middle, is a good example of a command model that could be placed either in the front - as probably suggested by the rules - or, if you just intend to use it only as a filler, in the middle, effectively taking up lots and lost of space.
You could have some guys carrying someone on his shield - or as a casualty, by dragging him ontop of his shield. Remeber to differ between theming and diorama.
Runestones. These go all the way. Double runestones, all the way. Works for anything.
Bodies. And if you play WHFB, just take your bag of miniature skulls and pour over everything or just make piles of them.
Fight mini-diorama. Take the traditional enemy of the force you're doing, and make something on an area that comprise of the general space normally occupied by around four models. There's an extremely ambitious example of this on the Warhammer Forum, where a project with dozens of in-fighting orks form dioramas in every unit, in fact every regiment is a diorama.
Slaves. Works good for most dark alignements - here's a great place to put the models that was left over when you did another project. A variation from this would of course be carriers for the not-so-dark armies. Carriers, baggage etc...
Nature. There are so many things here, tree stumps, rocks, animals, hunting scenes, carnivorous plants, entangling plants - you've seen most of this in other projects, but you can vary it to such an extent it will always feel like your own project. And if you think nature's been overdone, try switching it from the classical temperate, jungle and desert to something else, why not invent a ecosystem of your own? A system where all animals have copper based blood instead of iron (yeah, yeah, bad example - remembered this has been used by every douche who thinks he's original, from fantasy writers of the twenties to Scifi writers of today; the Grunts in Halo as a concrete example *insert stupid yellow smiley*).
Treasure. Always nice. I save this for a while since I have a dormant Abrakhan project involving treasure.
A cart or broken chariot is an extremely nice way to make a good mixture of diorama and filler. Barrells or cargo that has fallen out etc.
You only have to decide whether to make the whole shabang a diorama, or have two or three mini dioramas or theme it to the terrain - even if the terrain is a newly fought battleground, it doesn't make it a diorama if it just something the models stand on, then it is just ornamentation: Fillers! Which is exactly what you're after, easy and simple fillers.
And remember, when doing fillers for a themed army, just brainstorm, use the cultures of Earth to simplify things for you: Are you theming it to a particular terrain (desert, ocean, snow), then I do not need to write anything more, there are dozens of good filler examples for these characteristical/archetypical terrains. If there's a culture you're theming it around, try not to fall into the classic over-theming pitfall (which will be the article after the conclusion of number two in this miniseries):
Like if you were to do a slightly Egyptian themed and just go for death in a billion ways: Skulls on skulls with caskets and tombs and skeletons standing on skulls. Yes, it looks nice, like kitsch really looks realistic, but it doesn't last very long. Try to look at other aspects of, in this example, Egyptian culture: The life aspect, the highly developed administratorial system that was used (inspectors, irrigation specialists) - things that at first might sound gay, but only because you haven't seen it militarized a gazillion times in White Dwarf. Do your own thing!
Part two of this article continue in the next week, where more concrete examples will be presented...