#HeroQuest2019: The Witch Lord

More #HeroQuest2019 today, but after blazing through the entire set of undead monsters, I felt I had earned myself a little wiggle room for a bit of fun. So what is this about?

As you have already seen in a previous post of mine, I won’t simply limit myself to painting the classic models, but I am also looking at some chances here and there to add some custom models to my set of HeroQuest, in order to create representations for the special characters that appear in some of the quests, but don’t have an official model. So this time around, my plan was to create a model to represent that most dastardly of recurring HeroQuest villains: The dreadful WITCH LORD!

For those who don’t remember the game, seeing how it’s been thirty years and everything, the Witch Lord made his first appearance in the standard quest book: Intrepid adventurers would accidentally awaken him about two-thirds through the base game’s collection of quests, while actually searching for a magical artifact, then had to find a magic sword that could harm him in response to his awakening. The Witch Lord then served as the quest book’s end boss, so to speak. Yet that was not the end of it:

A couple of expansions for HeroQuest were released a bit after the basic game system, and one of these was titled “Return of the Witch Lord”. Here’s Les Edward’s cover artwork for that particular expansion:

Illustration by Les Edwards

When I saw it, I was instantly in love! In fact, the cover artwork alone sold me on the expansion, so when I was allowed to choose a HeroQuest expansion box as a birthday gift, I chose this. How could I not, with all those wonderfully skeletal knights on the cover, and let’s not forget Skeletor’s debonair cousin at the centre of attention!

In hindsight, especially from a collector’s perspective, it would have been so much smarter to get, say, the “Against the Ogre Horde” expansion that actually came with some original sculpts, whereas Return of the Witch Lord just featured more skeletons, mummies and Zombies. But I couldn’t help myself, that illustration just went straight for the throat — in fact, it remains one of my favourite fantasy illustrations of all time, and I feel tempted to say that I even prefer it to the actual HeroQuest cover artwork.

There was also something truly cool about having a recurring villain across several iterations, especially one so blatantly inspired by Skeletor. Fun fact, though, I didn’t even realise the villain of the piece was supposed to be the Witch Lord as the German title of the expansion was “Die RΓΌckkehr des Hexers”, and the only character referred to as a “Hexer” (Warlock) in the German version of HeroQuest was a character from an earlier quest, represented by this model from the box, yet another skull-faced evildoer:

Don’t worry, we’ll be getting to this guy in a furture post…

Anyway, be that as it may, I think you can maybe understand why remembering the Witch Lord gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. So when I sat down recently to think about whether or not I could add a couple of custom conversions to my classic HeroQuest set, it was obvious the Witch Lord would end up right at the front of the queue.

I started by collecting inspiration online and looking at other people’s work, as I usually do before a conversion project. Once again, Lestodante’s collection provided ample inspiration:

Models from Lestodante’s collection

As you can see, the model he uses for the Witch Lord is, in fact, a custom sculpt that almost perfectly replicates the artwork while also looking very much like an official HeroQuest model from back in the day — a wonderful solution, and I am still green with envy!

There was also Ampersand’s really cool Witch Lord:

Witch Lord conversion by Ampersand

As you can probably guess from looking at the model, this one uses more modern GW plastic parts, namely from the (still available) Skeleton Warriors. So I made a note and earmarked that particular kit as a possible source of useful bitz.

As an aside, there’s also the Frostgrave Lich Lord, who would have would have worked really well, too, even though I only discovered this after the fact:

In fact, given the resemblance in both the design and the very name, you’ve got to wonder…

But anyway, a proud converter like me has to come up with his own version, right? So keeping the excellent inspiration in mind, I decided that the best way to start was to work from the very artwork that had inspired me so much many years ago. So here’s a closer look at the Witch Lord as originally imagined by Les Edwards:

My initial idea included some Skaven Stormvermin and Empire flagellant parts and would have looked a bit like this 40k renegade psyker I built a couple of years ago:

And I think the general approach would have worked pretty well, too. But then fate struck, and I discovered an even better approach:

You see, one of the things I wanted to achieve with my Witch Lord model was to have the model invoke that particular, slightly clunky “retro GW” Oldhammer look: I wanted a model that looked like it could actually have been produced back when HeroQuest was originally released.

So what better way than to start with a vintage model from back in the day?

So here’s what my very first Witch Lord mockup looked like:

The model is actually mostly based on an old, early-to-mid 90s Dark Elf Warlock. This guy:

And I still had the remains of one of those in my bitzbox. It was already in a pretty sorry state, too, missing both its its head, right hand and staff by the time I got it, so it’s not like I actually had to vandalise a classic model to make my Witch Lord — if anything, this was yet another salvage job!

The head came from the – aforementioned – GW Skeleton Warriors, with horns from the plastic WFB Chaos Marauders. And I began building the Witch Lord’s staff by combining an old Skeleton standard bearer arm (for the staff) and a bird skull from the GW Skulls kit.

After I had the basic outline, it was mostly a matter of matching as many visual cues from the artwork as possible. So here’s the finished conversion:

I replaced the first version of the left hand with a Empire flagellant hand. The detailing on the staff was achieved by grafting some Bloodletter horns and teeth to the bird skull for a pretty convincing look, if I do say so myself (Fun Fact: I have since discovered that the staff wielded by the leader of the Nightvault Godsworn Hunt warband would have been an almost ideal place to start — oh well…).

And since everything was still looking rather hideous at this point, it was a good thing that the undercoat had the great effect of pulling all of the disparate parts together rather nicely.Take a look:

Even though I had to make a couple of compromises, I think I have still done a pretty good job at matching both Les Edward’s art and the somewhat clunky vintage HeroQuest look, wouldn’t you agree?

When it came to painting the model, the artwork worked as perfect inspiration, so I tried to match it as closely as possible, especially for the luxurious crimson robes, dark metal and bright golden parts. Here’s a PIP shot…

…and here’s the mostly finished model:


Of course the Witch Lord needed to be on a proper HeroQuest base, so I carefully cut a damaged skeleton from its original base and used that for my Witch Lord model. One weird but cool thing was that the undercoat produced a really pronounced crackle effect when sprayed onto the base, and for no discernible reason, at that. At first I was a little miffed, but then I realised that this was a cool little effect, seeing how this is the base of a powerful undead monstrosity, so I actually embraced it:

And I still wasn’t done with the model itself either, as I wasn’t perfectly happy with those empty eye sockets, and rather wanted to feature those evil, glowing eyes from the artwork. So I went back to the model and created the tiniest eyeballs you can probably imagine, from almost microscopic amounts of GS. So here’s how that turned out:

And with that, the model was officially complete. So without any further ado, I give you: The Witch Lord:




All in all, this was a great way of expanding the classic collection of models, give myself a fun distraction between painting all of those monopose monsters, but trying to match the retro-GW look was also a neat little challenge.

So here’s a look at the Witch Lord commanding his army of the undead:

So that’s it for today. I am pretty happy with my little undead horde, but I still have a lot of work before I can call my set of HeroQuest completed, so it’s back to the painting table for me πŸ˜‰

It goes without saying that I would love to hear your thoughts on my version of the Witch Lord, so drop me a comment! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more! πŸ™‚

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25 Responses to “#HeroQuest2019: The Witch Lord”

  1. Great conversion and paintjob; and, as always, a really interesting walkthrough. As with all the best conversions, he looks like a genuine sculpt.

    On the craquelure effect, this is generally caused by a top layer drying on top of a still-wet lower layer that shrinks. If you like the effect, you can mimic it by spraying paint over a layer of wet PVA, gesso, or similar product that contracts to fit.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Apologist! I really appreciate it!

      As for the base, it was actually unpainted before I sprayed on the undercoat — and had been so for some 25 years. My best guess is that there must have been some kind of residue that reacted with the paint — still, it matched the look of the model rather well, so yeah πŸ˜‰ Cheers for the advice on replicating a similar effect!

  2. He is brilliant mate – great retro look, and those burning eyeballs are perfect! I love this πŸ™‚

  3. Inquisitor Mikhailovich Says:

    I’m impressed that you managed to make a retro model look so good that I’m jealous. I tend to be really picky with my poses, so most of the older models (and even a few of the newer ones) just don’t do it for me, but this looks amazing! Care to give us a walkthrough on how you did the purple gems? I would love to replicate that look for certain technological aspects of my Inquisitor!

    • Cheers, mate! Yeah, the old poses can be a bit of an acquired taste. That being said, going for the one-piece monopose look was really important in this case, so I am glad it seems to have worked out!

      As for the gems, I didn’t really do anything special, following a fairly standard approach to painting red gems (you can find tons of viable tutorials online), only substituting the red for Vallejo Lichen Purple (the entire gem was painted only with the purple mixed with small quantities of black or white, respectively). The heavy coat of gloss varnish seals the deal, though. Oh, and I also used the fairly recent artwork of the Genestealer Magus as reference material, seeing how he has a large purple gem on his robes as well.

  4. I never realized that the Warlock from the box was not the main baddie… I guess we never played that far!

    Your model is great, and really has a sort of old/new vibe that works nicely for this project.

    • Yes, well, in a way he was: Since he was used as a standin for every character that didn’t have a model, he ended up being the end boss, even if it was only as a standin for the Witch Lord. It always bothered me that the coolest monster model in the box didn’t even have its own monster card and/or statline, though. That being said, the Warlock did see some use as an actual warlock in the Kellar’s Keep and Ogre Horde expansions, IIRC.

  5. I’ve really enjoyed following your Heroquest journey! Your Witch Lord is impressive and really captures the figure in the artwork!

  6. Great stuff – he really does look like he could be a model from the original Hero Quest, whilst at the same time managing to look sharp and modern (no mean feat to combine the two). Really impressed by the way you’re powering through this project as well – you’re inspiring me to have a go at my heap of unpainted Blackstone Fortress models.

    • Thanks, Wudugast! My – still untouched – copy of Blackstone Fortress was what made me get back to painting my HeroQuest set to begin with, if you can believe that — there is something delightfully HeroQuest-esque in those Blackstone Fortress “hero” characters, if you ask me!

  7. Lovely work on the Witch Lord, those eyes really make it pop! And the whole project is coming along at amazing speed!

  8. PickaxeJunky Says:

    Those eyes are great. They really draw the attention and make the model look properly malevolent.

    I appreciate the way you pepper your blog post with links to the inspirations for your posts. They’re always cool to check out.

    By the way, what was the evil wizard called in your copy of heroquest? He was Morcar in the UK version, but I think he was Zargon in the US.

    • Cheers, mate! Pointing out my inspiration and reference material only seems like good practice to me — in fact, it drives me up the wall when people “forget” to point the models they took inspiration from…

  9. Great conversion- really lkike your work. The eyes at the end are a great addition.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

  10. The Witch Lord looks gorgeous. Amazing work mate!
    Nice to see that you’re adding conversions and make it a really unique set.

    Your perfectly executed conversion gives a very well fitting retro feeling next to the original models. The glowing eyes make a remarkable change in his appearance, impressive.

    The paintjob sells it and it looks like it’s crawling out of the awesome Artwork! I would have choosen this expension too πŸ˜‰

    As always, I really enjoyed your well written post and looking forward to the next. By the way, it’s very inspiring to see the effort you put into this project, that keeps me motivated.

    • Thanks, mate! That is really nice of you to say — and if it all inspires you to build and paint even more of your own fantastic models, that’s even better! πŸ™‚

  11. Thalenchar Says:

    Job well done πŸ™‚

  12. Alexis West Says:

    Absolutely amazing! The final version really looks like it could have come from a HeroQuest expansion. The before and after priming shots are really impressive, too. It looks like kind of a mess when all the individual bits are noticeable, but then, like The Dude’s rug, the undercoat ties the whole thing together!

    • Cheers, Alexis! The moment where a seemingly disparate elements of a conversion are tied together by a common undercoat is always a somewhat exciting moment for me — and an immensely pleasing one, at least when all goes well πŸ˜‰

      Also: The Big Lebowski FTW! “Ve believe in nuffink. Ja, in nuffink.” πŸ˜‰

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