Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Squig colour scheme

Squigs are one of those curious things in Warhammer where the idea behind them is poorly served by the miniatures. Don't get me wrong, I love the current range of regular squigs but there's plenty to hate too.

First of all, let's take the idea...

  • Goblins on space hoppers.
  • The alien from Dark Star.
  • Some sort of fungus puff ball with teeth.

Mix them together and you have squigs. They're funny and silly and a unique part of GW's range of orcs and goblins (y'know, like goblin fanatics). What's not to love? Well, the miniatures.

I've always hated the old 80's squigs because they looked like giant goblin faces rather than a separate species of beastie (but then I always hated Kev Adams's style of orcs and goblins anyway). The "new" ones released in 2000 (by Brain Nelson maybe?) updated the look and made them look far more vicious, but they also included funny long-tailed ones that didn't quite fit with the space hopper idea. I didn't mind that at the time, but it was a design choice that would return. By the way, I'm ignoring squig designs on the peripheries of warhammer, like the Rogue Trader squig swarm and the mohicanned squig hound from Warhammer Quest, but they too show how the design has always been inconsistent.

Then you started seeing other squigs crop up in various places: hairy squigs on Wurzag's staff; long-legged 40K attack squigs; orc-faced bomb squigs. And then came the giant squigs: a podgey-looking Gobbla and the train-wreck that is the current great cave squig model. Each one played around with the standard design, but never really captured the bouncing-ball-of-bitey-teeth idea again. One exception: the little pet squig owned by the goblin boss in the Battle for Skull Pass boxed set (though even he looked a bit like a pumpkin).

WAR came along and expanded the squig design to include extra features (exhaust tubes and rhino horns), something that hasn't filtered through to the miniatures, but a new body shape was now firmly rooted: the teardrop-with-long-legs. It had been brewing for a while but now it had become the official shape of a squig, and was appearing in artwork. The space hopper idea was dead.

And then came "The Chase". Dear god. What an ugly mess. The squigs now looked like big walking faces; faces that were designed really, really badly. The gnashing ball of teeth idea had gone and squigs were now just stupid looking faces again, this time on long slender legs.

Finally, the latest, and THE WORST squigs of all: the mangler squigs. I'm assuming they were designed by Trish Morrison. They have that familiar "utter dog sh*t" look about them that we gamers have loathed over the years.

Orcs and Goblins has always suffered from "training ground" syndrome. Got a new sculptor? Wanna see what he can do? Let him loose on a goblin or squig - they're all kinda goofy and different so what harm can he do?

But over time that's meant that there's no coherent look to the army. It's a mistake to say that inconsistency and incoherence is an "orcy" trait, and should therefore be shown in the figure design process. The unique, incoherent, inconsistent, crazy, goofy look of an orc and goblin army, the orc and goblin "brand" if you will, can be designed into the models, but the design and development process should be as rigorously followed and consistently applied as for models of any other GW race.

So with all that said, I got to thinking how I could include squigs in my orc army in a way that wouldn't suck. What came out of my thinking/playing was a kind of rule book for squig design:

  • Go back to the bouncing balls where possible
  • Go back to the puff ball idea - ie a kind of impossible fleshy/toothy beast without a well defined skeletal system and no sensible system of internal organs.
  • Give the models more lift and exaggerate the sense of bouncing, rather than running
  • Exaggerate the teeth - a squig herd should look like a mass of gnashing teeth.
  • Pick up on the idea of them being fungus-based in their colouration. Traditionally that has meant weird and wonderful colours, but make the colours more naturalistic. I like the idea that you could model and paint a few puffballs in a fungus forest in the same colours as the squigs. Hell, you could even model some teeth or eyes developing in the puffballs as if they will eventually reach maturity, grow legs and bounce off!
  • Stay true in some ways to the original squigs (in this case by converting original models where possible and using a red, well russet, colouration).

And here's what I came up with in photoshop. with some points to note:

Squig herd colour scheme
Squig herd
The regular squigs in the herd have extra teeth and many are lifting off the ground.

The colouring is red, but also incorporates green to make that link to the physiology of the orcs.

The teeth are green. I'm not sure how this would look on a painted model, but I like the idea that the teeth aren't made of boney enamel but some sort of hardened fungal equivalent.

Skarsnik and gobbla colour scheme test
Skarsnik and Gobbla
Gobbla has a mouth full of huge, very scary teeth. Much more fitting for his status and less like a sock puppet.

Not limited by a facial bone structure the teeth kind of grow out of the fleshy body of the squig like spines or lamprey teeth.

Great cave squig colour scheme test
Great cave squig
The great cave squig would have to be modelled entirely from scratch. I was playing with the idea of it being in the downwards part of the "boing", like a squashy ball as it hits the ground, and how that would distort its shape. I think it's fun and looks cool but I think the uninitiated would struggle to see what was going on - they might assume it was crawling on the ground. I think this would only work if the army also included other great cave squigs modelled in the upwards part of the boing, so you get a sense of how they travel.

Mangler squigs colour scheme test
Mangler squigs
The mangler squig is a rough and ready concept sketch - I was playing with the idea that instead of chaining two giant squigs together, you chain a larger number of squigs together of different sizes. I think there are too many here, but I could see it working, and giving more of a sense of random chaos than the current crappy model.