Wargaming Tradecraft: What Mad Max: Fury Road Can Teach Us About Being Better Artists


What Mad Max: Fury Road Can Teach Us About Being Better Artists

TheWife and I saw Mad Max: Fury Road on opening night, (The kids in both of us were pretty excited thinking, "We're seeing a Mad Max movie in theater!") and it was a pretty great time. Not the non-stop action I was expecting, but pretty close.  Tom Hardy's Max didn't have much in the way for dialog and his "Batman Voice", while kinda terrible, shockingly sounded like the original Road Warrior Mel Gibson himself. Overall, it delivered on what you'd expect from a Mad Max movie: car chases, explosions, stunning visuals, powerful music and... inspiration.

I wrote about Object Oriented Hobbying once and the idea is that in order to make a large project manageable, you want to break it down in to smaller parts. Many of you have the skill to paint better, but it requires patience. If you're painting something highly detailed, take your time and focus on just one layer of paint or one section, like an arm or piece of armour, at a time. When you're modifying a figure, look at every aspect to see what you can change. (Just remember to look at it as a whole too, so you don't make it too busy.)


Fury Road is a blazing example of customizing your army. Go see the movie and think of it like this: If everything started as "normal" and a steering wheel was just a wheel, a face mask was just a mask and so on, then pay attention to lengths that are taken to make every little detail EXTREME.

Remember: It's OK to NOT go to this detail. We're all in this hobby for different reasons. Some prefer to play, others to paint, some to mod. This is more of an article for the modders, but maybe the painters will take something away too.

That first things that got me pondering along this path while watching the movie were the steering wheels. Each one was custom designed to either scream "desert raiders" or intricately built in its own postapocalyptic style.

Immortan Joe, leader of the bandits, had an intense presence. Pale skin and dark makeup around the eyes allows his gaze to bore at you. Makeup isn't something we see too often on minis and some deep shadows can go a long way.

He wears a face mask, but instead of just a mask, LOOK at that. Metal frame, skeletal teeth - looks so evil. Pay attention to his character when you see the movie - from his belt buckle to body armour. Accessories help a decorated warrior stand out just like someone important at a high society gathering.

(Fun Fact: Immortan Joe, the big bad, was played by Hugh Keays-Byrne - the same guy who played Toecutter, the gang leader from the first Mad Max.)

Some of the vehicles seem to have attended the Dark Eldar School of Conversion. (Stick a bunch of knives on it.) It doesn't always work, but the hedgehog look doesn't look bad here.

Asymmetry is also something to take note of in cool designs. This means don't make each side the same. The spikes go their own ways, hub caps are missing and.. strange. In the rig below, parts are offset, different sizes and turned sideways.

The big rig looks kit-bashed in a way an Ork would be proud of. Vehicle bodies welded together and added to the top as structures, wheels have wicked flared out metal guards, skulls for decoration, a cow catcher, engines sticking out of the hood and more. Let your eyes wander over it then consider what you could do to your own vehicles to add a similar flare. The trick with this kind of project is to make everything work, instead of as if you just glued a bunch of junk together.

Charlize Theron portrayed a great female lead. A strong woman who grew up in a tough world and carved out her spot in it. Like the bandit leader, her character's make up adds another level to her style.

Prosthetics are something under utilized in our miniatures. I say this, because we're in settings plagued by war, disease, mutation, etc. It takes time to make something more intricate than a peg leg, but is it hard? No. That's what I keep getting at about patience. You can do this, but are you willing to spend a whole evening building a believable limb?

Talking about war wounds, scarring also adds character. A little bit of glue, thick paint, discolouration of skin or even green stuff can create scars and is enough to add diversity to your army. In a desert setting, parched lips also make sense, as would wrinkled skin in an aquatic one.

You'll notice this guy also has the makeup I've been talking about, which would make certain models like unit leaders our front-line troops stand out from the rest.
More parched lips and make up.

Also worth noticing that sometimes a shaved head is imperfect. Like a chin can have stubble, so can a bald head. When painting stubble, you just want to discolour the skin with something like a brown wash. (Scale is so small that trying to sponge / stipple dots for hair will look wrong.)

Why I'm pointing out Nux (Played by the guy who was Beast in the prequel X-Men movies.) is the scarification on his chest. Like tattoos, scars can decorate bodies but with a tribal flare.

What I do caution against is trying to make your models look "dirty." It works with large scale as makeup on actors, but on smaller scale miniatures can just look ugly.

Hopefully I've given you some examples to spark your own ideas for dialling your own army to 11. How do you get inspired for a project? Where do you draw your ideas from?


  1. Great thoughts, I had the same feeling of wanting to do something from it, roadwars using gorkamorka rules or something, digganob anyone?

    1. A little while back, an LGS ran a Road Wars type event where everyone built vehicles, used a point system for armour/weapons and were tossed into a giant table.

  2. Wow, did not know that about Toecutter/Immortan Joe. Nice. Two things I liked (OK, I liked tons, but two things to point out here) were 1) in some cases what at first looked like just form choices for the movie ended up with function as well, like them making use of the air intakes on the hoods and 2) not feeling the need to explain everything, like cramming a five-minute flashback in about how Furiosa lost a hand.


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