Meet the Geek: 3 Joshua Van Zaane


Joshua van Zaane, or simply “Crown o’ Command Josh”, has become a household name in many geek dens over the past few years. During the lockdowns around the world, Josh united all of us middlehammerers in an online community calleod The Crown of Command. Since then, he has been coming into our monitors from Japan – unfiltered and unedited. Those who know Josh, knows that he is all about total commitment, crazy sprees of high quality painting and copious amounts of late night beers, as he communicates with people around the globe. You gotta hand it to him: There’s no one above or besides, when it comes to Middlehammer 90s Games Workshop.

Here follows my written interview with Josh. Please enjoy. My questions are written in bold, whilst Josh’s rebuttals are written in italics.

CJ: Could you tell me a bit about yourself and describe your background in brief?

JVZ: Yeah sure. Where to start. Well, I am an Aussie expat Otaku living in Japan with a weird Dutch surname that no one can pronounce, and I have this unending fascination with toy soldiers. 

CJ: What got you started in this hobby? 

JVZ: It was the Milton Bradley game HeroQuest, as it brought you this wonderfully detailed board game with cool 3D miniatures as heroes and monsters. And seeing the painted samples on the side of the box had me so impressed that I sent away for the painting guide and from then I was hooked.

CJ: How did you get the idea to start the Crown of Command? What motivated you?

JVZ: I think it was a combination of things. For one, I enjoyed listening to people’s origins in wargaming, and with the pandemic, it was a good opportunity to give people a way of expressing their passions for their hobby in a new medium that they could either partake in, or enjoy listening to other people’s stories.

I think it was a combination of things. For one, I enjoyed listening to people’s origins in wargaming, and with the pandemic, it was a good opportunity to give people a way of expressing their passions for their hobby in a new medium that they could either partake in, or enjoy listening to other people’s stories.

CJ: I guess it is redundant to ask, but sometimes people are surprised: Are you an Oldhammer, Middlehammer, Anyhammer kind of guy? Do you play other games as well?

JVZ: I think I will have to be in the Middlehammer/ Herohammer group even though my journey into the hobby began with picking up the 3rd edition hardcover rulebook, but it made little sense to me. It was a hard book to start gaming with in my opinion, so I really started with the 4th edition WHFB box and Epic Space Marine. So I consider myself a gamer in that early 1990’s era. How people want to define it is up to them, but I consider it to be a blend of Old and middle hammer I guess. 

If you blink – Josh will churn out a Middlehammer figure like Tyrion here. Fast and deadly is the painting style.

As for other games, I love the Confrontation universe that Rackham from France brought to the wargames and miniature designing and painting scene. They were visionaries and they changed the way miniatures were designed, produced and painted to a large extent. I also enjoy the Song of Ice and Fire miniatures game and Test of Honor. And of course board games as they are what got me into gaming in the first place. 

Confrontation – Josh’s dirty little not-so-secret. French miniatures with equally French paintjobs. Fascinating!

CJ: Of all the games out there, what would you say is your favorite game? And do you still play it?

JVZ: That’s a real tough one. I will have to say that Epic Space Marine has given me more joy to play as a gamer than any other game system, There are so many elements to the game play that keep me coming back to it, and seeing the scale of the terrain and Titans stomping around gives you this wonderful sense of scale and perspective. 

CJ: Where on the spectrum of gamer,  painter and painter-gamer would you put yourself?

JVZ: Definitely a painter-gamer. I find it hard to paint miniatures unless I am going to play with them on the table top. Even though I have a great appreciation and dedication to painting, half of the joy of painting is seeing your painted creations on the table, hopefully vanquishing your enemies in style! 

CJ: What is your best ever painting/gaming moment?

JVZ: I think the best painting moment was finishing Thorgrim on the Throne of Power. It was a miniature that I loved and bought when it was released in around 1992, but felt too intimidating to paint it. Fast forward 30 years and now I have one painted to a level I am very proud of. In terms of gaming, I am kind of experiencing that now with the people I play games with on the YouTube channel as remote guests and people I play in person with at the Crown of Command studio. The games on my friend’s carpet. Those games playing Epic with Chris were certainly the best days of gaming for me.

The Throne of Power – one of Josh’s favourite painting moments… not difficult to understand why!

CJ: Do you have any hobbies other than hammering?

JVZ: I do like drawing and anything artistic really. I did play a lot of guitar in my youth, but don’t get to play very often if ever these days. And I guess with starting the podcast and Youtube channel they have grown into more technical based hobbies that I have learnt through experience. 

CJ: What is your biggest hobby regret? Did you sell of a prized collection, did you not go into Gorkamorka or waste your time on the wrong stuff?

Well where to begin. There have been many regrets in selling off parts of my unpainted collection for very little money when I left for Japan some ten years back, All of my classic Kev Adams 4th edition Goblins for one. But there are too many to mention really. And a lot of my collection from the 90’s just dissolved into thin air as I have no idea where a lot of it went. I think if anything I spent way too much time painting and I wish I had directed a lot of that time and energy into another artistic pursuit such as drawing or miniature sculpting.

Well where to begin. There have been many regrets in selling off parts of my unpainted collection for very little money when I left for Japan some ten years back, All of my classic Kev Adams 4th edition Goblins for one. But there are too many to mention really. And a lot of my collection from the 90’s just dissolved into thin air as I have no idea where a lot of it went. I think if anything I spent way too much time painting and I wish I had directed a lot of that time and energy into another artistic pursuit such as drawing or miniature sculpting. 

CJ: Do you have any “hobby heroes”? People living or dead, that inspire you, you look up to or that you just think do a good job?

JVZ: Yeah for sure. Kev Adams ( ex-Citadel miniature designer ) has always been this guy I have greatly admired in what he does and the joy of making models with a sense of soul. I think that is an incredibly difficult quality any miniature designer can hope to achieve in their work. Paul Bonner ( ex Games workshop studio artist ) for much the same qualities as Kev really in that Paul adds life and soul into every subject he paints and draws in his paintings. Thankfully both Kev and Paul are very much alive and still producing some of their best works ever.

CJ: Let’s talk a bit about the “scourge” of the times: Army challenges, painting challenges. We have seen quite a few of these now, and we have both tried our hands at hosting them… all said an done – do you have a favourite format as a “consumer”?

JVZ: Well, that is a good question Dr. and I think it is a fine juggling act for the creator of a challenge to find the perfect ingredients to keep everyone happy which I am guessing is not easy. I did enjoy the 2nd C0wabunga 40K painting challenge as it really helped motivate me to get those Orks painted and on the table in a very quick turnaround. But the challenge I am currently in with the Gathering of Mighty Painters hosted by Ojoj on Facebook suits me perfectly. It has set monthly categories, but the participants get to set their own personal painting goals making it quite flexible as there is no points total to reach by the end of the challenge.

CJ: You have been in a few challenges yourself too. And the quality of your painting and the speed at which you conduct it seems to be outrageous for mere mortals. How do you motivate yourself? What are the secrets to sublimity? 

JVZ: Haha.. you humble me good Dr. (ed. Yes! Of course! But I really mean it!) Well there are so many great painters in these challenges so they help set that bar for managing to accomplish a very high standard. For myself, I have been painting for almost 30 years so you learn how to paint fast in a reasonable time frame. Plus it really depends on what you are panting. If it is a model from the Confrontation range, it is quite involved and those models are full of details. On the other hand, an old Citadel miniature is quite limited in terms of details as they are usually rank and file regimental models, so you approach painting those models in a much different way. I guess what I am trying to elude is that it comes down to experience.. 

CJ: Of all your output in these challenges, do you have a favourite entry/unit? Anything you’re particularly proud of?

JVZ: I was really proud of how the Bad Moon Orks in Mega Armor (ed. Cowabunga Challenge 2) turned out with their back banners. They are very unique with the many faceted Bad Moon faces. The idea came about to it that way as I was tired of just doing the same moon glyph designs and I wanted to do something more unique and that would stand out and I think I managed to accomplish that. That was a really fun project to do and I was thrilled with the final result. 

Free hand… effing… painted… banners! People – sell your brushes! This is the next level.

CJ: Let us briefly turn towards the future. We have seen the rate of things go down a bit after covid. Initiatives started during the plague are suffering as reality returns. Will the Crown of Command keep on going in it’s present form? Are you thinking about new formats or ideas? 

JVZ: Yes, the attention that many can offer to the hobby has changed since we have ventured out of our homes and started meeting people again ( shock horror ) but that was to be expected and certainly encouraged if you can do so safely and responsibly. But the social media groups still flourish with new members joining each day which has been wonderful to see, and we have more people currently engaged in this Herohammer movement now than we did when I started on May 4th 2020. So I can only see it further expanding as long as there is the interest there to sustain its longevity.

I guess time will tell how long the podcast and channel will continue for, as I am still having fun with the content I produce and there are people that are still listening and watching so it must be still relevant for some. And long may that continue.

CJ: Ending on a high note here, tell us about your plans for your own hobby activity then? What is going to happen? New games, new figures? Are you finally getting into Space Fleet?

JVZ: Ah ha! Space Fleet. Cheeky that haha… Nah. Too many games already and I actually bought a set of Space Fleet in a board game shop in the 2000’s that was still in shrink for about $35 AUS. Never played it then either and sold it. Maybe for the best then. For the future I look to venture back into the Underhive with Necromunder with a newly acquired Esher gang which is exciting. And I have set a goal to myself to pant the s%#t that I have got, and not to accrue more models and games. There is a limit to my wife’s patience when those brown paper parcels pop into the post box. But many projects are planned and in development so you’ll just have to wait and see I guess. 

CJ: So a huge thansk to Joshua for participating! What a nice guy he is. If you want to see more of his work and content, please give his podcast and Youtube a try:

You can find the podcast at: https://anchor.fm/thecrownofcommandpodcast

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC504rUqQda8H0uXRZajBL3g

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