Friday, December 16, 2011

Hard work and a box with teeth

I've been meaning to pick up some of the Discworld minis by Micro Art Studios for a while. The other day I showed the website to a friend who reads Terry Pratchett, and foolishly suggested that the Luggage looked easy to paint and I could probably get it done in a single saturday. Since his birthday was coming up I decided to paint him a model as a gift.

I was wrong. I wasn't able to finish it in a single saturday. Nevertheless I managed to get it finished in time:

It came with a slotta base with a recessed top, but the model itself had no tab to fit the slot and I didn't like the recess so I filled it with milliput. I had to pin the model to the base, and I didn't like leaving the pins exposed under the base (plus I wanted to write on the bottom), so I filled that too:

Here's a picture for size comparison:

First I primed the model white, then painted the different surfaces.
Cloth: scab red basecoat, blood red, blazing orange drybrush, light bleached bone drybrush, baal red wash.
Brass: tin bitz basecoat, Bronze layers, boltgun then chainmail drybrushes.
Wood: calthan brown basecoat, devlan mud wash.
Teeth: skull white.
Legs: elf flesh basecoat, bleached bone toenails.

Then everything was washed generously in watered down gryphonne sepia. This worked quite well for the teeth, did very little to the wood and brass, but wasn't quite enough for the legs, or more specifically the recesses between them, which were not dark enough as the washed flowed down and got sucked under the model. So I had to apply more, laying the model horizontally so the wash would pool properly, but first I applied a heavy wash of devlan mud directly into the recesses at the top, where it looked like it should be darker still. This was a little messy so I had to touch up the legs before the second wash of sepia, which I did with dwarf flesh (which was very close in colour to the sepia-washed elf flesh).

Finally I applied an extremely light drybrush of bleached bone on the legs, not just to highlight but to reduce the warmth a little (my previous experiments with drybrushing skin were terrible, but it seems if you put almost no pressure on the brush you can get a subtle improvement overall). I actually performed a bunch of experiments before painting the skin, this was the best effect I was able to get.

I considered using Army Painter quickshade but decided against it in the end. I'm not fond of the effect quickshade has on most surfaces, though I love how it works on skin - except the colour is a very dark brown that's not "warm" enough even for dark or tanned flesh. Mixing it with washes didn't work (it doesn't mix), washing over it was better but I'll need to experiment more - glazes may work, but washes probably don't add colour in the same places as the quickshade so it will create different overall skin colours - or at least that seemed to be the problem in my early tests. Perhaps a weaker quickshade would help, I'll have to experiment more in the future.

Overall it came out quite well, but the spaces between the legs and between the teeth aren't dark enough. Next time I'll wash between the teeth with devlan mud or badab black before the sepia then touch up the white, and I'll carefully paint the legs a different colour to the spaces (which will be slightly harder than I'd like because there's not always clear boundries between the two, but I'll just have to keep hacking away until it looks right). I don't think I'll bother basecoating the brass in tin bitz next time, as it took a while to build up over white, I'll just use the same brown for simplicity. It might help with the legs too, at least if I want a dark colour between them. In fact I'll probably just use brown as the basecoat for everything except the teeth.

I do love the cast, and overall I think it turned out pretty well, in fact I'm considering painting another for myself. I might put Rincewind on the same base as I think the models will work well together, though I would have to paint them seperately. Too many other things to paint first though, so it might be a while.

Third game

Played my third game yesterday. My opponent had to throw together a 500 point list proxying Sanguinary Guard models for Assault Troopers (with power fist and melta guns – in retrospect I wonder if he made a mistake, don't Blood Angels assault troops get melta pistols instead of melta guns?). He took two units of 5, a Librarian with jump pack and melta pistol and a Sanguinary Priest with melta pistol. I took:

Amadeus as a Captain with power weapon, bolt pistol, and melta bombs (120 pts),
Tactical squad with Fistandantilus (power fist sarge), flamer, plasma cannon (200 pts),
Scouts with sniper rifles (75 pts),
Dreadnought (105 pts).

My opponent was a really great guy, he helped me a lot by pointing out tactical mistakes I was making and letting me take them back, and giving me advice on what he "could" (would) do if I made certain moves.

We had a nice table to play on this time, with a landing pad, piece of ruin, and some craters. We rolled up dawn of war with objectives; he placed two objectives near my deployment and I placed one off to the side. With my limited mobility, I think he wanted to keep the action near me rather than forcing me to slog across the table. He even gave me first turn.

I split my marines into combat squads, four guys and the flamer stood in a line in a crater while the others, including the sergeant and the plasma cannoneer stood behind them with Amadeus. They had an objective between them and another close by. My plan was to intercept the inevitable charge with the first squad, and assault in with the second unit and my captain (it didn't occur to me at the time that his jump troops could jump past my buffer unit). My dread was in reserve, and my snipers infiltrated.

He placed one unit with the librarian out of sight of my tac marines, and the other was deep striking. I set up my snipers on the piece of ruin, which had been my plan all long but now had the advantage of giving me line of sight into his unit. They wouldn't all fit on top so some had to stand on the ground floor, which may or may not have made a difference, as you'll see. In retrospect I probably should have just put them farther back to use their range, but then again it was night fighting.

The game began, and we promptly forgot to keep track of turns (as well as ignoring the objectives). My dread walked on from the middle of my table edge, my tac marines sat around wondering where the baddies were, while Amadeus sent some texts on his mobile and my snipers adjusted their scopes. Satisfied they were dialled in, the scouts fired at the assault squad, passing the night-fight roll and amazingly landing all but the missile (I forgot that he was supposed to be just another sniper, but it made no difference anyway). Two shots managed to wound, of which one was rending. Their librarian cast sanctuary for the cover save against the rending shot, but in the end one wound got through and he lost a marine. They passed their pinning test and my turn was over.

In his turn he charged the scouts and wiped them out using unleash rage. If I didn't have any scouts on the ground floor I'm not sure what would have happened, I need to re-read the building rules. If he hadn't killed them all I would have used chapter tactics to run away, in the hope that they would be left exposed to my tac squad shooting. It didn't occur to me at the time, but this would have been good even if his unit had caught up as the fearless wounds could have killed the scouts and left the assault troops vulnerable again. Of course if the did break free successfully he would have either had to chase them down (taking him farther from my tac squad and the two objectives), or leave them to rally and shoot again.

In my turn my dread tried to put himself between the assault squad and my tac marines. I considered moving my marines away but he reminded me that the the plasma cannon wouldn't be able to fire, so instead I shuffled the other squad a bit as they were already in 12 inch range as far as I could see. The plasma shot scattered, and the rest of my shooting did little.

Next turn he brought down his other squad with the Sanguinary Priest behind my dread and wrecked it with melta and bolters on it's rear armour. Then he assaulted into my first tac squad with his other unit and wiped them out thanks in part to furious charge gained from being within range of the dropped priest.

I considered charging my last squad into his depleted assault unit, but he counselled firing it's plasma cannon into the dropped squad as they were all bunched up, and I decided that realistically that was my only chance to do any real damage, and left them alone. I did move Amadeus out of the unit so he could counter-charge after they get charged, but he reminded me he could either fly over to get him or even multi-charge both the captain and unit, so instead I moved the captain towards the depleted unit in order to assault them. The plasma cannon was on target and ended up claiming three assault marines (his librarian was close enough to cast sanctuary and he passed one cover save), and the rest of the squad's shooting killed the power fist sergeant. In my assault phase my captain charged his remaining assault squad, who were now down to two marines and the librarian (who I think was down to one wound now). I sent three attacks at the librarian and one at each marine. I failed to wound the librarian but killed both marines, then took a wound in return. Luckily for me he couldn't activate his force weapon as he had cast sanctuary that turn!

Next turn he killed a couple of marines with his Priest unit in shooting and assault (Fistandantilus missed all his attacks – again!), then my Captain finished off his librarian and we decided to call it (one assault marine with a melta gun and a sanguinary priest with melta pistol and chainsword against a captain with power weapon and pistol (who was about to charge in for the extra attack), two or three marines, and a power-fist sergeant - his odds were slim).

It was a close game, but only because he helped me so much. I got a few lucky rolls at the end (that plasma cannon really made up for it's ridiculous miss last time), and he normally played pure Sanguinary Guard so he was a little unused to not having power weapons and 2+ armour, plus he had to write his list right there, proxying models as needed. I don't know what would have happened if we had counted turns, though by my count the game was over by the fourth and the objectives were all right there so I don't think it would have made a difference.

I really enjoyed it despite being so tired I had trouble reading the dice at times, and I won't deny actually winning gave the game a sweet after-taste (tastes like pride... sweet, intoxicating pride). Amadeus really saved the game in the end. Fistandantilus didn't do jack. That's three games in a row now that he hasn't landed a single hit - maybe I should bust him back to being a scout?

It occurs to me now even in such a small game between a shooty army and and assaulty one, there's still a fair bit of tactics in play. In fact each decision and dice roll counts for more than it usually would in a larger game because there's more on the line - for example that single plasma cannon shot not only took out a significant portion of his force (it could potentially have wiped out the entire squad, almost half his army), it also caused his librarian to use up his psychic power, which saved my captain from being force-weaponed to death. In other words that single shot made the difference between victory and defeat.

Friday, December 9, 2011

200 point game

I just played another game of 40k. Killteam, or something like that. At 200 points, I just took my tactical squad (power fist, flamer, plasma cannon), my opponent took 2 units of Firewarriors and a Crisis suit with a marker light, missile pod and some form of plasma weapon. Due to limited space we played on the edge of a table at the GW store.

We advanced towards each other until in shooting distance, at which point I started losing men. I split my squad into two basic teams, one aiming to chase down the crisis suit and the other aiming to advance along a walkway towards the fire warriors (because of the terrain these were really the only two paths across the table to the Tau side).

The highlights of the game were when a single Marine finally made it into combat against the Crisis suit, only to miss both attacks then take a single wound (and fail his armor save on a one), and when my plasma cannon marine finally got line of sight and took a shot, which immediately scattered right back onto the head of the guy in front of him (I cannot put in words how accurate a misfire this was, the template covered three of the remaining four men in that squad) and killed two Marines.

The final score was two dead Firewarriors and ten dead marines. My armour saves were just stupid - I think three quarters of my armour save rolls came up ones. So much for the laws of averages.

I didn't enjoy this game all that much. Not so much because I lost and had awful luck, but rather because of the hassle of having to control every model individually, the cramped table on which we played, and the fact that I didn't know the Killteam rules beforehand so I had no idea what I was doing and my force was completely unsuitable. Also because I stayed up past midnight prepping some scouts and then I didn't even get to use them.

I'm not bitter or anything, it's just that I've been trying to justify the time spent on Warhammer when there's other things I could be doing, like programming or playing x-box or writing or even, God forbid, going outdoors. Today it didn't feel worth it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

40k faction suggestion

I was just thinking about this, what I believe is missing from 40K is a faction like Mercenaries or Rogue Traders or something to that effect.

See, I originally wanted a Space Marines/Grey Knights/Sororitas army, because they have very cool models. An entire army of Space Marines is just the same 3 models over and over: marine, scout, terminator. Grey Knights, or at least Grey Knight Terminators, are amazing models - easily the best 40K armoured infantry in my opinion, and the SoB also have some very nice models (plus both factions allow you to take almost any models for inquisitors and henchmen), but I wouldn't want to buy, paint, or field an entire army of only one of them. So the old 'allies' rule seemed quite cool, but now it's gone and with it the chance of variety.

Yes, you can still take inquisitors and henchmen in a Grey Knight army, so I guess that's the way to go if all you want is a variety of different models. But I'm thinking of something more. An army where you can mix humans of all sizes with xenos of all shapes and colours. Something with a touch of the elitism of Space Marines (without the power armor), the range of styles possible to Imperial Guard (without being so weak and numerous or meched-up), and the visual interest and appeal of various aliens.

I'm thinking humans with more character and ability than IG. Perhaps "elite" troops would have WS4 BS4 S3 T3 W1 I4 A2 Ld8, that sort of thing, with lots of wargear and rules that cause re-rolls, to make up for their low strength and toughness and armour. Normal troops can have regular Guard stats, but a specific purpose like heavy weapons. Of course the Elites would include psykers, heavily armoured or enhanced warriors, or specialists with special wargear like snipers.

That's just the regular humans. It can also include mutants, rogue marines (defectors from either side), Ork mercenaries like the Flash Gits, Tau rogue Tau, Dark Eldar pirates, enigmatic Eldar Warlocks working towards a purpose only they understand, or Tau defectors, reprogrammed Necrons, perhaps even pet Tyranids (I'm thinking their minds have been dominated by psykers or their brains wired or replaced, like servitors).

There's a huge range of possible vehicles, with Imperial, Tau and Eldar all having some great stuff. It will probably go the ork route of having a general description of the vehicle, with a number of analogues actually being possible in modelling terms (eg a "hovering transport" will have certain rules and stats, the player can then chose between, say, a Tau Hammerhead, an Eldar Wave Serpent, or a Marine Land-Speeder model). Actually, this same idea could be applied to infantry units as well, so a unit of scouts could use Marine scouts or Pathfinder models, and each has slightly different rules or wargear (the same as sniper scouts and combat scouts play differently and are visually differentiated by their wargear). This would create variety without needing an obscene range or units.

I guess the real reason behind this idea is to create an army that is fun for people who like painting or modelling individual models, rather than large numbers of the same model over and over. You can get nicely matched models in a unit, but there's no need to ever paint more than one unit of the same model. In fact, to enforce this (and to provide a counterbalance to the large variety of units available), the codex may stipulate that you cannot have two of the same unit (or possibly you can but they need to be different races, like the Scouts and Pathfinders example above). I know that there's a fair number of people who would like an army with no spam. Or just enforce a different maximum for each unit, the way some codices do (or did? I'm thinking Inquisitor Lords in the previous Grey Knights).

Anyway, I might actually try to come up with a few rules for this army. I think I'd put most units as troops, to allow for said variety without too many unnecessary rules - instead the limits on individual units will prevent spam. It might even be worth getting rid of the army composition chart altogether. The problem is I'm really only familiar with the Space Marines and Orks codices (and some other power-armoured variants). I'll start with those anyway, and pick units or create my own based on them. Of course I'm open to suggestions.

Friday, November 25, 2011

First real game

Tonight I played my first real game of 40K (at least the first one in about 10 years). I ran a vanilla Marines list I threw together which had the main virtue of being mainly composed of models that I actually have painted (though there were a few "counts-as"):

Chaplain Sebastian w/ terminator armour, combi-melta, melta bomb: 140
Tactical Squad, 5 man, power fist (Fistandantilus), plasma pistol: 130
Tactical Squad, 5 man, power weapon, plasma pistol, melta bomb: 125
Dreadnought: 105
Total: 500 pts

My opponent played orcs, he clearly had a much larger army with him but he played using:

Big Mek, Custom Force Field
15 Orks, power claw
15 Orks, power claw
I don't know:
Battlewagon or something with a roller
Some form of smaller truck

His army was very well painted, it certainly looked far far better than mine - his big truck thing was a converted Land Raider, for example. We decided to play annihilation since it was simplest, and we forgot to count the number of turns so we basically played until everyone was dead. By the end of it my Dreadnought was the only thing still alive, so I won 5 killpoints to 3. I believe he took it easy on me (he didn't take any anti-tank, for one thing, so he didn't have much to hit my dread with, and his Mek was mostly wasted), and I did get some very lucky dice rolls (at one point he rolled 4 ones to hit with his power claw against my dread, and every damage roll was a 1).

Sebastian was not terribly effective at all (I expected this going in, he's not suited for the army but he was the only painted HQ model I have). Fistandantilus missed all three power-fist attacks in his one turn of combat then got flattened by the roller. The Dread missed a LOT of hits (two attacks really isn't much, even when they're I4 S10 power attacks), but also wrecked both vehicles and whittled down a squad of Boys until the remnants of one of my tac squads could jump in.

So what did I learn? Well, for one thing, even such a small game can be very unpredictable and take longer than you would think. Even a 5 man Space Marine squad can hold out a while against an Ork charge, with a little luck. A Dread is quite a force to be reckoned with if his opponents aren't tooled up properly.

Well, I had fun, hopefully I'll play more games in the future (though it will still take a while to get more painted model in).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sebastian competes with the big boys

Last weekend there was a mini painting competition at the local GW. It seems they run it every month, 'Brotherhood of the Brush' I believe it's called. This one was for 40K independent character or unit. I asked if I could enter a mini painted some months back and they didn't have a problem with it, so I entered Sebastian.

I certainly wasn't expecting to win. While Sebastian is probably my best work to date, I'm still using very basic techniques and simple colours, I've seen so much better on the internet and in this very store. Besides, the varnish I used on him is now noticeably a little cloudy, so he doesn't look as good as he used to.

Needless to say I didn't win. In fact I didn't get to see the winning model, but I saw a couple of others in the competition that were pretty impressive so I have no doubt that the winner deserved it. Having said that, I got a couple of good comments about Sebastian, so overall it was encouraging. I think I'll try to enter the next competition, which is apparently any single mini so at least I won't have any trouble meeting the requirements.

In other news, I've just received a"cold heat" soldering iron that I got off ebay for a decent price. It's battery-operated, which alone makes it very attractive (I hate the stupid cables sticking off the back of traditional soldering irons - also it uses regular AAs, which I actually prefer to custom batteries because it means it doesn't need a dedicated power adapter or charger), plus it has a very short distance from grip to tip so it should be MUCH better than my current model for soldering small parts. But the big deal is supposed to be that it reaches high temperatures almost instantly when you actually touch it to the component, so it might help solve the problems I had last time with getting the solder to stick to the components. Hopefully I'll get to try it this weekend. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Soldering irons and plastic do not mix

Some time back I was trying to attach some wires and switches using conductive glue. The results were very poor. So I managed to wash the conductive glue away with a solvent and I tried to solder the bits together.

I ran into several problems. The soldering iron is massive (the fact that it has a very small cable and I don't have an extension right now so I had to sit on the floor in front of a power outlet is my fault of course) and the bits that I'm trying to solder are tiny, so it was hard to control everything. Some of the things I wanted to solder are magnets, and I'm afraid they'll lose their magnetism if I heat them up too much, so I was trying not to get them hot. Also everything was already attached to the plastic base so I was trying not to let anything get too hot.

The solder itself is a real pain. When heated it just curls up along the strip (if you've ever used a lighter to melt a strand of synthetic thread, it's basically the same thing) rather than melting off and flowing onto the components. So I had to cut bits of solder off and try to get them to sit on the connections (itself a difficult task) until I could melt them. Even then, rather than spread out over the connection like, say, superglue, it would just ball up on top and almost instantly harden in to a lump that wasn't even connected at all to the components.

The result was that the base melted a lot, and when I was done the curcuit didn't work. In a fit of fury I snapped the base and the plastic model into tiny pieces, cursing a blue streak the whole time and for a while afterwards. Let me tell you, after the amount of time, effort and money I spent on that one little model, I felt extremely dispirited. I have not recorded here just what went into finding and making all the parts, but for me it was a really big deal, all done when there's a lot of other things I could and would like to be doing. I very nearly swore off the hobby altogether right there.

Eventually though the thought of how much I had invested prompted me to try again. I decided to try the conductive glue again since before I had only shaken it, but reading the instructions again (which were written on the blister pack but not on the actual glue vial, I'm lucky I didn't throw the packaging away when I removed the glue) it said to stir the glue. Doing so, I realised that something - presumably the carbon conductive material - had settled into a very thick sludge at the bottom and it took a fair bit of work to even it out. Then I slowly built a test circuit, applying the glue then leaving for several hours to cure then coating in superglue to protect it so the connection would not get damaged in handling.

The results were not great. I estimate that the bulb is half as bright at best - it flickers inconsistantly - when the battery is connected to the circuit compared to connecting it directly to the bulb. So the conductive glue is just plain out of the question. I haven't given up yet though, my next attempt will be to carefully melt a blob of solder on the iron, then 'wick' it up with the strands of a copper wire, then let that rest in an indentation filed on the side of a magnet. Some bits might just be wrapped around each other then selotaped together, if possible. The whole circuit will be assembled with wires BEFORE being glued into the base, so I don't have to worry about melting plastic. With luck and a lot of effort, this might work - though probably not on the first try.

If it works, I'll have to buy the 8 quid model again. It's a nice model, but it's a simple one, I felt ripped off paying that much for it the first time, I'm not happy that I have to pay it again. This time though I have a better idea for the pose. I'll leave the bulb and attachment to the base for last, as now I have a better idea how it will work.

I'm writing this out of frustration, some days I really wonder why I'm bothering with these little pieces of plastic. Even though I can sometimes enjoy the painting, other times it feels like a chore, especially considering how much other stuff I want to do and how little time I have. Well, I guess as long as I don't try to force myself to paint and only do it when I feel like it I can't complain. Of course then I only get a figure actually painted once every couple of months...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some "themed" army lists

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and they started talking about the advantages of land speeders. That got me thinking lists again, and I came up with a few silly ones:

Librarian: 100
Dreadnought, missile launcher: 115
Dreadnought, missile launcher: 115
Dreadnought, missile launcher: 115
5 Scouts, missile launcher: 85
5 Scouts, missile launcher: 85
5 Scouts, missile launcher: 85
3 Land Speeder Typhoons: 270
3 Land Speeder Typhoons: 270
3 Land Speeder Typhoons: 270
5 Devastators, 4 missile launchers: 150
5 Devastators, 4 missile launchers: 150
5 Devastators, 4 missile launchers: 150
1960 points.

The point of this list was to squeeze in as many missile launchers as possible (perhaps vehicles with HKs could add a few more missiles, but I've decided not to go there). That's a total of 36 missiles per turn. There's a few points left for upgrades, eg: the Librarian can be upgraded to a Master of the Forge with conversion beamer for more long range power to go with the theme. The dreads can be swapped for cheaper scout squads for the same number of missiles, but the higherBS and overall toughness of the unit (plus the multimelta) justifies the cost in my mind.

But Blood Angels devastators get missiles for cheaper, a blood angel version of the list could have one dread and six scout squads for a total of 37 missiles. However, Space Wolves get cheaper Marine models and can have 5 missiles per squad, which gives us a more powerful list:

Wolf Guard Battle Leader: 70
10 Wolf Guard, 2 Terminator Armor and Cyclone Missile Launcher: 270
10 Wolf Guard, 2 Terminator Armor and Cyclone Missile Launcher: 270
5 Grey Hunters: 75
5 Grey Hunters: 75
3 Land Speeder Typhoon: 270
3 Land Speeder Typhoon: 270
3 Land Speeder Typhoon: 270
6 Long Fangs, 5 missile launchers: 140
6 Long Fangs, 5 missile launchers: 140
6 Long Fangs, 5 missile launchers: 140
1990 points.

The total is 41 missiles. Wolf Guard with cyclone missile launchers are cheaper per missile than scouts (plus they are relentless). I don't think there's any troops choice that gets long-range firepower so we just take the mandatory two units. I'm not actually sure this army is legal, there might be some wargear special rules or something, but there you have it.

A second idea I had was for an Adeptus Mechanicus list. I haven't really decided on an exact list, but the basic idea is 2 Masters of the Forge, 3 Thunderfire Cannons, and 3 Techmarines, for a total of 8 Techmarine models. That's probably going to be less than 800 points, so you can afford some Tactical or Assault squads with Rhinos to attach the tekkies to (or even Vaguard Veterans in a rhino, for the extra attacks). You could instead take some scouts with shotguns as Arbites or Storm Troopers or something, truth is I'm not sure what's thematically appropriate for the Adeptus Mechanicus other than servitors, but they are so aweful in this codex that I just can't see taking them.

The techmarines can be given servo-harnesses for some shooty power (flamer and a plasma pistol that can both be fired, a nice opening to an assault), and in assault the enemy either focusses their power-weapon attacks on them (2+ armour), thus sparing the rest of the unit, or suffers a couple of power-first attacks from the servo arms. A techmarine can also have a bolt pistol and power weapon, so they'll do some damage at I4 too.

Look to the Fast Attack slot for some anti-vehicle firepower - I'm partial to squads of 3 multimelta attack bikes as tough, mobile anti-vehicle firepower (they cost about the same as a squad of devastators with 4 multimeltas but can move 12" and fire, have more wounds overall, and are T5), and of course the aforementioned Typhoons for mobile missile power.

I like the Space Marine codex because it has so much variety, and there are so many little tricks (like Masters of the Forge making dreads heavy choices), that you can build some interesting armies. Having said that, there's a few units that I would like to see done a little differently (usually to better match the fluff), I might talk about some of these later.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Metallic primer

This figure was a gift from my brother. By which I obviously mean he got me a Sanguinary Guard box set. A surprisingly good choice considering he knows very little about Warhammer and a Games Workshop store tends to be overflowing with boxes of stuff that mean nothing to most people (hell, most of them don't mean very much to me either).

I did very little to this model (it's so detailed and themed there's not much to do), except trim the guard on his sword a little, and cut a dangling gem off his right shoulder that would have been at the wrong angle, and of course a little repositioning was needed. I didn't give him a jump pack because I didn't think he needed it. I considered a cloak, which would probably look cool, but I wasn't sure I could pull it off and decided against it.

I was trying to use a metallic primer called 'Plate Mail Metal' by Army Painter. It turns out that paint doesn't adhere to the primer coat very well at all, which completely defeats the purpose. It might be that I'm applying it too thickly, but I don't think that's the case since the primer is supposed to work as the base coat. I also have a blue primer from Army Painter, I haven't really done much with it but I think that works better, we will see. I considered painting him all in bronze with just silver weapons to look like a statue, but after finishing the bronze coat he looked a little flat so I went ahead and painted him as a proper Space Marine, colouring some bits gold to stand out, painting the gems and purity seals, as well as painting joints and pipes in boltgun to look functional.

Because the paint didn't like the primer very much, I had to apply the bronze in three or four very very thin coats to stop it from running. Now, I realise that this is the best way to do it anyway (short of an airbrush), but I'm never patient enough. However, because I had no choice this time, I ended up with a very nice smooth coat of bronze that I was very happy with. I used a light drybrush of gold to try to highlight the bronze, but I think it was too light as it doesn't seem to have made any noticeable difference. I didn't want to edge-highlight him though, so I relied completely on the dip for shading.

I used quickshade again, but this time I attached the model to a drill and used that to shake off the quickshade. This worked better, but there was still pooling on the base and, annoyingly, on the tip of the sword. I ended up sanding the varnish off half the blade and repainting it, then varnishing with good old 'ardcoat. The base I also repainted (over the varnish this time) and varnished with the Galeria matt (along with the purity seals). The rest I left shiny because it's all metal and gems, which look OK glossy.

The model seems to have been darkened a little by the shading (the gems especially look too dark now), which I wasn't really expecting, perhaps I need to switch to a lighter tone of quickshade. A faster drill might solve the pooling problem, but since that's not an option right now I'll just have to manually remove any pools next time (actually, I'm wondering if it can be watered down to make it easier to flick off, I'll have to try some experiments). It's certainly faster than using normal washes, and shades better with less effect on the main colour (take for example the feathers on the aquila - they look much better than anything else I can do short of manually highlighting each feather), and I think I like the uniform shadow colour more than different coloured washes.

Overall I'm happy with how he came out, and it felt as though he took less time and effort than many models have, which is probably thanks to the quickshade and the fact that he didn't need to be pinned or painted as separate pieces and put together afterwards. The gems were harder to paint than I expected, the teardrop-shape turned having more of an effect than you might expect (I was used to the perfectly round gems thus far), and they turned out too dark. He's a little darker overall than I expected, but that works because it makes the sword stand out more and serve as a focal point for the model.

I have decided to call him Amadeus, because he looks somehow Aztec to me (the golden colour scheme and sun-like mask perhaps) and Amadeus sounds vaguely Aztec, at least in my mind. Speaking of which, every time I think of the Sergeant I just finished, the name "Fistandantilus" pops into my head. I know it's silly and unimaginative, but I didn't choose it, the name pretty much chose itself, so there you have it. Perhaps I shall call him "Ant" for short.

I'm not sure what to paint next, I have a couple of Grey Knight terminators already primed with the metallic primer that will hopefully be quick to finish, but I've lost interest in Grey Knights now that I don't like the new codex and fluff and also everyone's painting them right now in exactly the same way (yes, I could paint them differently, but I just really like the official scheme). There's also a few conversions I'm in the middle of, but to be honest I don't feel like finishing them right now, I'd rather finish some painting projects. Maybe I'll get back to those sniper-rifle scouts?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

New varnish

First a quick update on my engine: after imported a model with a simple animation, I have confirmed that animation in my engine is still broken. I just don't have the time or energy to look into it these days though.

Now back to Warhammer. The big news recently was the SoB pseudo-codex. While I'm not actually a player (I just paint really), I'm still opinionated, and in my opinion: it sucks. My biggest complaint would have to be the fact that they lost Martyrdom and resistance to psychic powers, which were two of the most characterful rules of the army. The new way that you roll for Acts of Faith isn't bad (to be honest I prefer it to the old way of rolling against the number in the squad and needing less or more depending on the act), but the acts themselves suck and are rarely all that useful, plus one specific act per squad makes it feel less like a miracle and more like just a trick they've been taught (but aren't very good at yet). Or a psychic power, but more random and less useful. Nevermind the random amount of faith per turn which just takes all the strategy out of it (and out of list building, which I think is a shame), and which does not scale with the game or army.

But one thing that gets to me is the fact that you have to roll two dice now for faith: once for the amount and once (per unit) to see if it goes off. And either roll will ruin your carefully laid plans to... I don't know, land a couple of extra wounds, for all the good that will do. The point is, if I'm rolling to see if the power goes off every time anyway, why did I have to roll to see if I would have enough faith before? It may not sound like a big deal, but having to roll well twice for the marginal benefit of, say, re-rolling to hit with a squad that isn't particularly good at CC to begin with just doesn't seem fair to me.

I'll not discuss all the nonsense that plagues individual units (that would just take too long), but suffice to say that, while it seems the army will be playable (albeit with less variety in competitive builds), it's lost much of it's character, it's flavour.

I've been doing a bit of painting lately, and have finished my power-fist seargent. He's an early conversion from the Assault on Black Reach box. I replaced his pointing left arm with a power fist from the Black Templars box, I think the chains don't look too far out of place since he has chains on his torso as well. Originally I had replaces his right arm, which held a chainsword, with an arm holding a bolter that I built from several leftover pieces. The bolter hand later broke off by accident, and rather than glue it back on I decided to replace it with a bolt pistol (also from the Black Templars box), which makes more sense rules-wise even if it is more generic.

Initially he was going to be part of my squad of Crimson Fists. Then that nonsense with the varnish clouding over happened, and I decided not to waste any more time on them and to focus on my chapter, so I added the Sentinels Eternal icon to his right shoulder (I was considering switching to the right shoulder so terminators would match regular marines - I mean, seriously, why do they swap sides anyway?), and ended up forgetting to paint anything at all on his left shoulder. It doesn't matter, he was an experiment anyway.

After the cloudy varnish debacle I ran into last time (which has since come to plague my Chaplain, though luckily the effect there is less pronounced so far), I picked up some Galeria Matt varnish. As mentioned previously it didn't cloud up after a month on my window sill, so I decided to try it on a model. I was also trying a method of painting skin that I hoped would produce smooth gradients and a smooth surface, as well giving quick-shade a try. Plus I wanted to see if red worked well with the black-and-blue colour scheme I want for my army. Oh, and I didn't give him a backpack since, to be honest, I don't like them and I've decided my Sentinels will not wear them. I did add a magnet on his back so I can add a backpack later if I really need to.

No varnish or shading.


Matt varnish.

I was surprised by how well the quickshade worked, not only did it fit into crevasses in the armor, it also worked surprisingly well to shade the face. However, despite following the directions on the tin to 'shake 5 or 6 times' (actually I shook it far more times than that, but perhaps not as vigorously as necessary for fear of the model flying off), the varnish pooled in several areas. Next time I'll try attaching the model to the end of a drill, as I have read about somewhere on the internet.

The matt varnish did not work as well as I had hoped, creating the same satin-like sheen I have seen before. I'm not sure if that's because I applied it too thickly despite my efforts not to, I tried to add a bit more on his back afterwards where the effects would not be very noticeable, it didn't seem to help. I had to apply the varnish directly rather than watered down since in my experiments it didn't seem to work properly when mixed with water. There's also a strange effect on the surface when you look real close, although this might have been caused by my trying to brush it on as thinly as possible. Overall I'm not sure about it, I might try another varnish or go back to Purity Seal. Purity Seal has worked well for me in the past despite the stories I've heard, but using spray cans just takes a lot of effort because I don't have a good place to do it.

The red looks OK to me, I think I'll be using it for cloth, though probably not for armor (one of my ideas was to give models different coloured shoulders depending on rank, and I painted him with red shoulders to see how it looks, though I don't plan to actually go ahead with it). The chapter symbol doesn't look very good in bronze and black, I don't think pure bronze really works either, at least not on the rank-and-file. I'll try white and black next time. I might try giving the shoulder plates a white trim, or I might try smoothing the trim off entirely. I did consider a blue trim on a black base, I'm not sure how it would look but I feel a solid blue would work better.

I've been trying something fancy with a Cairn Wraith (love that model), hopefully I'll get back to that later, right now I'm trying to get a few models out quickly using simple colour schemes and quickshade. Hopefully, when things calm down here, I'll get back into programming too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lets try again

I'm back from holiday, ready to pick up where I left off. The varnish I left in the window for a month looks unchanged, so I'm going to try it on my next painted model, a powerfist seargent that I've begun work on.

I've not done any work on my engine, but I have found something interesting. There's an easy-to-use modelling program called Xnalara, an a lot of people have been converting models from games for it. Crutially, there's a script to import these textured, rigged models into Blender. Once there it's possible to export the model using my own exporter and import into my game engine! This means I have a ready supply of assets for testing purposes. I tested this with a Superman model extracted from Midway's Mortal Kombat vs DC by Nobby76 and Vega82:

I haven't tried animating it yet (the pose is currently baked in), that's next on my list. While I was playing around, I put this together:

That's the aforementioned Superman, Batman from Arkham Asylum converted by o0Crofty0o, and Flash from DC Online converted by RazKurdt. The models were posed in Xnalara, the JLA text was created in Blender, and then they were composited in Gimp.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time off for good behaviour

Got a holiday coming up, finally a chance to play some games!

I picked up a new matt varnish, I've been trying a couple of experiments with it. I've painted a base, coated half in gloss varnish, then (after leaving it a full 24 hours to dry of course) brushed on strips of varnish of varying thickness. So far it's looking good. Whether the varnish is thick or very thin it seems to give a nice matt. Watered-down varnish gives a slightly shiny finish that is uniform (it looks the same on both the gloss and bare paint), so I guess I won't be watering it down unless I'm after a satin finish. But hopefully I won't need to since a thick layer does not seem to go shiny the way other varnishes have.

But just to be sure, I've left the base on a window sill that catches the sun on sunny days. When I get back from my holiday in a month's time, I'll see how the varnish has held up. I obviously won't be doing any painting in the meantime.

I haven't done much painting in the last month, partly from being busy and partly from feeling a lack of enthusiasm. The varnish problems are a part of it, and the recent problems with unbalanced codices I'm reading about online is also a factor. Anyway, I tried an acrylic varnish remover on a clouded Crimson Fist model, but it didn't work (it helped a bit but then started taking the paint off the edges while there was still cloudy varnish on the flats - I suspect it's really meant for flat paintings). I also tried olive oil with limited success.

About the only progress I made was to strip the paint from my Harker model that I've been using to experiment with painting skin. Though I have yet to find a method that really works for me, Harker had lost all definition. I'm trying a new method on another model, but it'll have to wait until after I get back. I tried to strip the paint from the glowing Grey Knight, but for some reason I'm having trouble getting it all off.

I did however help my cousin paint a skeleton. It's her first mini, and I think it came out very well - I couldn't do much better myself. She seemed to enjoy it, I tried to show her a balance of techniques - hopefully enough to make it interesting and not so much that it bored her. The design on the shield is a stylised M, by the way.

In other news, work on my game engine has been progressing. Luckily the trouble with my arm turned out to be unrelated to the use of my laptop on the train, so I can keep working. I really want to get to the point where I have visible progress again, but it's looking like that will take a while. So for the forseeable future, I won't have any screenshots. That doesn't mean that I'm not getting anywhere though.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


The varnish I used on the Crimson Fists has gone slightly cloudy and it now looks (to my eyes at least) poor and inconsistent. I tried to take some photos, but you can't really tell anything is wrong from the photos, so I'm not bothering to post them.

I started painting those guys something like 4 months before I got around to actually finishing them. Even though I certainly didn't 'spend 4 months on them', it's still feels as if they took a long time for nothing. It's very disheartening. And it's worrying; I used the same varnish for Chaplain Sebastian. Is is going to get ruined eventually? Has it already started and I just can't tell yet?

What's more, it's off-putting: I keep hearing people complain about the various matt varnishes they've used. Sprays can go cloudy or 'powdery' if you use them wrong or the temperature or humidity is not suitable, and my own experiments with a range of satin and matt varnishes have mostly failed - in fact I was very happy when this one initially seemed to work because the problem of how to varnish my minis made it feel pointless to paint until I could find the solution.

Typically every matt varnish I've tried before this one goes shiny if you apply it too thickly, and if you apply it over a gloss coat it's hard to tell where you've covered and where you haven't unless you apply it thickly, so I don't know how to ensure that I get an even thin coat. Perhaps if I apply it, wait for it to dry, then go back and get the spot's that I've missed? I don't think that will work. I tried to water one down so I could apply it generously and it would dry to a thin even layer, but that particular varnish was not water soluble so it didn't work. I need to try thinning it again with some acrylic medium or flow improver or something.

So right now I'm back to feeling that there's no point in painting - not if I can't varnish properly. I need to find a solution, but I have so little time and energy and a number of other things that need doing right now. So even though I have several things waiting to be painted and several modeling ideas in my head, I guess it's going to be a while longer.

On a more positive note, I have found it possible to get about a half-hour of programming done on the underground on the way to and from work. On the negative side, since I discovered this my right shoulder has started to ache. A lot. And it's been getting worse.

On a related positive note, I have fixed some old bugs in my engine and cleaned up some rather messy bits, and I'm currently working on an early control system. I have an idea for a much simpler game than the one I described so long ago on this blog, in fact I feel I might actually have a chance of completing this one. If I can get more time to work on it of course. A few friends have even expressed a reluctant acceptance towards the idea of doing some modeling for it, though it's still early for that right now.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

More Crimson Fists

I finally finished my second batch of crimson fists. They took far longer than they should have, partly because I was busy and partly because I got bored and put them aside, and partly because I had an idea for the bases that I spent far too long working on before giving up.

Actually, I'm undecided about the bases; I lost one of the ones I was working on and it will be a little hard to replace. They don't look special or anything but they were meant to go together so it just won't work with one missing. I have no idea how I lost it, one day I counted them and there was just one less than there should have been. I have no idea where it could have gone, so I'm really annoyed about it.

Anyway, the flame came out a nice colour quite by coincidence. I had an idea of how to paint it that didn't work out the way I expected (fire is even harder to paint than I thought), and this was the result. Actually I like it, even if it lacks definition - I think it adds a nice bit of detail to the unit.

The transfers are the best yet, but still not perfect. I tried a new technique to apply them: after the models were varnished (to protect the paint) I washed white spirit over the shoulder then applied the transfer in the normal way (before the spirit evaporated of course) then washed more spirit on top. This softens the transfer so it sits better. After it's dry I apply another layer of varnish over the shoulder. You probably can't tell in these photos, but one model's transfer looks worse than the other three - that one I used microsol instead of spirit, and it didn't work as well.

I have four more models to paint for this unit, hopefully these guys won't take as long. After that I'll decide what to do about the bases. In all honesty, I will probably paint a couple of other figures first - I have a number of conversion projects in progress, though they are proceeding at, well, let's call it a 'relaxed' pace.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Abject Failure

I finally decided to try painting one of my Grey Knight models. Not, however, as a Grey Knight. The chaplain took a lot of effort, and I wanted to paint something quick and easy instead of another big project, so I decided to try painting a Ghost Knight. Mordrak and his Ghost Knights are probably my favorite fluff and special rule from the new codex (which, to be honest, is not saying much, but I'll leave that topic for later), so I figured why not start there.

Based on an idea I had for painting Legion of the Damned, I wanted to use glow-in-the-dark paints. I picked these up a while back with the intention of using them on the aforementioned Legion, but never got around to it. So this was an experiment in using those paints, and on achieving an "otherworldly" effect.

The basic idea was instead of the usual method of painted recesses darker and protruding areas lighter to achieve a natural lit effect, to paint recesses in white and higher surfaces darker, to make the model look as if it was lit internally and not reacting to actual lighting. Kind of like the ghosts in Ghost Busters, in a way. I planned to do this by painting a white basecoat of glowing paint then drybrushing it in blue.

The results were terrible. This was partly because of the paint not doing what I expected: it turns out that the paint dries clear, not white. So the metallic primer (I chose metallic with the assumption that it would help reflect the light outwards - that and I don't have any white primer right now) was not actually covered well, and I didn't get the basic colours I wanted. also, the glow effect was very weak and patchy (there are glowing particles in the paint, so a single coat does not give a smooth glowing effect, rather there are spots where it glows). So I had to apply a large number of coats of paint. But I was impatient and the paint took longer than normal model paints to dry, so I applied it too thickly (since it was clear a thin coat was barely visible to the eye so there was a strong temptation to load the brush and place a lot in each stroke, which I succumbed to). And the paint flowed very freely, so it ended up all pooling in recesses. This all made me even less patient and I gave up on having a nice model, so I just threw the paint on to see how thick it needed to be to glow nicely.

The result was that the model lost all detail and still looked metallic, albeit metal covered with something translucent. Then I rushed the drybrush and, because of the complete lack of detail, the drybrush looked terrible and covered too much. So I tried a white "wash"; white paint with a lot of water to fill the recesses (I mixed in some of the glowing paint figuring it couldn't hurt). That just made things worse. The final result? Complete abject failure.

As you can see it looks awful in the light. It doesn't look bad in the dark once it's had a good charge, but it's still not smooth and it takes a LOT of paint to get a reasonably bright glow. Here's a closer look so you can see the spotty glowing effect:

It's possible that those spots are partly due to the watered-down wash I painted over the drybrush, but I don't really think so - every time I checked it it looked spotty. Still, a lot of the problems are down to me not being familiar with the paint and rushing it's application. Actually, it's possible that my choice of model is not suitable either: Grey Knights have a lot of fine detail and different materials, the combination of flowing paper and detailed engraving means it's hard to tell what's happening without the colours. Perhaps a simpler model would be more suitable.

I plan to strip the paint from this model and try again. This time I will mix the glowing paint with white and apply it in very very thin layers, and stop when the white looks good instead of when it glows well. I'm thinking of either painting straight on the model (best done with plastic) as the glowing paint didn't stick to the primer very well. Actually, I suspect this metallic primer might not be very good for painting on as I noticed a little trouble with the Chaplain as well, although the problem seems to be much worse with this glowing paint than with my Citadel paints. Perhaps a wash and/or drybrush applied first might help.

Another thing to try would be to paint the model normally and then paint a few thin layers of glowing paint on top. Thus the model would look normal in the light and glow a little in the dark. Not the quick easy paint job I had in mind, and won't look as good under UV lights, but if I can get a reasonably strong glow it will still be kind of fun.

I also have some glow-in-the-dark clay, the problem is that it needs to be baked hard. I plan to use it for bases and perhaps eyes and blades, other bits of detail etc. However I don't have an oven right now so I can't bake it. I tried mixing it with greenstuff and milliput, but it the mixtures don't harden properly and don't glow brightly, so that's out. When I get an oven I'll come back to it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chaplain... of DOOM!

This is actually quite a milestone for me: this is the first model I've painted that I actually LIKE. I don't mean the results of my paint job, I mean the base model itself. Sounds stupid huh? The thing is, I like the 40K world and the space marine fluff, but I just don't like the standard space-marine models. They are supposed to be superhuman futuristic knights-templar, but they look like Star-Wars storm troopers with over-sized shoulders and poorly-designed backpacks. I can live with the shoulders (they are over-sized to allow room for painting detailed insignia and the like anyway), and the backpacks and helmets work for me on the heavy weapons crews, but overall the standard marine model doesn't really appeal to me.

So why did I paint so many? Why have I spent so long painting models I don't really like? Well, it seems I'm conservative by nature - I wanted to improve my skills before I painted the models I DO like - the Grey Knights, the Emperor's Champion... the Chaplain in Terminator Armor.

So I finally decided that it was high time to really start. My painting is not where I want it but I think it's adequate and I just don't have the time to invest in getting much better. Most inportantly I can't be bothered to paint any more models that I don't really care about, so from now on I'm going to concentrate on the ones I do. If I screw up, I'll just strip the paint and start again.

So here we are, my Chaplain in Terminator Armor:

He has a combi-melta/stormbolter (the melta barrel is magnetized but it presses too tightly against the barrels, some varnish and paint was scraped off the first time I took it off, so I'm leaving it on for now). The chaplain in terminator armor is the only model who I think justifies a combi-weapon since it only costs 5 points instead of the usual over-priced 15 (yes, you lose out on one bolter shot at 12-24" range - a small price to pay), and also I wanted his gun to look scary. I didn't want to remove the existing one, which has a fantastic ammo belt (and also a regular bolter would have looked tiny in his hands), and I hate the "stick a melta barrel over one of the holes in the storm bolter barrel", which I think is hideous. Instead I added a melta-pack from the space marine devastator kit to the back, replaced the existing barrels with a longer pair to balance the melta barrel length (and also to move them up - the old ones were much lower leaving very little room for the melta barrel). I also had to build up the front with greenstuff, which came out a little messy.

I left out the iron halo and weird thingies he came with, and I also replaced the hideously-unbalanced mace - the only bits of the original model I don't like. I actually wanted the mace used by the inquisitor model in terminator armor (the one with the gun over his shoulder) displayed in the old Deamonhunter's codex, but I have no idea where that is from so I settled for this Chaos Knight one instead.

Also note the right shoulder. Last time I forgot to point out the symbol of my chapter, the Sentinels Eternal, painted in freehand on the Scout's shoulder: an empty hourglass on a shield. OK, it's not obvious that the hourglass is empty, but it's the best I could do. Anyway, this chaplain is the second model to carry the symbol and this time it's not just painted on. I printed out a shield and hourglass, stuck them to a sheet of plasticard, cut them out as best as my clumsy mitts could manage, stuck them together and used them to make a mold. Then I cast a greenstuff shield in the mold and took it out while it was a little soft (luckily I had just got some instant mold, which does not stick to greenstuff so you can get it out while soft without damaging it), and curled it onto the shoulder.

The main body was painted metallic (Army Painter metal primer - I don't have time anymore and why risk losing details with more coats of paint?), then a layer of heavily watered down black with clear washing up liquid was painted over to get a very black metallic look. I wasn't really happy with how this turned out, I think just mixing black and boltgun would work better (in fact that's what I used for cleaning up after I made some mistakes later and it blended in quite well). The brass turned out a little dark but I figured that fit. I deliberately made the parchment very dark to differentiate it from the skull, which I wanted to stand out and be a focal point for the model. To that end I brushed it with plenty of skull white to get a really pale bone, which contrasts well with the black armor. I painted the eyes as black lenses so they would give the impression of an actual hollow skull, rather than the glowing red I believe the model on the GW site uses.

Unfortunately the model itself showed some problems, I suspect the GW mold is old at this point and has lost some detail. I had to do some cleanup work, especially on the left shoulder, including adding a stud (I forget where I read about this, but someone once suggested using the things in water filter cartridges, which worked quite well - there's a range of sizes so you can find one that fits it well with the ones around it) and trying to file some detail back in to the skull and crossbones. Shame, but I don't think it's too noticeable.

I'm happy with the model overall: black armor, white skull helm, big gun and a heavy blunt weapon - not someone you'd want to run in to in an alleyway late at night. The black is less metallic than I had hoped, the mace lacks depth, and the edge highlighting is a little cruder than I would like. On the other hand I'm proud of the gun and the gems look pretty good (might have to give them another layer of 'ardcoat though), the paper doesn't look too bad and the skull really pops out. So yeah, he'll do.

And yes, I know everyone is into Grey Knights right now. No, I don't like their new codex very much, but I still have the old metal models I bought a year and a half ago sitting around, and I still think they look great, so I'll probably be starting on some of them before too long. Might try to finish my scouts or crimson fists first though, we'll see.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Scout model

I haven't written for a long time; I've been too busy and didn't have anything to write about. However, I recently finished a scout sniper; the first model in my own chapter: the Sentinels Eternal. The colour scheme I'm planning is blue and black, with scouts having a darker palette than the normal battle brothers. This scout is a test model but is very close to how the final models will hopefully look.

Crappy photos due to several camera trouble. Nothing special going on here, paint-wise. The metal detail is Tin Bitz drybrushed with Dwarf Bronze, which created a dark copper look that I'm very happy with. The cloak is just a green base with two green sets of spots and another in Bleached Bone, drybrushed with camo green then washed several times with Devlan Mud and Badab Black. I wanted an olive-green color, but the washes overpowered the spots. I'm still looking for a better way to do it that doesn't require layering or blending (I don't have the time or energy). The skin ended up looked too pale due to a bleached bone drybrush, which looks especially bad due to very dark shading (it's actually not as bad as it looks in these photos, which came out too bright - the blue is actually also a lot darker than the photos make it out). I also threw some grass on the base just because the built-in rock under his foot looks silly without it. I may or may not use grass for the final models.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"In Your Face" Astartes army

I just had an idea for a Space Marines army list. I need to check the Infiltrate / Scout rules to see if this makes sense or can be improved, but the first version goes something like this:

Shrike (195)

10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)

8 Assault Terminators (320)

Fast Attack:
10 Scout Bikes (210)
10 Scout Bikes (210)
10 Scout Bikes (210)

Total: 1985 pts

The important thing is that Shrike gives everyone Fleet, and everyone has Infiltrate- this means they can start the game anywhere that is 18" away from the nearest enemy unit, and have an 18" assault range - just enough to touch the nearest enemy units, who then have to pile into them.

That guarantees that your entire army will be in their face on the first turn, barring terrain slowing you down (luckily scouts have Move Through Cover, and I think bikers are not slowed by difficult terrain, the Terminators might not make it but Shrike can split off to ensure that he at least can reach the enemy). If you get first turn, that's pretty devastating - 186 attacks from the scouts, 63 from the bikers, 32 from the termies (assuming claws for the sake of argument) and 5 from Shrike himself, for a total of 286 attacks on the first turn!

Obviously this is just an example, you would really want to trade a unit of Bikers or two for some melta and power fists, which would probably be a good idea since in real life there would be no-way to actually get all your units in close combat right away, but it's still fun to consider.

If you want a more interesting and slightly less spammy list, try this:

Shrike (195)

10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)

10 Sternguard Veterans - Drop Pod (285)
10 Sternguard Veterans - Drop Pod (285)
10 Sternguard Veterans - Drop Pod (285)

Fast Attack:
10 Assault Marines (190)
5 Assault Marines - Drop Pod (100)
5 Assault Marines - Drop Pod (100)

Total: 2000 pts

This time we drop the scout bikers and a couple of units of scouts for some Sternguard Veterans in drop pods - the 5-man assault squads give us super-cheap drop pods so we can drop the three Veteran squads in the first turn. That gives us close-up AP3 firepower to back up our (reduced) assault teams. Again, we will probably need to trade for some heavier firepower though.

The point is there's a lot of room for variety while sticking to the basic formula of putting everything in their face in the first turn. For example, first time I wrote the list I had a Librarian with Gate of Infinity instead of the drop pod to carry the third Sternguard unit forward. You can trade the 10-man assault marine squad for assault Terminators or Vanguard Veterans (with or without jump-packs), who obviously get an extra attack and all the wargear you can afford. Or you can trade one or both Veteran squads for a Dreadnought or two in drop-pods (if you can tie up all their anti-tank with your assault units then this is safer, or use smoke and/or cover when they land and assault in following turns), or for Heroic Intervention Vanguard Veterans (while they can assault enemies that your infiltrators may not be able to reach, you cannot predict which turn they will arrive in and deep strike scatter can hurt them). It might be a good idea to trade the small Assault squads for a Tac squad in a drop pod, to better hold objectives.

You know what? Let's try one more time, this time we'll try for a less spammy list than the first but more powerful than the second:

Shrike (195)

10 Scouts - Telion, Heavy Bolter, 3 Sniper Rifles, 5 CC weapons (200)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)
10 Scouts - CC weapons (140)

10 Assault Terminators (400)
Dreadnought - Drop Pod (140)

Fast Attack:
Land Speeder Storm - MultiMelta (75)
Land Speeder Storm - MultiMelta (75)
Land Speeder Storm - MultiMelta (75)

Total: 1860 pts

This time we use Land Speeders to give us a bit more range (by my calculations a scout unit assaulting from a Land Speeder Storm has a 24" assault range, or they can shoot and still assault 18") and some multi-melta firepower. Telion splits off in a 5-man group and snipes special models while sitting on an objective. The Dreadnought is vulnerable but still provides target saturation on the first turn and should put at least one melta attack into the back of a tank before he goes down. And we still have 140 points left, enough for some power fists or a small tac unit to hold objectives or a small Devastator squad with missile launchers or multi-meltas. Upgrading to a Furioso may be a better bet too thanks to it's better armor.

Let me stress that I'm only writing these lists for fun, I wouldn't actually build it - I like variety in my models, and I plan to build an army with as little duplication as possible. Still, it's fun to see what you can do with a codex.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New job

I just finished my first week at my new job at a SFX company in London. There's a lot to learn - I see it as a balancing act between reading and working, at least at first. Having said that I have yet to actually get to work, I'm still just starting to figure out how they do things here. It seems like a nice company though, surprisingly organized and they seem to treat their employees quite well. I do hope to fit in and prove useful.

I am quite busy with both the change in location and in profession (I mainly worked with games before), living out of a suitcase right now and trying to pick up a half-dozen new skills, so I don't think I'll be working on my engine for some time, though I do hope to do a little miniature painting.

Speaking of, I finally got the chance to step in to a Games Workshop yesterday. It's been months since the last time. Saw the Storm Raven, the front is kind of cool, very aggressive in a military, form-over-function kind of way - it really is a flying tank - but the tiny back just unbalances the whole damn thing. If I was ever to get one for my Grey Knights - not that I'm planning to - I would have to do something to make it a little more balanced.

But more importantly, I took a brief glance at the Space Wolves codex. Grey Hunters cost a point less than regular Space Marines but have an extra attack and the (very useful) counter-attack rule? What the hell? That's just disgusting. Downright obscene in fact. This blatant example of power-creep presents me with a conundrum. Do I play with the Space Wolves codex and take advantage of how powerful it is, or stick with the regular Space Marine codex in protest of this unbalanced filth (which, I reckon, is tailor-made for min/maxed WAAC armies)? A big part of me dislikes the idea of paying more for less with regular Space Marines, but the other part hates jumping on the 'latest and greatest' bandwagon and is annoyed at the first part for being so weak.

The other thing is that Space Wolves have some units that I really like, especially the greater versatility in Terminator use and equipment. At the same time I'm thinking of looking at Blood Angels, who also have some cool stuff. Regardless of what I decide to 'major in', I plan to get all the codices and buy/convert/paint any specific models that I like regardless of whether I actually use them or not, that's what I enjoy after all. I'll probably end up with one of those 'counts as' Space Marine armies in the end, and play them as different things on different days. Why the hell not right? Variety is the spice of life after all.

Also waiting on the Grey Knights. I can honestly say that the Grey Knights were a big part of what got me to finally take the jump into Warhammer 40K, they were always my favorite models and the Grey Knight books are still my favorite Games Workshop novels - each one is better than the last (bear in mind though that I certainly haven't read all the Black Library novels, still not started the Horus Heresy for example).

To wrap things up, there's a lot of changes in my life right now, sometimes I feel homesick but I'm trying to keep busy - I do have a lot to do after all - and I'm hoping for the best.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Idea for in-line kill-cam

I was playing Black-Ops at a friends house, the fact that you can play split-screen online makes it fun again - I might have to buy it just for that. Anyway, I died many times without any warning, which is a bit annoying. Of course it's fun when you insta-kill another player, which is why it's possible, but when you just fall over dead and you're not sure why (until you see the replay of how you died, if it's enabled), it can be annoying.

Then I had an idea. In some one-player games, when you kill an AI enemy in a dramatic way (e.g. a headshot with a sniper rifle), you get a slow-motion view of the kill from a more dramatic angle. As a repeatable example, in Stranglehold there is a special ability (I forget the name) where you take a single shot and, if it hits, you get to see the hit in slow motion from a better angle. So why not do that in an online game like Black Ops?

Let me clarify. In Modern Warfare and Black Ops, after you get killed you see a replay from your killer's point of view. My suggestion is; instead of waiting until after the player dies and falls to the ground, as soon as the player is officially "dead": stop, zoom the camera out a little to show the player, and in slow motion show them dying. If the get hit by a sniper bullet you will see the blood fly (and perhaps the bullet hit), if they trigger a claymore you can jump to an angle from above the player that shows the claymore, then show it explode and the player fall.

It won't work well for everything (so it can be applied selectively), but for some instant deaths (like the claymore or long-range sniper kill previously mentioned, which are not immediately comprehendable at the moment of death), it can avoid the momentary "how did I just die?" frustration while looking pretty cool. And there's room for a little cheating too. For example, if you do get killed by a sniper, the game can actually go back in time a little and follow the track of the bullet (camera exits the player's body, flies down to focus on the sniper, shows the shot, follows the bullet from behind on it's flight until it hits the player and we see them fall in slow motion) - basically the player himself is shown only in the frame he died in while the sniper can be shown only in the frame he took the shot, even if the two are actually a few frames apart, it won't look wrong because the bullet is supposed to be that fast. Whether or not that would look wrong for, say, a grenade-launcher kill I'm not sure, but it's probably worth a try right?

It won't impact the gameplay since the player is already dead and has lost control for a moment when it happens anyway, if the spawn time is shorter than the view time the player may be given the option to just skip it and get right back to the killing. Since these games save enough information to show the replay anyway, it shouldn't be technically hard to do, and of course it can be disabled by the player just like the current kill-cam. The player can view either the regular after-kill view or this in-line kill-cam view depending on the type of death.

Well, it's an idea. I wouldn't be surprised to see it done soon, the way slo-motion is being used these days - or perhaps it's already been used and I just haven't seen it?