Monday, November 25, 2013

Where is your Menoth now?

I've seen Berserkers before, but this one was different. It looked... wrong somehow, like such a thing should never have existed in this world. And that sound; when it vented steam I could almost hear words... I know you'll think me crazy for this, but I swear it sounded like it was trying to say "Kill me"...

I wanted the Khador Berserker for my army as it's cheap and can charge for free. But the model is one of the ugliest warjacks I've seen. The thing is, it actually has some reasonably nice elements, like the shoulder pads. After staring at it for a while, I finally figured out the two elements that most ruin it for me. The head and the exhausts. It has this stupid dinky little golf-ball head and these ugly squared exhausts.

Now I don't have any spare warjack heads. But it turns out the head is about the same size as a Space Marine helmet, and I've got plenty of those lying around. So I figured if it was going to look ugly, it would at least look ugly on my terms. Plus at least this way it's somewhat unique.

I also chopped the rear part of the body in half in order to reduce it's excessive bulk and get rid of the ugly exhaust pipes. It took some greenstuff work to meld the boiler with the front of the body, but I actually kind of enjoyed that. I gave it a single small exhast pipe that I made from a section of perspex rod; I figured that was good enough.

I painted it the body the same way as I did Jughead, except that I used the quickshade before applying the weathering. The idea was that this way the metal exposed under the paint looks "fresher" than the actual metal parts. In practice it didn't make all that much difference, it seems that the purity seal rather than the quickshade is largely responsible for dimming the metals. I don't know if that particular to purity seal or just a consequence of matting them down, I may need to run some tests.

I decided to paint the head white (which I didn't do a very good job of, but whatever, I figured it's good enough) as that's a common colour for space marine veterans heads, and I wanted it to stand out from the rest of the model and serve as the centre of attention. I want people to look at the model and think "Ok, it's a warjOH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT! IT'S A MONSTER! KILL IT WITH FIRE!". Hence it's name: the Abomination.

So yeah, I kinda like him in the end. I actually rushed to finish him so I could stick the arms on in time for a Warmachine "Mangled Metal" event. The idea was to bring a 25pt warjack-only army, which suited me fine. Unfortunately, for some reason I though we were playing at 30 points, so picked up a Spriggan, which together with the Berserker, Juggernaut and Destroyer came to 27 points. When I got there and realized it was a 25 point event, I had to take the Abomination out of my list. Another player lent me a Decimator to use instead of the Juggernaut, which gave me a 23 point list, so that had to do.

However, being somewhat distracted, I actually used him instead of the more expensive Destroyer, meaning I actually played my first two games four points down. Not that it mattered; the only damage my first opponent took was from himself, and the second assassinated my caster at the very start of his second turn.

In my first game my opponent was using a Cryx list with three heavy warjacks that had three attacks each and, through a combination of built-in abilities and an event-specific upgrade, all generated focus (I think they were generating a total of four focus points a turn). He moved them forwards so they were right in front of my jacks, then used a feat that prevented me from attacking them. So there was pretty much nothing I could do in my turn but shuffle around a bit. I ran my Decimator past him in order to try to reach his caster, but got bogged down by rough terrain. Next turn he killed my Spriggan and Juggernaut, while my Decimator was too far from my caster to get focus and so couldn't run. After he surrounded my Decimator, and ran his caster far away, I conceded.

In the second game, my opponent castled up in his deployment zone. I moved all my jacks up, with Sorscha hiding behind the Decimator but moving up with them in order to stay in focus-allocation range and not leave them dry like last time. I think my opponent was playing Kreoss, who's feat is that he knocks everyone down. It turns out that knocked-down models don't block line of sight, so he simply shot over the fallen Decimator and killed Sorscha before the fight had event begun.

In the third game I played against a Cygnar list with Striker, two Stormclads, a Defender, and maybe something else. This time I woke up and played the Destroyer instead of the Juggernaut, so I was only 2 points down. He didn't move forwards very much, so I came to him. Running my spriggan up my right flank I ended up just in melee range of Striker. Not wanting to take a free strike from moving away, he attacked the Spriggan with Striker and a couple of jacks, but unlucky to-hit rolls saw the Spriggan survive the round (I was at def 12 thanks to the event-specific upgrade I had chosen for it), although it was disrupted. It didn't help that he spent some of his focus casting a defensive spell on Striker, which I didn't think he needed seeing as he also feated for +5 armour. In my turn I couldn't allocate any focus to the Spriggan so it took a few ineffectual swings at Caine while the rest of my army moved up. In his turn he finished off the Spriggan, but he made a mistake by attacking with Striker first, so he couldn't move away afterwards. This meant Sorscha was in range for an assassination run over the Spriggan's dead body. Funnily enough I hadn't realised this until he told me about it; my plan had been to arc spells into him through the scenario arc node, which wouldn't have been enough to do the job. Anyway, she wind-rushed then charged in and just managed to finish him with her last attack. So yeah, my first victory. Ever. Yay!

I played a fourth game against a Cygnar player, who wanted to try to run Stormwall in an attempt to destroyed the arm-25 node that was part of the scenario. I had been asking him about Kraye, so he took him with two hunters to fill out the list. Watching a collosal with it's speed doubled by Kraye run 20 inches over the table was slightly scary. Next turn he did something (I don't remember if it was Kraye's feat or a spell) that boosted all his shooting attack rolls. Then he reminded me that the Stormwall had an upgrade that increased it's shooting range by 4 inches, which meant it's main guns had an 18 inch range. Let me tell you something; watching my jacks move forwards four inches, then watching a colossal move forwards 10 inches and fire 18 is rather depressing. Anyway, he found line of sight to Sorscha and a few shots later it was over.

Since that game finished so quickly we played again, this time he replaced the Stormwall with a Stormclad and a Centurion. I ran forwards while he shuffled around a bit, then I decided to attack the arc node with my Spriggan while the other two jacks caught up. Eventually I managed to put 15 points of damage on the arc node, but he managed to take off the last five. This actually cleared an opening for my Spriggan to charge his jacks. While the Spriggan fought the Centurion and one of the Hunters, he charged my Destroyer with his Stormclad and arced lighting in to Sorscha, who was in base contact. He didn't roll well enough though, and she was left with seven damage boxes (and the Destroyer with eleven). After my jacks wrecked his Stormclad and his Hunter, he used the second hunter to take out the Destroyer (he just managed to put exactly eleven damage on it), then moved Kraye around the engaged Spriggan to put boosted rifle shots into Sorcha. He was rolling hot at this point, and his second shot (of three) was more than enough to kill her.

So five games, one win. Not bad really, and it was fun. I did find the slow speed of Khador's jacks to be a big disadvantage, especially when rough terrain enters the equation. Sorscha's feat is a lot less useful when they can so easily shake it off with a few focus points - although poor positioning was a big part of the problem. Every game it seemed like she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Loosing didn't bother me really, but something else did. Maybe it's just the nature of this kind of jack-only event, but I noticed that unless they had some ready gimmick - like the Cryx player's feat preventing me from attacking him, or the Stormwall - everyone preferred to just castle up in the back and wait for me to enter their charge range, so they could get the first round of attacks. Yes, I get that it makes tactical sense, but I just feel like it put the burden on me to move forwards and let myself get attacked in order for the game to be fun, and not just be two armies staring at each other not moving.

It just feels like a problem inherent to the system: there's no degree of randomness in movement, and getting the first turn of combat is a big advantage, so whoever is better at mentally measuring ranges and is more stubbornly willing to wait the other player out is in a better position to win. I expect this to be much less of a problem in larger games with more units and better objectives, I guess I'll see.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Perfect Base

In a previous post I showed a picture of a 30mm base I was working on. Well, I finished it, and it didn't even take too long (not compared to the custom bases I was building from breadboard and plasticard anyway!), and it's a hell of a lot better than all my previous bases. It's indistinguishable from a normal 30mm base (with the recess filled in), it's faster and easier to make, and it's much more scratch resistant. I think the real breakthroughs were the improved components I got my hands on, slightly thicker 30mm base that's just deep enough for everything, and me getting a little better at soldering.

Since this was an early prototype I didn't want to spend too long on the miniature on top, so I grabbed a Haloclix Cortana mini that I had lying around. Not only would there be no virtually assembly or painting involved, it would give me an opportunity to try and fit all the components - including the LEDs - in the base for a real "worst case scenario".

And it turns out it was a worst case, for one main reason. Cortana pretty much had to be right in the centre of the base, which meant that the LEDs had to sit right in the centre inside, which meant the battery had to be pushed out to the edge, where it just didn't quite sit right. As a result it's a bit fiddly to get the battery to actually work, and it can slip just enough to cut the power while handling the mini. But I think I might be able to fix that in future bases, and it won't always need to be pushed that far out anyway. So overall this base was a great success!

While I'm very happy with how the base worked out, there is a small problem with the overall miniature. Light from the base just doesn't reach her head, and it's only really her feet that light up. In the light it doesn't look that bad, like she's a hologram and there's just a little extra light "leaking" from the projector in the base, but in the dark it doesn't work very well, and my paint job just makes it worse.

The base model looked very un-detailed, so I wanted to use a wash to bring out the detail and depth a little. I also thought I could probably do a better job of the "data lines". I tried to strip the paint off, but Dettol didn't seem to have any effect, so I settled for just a wash on top.

I primed it with Purity Seal, then carefully painted on a 1:1 mix of Asurmen Blue wash with Lahmian Medium, making sure it didn't pool too much. I then added pure Asurmen Blue directly into a few areas where I thought it still needed more contrast, like the face. I then varnished it with Purity Seal.

While this did help a bit with the detail, it darkened the figure a lot more than I expected. It looks more detailed but less transparent in light, and I think it just has even less light reaching the upper parts of the model in the dark.

Overall though everything worked out quite well, and it didn't take much time at all. In fact I mostly finished this model over a month ago, but for some reason I wanted to finish Daedalus before finished her and posting pictures. After all, he was assembled and working almost a year ago, I figured he deserved to be finished first. Besides, if I didn't finish him before finishing her, I probably would have been too busy making models with the new bases to ever get around to finishing him.

Just for fun I decided to take some pictures of them together, and those photos came out really well:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The long overdue light-up Marine

I actually finished assembling this guy almost a year ago (according to the dates on the photos), in fact I primed him at the same time as my first light-up model. I guess I was a little burned out on Space Marines as I haven't painted any since these scouts, and they don't really count as they aren't even wearing power armour. I was pretty burned out on trying to put lights in my models too, as I'd been working on it for ages by that point.

But as I mentioned in a previous post, I've made great strides in making powered bases recently, so I thought I'd finish off the last of my old prototypes. Plus I really liked the model as I put a fair bit of work into the conversion, so I thought I might as well paint it. Fair warning, this is going to be a REALLY long post as a LOT of work and experimentation went into this guy - if you count this then I've been looking at lighting up my minis for well over three years now - and I wanted to write about it for my own benefit.

I was building an assault squad back in 5th when vehicles were everywhere and it was traditional to put a "hidden fist" in every squad to give it punch. As I'm not a huge fan of the aesthetics of power fists, I opted for a hammer instead. And just to give him that truly heroic resilience, I added a shield as well. The way wound allocation went back in fifth, I could have allocated any low AP attacks to him instead of regular attacks, meaning I could allocate wounds in such a way that his survive-ability wouldn't be affected but that of his squad would be greatly enhanced. I reckon it's still how I'd run an assault sergeant in sixth to give him some punch in challenges.

I call him Daedalus. When you say "Icarus" people think "Flew too close to the sun: wings melted, died". Well, Daedalus was his father, he built the wings, and he didn't fly too close to the sun and didn't die. In other words, he was the one who knew what he was doing.

I tried to put an LED in his hammer, but I just couldn't fit two cables down the shaft without taking out too much material and compromising the strength. In the end I decided to leave that for another model and just put an LED in his jump pack.

However, just to make things harder on myself, I decided to make the jump pack removable. Well, OK, it was to increase his versatility and it also didn't sound much harder at the time, but it turned out to be quite frustrating to get it to work. Still, the result is a more versatile model.

To do this I used two magnets which served to attach the jump pack and carry the current. Now, you can't really solder a wire to a magnet without destroying, or at least weakening, it's magnetism. So what I did was solder wires to magnets, then let that stick itself to the back of the actual magnet that formed the connection. Even without magnetism of it's own, it would still be ferromagnetic allowing the second magnet to attach to it. The second magnet would then be glued in place in the model, and the same arrangement would be repeated on the other piece.

I wanted the pose to be very dynamic, with his whole body twisted back and his arm drawn back to deliver a crushing blow with the hammer, his other arm holding up the shield to block incoming fire until the last moment. It took a little work to pose the arms (Space Marine arms aren't usually posed held too far out from the body as it can interfere with the pauldrons on the shoulders (let's face it, those things aren't designed for letting the wearer do anything as unnecessary as raising his arms), but it came out OK in the end.

I don't like the two-piece GW thunder hammers, I just wanted a single massive block of hammer (like the Coteaz or the Master of the Fleet), so I made one out of greenstuff. The arm/shaft was a Sanguinary Guard axe arm (I may have had to file some gems off, not really sure). The shield was a Celtic Shield from Scibor Miniatures.

What with the big old hammer and decorative shield, I wanted him to look "knightly" and gothic. However I also wanted to keep his armour as utilitarian as possible - on planes and race cars every ounce counts, I figured a guy who goes flying through the air for the Emperor would value every bit of speed and range over ostentatious un-aerodynamic decoration. And purity seals? Flappy bits of paper that would get torn off in the rushing air or sucked into an air intake or something? Forget about it! So I used the simplest, plainest parts I could - the weapons being the exception.

I was using Black Templar heads on the rest of the squad, so I wanted his head to look a little different. I took a Grey Knight head and filed the front down to make it less pronounced, then filed some new "air" holes in the front left side. The result looks about halfway between a Grey Knight and a Black Templar helmet. This model was from the first batch using my new shoulder pads; I take plain shoulder pads, file off the rims to make them a little smaller, and fill any details. I did give him a slightly more "archaic" torso than the standard assault marine, and greenstuffed a shield across the front to replace the existing symbol (I think it may have been a Black Templar symbol). Of course I sculpted the Sentinels Eternal symbol on his left pauldron. A standard jump pack would not have left room for his hammer and would have blocked his view, plus I would have had to use 2 LEDs instead of one, so I used a Sanguinary Guard jump pack (sans wings) instead.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the model except that I wanted to paint him in metallics. I've already got a Grey Knight and I'm hoping to paint a bunch more eventually, and I already have a bronze marine, so I decided to go darker on the body with bright details for contrast. I basecoated him in Calthan Brown then Tin Bitz. Some details were painted up to Dwarf Bronze, and most of the decorations were brought up to gold. I washed him with Devlan Mud, but that just dulled the Tin Bitz without adding any shading or contrast, so next time I won't bother. I then edge highlighted with one shade higher so Tin Bitz was highlighted with Dwarf Bronze, Dwarf Bronze with gold, and gold with a mix of gold and Mithril Silver.

At this point there wasn't any contrast on the brighter metals, so I carefully painted Army Painter Quickshade strong tone onto the bronze and gold areas. I ended up giving the shield a couple of layers to really create contrast, then carefully touched up the gold on the raised areas.

I hadn't sculpted anything onto his right pauldron as I didn't have any ideas, so I decided to leave it smooth and paint something on. While painting I came up with the idea of putting lines of "text" across it to make it look like he had scripture engraved into his armour. The thing is, once I had done that (in Mithril Silver for maximum brightness), the rest of his armour looked really boring. I think it might have been fine if he was in brighter colours, like gold or silver, but as it was my original plan to keep it plain was backfiring. So I went ahead and just painted "scripture"across every bit of armour large enough for me to scribble a line across.

I think that turned out quite well actually; it makes him look very devoted as the only decoration on his armour is his chapter symbol and his holy texts, plus it's a rather unique effect (I don't remember seeing it used to this extent before anyway). The size and quality of the "text" is highly inconsistent, but it's the best I could do over so many different hard-to-reach areas, so I'm happy with it.

I originally considered painting the hammer head in gold to match the shield, but I wanted it to stand out, and the idea of white marble really appealed to me. I found a tutorial written by Abaroth on how to paint various shades of marble, and while there's still room for improvement in my technique, I think it came out reasonably well in the end.

I used this piece of wall to practice painting marble; each section is slightly different.

I varnished him in 'Ardcoat as it brightens the colours a bit and I figured he would look good shiny. I used a Vallejo brush on matt varnish for the base and hammer shaft. It's the only brush-on matt varnish I've found that actually works, and it works really well and dries quickly.

Of course, it was always the lights that took the most work. After trying a number of different approaches, I settled on making a completely new base from breadboard and plasticard. This allowed me to make it a bit more spacious by not sloping the sides, create cut-outs in the sides for the battery and switch, and to save room by not needing wires. Soldering was a whole lot easier, and it made it much easier to fashion a terminal / battery retaining "spring" from a paperclip soldered into the existing holes. On the down side, I was still figuring out liquid greenstuff at the time and I didn't to a very good job of filling the holes in the top to a smooth finish, but luckily a thick layer of paint and good matt varnish seem to have done a good job of hiding the problem.

I tried using a disc cutting saw on a pillar drill to cut the breadboard disc, but it created a large hole in the middle, which was a problem. I found I could get a smaller hole when I just snapped a roughly circular disc out of breadboard, attached a small screw through the middle, and used the drill to file away the outside against a large file until it was the right size. You can see it on top of a standard base in the third photo:

I used a circle cutter to cut plasticard discs. When I tried to cut into the plasticard using the blade in the typical fashion it took half an hour of finger-blistering effort to cut out a disc. I mean that literally; it took half an hour and I had blisters afterwards. And the edge was a bit of a mess too. The problem is that the blade got wedged into the the thick plastic and it was very difficult to continue to exert downwards force. However, when I tried spinning it the other way, I found that the back of the blade carved neat little strips of plastic off the top, and within five minutes I had a clean disc of plasticard in my hand.

After assembling the inner components of the base, I put a ring of plasticard around the outside (with channels cut right through for the battery and switch), filled it with milliput for strength and weight, and capped it with another thin disc (with cutouts around the magnet and "spring" in order to keep the thickness down). The result is a functional powered base of the same diameter as a standard GW 25mm base, and only a millimetre or two thicker.

I forgot to take a WIP picture of the components, but here's the finished base.

This base took a lot of effort to make, with careful positioning of component on the breadboard, scratching off sections of copper, and shaping of breadboard and plasticard necessary. The result is not the same shape as a standard base, it looks a little rough, and the switch and battery slot are visible from the outside. It's also very vulnerable to scratches around the switch and battery slot. My new bases are much better and I'm finding them easier to make, but more on that in my next post.

As a parting shot, here's a picture of my first successful lit model, but with a new battery (unfortunately it seems the battery I used when taking pictures for the old post was a little run down and the pictures didn't end up as impressive as a result):