Friday, September 17, 2021

Gallamaximus Decimus Meridius, Gallaxadiator

I picked this guy up for the rules more than for the model. When I finally bothered to take a proper look at the model, I was very surprised. I've never seen a model like this: practically every part of the model has a different, almost unrelated, type of surface/texture. It's actually insane. His tail has an organic-looking blade-thing, but his arm blades look like an artificial housing, with a pattern that doesn't really match any other part of the model. His tail is sort of segmented, with what looks like a protruding spine; he doesn't really have protruding bones anywhere else though. Except for the "claws" on his chest that hold... crystal balls or something? His neck alone has like three different types of textures that don't repeat anywhere else: mechanical tubing and some weird collar plates. He does have what look like armour plates on his midriff, so that's something, but they don't look all that similar and there aren't any others. His back is covered in bumps/nodules, but we don't see them anywhere else. His shoulders are muscular, but his biceps look like they're bursting out of splits in the skin; they kinda look like eyeballs actually. But the muscular areas of his legs have a different look, with a network of raised seams running across them - again, this is not seen anywhere else. His shins are covered with what looks like sporting protective gear, they don't look like any of his other armoured bits. And then of course the original model has these bizarre boney cornucopia's sticking off his shoulders.

My normal painting methodology is to pick different colours for different types of surfaces to indicate that they are made of different materials. Well, that was never going to work here. So I settled on using him to experiment with my new iridescent colours. I hadn't used these before, and I figured the model's unusual nature and origin would be a good fit for these non-traditional paints. I would not worry too much about the different textures and give him a fairly simple paint job, relying on the paints and airbrush to create visual interest. But first I would replace that crap on his shoulders with proper wings.

To start with I sanded the weird webbed layer off the bottom of his feet; I have no idea what that hell that thing was supposed to be. Then I carved the housings off his shoulders with a chisel-blade hobby knife. After some searching I found some suitable wings on a model called "Demon Hunter - World Of Warcaft" from White Werewolf Tavern. I scaled them down to 60%, pinned them to the model, and then sculpted over the join with a sort of bumpy texture to match the texture of the back.

I primed in Vallejo 73.660 Gloss Black Surface Primer using my airbrush. I then sprayed Green Stuff World 2585 Metal Filters Green Interference from around 45 to 60 degrees from below. I sprayed Green Stuff World 2582 Metal Filters Blue Interference onto the wing membranes from both sides; I used my 0.2mm airbrush and tried to avoid the "fingers" of the wings, but I wasn't too happy with how it looked. After this I sprayed Green Stuff World 2583 Metal Filters Purple Interference from above. I had some trouble with this paint; I guess I didn't shake it up enough because it seemed to have settled a lot more than I realised. I discovered this because it seems it settled on the top of the bottle, blocking the nozzle. So when I squeezed it to try to get the paint out the whole nozzle flew out and dropped a bunch of paint everywhere. I cleaned it all up, but the resulting purple coat on the model was not as metallic or shiny as I had expected.

I went back and brushed the Blue Interference over the wing membranes to make it cleaner and stronger; especially over the tops of the wings where the purple layer had covered up the blue. I also used some Green Interference to clean up the wings and create a sharper boundary with the blue.

Anyway. I brushed Vallejo 72.715 Game Air Hexed Lichen over the chest cavity, then picked out the stones in The Army Painter Warpaints Ice Storm. I painted successively smaller areas on each stone in The Army Painter Warpaints Crystal Blue, Vallejo 72.021 Game Color Magic Blue, and Scalecolor SC-54 Navy Blue. I drybrushed over the transitions with each paint to blend the colours. They were looking too dark near the end so I pushed up the brighter areas with a final drybrush of the Magic Blue.

I brushed Vallejo 72.715 Game Air Hexed Lichen over the eyes, then went over it completely with Scalecolor SC-54 Navy Blue, then covered that completely with Vallejo 72.021 Game Color Magic Blue. I rather carelessly drybrushed the Magic Blue around the area for a pretty crappy glow effect. I really shouldn't have rushed this step so much. I painted the centers of the eyes with The Army Painter Warpaints Ice Storm, then put a small spot of Vallejo 72.701 Game Air Dead White thinned with Formula P3 Mixing Medium in the lowest pair of eyes. I then applied a thin wash of Citadel Colour Shade Drakenhof Nightshade across the entire eye, then went back and applied it more strongly around the edges. The wash darkened the eyes a bit too much so I ended up re-applying the spot of Dead White.

I painted the gloss black primer back over all the areas that would be gold, and then brushed on several layers of Green Stuff World 2586 Metal Filters Gold Interference. I used this over a regular gold thinking that it might match the other colours better, but I don't know if it actually made a difference.

I also used the black primer to darken the inside of the mouth, after which I picked out the tongue in Blue Interference, which I also applied to the tail spike. I had considered doing the entire tail spike in gold, but I felt that might be too much. In retrospect it might have been the better option.

I tried applying a wash of Citadel Colour Shade Druchii Violet to the bumps on the back as a test, but I didn't like the results so I ended up shading the entire model manually, by painting Vallejo 72.715 Game Air Hexed Lichen - heavily thinned with water and medium - directly into pretty much all the recesses on the whole model. I tried to use to lightly shade the creases in the wing membranes as well, but to do this I thinned it even further with water and it ended up too watery and didn't flow the way I wanted.

I varnished first with my usual Vallejo 26.517 Gloss Acrylic Varnish, however while I would normally follow with a coat of matte varnish, in this case I decided I liked the shiny glossy look. But I still wanted another layer of varnish, so I applied a quick spray of Alclad II ALC600 Aqua Gloss Clear. In my experience this goes on completely invisible, having no effect on the surface finish whatsoever (unless you apply it too heavily, which is possible since it's very hard to see how much you've used - it really is quite invisible).

While this guy was an interesting experiment and a learning experience, I'm not really all that happy with the results. The iridescent effect doesn't really work the way I had expected; it seems the angle you spray from is important, since I sprayed from above and below he shifts colours as you raise or drop your view, but not as your view rotates around the model - which is how you would normally want it to work. The gemstones in the chest don't look as good as I had expected them to either, perhaps because I overdid the eyes?

Overall he's... OK, but I don't particularly like him. Well, I never really liked the model that much to begin with, so I guess that's fine. He does have a crazy amount of overhang in pretty much every direction; I'm not sure how hard that will make him to play with, but I know it will make him very hard to transport, so it'll probably be a while before I figure out a solution... if ever. Looks like I still need to paint some most monsters if I want to actually play full-sized games.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Original King

With Godzilla Terra Khan complete, the natural choice for my next monster was of course King Kondo. Once again I was faced with painting a monster who's cinematic inspiration has a very plain and mostly black colour scheme that would look quite boring if translated directly to miniature form. So, using photos of gorillas for reference, I tried to find a balance between realism, visual interest, and the cinematic source.
He went together quite easily, being mainly a two-piece model (OK, the chains were seperate so technically it was four pieces). One of his arms was a separate piece, and while it would probably have been fine to just glue it in place and be done, I felt it would look more natural with some additional fur sculpted over the seam. I also found his feet were quite flat/thin, and I didn't like the and they stood him at, so I bulked up his soles and changed the angle a bit. That required some additional fur as well.
King Kondo
I primed using Vallejo 73.660 Gloss Black Surface Primer. I then established a zenithal highlight on the skin by airbrushing Vallejo 70.862 Model Color Black Grey followed by Vallejo 70.992 Model Color Neutral Grey. I wanted the veins to not just be the exact same skin colour (but lighter), so I mixed some Black Grey with Formula P3 Menoth White Highlight to get a slightly warmer medium grey. Similarly for the scars I wanted to use the skin colour combined with a flesh colour, a sort of greyish pink... which I have hard time visualising. I tried to mix something like that up using Black Grey with Formula P3 Ryn Flesh, but it wasn't pink/red enough so I added some Citadel Colour Base Mephiston Red. This gave me a dark desaturated purple colour, which I decided was good enough.

I basecoated the fur in Green Stuff World 1831 Acrylic Color Choco Brown. I drybrushed all over with Citadel Layer Skrag Brown, then I drybrushed surfaces facing generally upwards with Formula P3 Rucksack Tan, and finally I lightly drybrushed the surfaces pointing directly upwards in Formula P3 Jack Bone.

I filled in the eye sockets with Vallejo 70.950 Model Color Black, then filled them in with Formula P3 Menoth White Highlight. I went back in and painted a large dot of the Black. I saw in photos that gorillas often had amber eyes, I figured a bright saturated red would be close enough and would stand out more so I carefully placed a smaller dot of Citadel Colour Base Mephiston Red on top. I did have to very carefully touch up the black outline afterwards.

I filled the mouth with Formula P3 Ryn Flesh, then picked out the teeth in Formula P3 Menoth White Highlight. For the nails I took the mix of Black Grey and Ryn Flesh I had been trying to use for the scars and added Menoth White Base. I don't think the Ryn Flesh actually contributed noticeably to the final colour. I added more Menoth White Base to the mix for the tips of the nails.

I basecoated the manacles and chains in Citadel Base Leadbeltcher. I drybrushed Citadel Colour Chainmail along the upper halves, then Vallejo 72.052 Game Colour Silver along the upper parts. This didn't create as much contrast as I had hoped, so I went over the topmost bits with a drybrush of Scalecolor SC-66 Metal N' Alchemy Speed Metal. I then glazed a mix of Leadbeltcher and Vallejo 71.073 Model Air Metallic Black with a lot of Formula P3 Mixing Medium and water along the lower parts, followed with a glaze of just the Metallic Black with Mixing Medium and water on the very lowerst parts.

With this all done, I slopped on a generous amount of The Army Painter Quickshade Dip Dark Tone, spreading it and preventing pooling with a brush. After this dried I found it had pooled too much on the tongue, so I went over the tongue again with Ryn Flesh, then carefully shaded it with a little bit of Citadel Shade Seraphim Sepia. I also touched up the Menoth White Highlight on the teeth.

I had been counting on the dark brown dip to tie the skin and fur together, but I wasn't satisfied with the result; the fur was too bright and saturated and the skin was not warm enough. So I lightly glazed over the skin with Seraphim Sepia, Mixing Medium and water (maybe around a 2:2:1 ration) to try to just give it a bit of warmth. Then I washed the fur with a mix of Citadel Shade Nuln Oil, Mixing Medium and water (again around a 2:2:1 ratio); alowing the wash to pool rairly heavily in the recesses of the fur. The glaze over the skin wasn't terribly even but it did add some subtle warmth, and the wash over the fur knocked down the colour saturation a bit and brought the shadows to a darker and more neutral black. All together the difference was subtle and yet to my eyes tied the fur and skin together much better, vastly improving the overall effect of the paintjob.

Lately I've come to the conclusion that the kind of edge-highlighting I like doing on things like armour plates at 35mm doesn't feel as good to me on these smaller scale models; I feel stuff like zenithal highlights feels better here, though I'm not sure how far to push the contrasts.

While I was using similar "quick painting" techniques to my Terrasaurs, with mainly airbrushing, washes and drybrushes rather than manually painted highlights and shading, I faced slightly different challanges compared to Terra Khan. Colour selection was the big thing here, as I needed to try to be more realistic. As a result I ended up mixing a lot more paint in an attempt to get subtle colour variations.

I think the end result could be better if I was willing to do more manual work, but to be honest the sculpt didn't really grab me the way some other Monpoc monsters have. Still, I'm happy with the final piece; I think it looks good and is actually much closer to King Kong than my Khan is to Godzilla. So that's something.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Guilt-Free CNC!

I've had a lot of ideas for things to do with my CNC router. But I've been reluctant to do much with it as it's quite noisy, and I don't want to disturb the neighbors. What I needed was an enclosure that would drop the decibels down to a civilised level. For a while I was trying to come up with a design that would not only hold the router, but also a vacuum connected to the dust boot so the machine could run clean and it would all be nice and quiet.

But that was a very ambitious idea; too ambitious, and to be honest just not really neccessary: a simpler enclosure would contain the dust and I could just vacuum it up after each job was done. So I finally settled on a more realistic plan: a simple wooden frame with acrylic walls. A yoga mat along the base would provide a seal and reduce noise being transmitted through the table, and I could pass the cables through a cut in the mat and under the enclosure so I wouldn't need any special sockets or anything. It took me far longer than it should have (it's been a weird year...), but that's exactly what I (eventually) made:
Cutting the acrylic was a job. Originally I tried various cutting bits on my dremel tool, but none of them worked all that well and I actually broke a dremel tool in the process. In the end I used a hobby scriber that I modified to be able to cut deeply enough to get through the thick acrylic; I found this cut much more cleanly than any of the power tools, and it was easier to get a straight cut with it.

With the acrylic cut to shape I could start work on the frame. But for some reason the wood I bought for the frame was warped. I don't think I bought it that way; it seems to have happened in the time I left it sitting around? Which to be fair was quite a long time, but it still surprised me. Well, I did the best I could and figured it wasn't the end of the world if the sides of the box were not 100% straight.

Once everything was cut and drilled and ready to be assembled, I... ran out of screws. I had bought a pack of 125 wood screws, which seemed a strange number but proved to be a couple of dozen screws short. And wouldn't you know it, when I went back for another pack they only had a slightly different type of screw (in a different colour), and only in packs of 250. While it strangely bothers me to have two different colours of screw, I didn't want to put the project on hold for something so silly.
When putting it all together I found the easiest way of dealing with the enclosure was to leave the side of the table empty, and simply tip the enclosure onto it's side to gain access to the router. However this meant the control box and laptop couldn't sit there, so I had to put the control box underneath the table. Which was a little fiddly as the cables were a little short and didn't give me much leeway. But I managed to make it work.

Finally it was time to cut something. Crossing my fingers, I started it up. And wouldn't you know it, it worked! The noise was a lot lower than before, low enough that I doubt my neighbors can hear it now.

And the fruits of my labour:
Only one small mistake (the grooves in the base aren't long enough), and it's my fault, not the machine's! The new straight-flute bit seems to be cutting well enough, and I've made a lot of improvements to my GCode-writing scripts, so... yeah, I'm feeling pretty happy today.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Actually Reading The Cards This Time

This was my second game of Monsterpocalypse, and Speedy's first. We actually read the cards this time, and at least tried to use the models' special rules. Speedy picked the giant robot, leaving me with the lizards.

Terra Khan
Carnidons x4
Bellowers x4
Raptix x4

Defender X
G-Tanks x4
Strike Fighters x4
Exo-Armours x4
Repair Truck
Rocket Chopper

While in my last game I was able to take my time and explain the rules by demonstrating them in a logical progression, Speedy was in too much of a hurry and kept bombarding me with questions about rules before I could demonstrate them. As a result (that's right, I'm blaming this on you Speedy!) I kept forgetting to take photos between turns.
Anyway, long story short: Speedy had some pretty cold dice at first but still managed to grab an early lead by slamming Khan into two buildings at the same time, for 5 points of damage in a single turn. I managed to make up the difference with some combined attacks from by Bellowers, and by the end both monsters were just a single power attack away from going down. In desperation, with only three action die left in his monster pool, Speedy took a second Monster turn for a long-shot power attack to slam Khan into a building. He narrowly landed the attack, sacrificing his own tank but winning the game.

Speedy picked up the game almost immedately, and seemed to enjoy it. Actually reading the rules, we did feel that Terra Khan seemed significantly more powerful than Defender X. I wonder if Defender X might have more value as a second monster; a bit of power die efficiency and a ranged attack that can cause extra damage might have value in a two-monster game, whereas Khan feels like a dice-hog with his very high action dice attack values in his Hyper form.

Hopefully it won't take too long to get another couple of monsters painted up, as I'm eager to play the full-sized game.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Cooperative Zone Raiding In The 41st Millenium

We've been talking about taking Zone Raiders out for another spin. I wanted to try the co-op mode as I've been thinking of running a co-op campaign someday. Without any real preparation we threw together a couple of 750 RU lists on the spot. I built a Zone Stalkers list around my Space Marine Scouts, trying to pick appropriate equipment:
Jaeger (Sniper Scout w/out a cloak)
- Light Exoskeleton
- Vesper Rifle
- Chaincutter
- Rangefinder Scope
Scout Stalker x3 (Sniper Scouts w/ cloaks)
- Light Exoskeleton
- Vesper Rifle
- Chaincutter
Scout Stalker (Scout w/missile launcher)
- Light Exoskeleton
- Heavy Isotope Cannon
- Chaincutter
- Ballistic Optic

Speedy built an Exanthropes list using his Infinity JSA models. Due to a misunderstanding he selected some artifact weapons, which are only supposed to be aquired during a campaign, but we didn't want to spend more time on the list building so we just allowed it.
- Duelist Panoply
- High-Frequency Blades
- Mico-Laser Array
- Combat Stims
Aspirant x2
- Duelist Panoply
- Allow Pilum
- Monofilament Fibres
- Arsenal Panoply
- Graviton Hammer
- Micro-Laser Array
Combat Automata x2
- Micro-Laser Array

We picked the first cooperative mission: Scrapheap. We scattered some terrain around, I used some Monpoc tokens as the Scrap tokens and numbered Warcaster objective tokens as the enemy groups. We used miscellaneous small Warcaster tokens as activation tokens. The deployment area was extremely small, so I just took one edge and Speedy took the other.

Early Game:
We immediately revealed the first group: two Marauder Sharpshooters (Space Marines) and three Marauder Assassins (Skitarii).
They almost immediately killed my Stalker with the Heavy Isotope Cannon and one of Speedy's Combat Automata. In contrast our models whiffed almost every attack. Seriously, it was amazing how terrible our collective dice were; despite having relatively similar stats, our 11 models took something like half the game to take out that first squad, continually missing almost every attack. By the end we were down to two enemies, each surrounded by five of our guys, and we were still struggling, missing every attack.

Mid Game:
We finally finished off the first enemy squad and started to advance on the obectives, with a Combat Automata leading the way. At this point I finally figured out where the enemy behaviour patterns were written, so we started rolling for enemy group movement. At which point one group immedately advanced and spotted the Combat Automata. They were revealed to be three Marauder Troopers (Space Marines) and two Marauder Skirmishers (Skitarii).
While the enemy didn't take long to kill the Combat Automata, they were unable to do any damage to Speedy's other units who were behind cover. Meanwhile my models were taking high ground and casually one-shotting the enemy models. I think we actually wiped out that second squad in just one turn, or maybe two at the most. It was a ridiculous reversal, largely due to the fact that the enemy squad had appeared in the open while we were in a more advantageous position. There was no cover in front of them and as far as I understood the AI rules they would not retreat to cover, but would just advance and shoot.

Late Game:
The rest of the game, the other two enemy squads just kept moving further away. We spent the next three or four turns with Speedy casually walking around picking up Scrap tokens while my guys took Overwatch from the high ground, and then we evac'ed.

I hadn't had the chance to fully revise the rules before the game. Seeing as we've only played once before and that was over a year ago, I was very fuzzy on the rules. To make matters much worse, I hadn't actually read the co-op rules at all before we started, and could only give them a quick once-over as we prepared the table. As a result the game was quite exhausting, with constant flicking back and forth through the rulebook.

There's a lot that I like about this game, but the rules are not really laid out in a way that is easy to look things up in a hurry; the book has no glossary and there's a lot of interacting rules that are quite spread out in the rule book. For example, the mission briefing for the Scrapheap mission describes the possible enemy group compositions, in the main text on one page, but only describes the group behaviour type on the map layout on the next page. So the first couple of times I went looking I couldn't find it and we just left the group markers stationary.

The movement system was a bit cumbersome too. There's basically 6 different movement actions available, and they are all quite different, and to figure out which ones are available to a model you need to check it's armour and equipment. After a point we kind of just didn't bother worry about it and just moved. Actually after a point I didn't bother with a lot of rules; those terribly early dice did not leave me in a mood to figure out exactly how many shots each enemy had or how many to-hit bonuses it got by the time were were on the second squad. I can't tell how you glad I was there wasn't a third squad. BTW I was a little bit surprised by how long it took to grab the Scrap tokens and evac; I'm not sure how that would have played out if we were under fire at the time.

One thing I noticed this game was that the hit bonuses are VERY swingy. Cover is RIDICULOUSLY important; stepping out from behind cover can easily make a 10 point swing in the chance of getting hit; that's 50% of the roll! Speedy might have been right when he said we were using the wrong terrain for the game; I think we need much more terrain that's much smaller. Or something, I don't know; point is terrain has a huge effect on the the game.

It felt like one model couldn't do very much in a turn. That was fine in our previous games because one turn didn't take too long. But I'm starting to think that too many models might slow the game down a bit too much. It makes sense now that each mission has model limits; the rules are just too crunchy for large model count games. But maybe it won't be an issue if you understand the rules much better so you move through turns much faster? Although missions have turn limits, so... I dunno.

I completely ignored the AP rule, and will probably continue to do so; I really don't like that rule at all, and it's on far too many weapons. I might just ignore the whole "wounds can reduce how many actions you get" rule as well; it just feels too crippling. Honestly I'm tempted to try to do some homebrew just to simplify the rules a bit; I like that you have a lot of options but right now I think there's a bit too much complexity. For example, a lot of actions end your activation. Reloading does not, but you can't attack in the same activation. That's just a bit messy, you know? Too many special cases sort of thing. If I can just simplify the basic movement, action, and hit modifier options a little, that I think would go a long way to making it smoother and more streamlined to play. My goal is to run a cooperative campaign, so I'm not too worried about breaking the game's balance. But I definitely need to go over the AI rules a couple of times.

By the way even though our dice were unbelievably bad for the first half of the game (seriously it's hard to describe how silly it was), we nevertheless won every single intiative roll against the AI. Dice are weird.