Siege Strider: I hate painting horses

Yep, it’s true. The one thing that annoys me about miniature painting is painting horses. I’m not good at it and I don’t enjoy it. So, last year, when Privateer Press announced that their new releases for Khador would be chariots, I was initially a little disappointed, because that meant I would have to paint up some horses.

Fortunately, the part of my brain that thinks of dumb conversion ideas rescued me from this fate and decided to instead deliver me from the frying pan of painting horses and into the fire of expensive, possibly ill-conceived conversions.

I’m not sure where the inspiration came from, to be honest, but one of my miniature painting weaknesses is that once I get an idea for a conversion in my head, it’s hard to shake it until it’s done. So, Siege Strider it was. And, since I’m a glutton for punishment and a completionist when it comes to my Khador collection, I needed to make two Siege Striders.

Supplies

Of course, the first thing I needed to do was source the parts. Basically, this a kitbash of two boxes, the Siege Chariot and the Storm Strider. I used the legs and lower body of the Storm Strider, combined with everything but the horses on the Chariots. Also, a random assortment of plasticard sheets and tubes, which are very useful when doing these very mechanical conversions.

strider.jpg

I ended up using a few different glues and putties. I used brown stuff for general filling work, but switched to milliput for areas that I was going to need to sand to make smooth, flat surfaces. Finally, I also used a bit of “sprue goo” — that is, some plastic sprues dissolved in Tamiya Extra Thin — to fill gaps and glue together pieces of plasticard that weren’t quite coming together perfectly.

Finally, I got a pack of rivets and bolt heads from my local hobby shop. These are made by Meng primarily for automotive dioramas and come in various sizes. Simply shave them off the flat plastic piece they come on with a scalpel and glue them to the model. The advantage to this over doing something like dots of glue is that you get a uniform rivet size, which is close enough to what makes sense, especially when you need to add 263 rivets…

The Chariot

While the legs were the most important part of this conversion, there were a few things that needed to be done on the chariot. First, since we aren’t going to need wheels on this thing, I filled in the wheel wells with putty and plasticard and sanded them smooth, after which, I continued the line of rivets along the bottom of the side all the way across where the wheel well was.

I was left with the area where the axles for the wheels go in, and while I could have removed them as well, I decided on a different approach. I scratchbuilt a series of tubes out of plasticard tubes, putty, and those Meng rivets and connected them to the outriggers. The ends of the outriggers were cut off and replaced with some more tube stock, modified to turn them into exhaust pipes. With that done, I removed the attachment for the tow bar and filed that area smooth, and added a thick piece of flat plasticard to the bottom where it attaches to the legs.

IMG_1072 - Copy.JPG

Modifications to the chariot. Note the wheel wells and scratchbuilt exhaust system.

Apart from that, it all went together in a pretty standard fashion, with some cleanup on the resin parts and some pinning. For ease of painting, I left the driver, shield, and gun in separate sub-assemblies to be done later.

The Legs

The legs were from the Storm Strider, but they had to be heavily modified to remove some of the Cygnaran influence. Cygnar models tend to be very rounded and often feature plasma conduits and electrical doodads. Khador has a more utilitarian feel, with more sharp corners and boxy shapes and tends to resort to raw power more than fancy electro-weapons. While most of the legs could have passed for any of the main Warmachine factions, the feet of the Storm Strider were distinctly Cygnar.

So, the first thing I did was shave and file off the little electro-pimples, because those just don’t fit in Khador. With those out of the way, it was time to scratchbuild some armour plate to go overtop of the existing filed-down feet. I started by playing around with some paper and cardboard, cutting and folding until I figured out the shape that I wanted. Once I got that sorted out, I made a template out of cardboard, from which I could cut out pieces of styrene. These were then scored and folded along the edges and roughly glued together using sprue goo.

Once I had the basic shape of the armour, I used plenty of putty and glue to attach it to the legs, covering up what remained of the rounded parts. I also made some covers for the top part, again out of plasticard. All this plastic origami ended up giving me the basic shape if what I wanted, and after backfilling it with milliput, I was able to file and sand down the rough edges to get the shape just right.

IMG_1058.JPG

Left, leg after electro-pimples filed off. Right, leg with armour plate overtop, and some sanding and filing done to smooth it out.

From there, I had to add some surface detail. So, I printed off some Khador symbols and traced them onto a piece of plasticard, then cut them to shape. Finally, I festooned the edges with rivets to add that Khador industrial feel.

With the feet done, it was just a matter of pinning and gluing everything together. I also had to scratchbuild some pipes, pistons and tubes in between the center section where all the legs come together and the body of the chariot in order to raise it up so the legs nicely clear the body.

IMG_1072.JPG

Ready for the paint booth…

Painting

With all the conversion work done, it was time to paint. For this project, I chose to paint in sub-assemblies, with the legs, body, driver, gun and shield being separate parts to be joined later. I did a zenithal prime with black and white Stynylrez, then sprayed some sections in pink, masked off a couple feet and a couple stripes, then brought out the purple. As usual, highlights and shade colours were applied to accentuate the contours of the model, using the same colours as the rest of my Khador army which I have discussed many times on this blog. From there, it was a matter of brush painting all the rest, adding weathering, and putting it all together.

Conclusions

Did I mention that I don’t like painting horses? Well, I don’t, and thanks to some scratchbuilding and some crazy ideas, I ended up with something unique and cool. And, with some of the spare parts, I was able to make a couple neat terrain pieces that can be used in narrative scenarios or simply to spruce up your battlefield.

IMG_1714.JPG

Reporting back from Torcan 2019

This past weekend was Torcan 2019, a large model show held in Brampton by Peel Scale Modelers. In terms of scale model shows, I would consider this to be one of the big three in the region. It’s not quite as big as HeritageCon or CapCon, and doesn’t have the same really cool venue as these other two, but it’s still a large show that is definitely worth the trip.

It was a long drive, and, after consuming more peameal bacon than I have ever seen in one place before in Oshawa, I made it to the show around 10:00. Parking was a challenge at the venue, but I managed to find a spot at a school next door. This proved to be problematic at the end of the day, when I had to run through torrential rain to retrieve my vehicle. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring one more change of clothes than I thought I would need and I was able to dry myself off a little, so it wasn’t too bad.

The vendor hall was well stocked; it was basically a hockey rink with four rows of tables running the length of the rink. There were plenty of dealers selling models, as well as a few selling tools, shirts, and other modelling accessories. Since it was mostly focused on the traditional stuff and I’m trying to be good, I didn’t buy any models, however I did stop by the vendor that had all the Green Stuff World and Flex-i-file products and picked up the third set of GSW colour shift paints and the Goodman Models super sanding blocks.

I also liked how they did the awards ceremonies. During the show, they snapped photos of the models and quickly put pictures of the winners and a listing of the top three into the powerpoint presentation. While reading the judges’ handwriting was clearly the weak link in this process, it made the awards ceremonies a lot more entertaining when you get that visual reminder of the cool models on the table and get to see the winners again.

One thing that I did really appreciate was the growth in the figures category from last year. Competition was much fiercer, both in terms of the number of models on the table and the quality. There were about 45 entries, with particularly tough competition in busts and sci-fi/fantasy. With somewhere around 430 entries, figures represented 10% of the models on the table, which is actually pretty good as these sorts of shows are traditionally dominated by the three A’s – aircraft, armour, and automotive. Quality was also up there this year, with some very accomplished painters entering and a large portion of the models on the table being what I would consider to be seriously competitive.

I think the simplest way to illustrate my point would be to note that my entries this year were a lot better than my entries last year, but I didn’t take home as many shiny gold medals. While I was debating for a while whether to make the drive or not this year, the increase in participation in the figures category has really pushed this show from a maybe into an annual thing for me.

Things that caught my eye

Of course, there were a number of models in the show that caught my eye and deserve special attention. Starting with the juniors, there was one kid who was clearly a natural at car modelling; according to the sheet, this Chevy Nova with the yellow to black fade was his first model.

IMG_1610.JPG

In figures, this Cap’n Sapo bust beat me out for gold in the busts category, and took home best figure. It was a neat mix of texture, with the frog skin, leather, eyeballs, and a little bit of armour plate on the shoulders creating some nice contrast across the model, and all of these textures were rendered masterfully. It also bore an unfortunate resemblance to a certain popular nazi meme, but I’m assuming that was just a coincidence.

IMG_1601.JPG

In sci-fi, there was a really neat looking dieselpunk spacecraft thing. It was cool, it was yellow, and according to the sheet, it was all scratchbuilt. Which was awesome.

IMG_1685.JPG

The Nuka Cola building was my vote for the people’s choice award. Though it had no figures and no vehicles, it was very detailed and evocative of the world of Fallout. Or what I imagine the world of Fallout to be; my only real experience with Fallout is watching The Final Pam on Monster Factory.

I wasn’t the only person who did a Bf.109B. Someone also did one, using an older kit from a different manufacturer and painting it up in the more traditional colour scheme of the fascist forces in Spain.

IMG_1616.JPG

It’s often hard for me to pick out what stands out in the world of armour because tanks tend to be not very colourful and often splattered with the same colours of mud and dirt. But for my money, the little SU-18 assault gun, which looks like a 76mm gun slapped on an FT-17 tank, was just a neat subject and was very well done.

IMG_1687.JPG

For the Gundams, I spent a lot of time staring at a fellow club member’s ball. This extensively modified MG ball kit was painted with inspiration from the Watchmen, and was a great illustration of how far you can take a gundam kit with realistic weathering, battle damage, etc.

Finally, in space and sci fi, I saw someone brought one of those Warhammer 40K walkers. I don’t remember how well it did, but I just thought it was nice to see some stuff from the Warhammer universe on the tables, even if 90% of the models from 40K aren’t really my jam.

IMG_1675.JPG

Results

I think before I get into this section, it is important to note that these contests aren’t just about who brings home the hardware, and that sort of overly competitive mentality is something that we all need to consciously avoid in order to keep our hobby fun and welcoming.

That said, even though the competition in figures was a lot more intense this year, I still did fairly well. I took Silver and Bronze in the busts category, with Amy Johnson and Nancy Steelpunch, respectively, losing out to the aforementioned Cap’n Sapo and pushing my Sorscha bust out of the top three. In the regular sci-fi/fantasy category, little Sorscha won me a gold, edging out some sort of space marine. Further, I took home the theme award for figures, with Nancy representing the best “Bent, Broken and Wounded” model with her steampunk mechano-hand.

In the non-figure categories, my Spanish Republican captured Bf.109 took home a silver in the Out Of Box category, losing out to a fellow IPMS Ottawa member’s MiG-31. This was actually the entry that I was most interested in because I was curious as to what the reaction would be. It is very much an illustration of what happens when a figure painter tries out aircraft and very much outside of the predominant style for model aircraft.

My two Gundam entries, my Ball and my SD, also won golds in their categories. Again, these aren’t in the traditional style of gunpla builders, being simple, out of the box kits that were competently assembled, but with a lot of effort focused on the interaction of light and shadow and freehand painting, whereas most gunpla competitons heavily weigh modifications, kitbashing, and flashy LED lighting. However, the painting must have impressed the judges, because they both won their categories.

IMG_1668.JPG

For those of you keeping score, Ottawa balls actually did pretty well in the Gundam section, with two balls made by Gunpla Ottawa members winning their categories, and the other one winning best overall in the Gundam division.

Finally, I had some extra room in my case, and remembered someone brought an entire 15mm Roman army last year, so I decided to drag some pieces from my Khador and Cygnar warmachine armies to enter into the collections, and came away with a silver and a bronze, respectively.

I also did fairly well in the raffle department, coming home with a Tamiya motorcycle kit and a couple small ships. Neither of these are the sort of things that I would have actually bought given the option, however I think they will both make for interesting challenges in the future.

IMG_1696.JPG

Just so long as I don’t have to buy any 1:700 scale photoetch.

(for another review of the show, check out ModelAirplaneMaker’s report here)

Bonus: random photodump of cool models!

 

Warmachine: State of the Game 2019

So, one of the things they’ve been doing at the Southern Ontario Open for the past few years was getting together all the Warmachine talking heads into one big room for a discussion on the state of the game. This year, I thought I would share my thoughts in a written format, as I’m not cool enough to have a podcast and don’t have the voice for radio anyways.

Evolving Meta or Power Creep?

They started off with a discussion about how the meta seems to be constantly evolving, and how it was great to see people constantly trying out new stuff. However, I would argue that this has less to do with a meta where people are trying interesting stuff to try to counter what other factions are playing, then other players trying to counter the new interesting stuff, then that leading to a state of flux as everyone cycles between rock, paper, scissors, lizard and Spock, trying to stay ahead of everyone else. I think it has more to do with the CID process breaking down a little and causing some power creep. I mean, when one considers all the boogeymen that have reared their head in the meta over the past year, just about all of them save perhaps Nemo3 was a direct result of some new release or rules change that may have been slightly overtuned as a result of clamouring in CID.

I feel like the competitive balance of the game is healthiest when there is no boogeyman. While I’m not necessarily the best player, I think the few months between when Una2 got taken down a notch and someone figured out that Ghost Fleet is good was a great time for Warmachine, where there weren’t really any extreme outliers dominating the tournament scene, and people were doing a lot of experimentation. Since then, the internet chatter feels like it’s been just one boogeyman list after another.

I think the proof is going to be in the pudding in the next few months. With Privateer Press taking a CID break, it will be interesting to see if the meta settles down a little and we start seeing more flux and experimentation or if people are still going to be complaining about Lord of the Feast and Iona until the next new hotness drops.

Cutting models?

A large portion of the cast was devoted to the question of whether Privateer Press should start eliminating models from their range and from the game, and the general consensus seemed to be that it is time to do it. Two rationales were discussed for this – the idea that there are just too many SKUs clogging up the supply chain and making it hard on retailers and distributors, and that the number of models is a barrier to new players.

To be honest, I’m not sold. I’m not sure that SKU bloat is that much of an issue, because I’ve only ever seen one or two stores actually attempt to stock at least one of everything, and both of those stores do online sales as well as in person. Most stores tend to stock a limited number of models and get in some of the new releases, but for the rest, they generally order on demand.

Rather than cut SKUs by eliminating models, if SKU bloat is an issue, then what PP could do is consolidate some SKUs by bundling existing products. The three Man-O-War units could be combined into one multikit with the same bodies and different arms. Units could be bundled with attachments and non-character solos instead of sold separately. And, more importantly, PP could help provide stores with a little more guidance as to what products in their back catalogue are the sort of things that are popular or are starter products and should be stocked, and what you can get away with being special order only. Perhaps just classifying all those SKUs as starter, core, and supplemental would help a retailer with the daunting task of figuring out which of these hundreds of SKUs they should stock. They’ve already made steps in that direction by changing how they did distribution and by doing direct order for new huge based models that tend to sit on shelves for a long time and not move.

Not to mention that if the goal is to help retailers and distributors who are carrying Warmachine and make them more likely to want to carry the game, rendering a portion of the stock that they currently have on the shelves completely useless is likely going to have the opposite effect.

As for the idea that the sheer number of models is hard on new players, I have to counter that with one question: are new players really being turned off from Warmachine because they keep getting their faces kicked in by Assault Kommandos and Kossite Woodsmen? Or is the real negative play experience for new players running up against Iona and Lord of the Feast and not knowing that they need to place all their models exactly 3.2 inches apart and answer a geometry final exam question with shield guards and blocking models to not instantly lose? And, of these, which of the two is a new player more likely to actually run into in the first round of his first tournament?

kossites.jpg

Kossites OP, plz nerf

I get that the sheer scale of WMH can be overwhelming, but I don’t think the solution is simply cutting models from the game. Miniature games fundamentally aren’t card games. There is a more intense connection with game elements in a miniatures game than there is in a card game. Hobbyists spend hours lovingly crafting and customizing their models and sometimes even take models in their army based on their visual appeal more than their combat effectiveness; telling them that they can’t use them anymore is going to frustrate a lot of people. There are ways to address this such as through promoting limited formats and lower points games where there aren’t as many models on the table with rules that need remembering that aren’t as drastic as telling people they can’t play with their toys anymore.

Which brings me to Champions.

As for Champions, the main problem is that it has an identity crisis. People think that it is supposed to be a limited format to make it easier for new players, but if you actually read the document and the dev notes in the CID, that’s not what it is. It is supposed to be an alternative format for experienced players to prove their skill; one where the limited roster changes up the meta and allows these players to showcase the skill with all their faction’s casters (including the off-meta ones) as they rotate through ADR, not just stick with the few in their faction that are the most powerful and/or slightly broken.

The problem with that is that the ADR has historically been somewhat difficult to balance; there is often one or two factions that are on top because their restrictions are that they are only allowed to take the best stuff in the faction, while everyone else has to try to counter it with their B-team. Further, removing the painting requirement also took away one point of distinction between it and masters.

However, the fact that people keep saying that Masters is an introductory tournament format indicates to me that there is a recognition that there is a need for this sort of thing. In my opinion, if you want a truly limited format for new players, you need lower points and a more static, more limited roster that only includes the relatively straightforward things in each faction and fewer really obnoxious gear checks. Call it Warmachine: Core and push it as an alternative to no-restriction steamrollers. The catch is that with the current community, at least those who regularly go to events and are loud on the internet, getting them to embrace anything that isn’t standard, 75 point steamrollers is a challenge to say the least.

Bringing in new players

As is par for the course in these “state of the game” podcasts, Evan hit the nail on the head when he identified onboarding new players as the biggest issue with the growth of Warmachine. While part of it has to do with the density and steep learning curve of the game, it is also the fact that the community, while it can be very friendly once you get into it, can also be very intimidating for new players.

Another important point that was made was that people get into WMH because it is fun and because they identify with the cinematics of the game and the badass warcasters that they love. The ones that got hooked had some exciting cinematic moments that brought them to the edge of their seat; for me it was getting my ass handed to me by Haley2 until I figured out how to assassinate people with Sorscha1. From that moment on, I was on Team Sorscha and refused to play Butcher because he was the jerk who killed Sorscha’s dad.

I didn’t get into this game because someone told me that it is the most competitively balanced tournament game and that I should look forward to getting my face kicked in 50 times before I am able to git gud enough that every game isn’t a miserable experience. If I was that masochistic, I would play competitive Starcraft or some other e-sport.

However, as someone who is currently in the process of dragging a coworker into this world, I think the biggest challenge is that to an outsider, competitive Warmachine doesn’t look fun. You generally have two people crouched over a flat table with flat scenery and unpainted models, staring intently at the apps on their phones. As often as not, one of the two players is frustrated and afterwards, they engage in a loud discussion about what is OP and what needs CID and what little things they hate about the game. That’s not conducive to bringing in new players.

IMG_1255.JPG

At its finest, wargaming is a social affair. It requires much more agreement and back and forth between opponents as you discuss movement, measurement, terrain, etc. While one of the strengths of Warmachine is that there is a lot of clarity in the rules and it lends itself to competitive play about as well as any wargame can, pure competitive gaming can at times be a little soulless and doesn’t look fun to outsiders.

Conclusions

Perhaps this article ended up being a little more negative than intended, but that wasn’t my intention. I love Warmachine. I love the steampunk aesthetic, the bell curve probability distribution of 2d6, and the resource management and push your luck aspects of the focus/fury system. And I’m not on the doom train; I think this game is going to be around for a while and I’m excited for things like Archons and Oblivion.

But, while I disagree with a few of the points made in the cast, these conversations are important. So much of the growth and longevity of the game is down to the community these days. We can’t just rely on being the system that is the default for castaways ragequitting That Other Game.

Moreso than a lot of other games, a player’s experience in a wargame is directly related to the people they play it with. Even if we aren’t up to the task of being community leaders, it’s up to all of us to make that community and each other’s experiences the best that it can be.

Warhammer School Clubs, Part 5 – Get your paint on!

The following article was written by a friend who works as an Early Child Educator in a before and after school program. It is about his participation in the Warhammer School Clubs program, a program by Games Workshop intended to promote the hobby within schools. This article is part two; see previous parts here.

The Main Event! Basecoats, Washes, and Dry Brushing

Little introduction-by-way-of-housekeeping first: I had a great conversation with the manager of the local GW.  It sounds like the school programs are really taking off in North America, which is great to hear. He also explained why there was no primer in our kit: GW wants to send out the kits as quick as possible, so that educators get them as quick as possible. That means that a lot of being air-shipped to schools, and for that reason they don’t include aerosol cans in the package. Abaddon black was never intended as a primer, and the manager was nice enough to offer to help prime any future pieces for the program at the store. So I apologize for my griping before about the lack of primer; it was only a lack of primer because they were so quick to send us our pack and experiences may be different in other groups.

Anyway, back to the regular show…

dom2

Basecoating

This is the most basic of the lessons the children learned, and at times the ones that needed the most reminders. That’s because this is the stage that most of the children stayed in for a while.  

First we went through how to use paint brushes properly. Although art is in all of our programming, the children have never really shown how to “properly” use a paintbrush when you’re trying to keep the paintbrushes in good working order.  So I explained that we need to just use the tip of the brush, and make sure never get paint anywhere close to the ferrule (ie, “that gold metal thing at the top of the brush bristles”).

For the most part, that lesson was taken easily.  The hardest to internalize was “thin your paints.” For kids, they’ve been trained to just dip a paint brush and splash it, so it’s going to take a while for them to unlearn those behaviors.  There were some thick paint jobs in some places, but luckily not too many details were lost.

may22.JPG

Children learn at different speeds, so we did base coats over quite a few weeks, not just one session.  The first time there was the most enthusiasm from the children, but that slowly waned, and some kids took a week off here and there (particularly, although not only, the boys when some other group not involved would organized more sporty games between themselves.)  

The first session one young man had a bunch of difficulty involving comparing himself to others. “It doesn’t look good, I hate it,” he kept saying. His base coat wasn’t even bad, it’s just other children felt more confident in what they were doing, using more colours and doing smaller details. He wanted to quit, and I went a little harder on him than I should, saying that if he quit he wouldn’t be welcomed to continue and his model would have to go to someone else who wanted to join the club. I admit that this was the wrong tactic, and we (the other teachers in the room and myself) talked to him afterwards to reassure him and invite him back. I gave him some extra attention the next couple of sessions and he became more comfortable in the club setting.

Washes

We did the washes in two groups –  it wasn’t really planned, but a group of boys took some Wednesdays to play, while a group of primarily girls wanted to focus on painting. This meant that we had the girls finish with their washing and dry brushing first and then we fished the group of boys second.

The first thing that I did wrong was that I tried to split up a bottle of Nuln Oil that I bought for the group into smaller containers. This would allow more than one child to have some wash at a time. Well, those smaller containers seals were not as good as they could be, and one tipped over and spilled all over the bottom of our painting box. The others started to dry out and make a weird rubbery rim around the containers. I poured what was left back into the original Nuln Oil bottle, losing a third in the process.

The second mistake that we made was using the new Nighthaunt Gloom like a wash or a glaze.  The paint wasn’t as translucent as I had thought, since although its as liquid as wash/glaze, it has a lot more pigment. This meant using it straight out of the bottle covered up more than I expected. The first couple ghosts were a little darker then we planned, but we figured that we needed to water it down a little to make it look good.

Still, the children found it pretty straightforward when it came to splashing wash all over their models. Our young man who was discouraged when it came to basecoating really took to washes. He did his Stormcast Eternal all in Leadbelcher (a dark silver) and the wash really made the details come out.

The best part was that the young ladies who volunteered to be the “Master Artificer’s” role went to help the other children after being shown how to do it. Up to that point, we really hadn’t utilized any of the child-led roles, and it was great to see the excitement of the girls in helping their peers.

Dry Brushing

The biggest thing the children had difficulty learning was that “less is more” when it comes to dry brushing.  A few didn’t work the paint off the brushes enough when it came to applying it, thus putting but brush strokes back on their figures.

s2.JPG

For most of the children, that was fine – especially the children who did one or two colours only for their base coat.  But one young lady got very frustrated when her dry brushing covered the shaded areas that she worked hard to finish, to the point of walking away from her figure and not coming back to finish it.  

At this point, we had run four or five weeks into just painting, and some children were getting pretty tired of it and were looking to move on to something else. It was time to put some finishing touches on our figures and start something new.

Still, I think the majority of the children really got something out of the process. The process of painting a miniature is much different then the kind of painting that they are used to. Adding a third dimension changes the equation. Allowing them to come and pick up the different techniques at their own pace helps in developing those skills in a way that is in tune to how the individual child learns.

Southern Ontario Open 2019 recap

So, I went to the Southern Ontario Open for the third year in a row this past weekend. The SOO, which takes place in Hamilton every year around the beginning of May, is undoubtedly Canada’s premiere Warmachine event. Drawing 100-plus players in their Masters tournament, having a six or seven round Masters, as well as featuring Iron Arena, IKRPG, MonPoc, and hobby content over three full days, it’s kind of a big deal.

Champions

I chose to participate in Champions this year and forgo Masters as I did the previous year. I knew that going to both tournaments would be just too much Warmachine for me, and I wanted to focus on hobby lounge and iron arena. I ended up choosing Champions because I really didn’t want to pack three lists, and I thought it would be nice to get all the hardcore gaming out of the way early on then just chill the rest of the con.

My biggest apprehension about Champions, aside from the distinct possibility that I would be getting my face kicked in by Iona all day, was the lack of a painting requirement. Since I’m not a hardcore competitive player and there is about a zero chance of me qualifying for either the WTC or the Iron Gauntlet finals, the SOO for the past few years has been my one opportunity to attend a fully painted event. As someone who appreciates the aesthetic aspect of wargaming, that made it a particular highlight for my year in Warmachine and made whichever tournament had the painting requirement a can’t-miss event.

I know a lot of people disagree with me and have a serious problem with the above opinion, so if you are one of those, please direct all your hate mail to podcast@chain-attack.com.

Anyways, that all changed this year, with PP changing their official tournament packet in such a way that if a tournament organizer wants to have an official Masters or Champions event that counts towards their Iron Gauntlet qualifiers, they can’t have a painting requirement. As those Iron Gauntlet points are a big deal for top-tier competitive players and Warmachine celebrities, that basically precluded the organizers from doing a fully painted event, whether they wanted to or not.

However, it turned out to actually be less of an issue than I was anticipating. I was worried that with no painting requirements, it would open the door to a swarm of grey hordes. But when I walked around the tables, I was pleasantly surprised to see that at least half of the armies were fully painted and a lot of the others were clearly on their way there. Three of my four games were against fully painted opponents, so that was actually a pleasant surprise.

Regarding my army lists, I knew I wanted to do Sorscha3 with plenty of Man-O-War models, and I had those painted up and ready to go. Due to the ADR restrictions, the other list had to be in Wolves of Winter, which meant a few things. First, it meant that Vlad2, which is the only model in my collection painted by my sister and not by me, would be the ideal choice. Second, it meant I had to get a lot of models painted to make a coherent list. Third, my list wouldn’t be very good because I didn’t have enough Doom Reavers painted up to really swarm my opponent with them. Finally, it meant that since I hadn’t ever actually played Wolves of Winter and trying to follow the CID made my brain hurt, my plan was to put the Vlad2 army on my tray and make a show of thinking about which list to play, but actually just play Sorscha3 every game.

soo_lists.jpg

I went 1-3 in the tournament, losing to Old Witch 2, Zaal2, and Ossyan. My one victory came against someone playing Deneghra in Slaughter Fleet Raiders. He had little opportunity to take advantage of drag, as my Shocktroopers were granted Sturdy from the unit attachment and I had a shield guard in the list just in case. I ended up catching Ragman with a spray from a Suppression Tanker early on, and from there on out, I pretty much just watched his army bounce off the heavy armour of my Man-O-Wars, smacking them around with retaliatory strike as they came in. I actually started feeling a little bad for him because once Ragman was dead and his alpha strike was denied by my clouds, he just didn’t have the armour cracking to effectively deal with my army.

Now, I’m not one of those people who loses one game in a tournament and drops out because there is no point to playing unless you’re winning. I typically stay in throughout the whole thing, outside of extreme circumstances. However, I hadn’t been to a tournament in a while and after four games, my brain was hurting and I had done enough Warmachine for a weekend, never mind a day.

However, in spite of going 1-3 and dropping, I still managed to win Champions, or at least the most important part, the best painted army award.

soo_army.jpg

Painting

While the main attractions for most people are the competitive tournaments and the Iron Arena, the SOO does have some excellent hobby programming, and I feel like everyone who attends the SOO should at the very least pop into the hobby lounge for a few minutes and check out the contest entries or see what they can pick up from their fellow hobbyists.

I managed to squeeze in a couple classes. I took one on polychromatic shading with Ben at Primal Poodle, where I learned some more about colour theory. While I may have been a slightly difficult student by asking questions like “is grey a colour” when told to basecoat a part of a model in a colour that interested me, I did take a lot away from the class. I also got the chance to show off some of my work with Ben and Faust and get some valuable feedback on what I’m doing right and where I can improve.

But even outside of formal classes, you can pick up a lot from just getting the chance to talk shop with your fellow painters. There was a fellow hobbyist who was having difficulty with a resin pour, and I was able to offer up a couple pointers on doing the formwork as I had gone through that pain a little while ago. And I did have to chuckle a little when someone said that she should look up some guy who did a Swamp Siren and read up how he did it.

I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time in the hobby lounge. Part of this was because I didn’t have a huge based model completed before the event, and was inspired to finish painting my Siege Chariot conversion and get it into the contest. Which meant that I stayed up until 6 am on Friday night working on it, then got up again at 9 and got back to work, eventually getting it banged out with a few hours to spare.

IMG_1522.JPG

Why did I leave this until the last minute?

However, my valiant effort was all for naught when a very nicely done Sea King, which is one of the coolest models in PP’s entire range, edged me out in that particular category. That said, I came away with victories in two of the four categories – small and medium model – with Sorscha0 and my Sorscha bust, respectively. And the Sorscha bust also won the best in show award, not to mention that it was Sorscha3 running my best painted army, so… Sorscha OP, plz nerf?

sea_king.jpg

Patrick Miller’s Sea King

In some ways, this was coming full circle. My first year at the SOO, I entered into the painting competition but came away empty-handed, and to be honest, I felt a few pangs of disappointment. By the time the next year rolled around, I had improved my painting skills and had some display only models to enter, and while I did win one category, the top prize remained elusive. Now, I know it’s unhealthy to compare yourself to others as a painter and get too competitive about it, but I decided I would make it a goal to win the painting competition this year. I upped my game with the skills I picked up over the past year and the classes I attended, and focused on getting that Sorscha bust looking good, and it really paid off. And, since Sorscha was my first warcaster and is my favourite character from the Iron Kingdoms, the fact that I was able to do so with her was a little poetic.

IMG_1505.JPG

In the categories I didn’t win, I got some good feedback from the judges, and to be honest, I can’t really argue with what they said. For the Siege Strider, they liked the conversion and a lot of the painting, however the main issue was that I had overweathered the upper half of it, which wasn’t super realistic and worked against the highlights I put in. This probably had a little to do with the fact that instead of putting it all together and then painting it, I painted and weathered the model in sub-assemblies, starting with the legs and working up to the gun and the driver. As such, instead of following a logical weathering progression tapering the weathering off as I went up which would have been much more effective, I just did a default amount of weathering on each part. While I did add some additional dirt and mud stains on the feet afterwards, it wasn’t enough to truly get across the story behind the weathering – that of a big walker stomping around the battlefield, with its legs getting beaten up as it grinds the filthy Cygnarans to dust beneath its feet.

Also, having stayed up until 6 am the night before working on the model probably didn’t help much with my ability to pull off a coherent weathering scheme while running on three hours sleep and three cups of coffee.

As for the group category, I debated whether to enter my Man-O-Wars or my Cygnar. I went with Cygnar because it was some more recent work, but then I ended up getting too hung up on what made a tournament-legal list, and included some models which were from when I was still working out the finer details of the scheme. This meant that Maddox, who was my first Cygnar infantry model, kind of brought the entry as a whole down a little with her mediocrity, as did my first Cygnar jack or two. And since consistency is important in group categories, that knocked me down a few notches. Had I not included Maddox in my entry and perhaps thrown in a couple of my more recent stormdudes instead, I think I would have been a little more competitive.

best group.jpg

Group winner – Vincent Beaulieu’s Dreamer

I also want to give a big shout-out to the competition. There were some real top-shelf entries this year, and in particular, I want to recognize Vincent Beaulieu’s Captain Ahab bust from Scale75. It was pretty awesome and I feel like it really gave my Sorscha bust a run for her money; in fact, I would say there are some aspects where it outshone my entry. However the nature of winner-take-all or ranked judging systems means that sometimes, amazing models that get edged out by other amazing models don’t quite get the recognition they deserve.

The Final Word

The SOO is always a great show, and is kind of a highlight of my year in Warmachine. Even as someone who isn’t a hardcore competitive player, you have to appreciate the passion for the game we all love that is on display in that room. This year in particular, I was feeling some frustration with the game and the community and the SOO kind of reinvigorated my love for this game. If you are a Warmachine player and can possibly make it to the SOO, circle the calendar and make sure you go. And, while you’re there, pop by the hobby lounge for a few minutes and say hi.

I’ll be the one still painting at 3 am.

Painting Cygnar – because someone has to play the bad guys

Lately, I have been dabbling in what might be considered heresy. I’ve been painting up a Cygnar army for Warmachine. Don’t worry, fellow Khadorans, I’m not betraying the motherland. It’s just that I’ve been introducing new players to the game lately, and someone has to play the bad guys. As such, I now have to paint up a Cygnar army so I can do that.

Starting out

To begin my army, I decided to combine the Mk.III Cygnar battlebox with the Cygnar half of the Company of Iron box, then supplement that with whatever I either had in my stash or could pick up to build up this force. This also pushed me in the direction of Storm Divison, which, while it isn’t the most competitive theme force, is probably good for playing intro games. Plus, I do like Maddox, the Cygnar battlebox caster, and she works well with Stormdudes.

Of course, the downside to this was that most of the models in these starter products are the rather mediocre PVC models in the starter kit. These are notoriously difficult to work with due to the difficulty of cleaning up mold lines; quite frankly, I might actually prefer metal models to this crummy plastic. On the other hand, Gwen Keller, the one resin Cygnar model in the box, was quite crisply detailed and only required the slightest amount of cleanup.

So, after much cleanup, I was able to get started with the battlebox contents, a unit of Stormblades and Storm Gunners, Gwen Keller, and a few accoutrements such as a Squire and Gorman di Wulfe, borrowed from my existing collection of mercenaries who work for Khador. The goal here is not to make the most powerful or complicated list; it’s to make a list that is decent and which is good to use as an opposing force to introduce new players to the game or in journeyman league scenarios.

Deciding on a colour scheme

It’s not every day that you start a whole new army, so when you do, it’s a good idea to put a lot of thought into your colour scheme. You want something that will look good on the table and won’t be too hard to paint. Of course, you could always just go with the studio scheme, but I like to be a little more creative.

I had a few ideas. First, I was thinking of doing a Cygnar Red Army, but as I looked at pictures I saw online, I got less and less interested in that scheme. I just didn’t feel like red Cygnar looked good in any of the pictures that I saw, plus the idea of a #southKhador army has been done already. Next, I considered a few bright colours such as yellow, orange, and white, but I realized that with all the electro-stuff on Cygnar models, it would make sense to go with a darker scheme as the OSL would have more contrast and look better against a dark background.

Now, I had a few choices for dark colours. Purple was out because that was the scheme for my Khador army, and blue was the studio scheme which I wanted to avoid. I considered a dark green, but I had done enough of that with some of my recent gundam projects and thought it might not provide enough contrast with the terrain on most tables. So, I eventually decided on a blue-black with light grey and yellow as secondary colours, figuring that would be different enough from the studio scheme to satisfy my rebellious tendencies.

The project

IMG_1092.JPG

Battlebox contents, cleaned and hit with a zenithal prime

After fighting through some of the mediocre plastics that is classic Privateer Press from before their resin started getting good, I started with a zenithal prime of white stynylrez over black. The plan was to airbrush the main colour, then pick out all the rest of the details by brush. For my main colour, I worked up from black, to Reaper’s Blue Liner, to P3 Gravedigger Denim, then P3 Frostbite. Readers of this blog will recognize this colour recipe from previous projects where I experimented with highlighting black. However, in this case, I went a little heavier on the blues than before, making it more of a desaturated blue than a black.

IMG_1269.JPG

Airbrushed and ready for brush painting

From there, I added some grey, yellow, and silver and brass metallics, using a lot of familiar recipes. White with purple shading and yellow ink overtop for the yellow, various Reaper greys for the grey, and my usual true metallic metal techniques for the metals.

Since most of these models are Cygnar stormdudes and since the whole reason for this colour scheme was to accentute the glow effects, it was time for OSL. Here, I would start out by undercoating the source of the light in white, then spraying on the glow with my airbrush and some sky blue. Add some touchups to make the source pop a little more, and you have a perfectly serviceable tabletop quality OSL.

IMG_1409.JPG

Glowy Stormdudes

Basing

IMG_1130.JPG

Some sandbags on the base to go with the trench warfare scheme

Basing is an important part of tying the whole thing together. A coherent basing scheme can really make your army look good. Since this is Cygnar, I decided to go with a trench warfare scheme. As such, there is basically no vegetation because the no-man’s-land has been chewed up by repeated artillery barrages that not much is growing. I also went with a little lighter dirt colour than I used on my Khador, as that looks more like some of the pictures of trench warfare that I’ve seen. It wasn’t that hard; just a simple matter of adding textured mediums mixed with craft paints for texture, and washing and dry-brushing to taste. Some simple green stuff sandbags and bits of barbed wire completed the theme, and some models have bits of debris that reflect their story – Maddox has Menoth bits on her base, while Gwen Keller has a pig’s head and a butcher knife on her base – and I did try to make the base a little lighter towards the front center of the models, just to focus the eye on the front of the model.

Also, I wanted to make the arc marks visible, but not too powerful that they draw the eye away from the model, which can be one of the most annoying things about painting Warmachine. As such, I went with a black base rim, with a sky blue hash line and grey lines next to it. This isn’t too bright, but it is still visible.

Acosta

Savio Monteiro Acosta is a bit of a unique model in this theme force. Technically, he’s not a Cygnar model, but he counts as such in this theme force. His lore is something about him being a roaming duelist and not an actual member of the Cygnaran military. As such, I wanted to do something different.

First, I figured it would be good to do a headswap. Stormblades fall into the category of people who are wearing such heavy armour that their gender is obscured if they’re wearing a helmet, so I figured I could get away with making a female version with just a simple headswap. So, I reached into my collection of Statuesque Miniatures heads and found one that would work and boom, it’s Sophia Maria Acosta now. I also wanted to give her darker skin, just because that’s a skin tone I haven’t painted as much.

Second, I figured it would be good to do a different colour scheme than the rest of my stormdudes. Instead of the usual blue-black, I decided to go with a camo green, with a burgundy cape and yellow highlights. The actual painting wasn’t too much different than the rest. I started with a coal black and worked up to green and added a bit of yellow in the highest highlights. Then, I masked off the green and did the cape, working from coal black up to P3 Sanguine Base, Sanguine Highlight, and the final shade Sanguine Highlight with a bit of Menoth White Highlight mixed in. I followed up with a bit of brushwork blending overtop to reinforce the shadows and highlights, and added a freehand pattern at the bottom of the cape just to add something to it.

IMG_1372.JPG

Since this was partially done for a painting competition, I decided to change up my strategy for varnish and adopt one that Vince Venturella has been advocating. I would save the metallics for the end, and before applying them, I would hit them with a coat of matte varnish. Then, I would paint my metallics and not varnish them.

This seems like heresy; the idea of playing with an unvarnished miniature, especially an unvarnished metal miniature. My gut reaction was that it would get chipped. However, the simple fact of the matter is that it is your primer, not your varnish, which is truly important for chipping resistance, and varnish ruins the finish on metallics. You can kind of save it by going back over the metallics with a gloss varnish, but it’s still not quite as good as leaving it au naturel. Vince claims that metallic paint is resistant enough to handling, so I’m hoping to test this and prove him right for myself.

Next Steps

So far, I’ve finished painting the battlebox, the Cygnar half of the Company of Iron box, a squire and a unit attachment for the Stormblades. This is enough to take me up to about 35 point games, including theme forces, and really introduce the fundamentals to new players. I have a few models assembled and with quick airbrush base coats applied to expand my force with, including a Stormblade Captain, a Journeyman Warcaster, a few support models, Brickhouse, and the Mk.II battlebox. I also have a few models yet to assemble, and am eyeing a box of Stormlances on the shelf of my FLGS. That should take me up to 75 points and beyond, and I’m thinking if I go for a second list, I might look at Kraye with a combined arms force in Sons of the Tempest.

Now, it’s just too bad Storm Division isn’t on the current Active Duty Roster…

“In Enemy Hands” – the Spanish Republican 109

When I last reported on this model, I had gotten it all more or less together, aside from the landing gear, propeller, and a few other small bits that I didn’t want to risk breaking off as I painted. After hours of work sanding, filling, and re-scribing, I only had a few more little things to get done before I can launch into the fun part.

img_1253

About where I was last time…

For those of you who didn’t bother reading the previous article, this is the AMG 1/48 scale Bf.109B model, being done up in the colours of one that served in Spain and was captured by the Republicans.

IMG_1318

The finished product

Painting the Canopy

The 109 in all its variants has some rather extensive canopy framing. Fortunately, this kit provided pre-cut masks, however it only provided them for the outside. If you wanted to paint the framing on the inside of your canopy, which I did because I wanted to do an open canopy so the cockpit detail was visible, you would have to mask it yourself. Fortunately, I got a little trick from a friend for doing extensively framed glass like the canopy of the 109 – mask all the framing going one way first, paint it, let it dry, then mask off the framing going the other way. While this did take a little longer because there were a lot of “wait for the paint/primer to cure” steps, it made for good results and spared me the frustration of trying to cut little squares out of masking tape precisely to fit.

With the inside of the canopy framing done, it was time to mask the outside. The pre-cut canopy masks were a little easier to work with, as expected, however there were a couple sharp corners where they wanted to constantly pull up, so I had to be careful of that when I was spraying. Once masked, I glued in the front and back piece using a very small amount of gel super glue (sure to keep it open to avoid fogging). For the center section, I used blue tack to temporarily hold the center section in place and closed, preventing overspray from getting into the cockpit, while I painted the rest of the plane. I then primed the entire thing in black Stynylrez, fixed up any seam line issues or surface imperfections that became visible after priming, then hit it with a second coat of primer.

The Fun Part

When it came to painting, I chose to paint it in two halves; do the bottom first and let it dry before tackling the top half. This way, there are fewer worries about how to hold the model as I paint it – and given that I haven’t installed the landing gear yet, that is a bit of an issue.

Now, my approach to this is based partly on a background in painting figures and wargaming pieces. Here, you often emphasize shadows and highlights with your paints to make it pop from a couple feet away. There is little concern for matching the exact colour, because aside from the fact that there is no generally accepted FS colour for magical robits, you’re going to be painting in so many highlights and shadows anyways, that the ultimate colour on your model might go 20% lighter in the highlights and 20% darker in the shadows – meaning that there is little point in fretting over the right shade.

This is in some ways a more artistic approach than one that is based in trying to achieve an exact replica of the real thing. Not that it is any better or worse, mind you, but different, and it helps make the model pop, especially from a distance.

The bulk of the plane was base coated in Vallejo Metal Color Dark Aluminum out of the airbrush. With that down, I switched to their regular Aluminum colour for highlights on areas such as the upper curves of the fuselage, the leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces, and the center of some of the panels for a little modulation. I took a similar strategy with the red; after masking off everything that I wanted to stay silver, I laid down a couple coats of a deep crimson to cover up the metallic paint underneath, then then, on the upper surfaces, leading edges, and the center of the panels, worked my way up to a bright red. The brightest tone was a mixture of Citadel Evil Sunz Scarlet, some Flame Red artist inks to kick the intensity and saturation up a notch, and perhaps a little P3 Khador Red Highlight, which despite its name, is actually a not very saturated orange.

IMG_1341.JPG

The colours I used to achieve the red — a crimson, a bright red, a red ink, a highlight orange, and a little blue shade to reinforce some shadows

With that dry, I placed a piece of masking tape over the landing gear bays and ran my exacto knife around the inside of the landing gear bays, removing all the tape covering the bays but leaving the tape over the skin of the aircraft. From there, I sprayed the landing gear bays in Vallejo Green-Grey, which was my “close enough” approximation for RLM 02.

IMG_1342.JPG

My yellow process…

One other thing – as I was priming, I accidentally broke off the rudder, however this actually turned out to be fortuitous as it made masking and painting the markings on the rudder a lot easier. I simply sprayed the entire thing white, masked off the middle third, and painted the top red and the bottom purple, using a similar approach as on the stripes. After removing the masking, I sprayed the lightest touch of Citadel’s Druchii Violet shade over the white in a couple areas to preshade it, then sprayed it all with a Process Yellow acrylic artist ink, not being overly concerned with overspray onto the red and purple areas because yellow is such a weak colour that, while the pigment-dense ink will turn the white areas yellow, it won’t make a difference over red or purple.

IMG_1298.JPG

Oops…

 

There are a couple panels on the 109 near the nose section that are much darker than the rest of the plane, however they were small enough that I was able to brush paint them with a mixture of Vallejo Model Colour gunmetal gray and black and didn’t bother with masking.

Throughout this process, I did make a few mistakes; either missing a surface imperfection or messing up a mold line. To deal with these, I isolated the panel where the mistake was with Tamiya masking tape around the panel lines, sanded it back down to bare plastic, and then reprimed and repainted. I had to do this on a few panels, but fortunately none that were either too big or too difficult to sand.

Weathering, Panel Lines, and Reinforcing Shadows

For the panel lines, I decided to do it the hard way, applying some sort of combination of washes, acrylic artist inks, and plenty of flow improver with my 10/0 brush. The result was perhaps a little more stark than I wanted, but once you weather it and take a step back and look at it from “on the tables” distance, rather than three inches away, I think it looks pretty good.

When it came to weathering, I wanted to keep the chipping subtle, as is appropriate for aircraft models. I did some light sponge chipping on the leading edges, around access panels, etc. with some silver and some Khador Red Highlight on the red parts. I then took my 10/0 liner brush and laid in some streaks in the direction of the airflow with very thin paint, lots of flow improver and the lightest touch.

Next up, I took out some Citadel shades and got out my detail aibrush. I’ve been playing with spraying these through the airbrush a fair bit lately, and I think there are a lot of interesting effects you can get from them. The trick is, you have to just barely pull the trigger back, as pulling it back too far will cause huge problems. If you have this feature on your airbrush and you aren’t comfortable freehanding it, there is no shame in using the needle stop. While these shades are effective at sinking into recesses, if you airbrush them on just a tiny amount at a time, you can tint the underlying paint in interesting ways.

So, there are three things I want to do with these shades:

  1. Reinforce the shadows

While I did have some nice highlights and shadows and modulation going, I wanted to reinforce it a little more. By spraying some Drakenhof Nightshade, which is a blue-black, I can tint certain areas like the underside, the wing roots, and the panel line areas. Fortunately, this is a good shade for both the metallics and the red – blue, as a cooler colour, will push the shadows in the red more towards a shaded crimson and let the highlights really pop, while it also works reasonably well over metallics. Also, it dulls down the finish a little, which isn’t bad for shadows.

If you go too aggressive at this stage and don’t like it, you can always build it back up again by respraying some highlight colour.

  1. Add surface variation.

The surface of an aircraft isn’t perfect, so I like to represent that on my model. I like to do this in two stages. First, start with Drakenhof Nightshade, their blue shade. Then follow up with something brown, like Nuln Oil or Agrax Earthshade. This creates a very interesting surface because not only do you have some variation in lightness and darkness, but you also have some cool/warm contrast, which provides another layer of visual interest.

For bonus points, you can get some interesting effects by masking along a panel line, either with tape or just by holding a business card along the panel line as you spray. This will make it so that the marbling and variation isn’t continuous across the surface, but rather there are breaks in the pattern as we go from panel to panel.

IMG_1343.JPG

Metallic colours, and some shades

  1. Add stains

These washes can also be used to add things like stains. I did some stains and streaks by simply starting from a point of origin like the oil cooler under the wings or the radiator area and spraying a little bit of the colour I wanted going back from there in the direction of the airflow.

For the soot from the exhaust and the guns, I simply sprayed on some Nuln Oil, again, spraying it wherever made sense to me based on the airflow around the plane. I was considering adding some dry pigments, but the Nuln Oil itself actually gave me such a good effect that I didn’t consider them necessary.

Final Bits

With the bulk of the plane done, there were a few little bits that I had painted separately to attach at the end. Landing gear, propeller, center section of the canopy, and a few little protuberances like antennae and pitot tubes. I simply scraped away a tiny bit of paint, installed the part with either plastic cement or CA glue, and then touched up the paint in that area with a brush. The dorsal antenna was pinned into the surface with some thin brass rod, and a piece of EZ-Line was added and painted silver to add the wire – just before I found out that the particular aircraft which was captured by the Republicans didn’t actually have that antenna and wire. Oh well, I don’t build for accuracy anyways.

The Base

I couldn’t just leave it on the shelf as is, so I decided to make a simple base. I got myself a picture frame from the dollar store and sanded and painted it up. For the center of the display base, I chose to use national colours for a few reasons. Mainly, I wanted to emphasize that this aircraft was in Spanish Republican service, and the clearest way to do that is with the red-yellow-purple tricolour of the Second Spanish Republic, which is very distinctive as this short-lived flag is one of the only national flags in history to include purple. Unfortunately, presumably in part because it was likely hastily painted in the field, there are no actual roundels on this aircraft. So the only place where that tricolour shows up is on the rudder way at the back, partly obscured by the horizontal stabilizer. So, by doing the base in national colours, it would bring in the purple and yellow that is really only seen in one small area at the extreme back of the model, and emphasize the Spanish Republican provenance.

It took me a few tries to create the tricolour, but I eventually hit on the best way to do it. First, I took a piece of printer paper and traced out the shape of the inside of the frame, then divided it up into thirds for the tricolor pattern. Using masking tape, I masked off the middle third and then taped the whole thing to a piece of cardboard that I stood up in my airbrush booth. I loaded my airbrush up with acrylic artist inks and used it to colour up the two sides – one purple and one red. Once that was done, I removed the masking and sprayed the center part yellow. Similar to when I was painting the rudder on the plane, I didn’t bother remasking because I actually wasn’t worried about overspray at all – the yellow is a weak enough colour compared to the red and the purple that, while it will turn the white paper yellow quite nicely, it won’t make any perceptible difference to the underlying colour over the red or purple.  From there, I let it dry, cut it to size, and placed it into the frame.

Conclusions

This was an interesting experience. My previous experience with model aircraft fell into two categories. First, there were the aircraft I built in my childhood, which were done with all the enthusiasm and craftsmanship that the twelve year old version of myself was capable of. Second, there were the two archaic Polish kits from behind the iron curtain that were not exactly the sort of raw material that I’m going to use to create a masterpiece.

This was a departure from those; I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I put a lot more effort into these than I did those archaic kits that ended up being little more than testbeds for this project. There were some frustrations on the way (see: everything about the front cowling on this kit) and a lot of figuring things out as I go (ugh, photoetch). However, it was an enjoyable experience, even if the kit itself didn’t exactly feature Bandai-level engineering.

My goal was to finish this up for the local IPMS chapter’s annual theme contest. I ended up picking this kit up about a year ago, and ended up putting it off, then shelving it a couple times, meaning I finished it with a little under a month to spare. And, as a bonus, I managed to squeak out a win with a split decision over a really interesting customized Bren Gun Carrier, captured by the Germans and turned into an improvised tank hunter. While I’m going to get back to my usual figures, busts and magic robits, this was a good experience.

Except for the photoetch.

Warhammer School Clubs, Part 4: Talkin’ ‘bout Warhammer with Kids

The following article was written by a friend who works as an Early Child Educator in a before and after school program. It is about his participation in the Warhammer School Clubs program, a program by Games Workshop intended to promote the hobby within schools. This article is part four, see part one, part two, and part three.

With 15 children participating, we had a pretty large group to contend with. During this past summer, the local Games Workshop came and did a presentation to the small summer group that we had. That was about 8 kids. He told me that was about the ideal number for a painting workshop, so having 15 is going to be something of a new challenge.

We did have some parents come and chat about the Club after receiving the sign-up letter. There was no concerns about the contents of the program, rather the biggest issues had to do with scheduling – trying to figure out how to work around hockey and dance practices, and all the other extracurriculars children do nowadays. The parents were really open to wargaming in the classroom, and I am grateful for their openness and the trust they’ve put in our program.

Session One: Vows of the Knights of Warhammer

img1.jpg

January 23rd was our first session. Our after school program is a “roll-away” program, meaning that we share the gym with the school, and have to roll all our cabinets and material out each day and put it away each night. This is obviously a lot of work, however the upside to this is that our classroom is really adaptable when it comes to set up. So I put out one of our carpets and set up a whiteboard to make a “quiet” area in which the group could meet and not have the conversations interrupted.

And there was a lot of conversation.  These two first sessions in the curriculum book are very “talk” heavy. I tried real hard to keep the time to 20 mins, since some of the children where having a very hard time sitting still and talking about “codes of conduct” and “Leadership Roles” in the abstract. This is especially true since the kids didn’t really know what they were getting themselves involved with — they were under the impression that it was mostly “painting tiny figures” and not working out rules and such.

img2.jpg

Being more student focused is an important aspect of the club. While they are in school, students don’t get much of a say on the rules or how their classrooms are run. They are told the school matrix without having any real say or buy-in. Most teachers are used to that kind of teaching within the classroom. I am lucky enough to be a part of a more open ended before-and-after program, where the curriculum is more malleable and I am allowed to craft my own classroom style.

I took this as an opportunity to experiment with greater democratic organizing within the classroom. The children developed their own “Code of Conduct” that made sense to them democratically. This allows for greater ownership over the program, a greater buy-in from the children to follow the boundaries set by them. At the age that we’re operating at (middle/late school age) the majority of them know how to behave in this kind of situation, and those outliers that have difficulty are more likely to be focused when the proper behavior is reinforced by a group mentality.

The group determined what our club would be called. Some suggestions where “Warhammer Wednesday club”, “Warhammer Club”, etc.  One that stood out was “World War One Warhammer Edition Club”. The children went with “Warhammer Alliance”, which is ironic, because the school club is called Warhammer Alliance in the UK (although they choose this because the acronym, WHA, is shares with the World Hockey Association, which is the league our local professional hockey team started in).  

There were plenty of children excited to volunteer for student led positions, even if they didn’t quite understand how much work was going into those roles. The children picked between themselves and elected those positions. I tried my hardest to encourage each position to have two children, one boy and one girl, to take those positions. The hardest to fill was the “Librarian” or Loremaster position, since it involved a lot of reading, but afterwards I gave the girls who were elected I gave them the free previews of the Warhammer Adventure books I had.

At the end, I asked the children to take a knee and repeat the “Oath of the Valiant Warrior” which is in the curriculum book. At this point we’d been talking for about 20 mins, so some of the kids were getting pretty squirrely. Instead of repeating the Oath after me, they yelled incomprehensible screams. It took a moment to give a reminder, but when we were done, I told them to rise, “As Knights of Warhammer!”

After all the children had dispersed, two girls asked if they could get out the boxes we’re keeping the figures in. They set up a space in our reading area, where they used the models in their play. It was a family drama, with a fantasy twist, where magic cousins and families going to “fight” their enemies. It’s really special to see how they can use these fantasy figures and create their own narrative with them.

Session Two: The Ethics of War(hammer)

The Second of the “talking Sessions” was about the ethics and morality of warfare and a dive into the factions, their motivations and the ethics of each factions. I drew out these weird half circles to have three different points of reference when talking about the morality of war and the factions: “good”, “bad” and “maybe”.  I was thinking, moral compass, compasses are round, so how about make a round chart for them to plot their ideas on? Reflecting on it, this was totally over complicated and a simple line graph which they could show the spectrum between “good” and “bad” would have been far easier.  

img3.jpg

The discussion on war was probably one of the most interesting group discussions I’ve had with children. It brought out a lot of the children’s personal family history, how grandparents and parents were touched by warfare in the past. The hurt involved that still affect their families to this day even if direct family members have not been in combat situations, it’s was really a deep conversation we don’t usually have in the “play focused” environment.

After talking about the general morality of war, we moved into learning a little about the Age of Sigmar world and characters in it. This is where our Master Librarian really stepped up – she had taken the Warhammer Adventures preview all the way though and wanted to share what she had learned. She was most excited to share the different realms – fire, life, beasts, metal, etc – that the characters have moved though, and the battles between the barbarians and the Stormcast. She also shared that the first chapters of the “Lifestone” novel were sad since the main characters mother dies.

After this explanation from our young Librarian, we went though some of the different factions in the Age of Sigmar, and how the kids saw them on the moral compass. They had some interesting ideas – I’m not sure if you could say that Ironjaw Orks are a “good” faction, I would think that they’d be neutral (more of a “force of nature” then a “force of good”). But that’s how they saw them, and we’ll see how they continue to build their understanding of the narrative world of Sigmar coming.

Something I did for them is that I printed out copies of the free preview of the Warhammer Adventures.  The program has few “take homes” written into it, so I thought that this would be a simple way for them to have something to keep for themselves and be introduced to the whole lore of the game (I mean, it is why GW is making them, after all).

Conclusion

These first two sessions are very discussion heavy, and that can be difficult for some children who have difficulty in group sitting situations.  That being said, it’s a worthwhile exercise to create a sense of ownership within the Warhammer Club, and develop a conversation around the ethics of war, giving children a greater context to place the world of Warhammer in. How play-based programs give space for heavy philosophical discussions, and this is a great way to bring philosophy and critical thinking into a program.

Next time, we’re finally getting to the nitty gritty of painting. Expect a lot of pictures!

Warmachine: What’s really wrong with themes (and how to fix them)

If you spend as unhealthy an amount of time on the Warmachine internet as I do, you will be familiar with a common complaint – that “thememachine” or the prevalence of theme lists in Warmachine, is horrible and is killing the game and that things were better back in the good old days of Mk.II. Of course, this is an exaggeration, but it has got me thinking.

First off, I actually don’t think themes are that bad. There are a lot of advantages to splitting up these factions into groups and restricting model choices. First, it makes it a lot easier to balance, in that a model only has to be balanced in its relevant themes and we don’t need to worry about some combination of that model, a certain warcaster, and two or three mercenary options breaking the game. Second, restrictions can actually encourage list diversity. If anyone could take any in-faction model any time, we would risk ending up with lists all looking like the same sort of soup of the strongest models in the faction, or starting with the same few faction autoincludes.

I also don’t think spam is inherently bad. It actually looks pretty cool to see a well-painted army with some uniformity to it across the table. Phalanxes of well-painted Iron Fang Pikemen with a coherent colour scheme can look much more attractive on the tabletop than some mixture of Iron Fangs, Winter Guard, and Man-O-War all mashed together and clashing aesthetically. However, while the argument that themes discourage list diversity is way overblown, I think there may be a nugget of truth in there.

Two ways to build lists…

It feels like there are two ways to build lists in Warmachine. The first way is to pick a variety of models that mutually support each other, even if such support isn’t as direct and straightforward as “This dude gives these other dudes +1 to hit.”

I think one great example of this is Armored Corps. While there are some models that directly buff each other such as the Kovnik and the various unit attachments, and there are some builds that just take one model and go ham with it like Butcher1 and three units of bombardiers, there are actually a lot of ways that elements in an Armored Corps army can support each other. Suppression tankers can lay down covering fire and deal with light infantry that would otherwise bog down (or in the case of weapon master dudes, tear through) your relatively low model count, heavy infantry army. Shocktroopers can screen heavy hitting Demolition Corps, and Bombardiers can provide a long range element for either sniping out key support pieces. And that is to say nothing of the speed of the Drakhun or the Chariots. While you are restricted to Man-O-War models, you can take a lot of different variations that each bring something to the table and add up to more than the sum of their parts.

This is actually similar to how squads in real life combat operate. A squad of soldiers in WWII might have a combination of soldiers with different loadouts and different specializations – riflemen, a light machine gun crew, a couple guys with submachine guns, some grenadiers, etc. All these soldiers would support each other in ways that make the sum of the parts greater than the whole – the guys with the machine gun would provide suppressing fire, allowing the riflemen to get into a better position. A couple guys with submachine guns may help cover the grenadiers as they approach an enemy position to lob grenades into their foxholes. And all the while, the designated marksman would pick off any high value targets that expose themselves.

oc_p03.jpg

Of course, the other way is to find one model that is perhaps a little bit too strong for its points, take a caster that synergizes with it, and just go ham with it. The quintessential list here is Cryx Slayer spam, though there are some other popular lists that come to mind as well. Once you figure out that Slayers in the Black Industries theme force are pretty good and pretty cheap, and Asphyxious3 makes Slayers better, the logical conclusion is to take Asphyxious3 and as many Slayers as you can cram into your list to really leverage that synergy. From there, you just hope that the combination of a good model with a caster who can serve as a force multiplier can just brute force anything in front of it, including your opponent’s nice combined arms list with plenty of mutually supportive elements.

The real life equivalent would be like if the British army decided that since Sten guns are cheap and effective, they’ll just produce and issue nothing but Sten submachine guns to their army. That’s one strategy I suppose, but in real life, it’s not a very good one and prone to have catastrophic results when these poor Tommies run up against a problem that spray and pray with a submachine gun can’t solve. While I’m not one to say that our game of magic robots punching dragons needs to be a realistic simulations of real-life combat, in the world of wargaming, “everyone gets a Sten” isn’t as tactically challenging and intellectually stimulating as spending your lunch break at work weighting the pros and cons of adding a designated marksman to pick off high value targets to your squad versus incorporating another light machine gun crew for more effective covering fire.

Back to themes

One catch here is theme forces. While some themes like Armored Corps have a nice diversity of units and can incorporate mutually supporting elements rather than just running as many Slayers as possible, some are a little more restricted in either the models you can take or the models that count towards free cards in the theme. Between this and our predilection to find a synergy and go ham on it (see: Asphyxious + Slayers = win), players are strongly encouraged to take as many points of models that count towards free cards as possible because free stuff is really good. For example, you could take a bunch of Kayazy Assassins in Jaws of the Wolf or Sword Knights in Heavy Metal, but in doing so, you are forgoing free cards, which makes it difficult to justify unless you have a really compelling reason to.

One way to deal with this is to lower the threshold for free cards to 15 points, and cap the number of free cards at three or so. That would allow people to take models that don’t count for free points – things like warjacks, journeyman warcasters, and mercenaries – and build a more combined arms list, while still maxing out on free points and not being punished by the free points economy when compared to straight spam lists. Of course, if we simply drop the points threshold for a free card without instituting a cap, then we end up in the same situation as before, except instead of maxing out on a certain model type to get three free cards, people will max out on the same model type to get five free cards.

We can already see this in at least one of the themes. I find Sons of the Tempest in Cygnar to be particularly interesting to build lists for, in part because you get the free card after every 15 points of Arcane Tempest models instead of 20 or 25. While there isn’t a hard cap, people generally don’t try to maximize free cards by taking 75 points of gunmages because all those POW 10s probably wouldn’t have the raw hitting power to take down a heavily armoured force. So, when building a list in that theme, people tend to limit themselves to about three free cards, using up 45 points and spending the other 30 points on things like warjacks, mercenaries, junior warcasters, etc., to bring some heavy hitting power to the list and make it a little more combined arms oriented than taking just the bare minimum number of warjacks and filling the rest with in-theme infantry.

Because of a combination of a lower points threshold not pressuring players to maximize free cards, as well as some of Cygnar’s great journeyman warcasters, you can actually make some interesting combined arms lists in Sons of the Tempest and still get a decent amount of free cards. Kraye, for example, could be played fairly jack-heavy in this theme, using the jacks for heavy hitting and the various gunmages to support, clear chaff, and push enemy models around as well as apply Kraye’s feat.

Further, in addition to encouraging more combined arms play, this could help bring models back to the table that don’t fit well into theme forces because they don’t count towards free cards. Assault Kommandos, I’m looking in your direction.

Assault_Kommandos.jpg

Did somebody say my name?

Conclusion

Themes aren’t going anywhere, and longing for some good old days of Mk.II which may or may not have actually happened isn’t useful. While there are a lot of benefits to themes such as making armies look coherent, making the game easier to balance, reducing the instance of seeing the same overpowered model in every list in a faction, and basically being a shopping list for a new player, one weakness is that they don’t lend themselves to combined arms play – which is already discouraged by some of the powerful combos and synergies in the game.

By reducing the free card threshold and capping the number of free cards, Warmachine could take a small step away from trying to stack buffs onto a dozen of the most cost-effective model and towards combined arms lists with mutually supporting elements. That could increase the tactical depth of the game without greatly increasing complexity, and I, for one, would much rather have a game decided by who best brings his mutually supporting elements to bear on a battlefield given the challenges of terrain and the movements of the enemy than one of hard counters, gear checks, and putting all one’s eggs into one basket and then winning or losing at list selection.

Man up and go to the makeup aisle

Sometimes you can find hobby stuff in the most interesting places. Lids from bottles of Tropicana orange juice make great bases for fantasy figures, a sandwich container and some baking parchment makes for a great wet palette, and with a little bit of creativity, just about anything can be either terrain or basing material.

But, one place that is often overlooked by a lot of hobbyists is the makeup aisle. Given the, shall we say, “demographic profile” of a lot of modellers and wargamers, that may not be too much of a surprise. But, if you keep an open mind and are confident enough in your sexuality that you don’t mind using a paint brush with a pink handle, there is actually a surprising amount of useful stuff there.

Organizing your paints

If you’re anything like me, you have a lot of hobby paints. And you are slightly obsessive compulsive when it comes to keeping your workbench organized, needing everything to have a place and everything to be in its place. Fortunately, us modellers and miniature painters aren’t the only ones who collect large amounts of brightly coloured paints in small bottles.

nail_polish_rach

Nail polish bottles are about the same size as most paint pots, and some people have as many of those as we have paints. As such, there are plenty of storage solutions to keep them organized and accessible. If you simply google “nail polish rack” and shop around a little online, you can find a lot of ready-made storage solutions that are perfect for hobby paints. Because they target a larger audience than the hobby community, these are often cheaper and a little nicer than some of the stuff targeted at us. Further, because not all nail polish bottles are the same, these are well-designed to efficiently hold many different kinds of bottles, from tall and skinny dropper bottles to short, squat Citadel pots, to bigger 30mL bottles in  way that allows you to get more paints per square foot than some of the laser cut MDF alternatives that have holes for each paint.

IMG_1270.JPG

No, I do not have too many paints.

Makeup Brushes – the best dry brushes

When it comes to dry brushing, a lot of us just use any sort of beater brush, often something that used to be an actual mainline brush but has since become too frayed or damaged for regular use. However, the best dry brushes have a few characteristics. First, they are nice and soft, which allows you to slowly build up the colour and reduces that dry brushed look that we all know and don’t love. Second, they should come in useful shapes like flat and filbert brushes. Finally, they should be cheap because you will wreck them, so it’s not a good idea to get too attached.

Enter makeup brushes. You can get them at the dollar store, or buy them in bulk online. They come in all kinds of useful shapes and sizes, and if you go to the right source, they’re super cheap. They’re also nice and soft, because apparently women don’t like to poke themselves around the eyes with stiff, hard brushes. Because of these properties, they are also good for applying dry pigments to models for weathering and such.

Believe it or not, brushes that women use to dry brush pigments onto their face are good for dry brushing paint and pigments onto models. Who knew?

IMG_1272.JPG

Also, a big, soft makeup brush is great for dusting off your models without damaging the finish, so if you’re bringing a model to a show or just want to dust off the stuff in your display case, a makeup brush is a handy thing to have.

Files and sanding sticks

Getting back to nail care, there are a lot of things used for doing one’s nails that can also be useful for models. If you look around, there is an assortment of files and sanding sticks which look remarkably similar to a lot of more expensive products from hobby shops.

For example, look at what I just found in the makeup aisle the other day. This is a sanding block for doing your nails. It’s got seven grits in one, starting with a rough grit for reshaping nails and progressing to finer and finer grits to smooth and polish your nails. While I haven’t had a chance to use it extensively yet, so far it is pretty great for sanding down seam lines and polishing out imperfections.

IMG_1274.JPG

Conclusion

Not everything you need for models can be found at the hobby shop. Sometimes, you can find great things in the strangest places. The makeup aisle at a dollar store is one of those places, with all kinds of files, sanding sticks, organizers, and brushes that have all sorts of modelling applications.

Also, is it just me, or does the Tamiya weathering master kit look a lot like rebranded makeup?

IMG_1273.JPG