“Average Dice” part 2 — Damage Rolls

In the last installment of this series, I looked at the math behind attack rolls in Warmachine.  This time, I’m going to move onto damage rolls, as once you scratch the surface and get past the notion that “average dice equals seven,” there is some interesting stuff going on in the probabilities.

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Fascinating.  Tell me more…

For the uninitiated, Warmachine uses 2d6 to resolve most attack and damage rolls.  Generally, when making an attack against an enemy model, you must roll 2d6, add your attack modifier, and equal or beat the opposing model’s DEF to score a hit.  Once you have hit, you determine how much damage you do by again rolling 2d6, adding the POW/P+S of the weapon you are attacking with, and comparing it to the ARM value of the opposing model.  For every point that this roll exceeds ARM, you do one point of damage to the opposing model.  Models in Warmachine have anywhere from one to sixty or more hit points or “boxes,” and to make it easier, players usually mentally subtract the opposing player’s ARM from their POW before rolling damage — calculating that, for example, with a POW of 16 up against an ARM of 20, they will do 2d6-4 or “dice minus four” damage.

Single wound or multi-wound?

Before I get started, I would like to point out that there is a difference between single wound and multi-wound models.  For single wound models, you only have to do a single point of damage to kill them, which means that you get the same result (usually, a dead enemy model) whether your roll beats their ARM by one or by a lot.  Since we don’t care how much we overkill a single-wound model by**, our math actually resembles the to-hit rolls we discussed last week in that we’re essentially rolling to hit a target number, which in this case is one higher than their ARM value, in order to do at least one point of damage and kill the opposing model.

Additionally, for a multi-wound model, you can also use a similar principle to calculate your odds of one-shot killing the model, by simply adding up the number of boxes and the ARM to figure out what you need to roll to one-shot kill the enemy model.

Since the math on trying to roll a target number or better and not caring how much you beat the target number by was discussed extensively last week, right now I’m going to focus on a case where you are up against a multi-wound model, and assume you are just trying to do as much damage as you can.

Widowmakers vs. Forge Seer

A couple weeks ago, I was playing a game and having some Khador-on-Khador action. My opponent had a Greylord Forge Seer marshalling a warjack, and had left it in the open and within striking distance of an entire four-man squad of Widowmaker Scouts and a single Widowmaker Marksman.

F_Khador_WidowmakerDue to the accuracy of the sniper rifles on the Widowmakers (who says the Khadorans don’t have a knack for precision engineering?), hitting the target wasn’t a big problem.  At anything but snakes to hit, each individual shot had a 97.2% chance of connecting and I have an over 85% chance of hitting with all five.

The problem, however, comes when it is time to do damage.  The opposing Greylord Forge Seer has an ARM of 16 and eight boxes.  On the Widowmakers, I have a choice.  Due to their Sniper rule, with the Scouts, on a hit, I can choose to either do one point of damage automatically or roll a POW 10, and with the Marksman, I can choose to either do three points of damage or roll a POW 12.

Adding up the automatic damage, we see that if I take advantage of the Sniper rule, doing one point of damage four times and three points of damage once, I will end up doing seven points of damage — just shy of what I need to kill this Forge Seer.  Since I would rather him not survive until the next turn, that won’t do.

So, if I want any chance of killing him at all, I use my POW 10s and POW 12s and roll it out.  Here is where the math gets interesting…

Dice minus X…

“Average dice” theory states that since “average dice” on 2d6 equals seven, my Scouts, doing 2d6-6 damage, will on average do one point of damage each, while my Marksman, doing 2d6-4, will on average do three points.  Again, this adds up to seven damage, which means that I will probably not manage to kill the Greylord Forge Seer.

Fortunately for me, the math of the “average dice” theory is wrong.  To calculate the expected value of a random discrete variable such as a series of die rolls, it’s a simple matter of, for each possible outcome, multiplying the probability by the outcome.  The formula for the expected value*** on a damage roll, thus, is:

E(x) = x1p1 + x2p2 + x3p3 + … xnpn

Where, for each possible outcome on the dice, p is the probability of said outcome and x is the damage.

When we start calculating this for 2d6, we start to notice something interesting…

expected_value_damage.png

Here is the calculations, with the main part of the table showing the value of each term in the equation for all cases from dice-2 to dice-11, with the EV in the bottom row

From dice minus two upwards, for every +1 you add to the roll, the expected value of your damage increases by one.  In this area, the “average dice” theory seems to more or less work out, in that the expected value of 2d6-1 is equal to 6, the expected value of 2d6 is equal to 7, and so on.  However, as we go into dice minus three and lower, the curve starts to flatten out and trail off, only hitting zero when we get to dice minus 12 and can’t possibly roll a thirteen or better on two dice.

expected_value_damage_graph.png

The blue line is correct math; the orange line is wrong

This is because you can’t roll negative damage.  Think of it this way — if you are rolling damage at dice minus seven, and you roll snakes (2) once and boxcars (12) once, you have rolled perfectly average over those two rolls, but you still did five points of damage.  That time you rolled snakes, you didn’t heal the opposing warjack for five points of damage, you simply failed to crack ARM and did nothing.  As such, you did five more points of damage than the “average dice equals seven” theory would imply because your low roll didn’t “cancel out” your high roll in any way.

Looking at the blue curve, even at dice minus seven and below, you still have a chance of rolling high and doing damage.  In fact, the expected value on 2d6-7 damage is almost a full point higher than what the “average dice” theory states!

So, what does this mean?

Remember my situation with the Widowmakers and the Forge Seers?  “Average Dice” implies that I would do seven damage, but if we add up the expected values of four shots at 2d6-6 and one shot at 2d6-4, we get an expected value of 9.333.  With the Forge Seer having eight boxes, that means that assuming I hit all my shots, I have a pretty good chance of killing it.

Which is what I did — failing to crack armour on the first two shots, rolling boxcars on the third for six damage, using the fourth to kill some random single-wound mook, and then using the Marksman to do an automatic three points to finish him off.

To-hit and damage

Of course, this is Warmachine and you can always miss.  If you want to factor in your odds of hitting, all you have to do is multiply the expected value on your damage roll by the probability that your attack roll will hit.  In this case, since I need not snakes on all my shots, I simply multiply the EV by my the probaility of hitting.  In the Widowmakers case, it’s an easy calculation, multiplying the EV by 0.972, as I have a 97.2% chance of not rolling snakes, but this can be done for any to-hit value and dice plus/minus value on damage

EV of damage.png

Memorize this chart to be good at Warmachine…

Final thoughts

  • Against single-wound models, or when you want to calculate the probaility that you will one-shot something, you can simply adapt last week’s to-hit results
  • Below 2d6-2, the “average dice” theory of calculating damage breaks down
  • The expected value on your damage roll at this point is higher than you might otherwise expect, because low rolls do zero damage instead of negative damage that might cancel out the high rolls
  • To factor in your chance of missing, simply multiply the EV of your damage roll by your hit probability, and you can figure out the EV of the amount of damage you will do before you even make the attack roll.
  • For multiple attacks, simply add up the EV of each individual attack, factoring in your hit probability.  Doing so, you can figure out the “DPS” of a multi-attacking model such as a warjack or warbeast against models of a certain DEF and ARM value.
  • As always, the dice gods are fickle and literally any possible outcome, even some extreme outcome with very low odds, can happen.

Stay tuned next time for when I discuss what happens when you start throwing additional dice into the mix, and maybe if you’re lucky, why Vlad1 is really really good!

 

**Except maybe for bragging rights and to laugh at how badly some guy got splattered.  Like last weekend, where I overkilled a Cygnaran warcaster by 34 points…

***Again, I’m using the term “expected value” in the mathematical sense to represent the mean outcome, weighted by probability.  Over hundreds and thousands of rolls, you would expect your average outcome to converge on this value.  But on one individual trial, you can still roll anything from snakes to boxcars.  Just because something is the expected value, don’t count on it, because about 50% of the time, you will be disappointed.

Paintlog — Mortar Crew, and a year of progress

Khador is a faction blessed with a lot of interesting infantry models, from our stealthy Kayazys and redneck Kossites to our heavily-armoured Iron Fangs and Man-O-War. Many of them exude the strength of the motherland, but there is perhaps none that typifies Khador more than the humble Winter Guard Mortar Crew.

The Winter Guard are Khador’s mass conscript infantry, going into battle with little more than basic armour and mass-produced cheap weapons.  They make up for thiswith their bravery and resilience; Kovnik Jozef Grigorivich can grant them the Tough special rule, and in their theme force, they are willing to sacrifice their very lives for Khador, taking bullets meant for warcasters.  The Mortar Crew, perhaps, typifies the Khadoran attitude towards problem-solving more than any other.  While our engineers haven’t quite perfected an accurate mobile light artillery piece that can reliably score hits, they’ve decided that that doesn’t matter so long as it can deliver a lot of high explosive into the general vicinity of the enemies of the motherland.  And, of course, they have the ubiquitous handaxe, which gives them a plan B against anyone who makes it behind the lines to their position.

With that in mind, I figured it was time to get started on my second Mortar Crew.  This unit consists of two models; the mortar itself, and a second crewman with a telescope who serves as a spotter.  They are the old metal models, so a file helps for cleaning mold lines.  Also, when assembling the mortar, I’ve found that it goes together a bit better if you make a small hill out of green stuff to place the mortar itself on, such that it is elevated slightly above the guy firing it.

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Note the lump of green stuff on the base under the mortar itself

From then on, it was a matter of painting it up in my usual Winter Guard theme.  Grey coats, brass armour, and purple shoulder pads, which various straps, buckles, pouches, and other bits painted in appropriate colours.  The mortar itself was mostly brass and silver, with enough of each that they would complement each other and balance out, and a bit of wood-grain on the frame.

Since this was my second mortar crew, I decided to do a little freehand on the shoulder pad to distinguish it.  For a symbol to distinguish them from their Winter Guard brethren, I borrowed the NATO symbol for a mortar crew., and for this second unit, I freehanded on a roman numeral II and a couple of random shapes that look vaguely like Khadoran runes.

Then, we get to the basing.  I’ve gone with an autumnal theme for most of my army, because I feel like it contrasts the purple of my warjacks, and is a little different than the green grass and trees you see all the time in wargaming.  The first step is applying some texture.  You can use glue and sand for this, but lately I’ve found that I much prefer to use artist mediums with pumice aggregate mixed in with craft paint.  I find it to be easier to sculpt a little to add some variation to the base, but more importantly, it’s a lot less messy and I’m not vacuuming sand out of my apartment for a week.

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Because I put a tree on the base, this means I always have concealment, right?

Give it a wash and drybrush, add a bit of turf and flock, and a couple tufts, and we’re just about done.  The catch is, in this case, I want to go a little further and add a tree to my base.  No problem!  I have some tree armatures from Woodland scenics that just need some cleaning up, priming, and a little paint to make the branch structure of the tree. From then on, it’s just a matter of gluing on some clump foliage, and then dabbing on some washes such as a sepia or an Athonian Camoshade to take the brightness down a bit.

That said, while I like these trees on my models, I realize that that I still have some ways to go on them.  I’m not sure clump foliage quite works at the 28mm-ish scale that games like Warmachine are played at, as it doesn’t quite give the impression of actual leaves. Further, the canopy of this tree ends up being way too thick, not letting even a crack of daylight through in between the leaves.  I will be experimenting more before I do any display-quality models with trees and leaves, but I do think this is fine for now for gaming pieces and to bang out some terrain so that the 40K players don’t make fun of us as much for having tables that look like crap.

My progress…

Even if it isn’t perfect, I still think this Mortar Crew shows a lot of progress.  Here, I’ve got it next to one that I painted over a year ago, while I was still getting into the hobby.  Since then, I’ve learned a lot about basing and highlighting, and have tried to push my tabletop standard higher and higher, and I think the difference between last year’s job, with not much highlighting aside from some dry-brushing and minimal edge-highlighting speaks for itself.  The newer piece just “pops” more, which is a testament to how much difference some highlights can make, even on tabletop pieces.

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Note the blue lens on the telescope, and the more interesting base work on the new one on the left.

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You can clearly see how the highlights on the body of the mortar on the left give it a little more volume and shape to it than the flat silver on the right; I probably simply gave it a wash and maybe a quick drybrush a year ago, and now, I’m starting with a very dark silver and highlighting up to something brighter.  On the telescopes as well, you can see the difference that the TMM makes.

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Much better highlighting on the brass armour plated and the cloak on the newer version…

On the table…

So, now that I have two Mortar Crews, I have to think of a list to go with them.  They are available in the Winter Guard Kommand theme force along with every other Winter Guard model, so playing in theme is an obvious choice.  As for a caster, plenty of possibilities spring to mind, but there is one in particular that stands out above all others.  It has been a long time, too long in fact, since I have fielded her, but one can only resist the siren’s call that is Kommander Sorscha for so long.

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Fun fact:  Khadoran wardrobe engineers have found that high heels dig into the surface of snow and ice, preventing soldiers from losing their footing.  Why they’ve only been issued to female soldiers, however, remains a mystery.

Like many Khador players, Kommander Sorscha or Sorscha1 was my first warcaster. She has a number of ways to freeze enemy models, and her Wind Rush spell, which grants her a free full advance, makes her beautifully mobile. Additionally, Fog of War can help push the DEF of your army up just enough to give them the help they need to get up the field.

Between Freezing Grip and her feat, both powerful effects that can freeze entire swaths of an enemy army, it’s no wonder that Sorscha1 gets the nickname “the ice queen.”  Of course, one of the side benefits of having your opponent frozen in a block of ice is that it drops their DEF down to 5, which means that a Mortar Crew, with its effective RAT of 1, can actually hit things! This makes it a great tool for following up on a bunch of frozen infantry, or perhaps getting those last few hit points in on an enemy caster during an assassination attempt.

So, what is in my list?

Theme: Winter Guard Kommand

Kommander Sorscha (Sorscha1)
– Victor

Kovnik Andrei Malakov
– Grolar
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich
Winter Guard Artillery Kapitan

Winter Guard Mortar Crew x2
Winter Guard Infantry with Officer & Standard
Winter Guard Rifle Corps with 3 Rocketeers
Winter Guard Field Gun Crew

Basically, the point of this list is simple — I freeze stuff, and then stuff that normally can’t hit the broad side of a barn actually can.  Both Victor and the Mortar Crews suffer from the inaccurate special rule, which lowers their RAT to an utterly pathetic level.  Sorscha fixes that by freezing her enemies, bringing their DEF down to 5 so they can actually hit things.  With Victor, you can actually have the hilarious situation of watching your enemies get frozen in a block of ice and subsequently burn to death with an incendiary shot.  The Grolar, as well, is a warjack with a really good gun, but with a RAT of 4, it’s hard to actually hit things with it, a problem that Sorscha fixes.

Hmmmmmm… looks like I know what I’m playing on Tuesday…

“Average Dice” part 1 — Attack rolls

When it comes to calculating probability, humans are notoriously terrible.  Our brains just aren’t wired to be good at figuring out odds, and are prone to numerous fallacies. It’s what keeps casinos and lotteries in business, and while gamblers may be particularly prone to these sort of mathematical errors, Warmachine players are no different. Especially when we’re on the clock and have to rely on gut instincts and inferences rather than detailed calculations.

One of the little catch phrases you will hear emanating from our tables and one of the ones that irritates me the most is the concept of “average dice.”  Warmachine players regularly say things like “Okay, so on average dice, this guy will kill this guy,” or “you got lucky; average dice says your assassination run would have failed.”  So, as a nerd with two degrees in math-related subjects and an employee of a national statistics agency, I figured it would be a good idea to do a deep dive into probability as it pertains to the game of Warmachine.  As this is a heavy subject with a lot of graphs and fun mathematical equations, I’ll be splitting this up with the goal of making it into a series.

To-hit probabilities

Let’s start with attack rolls.  In Warmachine, to hit an opponent with an attack, you need to roll the dice (usually 2d6), add that number your attack stat (MAT, RAT, Magic Attack, or Focus/Fury), and get equal to or higher than your target’s DEF stat. Since it doesn’t matter how much you beat the target’s DEF stat by, Warmachine players tend to do the math up front and only concern themselves with the target number.  So, if Kommander Sorscha, who has a MAT of 6, is swinging her Frostfang at an enemy model with a DEF of 13, I will say “sevens to hit,” and roll the dice, knowing that if I roll better than a seven, I hit.

(Note that one minor quirk of Warmachine is that all ones is always a miss and all sixes is always a hit, which I will be taking into account in all my calcualations in this post)

And speaking of sevens, that is a critical number for Warmachine players because when you roll 2d6, seven is not just the most likely outcome, but also the probability-weighted average of all possible outcomes.  As you can see in the following probability mass function, seven is the central value of 2d6, and your odds of rolling a specific value are highest for seven and taper off as we go lower or higher.  This is because there are six different ways to roll a seven on 2d6 (1 and 6, 2 and 5, and so on), and only one way to roll a 2 (snakes) or 12 (boxcars).

2d6_pmf.png

This graph tells us that the odds of rolling a seven are about 16.7%, but in the context of Warmachine, that’s not a very useful factoid.  Almost never do we need to roll a certain number exactly; generally we need to roll that number or higher.  So, I’ve taken the liberty of summing up these probabilities to give us a table, or for the more visual among us, a graph, showing our probabilities of rolling a given number or higher.

To-hit Value Hit Probability
3 97.2%
4 91.7%
5 83.3%
6 72.2%
7 58.3%
8 41.7%
9 27.8%
10 16.7%
11 8.3%
12+ 2.8%

2d6_hit_probability.png

As we can see, one of the reasons why Warmachine players tend to be somewhat infatuated with the number seven is that it is a break point on 2d6 between having better odds of missing than hitting and vice versa.  You have a 58.3% chance of hitting on a hard seven, and a 41.7% chance of hitting on a hard eight.  This can be very useful in a game where when you don’t have time to do detailed calcuations, you can use your knowledge that seven is a break point to make a quick guess about my probability of hitting and make tactical decisions accordingly.  If I hit on a seven more than half the time, I know that if I need less than that, I’ve got pretty good odds of hitting, and if I need more than a seven, my odds aren’t so great.

7of9_s7.jpg

Did someone say “infatuated with Seven”… okay, I’ll admit it, I’m desperate for a way to spice up an article about math.  You’re welcome.

You will note that above, I opted for the wordier term “probability-weighted average” over “expected value” because this is where a lot of the time the “average dice” fallacy starts to creep in.  People can start thinking that if the “expected value” or (ugh) “average dice” on 2d6 is a seven, then they should expect to consistently be able to hit a target that they need sevens for.  The catch with that is that dice are random, and that if you expect sevens or better, then 41.7% of the time, you will be sorely disappointed.  Especially if those sevens are what a key attack roll such as an assassination run was relying on.

Now, if you also need a seven to crack armour, then your odds become even worse. “Average dice” says that you should be able to roll a seven to hit and a seven to kill because seven is your expected value.  But your odds of rolling two sevens in a row are actually much less than that.  With a probability of rolling one seven being 0.5833, the probability of rolling two sevens in a row are 0.5833^2, which comes out to 0.3403 or a mere 34% — a far cry from what the “average dice” theory would imply!  No wonder dice make people tilt…

Juggy vs. Typhon

One example of this logic was an argument that I saw on the Lormahordes forum a little while ago.  Someone was arguing that Khador warjacks need to be nerfed, because I guess he lives in a parallel universe where Harkevich is winning tournaments left, right and center.  To support his case, he applied the “average dice” theory to a matchup between a fully-loaded Juggernaut and a Typhon and vice versa where he assumed that both players always roll a seven, and came to the conclusion that a Juggy can one-round a Typhon while the Typhon can’t one-round a Juggy, therefore Khador warjacks need to be nerfed.

(of course, as a Khador player, I can’t pretend to be unbiased on this question.  And when comparing models, we need to take into account things like SPD, special rules, the existence of ranged weapons, and a whole host of things that go beyond just damage output and defensive stats. And it’s hard to compare cross-faction anyways because of the different support available, doubly so when you’re comparing Warmachine with the Focus mechanic to Hordes with Fury… but let’s ignore all that for now)

Anyways, if you’ve been paying attention, you can see where this logic fails.  A Typhon, at MAT 7, hits a DEF 10 Juggernaut 97.2% of the time, missing only on snakes.  So, the Typhon will almost always hit the Juggernaut, but thanks to Typhon’s superior DEF, the Juggy needs sixes to hit a Typhon. While a 72.2% chance of rolling a six or better isn’t bad, over five attack rolls, the Juggernaut (ignoring the crit stationary) actually has a less than 20% chance of landing all five.  Which means the assumption that you always roll sevens and therefore the Juggernaut will always hit massively skews the results in favour of the Juggernaut.

Upping your chances with multiple attacks

Of course, as a complex tactical combat game, Warmachine is filled with ways to adjust those odds.  Terrain features, spells, and many other effects offer bonuses and penalties to both attack rolls and DEF.  With numerous ways to get a +2 on your attack roll, it can be fairly easy to go from needing eights to hit to needing sixes, which increases your hit probability from 41.7% to 72.2% — a whopping 30% increase.

(Note: The percentage increase in your hit probability generated by a +2 on your attack roll isn’t uniform due to the shape of the probability mass function, but it can range from about 15% on the edges to about 30% in the middle, where most of our attack rolls tend to be)

But if you don’t have access to those fancy-schmancy spells and you’re duking it out on a parking lot, there is one more way of increasing your odds of killing stuff:  shooting it more.  It’s why the army has burst-fire features on their rifles, and the same logic applies in Warmachine.

If I need a nine to hit, my odds, at 27.8%, aren’t that great.  But if I have a ten-man unit, each of whom fires one shot and needs a nine to hit, then I can start doing some damage. Intuitively, we can see that if we have a 27.8% of hitting, and fire ten shots, we will on average score two or three hits.

But say we want to go deeper — we want to see how those probabilities are distributed. It is easy enough to say that we will on average score three hits out of ten, but that can lead us back down the trap of thinking that we “should” score an average result and getting bitter when our dice don’t cooperate.  What if we want to know the odds of scoring two hits, or four?  Given that we know the probability of scoring a hit for any given value from the tables and graphs above, calculating the chances of scoring a certain number of hits is a simple matter of calculating the binomial distribution.

binomial

Got all that?

Thanks to the magic of Microsoft Excel, these calculations aren’t that hard, so I’ve taken the liberty of creating some tables and graphs, based on the assumption that you’re firing away with a ten-man unit, so we can better understand the odds.

probability_of_hits.png

This table tells you the odds of scoring a specific number of hits, depending on what you need to roll to hit.

pmf_numhits.png

Here, I’ve graphed the above table for a few common to-hit values.  As you can see, increasing the to-hit value pushes the probability distribution to the left, meaning that fewer attacks hit.  For each to-hit value, the distribution for the number of hits has a bell curve like shape to it, centered on the point np, or the probability that a single shot will hit multiplied by the number of shots.

cdf_nohits.png

Summing up the probabilities is maybe a more useful graph for Warmachine probabilities.  Here the odds of hitting at least a certain number of times is graphed, so if you really need to kill those four dudes over there…

So, what can we see here?  Even when you need something like a nine or a ten to hit, if you take enough shots, you’ve got a pretty good chance of landing one or two.  This has some implications for high-DEF models like Kayazy Eliminators.  When an opponent attacks your eliminator with a whole unit, and you smugly respond with “10s to hit,” they have about a 50-50 chance of killing two of them, so don’t be surprised when they manage to successfully take them out (albeit at the cost of an activation for the entire unit).  You might want to say “damn, I would have survived if you didn’t spike your dice, you lucky bastard” but as this graph shows, individual dice spikes happen and should be expected when you start chucking ten or more dice at something.

Also, the shape of the curve really shows the power of that +2 to hit at certain points.  Say you want to shoot five targets with ten shots.  Going from a 9-to-hit to a 7-to hit boosts your odds from around 10% to around 80%.  Alternatively, it changes your 50% break point from 3/10 to 6/10.

Finally, while the mean value for the number of hits is equal to np, or the probability of a hit on a single shot multiplied by the number of shots, there is a bell curve going on here. In some cases, this bell curve can be fairly wide.  On a seven to hit, your middle 80% on the probability curve goes from about four to eight.  Even though with a 58% chance of hitting on each attack roll, your gut tells you that you “should” get six out of ten hits, you’ve got a 14% chance of hitting eight or more targets — something that, over the course of a three-round tournament when you’re activating that ten-man unit multiple times per game, has a pretty decent chance of happening at least once.

Conclusions

As mentioned earlier, before we even start accounting for things like confirmation bias, and how rolling snake-eyes on your key assassination roll tends to burn itself into your brain more than when you roll average to well, we suck at probability.  As Warmachine players, we try to guess using rules of thumb, but while these simple rules of thumb are helpful, there are a lot of nuances underneath.  In the worst case scenario, not understanding the underlying probabilities can cause a player to get frustrated that they didn’t get a result that they “should” have gotten because of “average dice,” and cause the player to go on tilt, which can cause them to make further mistakes and lose a winnable game, plus be a miserable opponent to play against.

A few key takeaways here are:

  • “Average dice” does not equal always hitting a seven — if you need a seven to hit, you will miss almost half the time.
  • Dice spikes happen, sometimes more often than you think.  Good players plan for the possibility, and don’t tilt when they do.
  • +2 to your attack roll is huge when you’re in that nice meaty part in the middle of the bell curve.  Going from needing a nine to needing a seven, or from an eight to a six boosts your odds of hitting by about 30%
  • By making enough attacks, you can overcome a harsh to-hit roll.  If you need a nine to hit, even though “average dice” states that you will miss, make enough attack rolls and eventually you will hit one.
  • Sacrificing a small animal to the dice gods before your game can greatly increase your chances of making that key assassination run.

That’s all for now!  Tune in next time while I explain why dice minus seven damage does not equal zero!

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Also maybe some more gratuitous pictures of Jeri Ryan

 

Paintlog: Supreme Kommandant Irusk

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Three down, one to go…

As of late, I’ve had a couple somewhat arbitrary painting goals.  First has been to paint the models that I have on the shelf which are assembled but unpainted, in an effort to clear out that shelf of shame before I start buying assembling too many other models.  Second, I’d like to paint all the warcasters on the Active Duty Roster.  One of the models that resides at the intersection of those two is Supreme Kommandant Irusk, also known as Irusk2, also known as that guy with the annoying heavy pewter flag that always tips over and breaks.

As mentioned above, I had assembled Irusk2 previously as I had tried him out for a brief stint back in Mk.II.  I liked him, but found that I was getting assassinated a lot, so I ended up shelving him in favour of some other casters.  In the meantime, he had shown himself to be quite the powerhouse in Mk.III, as one of our top-tier infantry support casters and one of the few really capable of bring a lot of melee infantry across the table and into your opponent’s face.

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As any owner of this model will attest, there are two serious challenges with it, both of which relate to the flag.  First, the flag itself is made of pewter, which makes the model very top-heavy and easy to accidentally knock over.  Second, the model comes in multiple pieces, and there is a joint between the upper portion of the flag and the hand which is not very large and kind of tricky to glue. These two issues combine to make the natural state of the model something like as shown on the left.

As a result, this model is just begging to be pinned, which I did, spending a lot of time carefully drilling to try to get as long of a pin as I could in between the two sections.  One of the other things I did when I assembled him the first time was that I had filled the base with lead fishing weights and PP’s brown stuff, in an effort to make him a little less top-heavy.  This was a good idea, but I had to clean it up a little, filing it down to get the bottom surface flatter so the model is a little more stable.  Had I known about them then, I probably should have just used one of PP’s metal bases, but as they say in my French classes, c’est la vie.

Fast forward about a year, and as with the previous Spriggan project, there were a few things that I had to do clean him up and bring him up to my new standard, as my hobby skills have greatly improved since then.  There was some mold line removal and re-priming that had to be done, so I pulled out some files and got to work, fixing up the worst of the results from my careless assembly.33053_SupremeKommandantIrusk_WEB.jpg

As you can see on the studio picture, Irusk2 is a relatively ornate model, with all the decorations and accoutrements befitting someone whose title is Supreme Kommandant.  This can make him an intimidating model to paint, as you sit down and try to figure out which colour everything should go, in order to end up with a model that has balanced colour choices and sufficient contrast between distinct elements of the model.

One of the themes with my army so far has been that I’ve been using purple as a base army colour, and relatively higher ranking models have had more and more pink on them.  As a result, I knew that Irusk here was going to have a lot of pink, but that I was going to keep the purple going on the flag and base rim, which meant I needed to leave a little purple on the model in order to keep it balanced.  I did so by painting his chest plate and his trench coat purple, and making all the rest of the armour plates pink, while leaving his sash and some of the exposed fabric of his uniform a neutral grey.

This model used a lot of standard techniques, and to be honest, there are a few flaws so it is solidly tabletop standard, but if there is one aspect that I would like to focus on, it is the flag.  Often times, what one will do to get a tabletop standard model banged out is to just use the standard basecoat, wash, highlight method.  There is nothing wrong with it, and I continue to use washes on most of my models, however the trick is that there are some places where washes just don’t work.  Large, fairly flat surfaces like capes and flags don’t tend to take washes too well.  Instead of going where they need to go to darken the shadows, they tend to pool in unnatural places, so that instead of a nicely shaded model, you end up with a model that just looks flat and dirty.

So, how do we approach this?  Instead of basecoating and washing, we’re going to have to take this section of the model and manually paint in the shadows and highlights. Here, working with my usual Reaper Royal Purples Triad, I started by base coating with Imperial Purple.  Then, the next step is to look at the model and figure out where the light is going to be hitting the object.  On a wavy flag like this one, it’s going to be darker inside the folds and on areas where the flag has draped over, while the highlights go on the ridges and on the places where the fabric is on such an angle that the surface is facing upwards at the sun.

From there, you can use your shadow colour (in this case, Nightshade Purple) to blend the shadows.  There are a variety of techniques that you can use here, with two-brush blending being popular, but my usual technique at the moment is to take a brush, apply paint to the model in the center of where you want that second colour, then quickly rinse the brush, apply a little saliva, and drag the edge outward.  Do the same with your highlight colour, and don’t be afraid to mix colours on your wet palette and highlight up or down in multiple steps if it becomes too difficult to get a nice smooth blend all the way from your darkest shadow to your brightest hightlight.  These blending techniques do take some practice to get a smooth blend, so if you’re having trouble, picking up a unit of men and women with capes and keeping at it is a great way to learn.

For the white logo on the flag, I used similar techniques, starting with Reaper’s HD Concrete Grey as a base colour, and blending up through Misty Grey and into a pure white on just the highest highlights.  However, I ran into a bit of an issue here.  One of the side benefits of a wash is that it can also give a blacklining effect, whereby a bit of nuln oil in a crack between two bright colours can help break it up, which helps the eye distinguish where one colour ends and the next starts, and really helps make the miniature pop.  Since I didn’t do a wash, I have to put those blacklines in manually, with some dark paint (it doesn’t have to be black — just something darker than your base colour is good enough).  You’ll need to use thin paints and a decent brush to get it done right, of course.  Personally, I have a 10/0 rigger brush that I use for this sort of thing.  It’s nothing too fancy, just something I picked up at Michael’s, but I find that this very long, thin brush allows me to load it up with a fair bit of paint, and it has the right amount of flex to get deep into these sort of tiny recesses, so it’s a handy addition to my brush collection.

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And there you have it.  Normally, I like to do a lot of custom basing on my warcaster models, but in this case, the base that came with him was pretty good, and I didn’t really want to go taking things apart on such a tricky model, so I simply used the standard base and added a tuft and a little snow, to match the ice forming on the rocks on the sculpted base that was included.  I added a little extra weathering on the beat up metal piece with the Cygnar logo on the base, and that was pretty much it.

Overall, I’m happy with this model as a tabletop piece, but not 100% satisfied.  I wouldn’t say it’s my best work, and there are some flaws in certain areas, but nothing that would stand out from more than a foot away.  At tabletop distances, the pink highlights and white edging on the armour does tend to pop, which is always good..  If I were to paint it again, I might like to do something so that his medals stand out more at tabletop distances, but that’s kind of tricky given the brightness of the pink.

As for what list to put him in?  Well, Irusk2 is a great infantry caster, and can run in any theme. His feat grants his army pathfinder for a turn, and the ability to ignore clouds and forest for the purposes of determining LOS, which means they can come out of nowhere. Additionally, enemy models suffer -3 SPD when they begin their activation within his 14″ control area.  He’s got a great list of support spells, with Artifice of Deviation, Battle Lust, Fire For Effect, and Solid Ground.  If I’m playing this season’s ADR, the other casters on the list are probably going to want to run in Legion of Steel (at least for now), so when it comes to theme, that leaves Winter Guard Kommand and Jaws of the Wolf if I don’t want to have two completely redundant lists.  As fun as it sounds to play him in Winter Guard Kommand and stack Bear’s Strength from Kovnik Joe and Battle Lust and apply axe to face, I’m going to try Jaws for my theorymachining.

Theme:  Jaws of the Wolf

Supreme Kommandant Irusk
– Behemoth

Greylord Forge Seer
– Destroyer
Widowmaker Marksman (free from theme)

Kayazy Assassins w/ Underboss
Kayazy Assassins w/ Underboss
Kayazy Eliminators
Kayazy Eliminators
Widowmaker Scouts

This list comes with a lot of stealth, because one thing more annoying than no-knockdown tough infantry with cover is no-knockdown tough infantry with cover and stealth.  If you can stack battle lust and backstab from the minifeat on the Kayazy Assassins, you’ll be throwing a lot of dice at your target.  With effective DEF 17 in melee, Eliminators tend to be a pain to remove, even moreso when they make a no-knockdown tough roll.

As for jacks, the combo of Behemoth in Irusk’s battlegroup and a Destroyer being marshalled by the Forge Seer is a good one.  Irusk can slap Fire For Effect on the Destroyer, giving it fully boosted magical attack rolls on the bombard, good for sniping out incorporeal models.  Behemoth only needs two focus to fire off two fully boosted shots, and since he gets one from power up, he can get the other from the Forge Seer. So, we’re talking three fully boosted bombard shots, one of which is magical, for the investment of just one focus per turn to upkeep Fire For Effect.  This leaves Irusk with plenty of focus remaining for his other support spells and camping.

That said, this list does have some glaring weaknesses.  First, there isn’t much to prevent Irusk2 from getting shot.  With so many stealth models, there isn’t much that can effectively screen him.  Second, sprays and mass eyeless sight could be a problem, so playing this list into Legion might be a bad idea.

Of course, I have a lot of painting to do before I can run a double Kayazy Assassin list, so…

(Note:  Apologies for not having more WIP photos; I wasn’t originally planning to do a paintlog on this model)

Starting painting on a budget

The other night, I was at my usual Tuesday haunt, Out Of The Box, and I noticed one of our ex-Press Gangers chatting to a new player next to the paint racks. Being the helpful person that I am, and being a little bored from having finished my game a while ago, I sauntered on over and offered my services as a local painter guy to help him get started. He was on a budget so he didn’t want to blow a lot of cash getting started, so I tried to help get him set up with the bare minimum, but it was tricky.  Let’s face it, while miniature painting and gaming might not be that expensive as far as entertainment goes when you factor in the massive number of hours of enjoyment you can get out of painting your miniatures and playing with your wardollies, when you’re paying a good chunk of that up front, it can get a little expensive, and there is a reason why miniature gamers tend to be middle-class types with a bit of disposable income.

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My friend William Lyon Mackenzie King can help you get started…

Chatting with another friend later that night, we came up with a challenge. Is it possible to get started in the hobby of miniature painting for less than $50 (Canadian)?  He was skeptical, but I thought it might be possible, so let’s see what we can do…

Free Stuff

Before we start going to the store, there is stuff that you will need that you probably have kicking around at home. You will need dish soap and a stiff brush for washing the mold release off your miniatures, because paint unsurprisingly doesn’t stick well to the residue from the non-stick coating applied to the mold so they could pop the miniature out in the factory.  A cup for paint water is easy to find, and you probably have a pair of side cutters in the toolbox that you can use for sprue-clipping if necessary.  Plenty of basing techniques involve things you find around the house or on the ground outside and just a bit of creativity.  Any piece of plastic can be a serve as a regular palette, and a wet palette is really easy to make with stuff you can find in your kitchen.

What miniature should I buy?

First, you’re going to need a miniature.  Now, if you’re just interested in the joy of painting and maybe having something to represent your D&D character, you can save some money by going for the generic fantasy miniatures as opposed to gaming pieces. Gaming pieces from companies like Privateer Press or Games Workshop, tend to cost a little more than most fantasy miniatures, as they generally have to factor the cost of game development, playtesting, managing organized play, and, if it’s a popular IP like Star Wars, licensing fees.  On the other hand, for a company like Reaper, which isn’t writing rules on how to play with their miniatures, there less overhead which can help reduce costs. Compare the cost of a Batman figure to a generic metal mini and you will see what I mean.

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Freja Fangbreaker here has an MSRP of just $2.29 (USD), which is less than the cost of a coffee and a donut.

When it comes to cheap, decent-quality generic fantasy miniatures, there are two lines that I would recommend.  First is Reaper Bones, which, with their wildly successful kickstarters, were pioneers in low-cost miniature production.  They have a huge line, so odds are you will be able to find a miniature that is an exact match for your D&D character.  They are made from a unique material which is very durable and through some arcane magic, manages to hold paint without needing to be primed (though some people get better results by priming them anyways).  I started out with the first Bones kickstarter, which got me an absolutely insane amount of miniatures for something like $100 USD.  At less than $5 apiece (or mere cents a pop if you get in on a kickstarter), the price is definitely right for our budget challenge.

Next up is the Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures line from WizKids, which are the official D&D minis, if that means something to you.  While I haven’t personally had the chance to crack one of these open and slap on some paint, from my ogling at them in the FLGS, I can say that they look like good quality resin miniatures, with enough detail to keep a beginner painter happy.  Again, they are less than $5 for a blister pack, which usually includes two or three miniatures, and come with exciting and unique names like Male Elf Ranger.

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Finally, if you want to splurge a little and your FLGS carries Games Workshop products, they may have their “Getting Started with…” magazines for a tenner, which comes bagged with either a Stormcast Eternal or some sort of Space Marine. The magazine has enough hobby content to keep you occupied on the bus or can, and while they may not be useful for your D&D campaign and you may have to sell a kidney to afford a full 40K army, if you’re on board with their aesthetic, GW’s injection-molded plastic miniatures are top notch.

Supplies

So, after dropping $5 on a miniature, my degree in economics tells me that we are left with $45 remaining to spend on brushes, paints, and other hobby supplies.  While this may not be what my FLGS owner wants to hear, if you are on a budget, I would advise you to look beyond the hobby supplies rack at the place you bought your miniatures for some of these supplies.  A lot of the time, you can get better value on basic supplies like brushes, knives and the like from big-box craft stores, Wal-Mart, or even dollar stores. Don’t believe me?  Well, feel free to go to your local Games Workshop and pick up your official Citadel-brand hobby knife for the low, low price of $36, or just spend four bucks at Staples or Wal-Mart.  Don’t cheap out on paint though — craft paint, while useful for things like terrain and bases, is not what you want and you will have to bite the bullet and pay for quality acrylic paints from someone like Vallejo, P3, or Army Painter.

Speaking of hobby knives, you will need one for trimming mold lines, so grab that aforementioned $4 knife.  If your miniature is multi-part, get some super glue at the dollar store for about $2 to put it together, which brings us up to $11

Moving on to brushes, you’re going to need three of them to start.  A #2ish round for most of your work, a #0 round for details, and a flat brush in size 4ish for things like slapping paint on large areas, applying washes, and dry-brushing.  Go to an art store or a craft store for these; we’re trying to get you in for cheap, not pay GW prices for brushes that, let’s face it, you’re probably going to ruin.  $5 will get you that #0 round, and if you get lucky, you can find a value package that has the rest of what you need and more for something like $7.  They won’t be the same quality as $30 Kolinsky sables, but they will do for now while you’re just getting in and not sure if you will even like this hobby or not.

Paints

After spending $5 on a miniature, $12 on brushes, and $6 on other supplies, we’re up to $23, leaving us with $27 to spend on paints. At a little under $5 for less than 20 mL, these paints are expensive, but given the tiny amount we use on a typical miniature, tend to last for a long time.  Still, getting enough colours to get started is a significant up-front investment and is going to eat up most of our $50.

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What, did you seriously expect me to show Cygnar colours?

There are two ways we can go about this.  We can buy them all individually, and will probably be able to afford about six colours, which is plenty for a first miniature.  Or, we could get a paint set which has the colours we need.  A Privateer Press Paint Set has an MSRP of $17.99 USD (about $22 CAD), comes with six full-size pots, and you can get them in about a dozen different combinations — one for the studio scheme of every faction in their line.  These are top quality paints, though my one minor quibble is that they come in paint pots instead of dropper bottles, and not great paint pots at that.

With $5 left, we have enough for one more pot of paint.  Since you’re just starting out, you’re probably going to be using the base coat, wash, dry-brush technique, so you’re going to need some sort of wash or shade.  All the big names in hobby paints make them, and GW’s washes, while at a slightly higher price point, are known colloquially as liquid talent for what they can do to your models.

And there we have it!  For $50, you’ve got a miniature, a couple tools, some brushes, and some paints, which along with a couple things you probably already have around the house means you’re ready to rock and roll!

Next steps?

I’m sure people will immediately respond to this by claiming that I forgot about certain essentials, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.  There are a few hobby basics on this list that didn’t quite make the cut and which you should consider when you go to spend your next $50.  They are as follows:

  1. Primer.  Most of the time, primer is a necessity.  However, if you remember from earlier, we probably picked up either Bones, which don’t need to be primed, or Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, which come pre-primed.  You do get some primer in the GW start painting kits, otherwise, you can either grab some brush-on acrylic primer, or get a rattle-can of cheap primer from crappy tire.  Either way, that’s about $5. As for colour, given the choice, I recommend white, but that’s an article for another time…
  2. Varnish.  I may have cheated, because I feel that varnish is important if you are going to be handling your miniatures, and playing with them from time to time is something that the majority of people do. But it is generally the last step, and by the time you’re ready to apply it, you’ve probably figured out whether you like mini painting or not.  A small bottle of Vallejo Matt Varnish will set you back another $5, but it will give your miniatures a +3 to saving throws against cheeto fingers.brush cleaner.jpg
  3. Master’s Brush Cleaner. This is a must-have for anyone who wants to take up this hobby, and doubly so if you are like me and like to invest in high-quality, expensive brushes.  This will extend the life of your brushes and help you protect your investment.  The only reason why it didn’t make the cut here is because we’re using cheap brushes, and for all I know, you might spend $50 only to find out you hate miniature painting and throw all your stuff away, in which case the longevity of your brushes is kind of a non-issue.
  4. Basing supplies.  A lot of miniatures aren’t truly complete until they’re based, but for your first miniature, I’ll forgive you if you want to skip that step.  As mentioned above, a lot of basing supplies are either cheap (white glue) or free (sand), though if you want to start adding things like vegetation, you may end up having to pick up some flock or tufts from the FLGS or a hobby store.
  5. A pin vise and drill bit.  Pinning is a technique used while assembling metal miniatures, where small bits of brass rod or paper clips are inserted into holes drilled in the model at the connecting points, making the joints much stronger. However, given that we’re starting off with plastic miniatures that are easy to put together and may even be one-piece models, it’s not necessary yet.
  6. Green Stuff, or some other two-part epoxy modelling putty.  You’re probably not ready to do much serious sculpting yet, and the minis that I recommended aren’t really known for having issues like the old Khador Gap, so it’s not probably needed right away.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, what I’ve shown here is that you can dip your toe into miniature painting for $50, or not much more.  With the countless hours of joy that miniature painting can provide, if you’re looking for a hobby and have even the slightest interest in working with your hands and getting that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that a completed mini can bring (or the fun times you will have playing wardollies and make-believe with a bunch of grown-ass men), $50 is a small price to pay for an introduction to what could be a lifelong passion.

 

Update:  It was pointed out to me shortly after I shared this article that Reaper also produces a learn to paint kit for $39.99 USD, which as of this writing is $48.70 CAD, and thus makes the “challenge” completely trivial.  Just spend $50 on that and a coffee; that’s probably easier.

Simple Custom Warmachine Flag

In Steamroller, the standard tournament scenario packet for Warmachine, there are a number of scenario elements, including zones, objectives, and flags.  Usually players just use a round disk or extra base in the appropriate size, but creating your own custom objectives is a good way to add a little visual interest to the tabletop and make your battles look a little more cinematic.  Here, I’ll show you how to create a simple statue that can serve as a flag marker in SR2017, which uses only some simple techniques such as basecoating, dry-brushing, and washing.

For this, you will need:77303_w_1.jpg

  • A 40mm Base
  • A Male Paladin (77303) from Reaper
  • A Warmachine infantry model that would look good as a statue
  • Your usual modelling supplies (brushes, glue, pinning supplies, etc)
  • A few paints, including a dark purple, some dark brass colours, some greys, a dark wash, and GW’s Nihilakh Oxide

The first step is to assemble your model.  Take a sharp knife and separate the Male Paladin from the base that comes with the figure, and then throw the figure himself in your bits box.  We don’t need him; we’re using the base that he comes on as a plinth for the statue, which should fit perfectly onto a spare PP 40mm base.  Glue the plinth onto the statue, and then pin your model on top, trying to cover up the area which the Paladin was kneeling on.  Make sure you clean the mold lines well, because with the techniques we’re going to be using, any missed mold lines will stick out like a sore thumb.

From there, you can prime your model and start by base coating your model with a very dark purple.  I’ve used Reaper’s Nightshade Purple, which is just a hint away from black.  Rarely when painting miniatures do you want to go all the way to a straight black, and I feel that purple shadows tends to give some nice contrast with brass things.

IMG_1964.JPGNext up is a heavy drybrush with a dark brass colour.  I used P3’s Deathless Metal, which is one of the new paints in their Grymkin set.  This, along with their purple ink, were the new paints I was most looking forward to.  As a very dark brass metallic, it is a welcome addition to their line.  I suspect it will be very useful for true metallic metal techniques as it extends the range of their top-notch gold metallics into something much darker.  Now, if only they would replace their terrible, terrible paint pots with some nice dropper bottles…

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Finish up with a light drybrush of a slightly lighter brass colour, such as P3’s Molten Bronze, and we’ve got a great start for our bronze statue.  At the same time, feel free to start working on the plinth, base coating it grey, then giving it a dark wash and dry-brushing it back up to really show the shadows and highlights on the stone.

Now, on the statue, we could stop here, but I wanted to give it a more aged look.  One thing with these copper/brass statues is that over time, they tend to oxidize and form a green patina which you can see on all sorts of old statues.  Fortunately for us, there is an easy way to apply this effect.  Grab a pot of GW’s Nihilakh Oxide, which is one of their technical paints (a line specifically designed to make certain effects such as blood spatter, rust, etc. easy to create) and, well, I’ll let Duncan explain the next steps.

Finish off the stone, clean up the base edge, add a layer or two of varnish and maybe some vegetation around the edge, and we’re in business!  We’ve got a great little flag marker that can add a little more visual interest to your tabletop than a round disc or extra base.  And, in a pinch, you can just drop it on top of a large base to serve as an objective.

Since we’re using a lot of simple techniques such as washing and drybrushing, you can easily and quickly bang out some nice looking flags for your next Warmachine game!

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Hot Take: Steam and Steel

So, one of the things on the Warmachine internet that sometimes irritates me is how the moment something drops, we immediately get a whole bunch of hot takes and theorymachine, which immediately fills the echo chamber and becomes commonly accepted wisdom without any rigorous testing or any effort to really unlock what’s there. Sometimes these “hot takes” turn out to be accurate, but sometimes… well, remember how people said that Caine3 or Ghost Fleet were unplayable trash when they came out, and then all of the sudden Tim Banky won everything?

That said, now that I’m on the Warmachine internet and happen to be a loyal Khador player, I am now required by the Empress to offer you my hot take on today’s Insider, which is all about our Man-O-War, even though what I really really want to see is an Assault Kommando theme.  And a Vlad3 all the horses theme.  And Harkevich2… okay, now I’m getting greedy.

However, I will preface this by saying that I am, in fact, an idiot who is not very good at this game.  At the SOO this year, I managed to eke out a 1-4 record in whichever tournament actually required painted models.  A few weeks ago at the CCBB, I was knocked out of contention in something like 11 minutes, and more importantly, I got crushed in the painting competition by Will from Moosemachine.  Again.  Not that I’m bitter or anything…

img_1375.jpgFor a long time, Man-O-War were the unit that Khador players really wanted to love. Big burly men and women of Khador in giant steam-powered suits of armour, wielding either giant axes, giant hammers or grenade launchers with freaking chainsaws for bayonets, we all had the dream of crushing our opponents with an unstoppable tide of steam and steel, even if the models themselves bore an unfortunate resemblance to GW’s Space Marines if you squint a little too hard.  Unfortunately, throughout Mk.II, they were generally too slow to get to where they needed to be and didn’t really do what they needed to do when they got there, so you didn’t really see them all that much on the competitive circuit. While Mk.III brought the Shocktroopers up to a decent baseline with the release of the Officer, they were quickly overtaken by the rise of themes (aside from the Loud Chris Vlad2 list).

Today, with the sneak preview of the Armored Korps theme and some new models, we can see that starting to change. Armored Korps lets you take all the Man-O-War, Battle Mechaniks, our trusty War Dog, and a merc solo or unit.  The benefits are free models, better Repair on mechaniks, and Advance Move on models that don’t exist yet.

Okay, at first glance, nothing in is either unexpected or is anything to really write home about.  Free points is standard for themes and probably what we all expected, better mechaniks are good, I guess, but it just feels like between electroleaps, blast damage, and sprays, there are enough ways to trivially kill mechaniks that I can’t see this being gamebreaking.  And the final benefit is something that we aren’t going to see until 2018 when they start releasing the new models.

Speaking of new models, though, this is the real meat of the insider.  Bombardiers are going to get some CID love with a proposal to increase their range.  Further, they will be getting an officer which grants them some neat special rules, such as Clear Cut, Quick Work, and a Dual Shot minifeat.  This will hopefully make them as cool on the tabletop as “heavily armoured Russians wielding chainsaw-RPGs” sounds.  We’re getting a battle engine which kind of reminds me of the Gun Carriage and which, with Advance Move in theme, seems pretty legit.  Finally, we’re going to be getting Man-O-War Tankers, which it is safe to assume is a new name for the Heavy Man-O-War whose sculpts were spoiled at Lock and Loadtanker.jpg.

But when it comes to recent Man-O-War news, that’s not all!  In the most recent issue of No Quarter, the splash page showed off what is clearly Sorscha3 in a Man-O-War suit**, as well as a couple cool-looking MoW solos. With the hint in the insider that there is more to come, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that the Demolition Corps are at some point going to get some much-needed help in the form of a Unit Attachment or Solo — perhaps they might get backswing back or something to that effect?

Sorscha3So, how do I feel about this theme overall?  I think it seems pretty good, but I’m not sensing anything at the moment that is going to light the world on fire — at least, not until we start getting a good look at the new Man-O-War releases slated for 2018.  The big thing that this has going for it is that it enables one to create a bricky Khador army that can actually score circular zones, as SR2017 and some boogeymen in the meta (Cryxian armour debuffing, POW 20-something Skin and Moans that chew through anything they get into) seem to be taking the shine off some of our jackspams.  A couple units of Man-O-War and a couple jacks in the battlegroup can score in some scenarios a lot better than an all-jack army whose only scoring piece for some zones is the caster.

As for what casters to take it with, I think Vlad2 is an obvious candidate because between Hand of Fate and his feat, he can turn a unit of MoW up to 11.  Will Pagani offered up a Butcher1 list in the Insider which seems solid.  Strakhov2 will surely be hilarious when you tell your opponent that your shocktroopers are ARM 26 with no-knockdown tough on feat turn, though casting Last Stand on a unit with relatively expensive models seems to be an iffy proposition.  The Irusks are always good at running infantry, and with Irusk2, it could be fun to throw Fire For Effect onto a Bombardier and drop a fully-boosted arcing fire 6-man CRA onto someone (and of course, managing to triple-snake the attack roll because you have somehow angered the dice gods). Of course, Sorscha3 is undoubtedly going to be badass when she comes out.  And even Lord Kozlov, our much-maligned battlebox caster, may get a new lease on life with a mob of Shocktroopers.

So, how am I going to Man-O-War?

Lady Kozlov, Viscountess of Scarsgrad (28 WJP)

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It’s totally not weird that I put in the effort to make a gender-bent conversion of Kozlov, out of Nicia and a random Iron Fang cape, right?


— Spriggan (19)
— Juggernaut (12)

 

Greylord Forge Seer (Free)
Greylord Forge Seer (4)
Man-O-War Drakhun (9)
Man-O-War Drakhun (9)
Man-O-War Kovnik (Free)
Man-O-War Kovnik (Free)
Saxon Orrik (4)

Man-O-War Shocktroopers (16)
— Man-O-War Shocktrooper Officer (4)
Man-O-War Shocktroopers (16)
— Man-O-War Shocktrooper Officer (4)
Battle Mechaniks (3)
— Battle Mechanik Officer (3)

Kozlov gets a lot of hate online for being kind of boring and not being number one at anything in particular, but I chose her because she’s got two solid upkeep spells for Man-O-War, and her feat synergizes quite nicely with Shocktroopers.  +2 SPD brings them up to a whopping 13″ threat range with the Kovnik, and Unyielding is not too shabby on a no-knockdown ARM-skewy unit with 2″ reach.  Forge Seers can help fuel the jacks when Kozlov is spending all her focus on her upkeeps, as well as take care of any pesky Gremlin Swarms.  Saxon Orrik is an obvious choice for a mercenary solo because he grants pathfinder, and the last thing MoW want is to be slowed down even more by rough terrain.

As for the battlegroup, if journeyman league games have taught me anything, it is that casting Fury on a Juggernaut is fun.  And the Spriggan is there because I just finished painting it, and despite being kind of expensive in terms of point cost, it at least has some synergy with Kozlov’s feat for the same reasons as the Shocktroopers.

So, final verdict?  It’s really too early to tell, given that the theme force includes a lot of unreleased models, but let’s just say that I’m probably going to be taking out the airbrush next weekend…

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**Sorscha3 in a Man-O-War suit is the most awesome thing that has happened in Khador in a long time, and anyone who has a problem with it is an idiot.

Black Dragon Spriggan Paintlog

So, in my efforts to bash out the backlog on my shelf of shame, I managed to finish off my Spriggan that had been sitting there since, well, since Spriggans were considered to be one of Khador’s best warjacks.

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For me, this model was a study in freehand and weathering.  I stuck to my usual purple and pink colour scheme with the autumnal colours in the basing.  To be honest, when I started, I didn’t think it would end up looking this good.

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I bought this model used, and had to strip some paint off, and of course, broke the spindly little arms off in the process and had to reconstruct them.  Then I primed it white and hit it with the purple base coat using an old Badger single-action airbrush.  My purple recipe is simply the Reaper Royal Purples triad of Nightshade (9022), Imperial (9023) and Amethyst (9014) purple, which with the right mixture of Vallejo airbrush thinner and flow improver, shoots through the brush pretty well.  Start with the darkest colour and work your way up, occasionally using a business card or a bit of silly putty for masking and to prevent overspray, and you’re in business.

Then it sat on the shelf for a year.

Of course, when I picked it back up, I noticed that there were a lot of issues with the model, as I had gotten a little better at painting in the meantime.  I had missed a lot of mold lines the first time around, and my first attempt at recreating the arms was not great.  There was some cleanup involved, but I didn’t want to have to respray the model, so I kept my cleaning to places where I was going to paint over anyways, or where I could easily conceal my scratching at it.

I also ripped off the arms to make it easier to paint and to redo the arms.  With a couple plasticard tubes, I managed to create a couple piston-looking things that could go over the brass rod underneath and which were a little beefier looking than the original arms that come in the box.

And then it was on to base coating.  I used mostly P3 and Vallejo Model Colour metallics to do the metal bits, and for the whites, I worked my up, with an undercoat of a medium gray, to Reaper’s Misty Grey (9090), which I find to be one of the most useful colours in my repertoire.  The pink on the lance and shield is also from Reaper; I used their HD Rosy Pink (29853) as an undercoat, Punk Rock Pink (09286) as a base, and Blush Pink (09262) for the highlight.  These are some very vibrant pinks, and have a home in many models in my army.

And then we have the freehand.img_1903.jpg

This is, in my opinion, the most impressive part of this model.  It catches the eye and, along with the weathering, is one component which goes beyond “here’s a model I painted” and really tells a story.  I’m not sure what to say about it; just having nice brushes, the right consistency of paint, and some reference material close by (in this case, a picture of the Black Dragons logo), and a single-colour freehand like this turns out to be less difficult than it looks.  I also freehanded the spiral on the lance, which wasn’t too hard, again, with the right brushes, right consistency, and a steady hand.

Washes add some depth to the model; I used Nuln Oil from GW for most of the wash, and added a little Druchii Violet for the brass bits.  It sounds funny, but I’ve found that a purple shade works really well on brass and gold because colour theory.  Being across the colour wheel from gold, purple shadows make the golden highlights really pop, or something like that.  I don’t know, I’ve never been to art school.  Highlight the metals back up, do a bit of edge highlighting, and we’re ready for weathering!

There were a few techniques I used for this weathering.  For the scratches, what I did was a line of dark colour in the scratch, with a line of highlight below, kind of like this Duncan video.  I also used the sponge technique, applying some dark silver like GW Leadbelcher or P3 Pig Iron using a leftover bit of some pluck foam.  Then I followed up with some P3 Umbral Umber overtop using the same technique.  Both GW’s Typhus Corrosion and Agrax Earthshade can create rust streaks, and Typhus Corrosion is also good for adding dirt and mud effects around the feet and legs of the jack and bottom of the shield, as well as sooty crud on the smokestacks.

When it comes to weathering, placement is key.  Remember how I mentioned earlier that last year’s me kind of slacked off on the mold lines?  Well, here is a nice way to cover that up without worrying about exactly matching the colour at that point on the smooth blend.  That scratch is supposed to be there; it’s weathering…

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Also, weathering tells a story.  I put a lot of weathering on the shield, for example, because it’s a shield.  Blocking blows is what it does, so it’s going to get beaten up.  Also, the lance is going to get scratched up as it penetrates the armour of a Cygnaran warjack, destroying its boiler and wrecking it.  A jack with a punchy fist is going to have scratches on the fist and on the forearm from punching.  Ideally, Khador jacks will have more damage on the front as they face down their foes rather than running away like cowards.  And so on.  I took a while to get into weathering because I like a “clean” look, but even a few scratches can really help the model go tell a story.

I have to admit though, it took a lot of courage to take this freehand that I spent a couple hours working on and which looks great and start randomly stippling crap on.  But in this case, once I got over the fear that I would ruin my wonderful freehand, I came up with something that is so much better and more visually interesting than it was before.  So, my one piece of advice would be to not fear the weathering.  Doing it well can really take things to the next level, and the worst that can happen is you end up repainting something, which in the grand scheme of things is no big deal.

And so, we get the final product.  It turned out a lot better than I anticipated when I started, and while there are some imperfections here and there, I’m very happy with it.  Now, to figure out who to take it with on the table.  Hmmmmmmm, perhaps Vlad1 for the anti-stealth in a rocket list, or maybe Kozlov once the Man-O-War theme comes out?