My gaming resolutions for 2018

So, with the dumpster fire known as 2017 almost behind us and a new dumpster fire undoubtedly upon us, I figure now is a good time to make some resolutions for the upcoming year. And, since I don’t see myself actually achieving any sort of resolution regarding getting into shape or that sort of thing, I’m going to split these into a two parts: hobby and gaming.

I’m going to start with the gaming resolutions, because these are easier and because I don’t have any resolutions from last year to revisit, so I should be able to bang these out. I’ve been taking a little break over the past few weeks from the hardcore competitive scene in order to reflect and refocus on what I want to get out of the game and enjoy the painting and collecting aspect.

Be a better opponent

I like to think I’m not a terrible person to play against, but like most players, I will occasionally get frustrated when the dice don’t go my way or I get hit with something I didn’t see coming. And the later happens a fair bit in Warmachine, because it’s a game that really rewards system knowledge; many a game has been won and lost based on an assassination that the other player didn’t see coming.

I want to be the guy who is always going to be a fun opponent, whether I’m winning or losing. I want to be the guy who can really show the new players the ropes and spread my enthusiasm for painting and playing with our wardollies.

That means no talking about dice (unless my opponent started it), no commenting on what models I think are too powerful, and no chalking losses up to bad matchups. Even if I roll triple-ones on my assassination attempt. For the second time that day. Again.

Get better at moving models

Warmachine players tend to place a lot of focus on what they call a “clean” game — one made with very precise measurements, no accidental bumping of models, quick setup, and no stumbling over words when casting spells or explaining the table state. It’s why there is a veritable cottage industry of tokens and measuring widgets, and many players have spent hundreds of dollars on laser cut plastic doohickeys to make their measurements that much more precise.

For me, I don’t know whether it is a lack of hand-eye coordination, or my brain getting ahead of my mouth, but this something that I sometimes struggle with during my games. It tends to take me longer than my opponent to get all my models out, lay out all my cards, and set up my tokens, markers, dice, and measuring widgets the way I want them. And I still at least once a game can’t find a focus token or status marker. And then I go to make a measurement and end up bumping my opponent’s caster, and now I’ve more or less ruined the entire game because we can’t recreate the exact table state at the start of my turn.

Over the past year, I’ve had a couple games affected by this sort of thing, and there were a couple times where my opponents were less than thrilled with my ability to measure between point A and point B. It sounds stupid, I know, but if I want to keep playing Warmachine, one of my new years resolutions is going to have to be getting to the point where I can measure precisely enough to play a game to the standard that the community demands.

Branch out a little

There is something to be said for having your own comfort zone in Warmachine. Whether it is a faction or a list, you will get more practice and perform better if you stick to one thing long enough to know it inside and out. It’s one reason why JVM is such a big name among the cool kids tournament club. That said, if you never venture outside your comfort zone, you never have a chance to experience all your faction or the game has to offer.

I’m probably going to start a second faction in the upcoming year. I don’t expect myself to go all in and replace all my Khador, but being able to mix it up with Minions or Convergence once in a while will likely be a nice change of pace. I also have really got my Strakhov1 list humming perfectly, but I also want to branch out to some new casters within the faction. Vlad1 is popular, Old Witch 2 can be built in many ways, Strakhov2 looks intriguing, and I’m probably the only Khador player on the face of the planet who is too much of a hipster to play Butcher3.

Lower my sodium intake

The Warmachine internet is a funny thing. There is a lot of insightful stuff out there, but there can also be a lot of negativity. Especially in a CID world, where everyone is an armchair designer, we end up spending a lot of time talking about what PP “needs to change” rather than about how to play the game as is. People like to focus on the negative; after all, this is the game where there was a change.org petition this year because some people didn’t like a proposed rule.

change

And the award for “dumbest moment in wargaming in 2017” goes to…

This can be a little extra frustrating as a Khador player. Right now, Khador is considered to be one of the most powerful factions, and it is quite popular locally. And it’s easy to see why; Khador has a lot of models with pretty solid baseline stats. Also, it is possible to create Khador lists that are very straightforward and powerful and just try to brute force their way to victory through attrition. As a result, people tend to complain about marauders or rockets or just the fact that there are too many people playing Khador. It can be a little disheartening for an innocent Khador player who picked up the faction back in Mk.II because Russians with axes are cool, and played Harkevich because he’s basically the only really good guy in the Iron Kingdoms, to all of the sudden be “that guy” with the cheesy, OP army.

All this negativity is something that can really suck the fun out of the game, and which I don’t really need in something that is supposed to be fun. In short, I need to know when to close lormahordes or Party Foul, step away from the internet and get back to painting my army.

fun

He said Warmachine is supposed to be fun! Get him!

Conclusion

One thing I didn’t put as one of my resolutions is to win a tournament or improve my W/L record or anything like that. While it’s always nice to get better at the game, I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I will be inducted into the cool people club of minor Warmachine celebrities. In 2018, I want to focus on enjoying the game more and helping my opponents enjoy the game more. That’s what’s important, not the battle for seventh place at the local Steamroller.

 

#MagicGate and harassment in tabletop wargaming

I’m going take a break from our regularly scheduled programming on painting tiny warmans to delve into the latest controversy in the gaming community about harassment. This is probably going to be a bit of a rant as I have some strong feelings on the subject, so if you’re not in the mood to read hundreds of words dripping with disdain towards the alt-right, you should probably click through to my articles on my Grolar or something. Otherwise, buckle yourself in…

If you spend as much time following gaming media and social networks as much as I do, you’ve surely seen the latest flareup surrounding sexism in gaming, harassment, and alt-right fucknuts. This time, the jackassery comes from the world of Magic: The Gathering, with some recent spillover into the tabletop wargaming universe, primarily Warhammer.

It all started when a prominent MtG cosplayer, Christine Sprankle, announced that she was leaving her hobby because of harassment. Much of that harassment came from popular MtG youtuber Jeremy Hambly, aka Unsleeved Media, and his fans and followers. I can’t say I follow any MtG media that closely, but every indication is that Hambly is quite the toxic personality. Don’t believe me? His profile picture on twitter at the time of this writing is literally an MS Paint drawing of himself merged with a Nazi meme, so he is clearly quite the nice fellow.

pepe

As I said, clearly a nice fellow

Shortly afterwards, Wizards of the Coast, the company that makes MtG, issued a strongly worded statement denouncing said harassment and bullying among the MtG community. They also added Hambly as well as pro player Travis Woo to the ban list on DCI, the official sanctioning body for MtG tournamets. Hambly earned himself a lifetime ban, while Woo got off with a one-year suspension for running a facebook group containing misogynist content.

So, game company denounces harassment and bullying, and responds by taking action against the perpetrators. Good news, right? I’m sure everyone is happy with that.

Unfortunately, this is the internet in 2017, so we all know how this story ends. A bunch of people started coming out of the woodwork to support Hambly, petitioning MtG to reconsider their decision and threatening boycotts. The hashtag #MagicGate started becoming popular on twitter, because nothing says “I don’t support harassment but…” like naming your hashtag after a movement to harass women out of the video game industry.

As an aside, this is not without precedent. A couple years ago, WotC decided to issue a lifetime ban to Zachary Jesse, a pro-player and convicted rapist, because, well, it came to light that he was a convicted rapist. Some sections of the MtG community rallied around him, presumably because they felt that not being able to play a collectible card game in a tournament was disproportionately cruel and unusual punishment or something.

Anyways, this story made its way to the tabletop wargaming community by way of Arch Warhammer, a 40K youtuber who makes videos about 40K lore as well as anti-feminist rants, warning that first they came for the MtG players, and soon they will come for 40K players. Other tabletop wargaming media such as Bell Of Lost Souls and Spikey Bits have also weighed in, generally on the side of WotC. Though, as usual, the “don’t read the comments” rules applies to their articles on the subject.

I’m sure this exchange will continue until everyone is out of breath, and then pop up again down the road next time someone says something controversial like “women are people” or “harassment is bad” or “I like painting up some diverse miniatures rather than my 947th white guy.” WotC seems to be digging their heels in on this one, so I don’t see them backing down, especially in our post-Weinstein world. Which is a good thing; I feel that a line needs to be drawn in the sand in our geekly communities against harassment and bullying, particularly when it is of the sexist, racist, or homophobic variety.

How does this affect the tabletop wargaming community?

It would be foolish for us to think that the same issues that are plaguing the MtG community aren’t present in some form in the tabletop wargaming community as well.

If you judge by internet commentary on any issues regarding representation in the hobby, the 40k fandom is chock full special snowflakes who will be triggered by the idea of female space marines or increasing diversity in the hobby (though GW seems to have, thankfully, gotten the message). I sometimes wonder if it has something to do with the fluff; after all, I’m sure there are some people who are attracted to the fandom because they actually like the idea of a universe where you have genetically modified, racially pure supersoldiers in their little “no girls allowed” club, unquestioningly serving an Aryan Fuhr- Emperor, engaged in constant, never-ending war and purging various xeno races. Of course, what they fail to realize in their lust for authoritarianism is that fascist dystopias suck ass in every way; that’s why it’s called grimdark.

Or, you could just scroll down and look at the comments on the Spikey Bits or BoLS articles mentioned above. Or just about any of Arch Warhammer’s videos.

One difference between MtG and many miniatures games is that since WotC, the producers of MtG, also control DCI, a centralized player database, they have more power to take action against these sort of bullies. With a few keystrokes, they are able to go into their database, look up a player’s DCI number, and issue bans or suspensions for cheating, theft, harassment, or whatever.

On the other hand, not all miniatures companies have less power to do this. FFG keeps track of a banned players list for their organized play, but for both 40K and Warmachine, the vast majority of tournaments, even at the highest levels, are community run affairs. There isn’t really a sanctioning body like the DCI for these games. And with companies like Privateer Press moving away from a formal system for their volunteers, that’s one fewer lever from which they can control what goes on among people who play their game.

As this latest issue unfolds, it is clear that tabletop wargaming companies have a couple problems on their hands. First, I think they generally want to keep harassment and bullying out of their games, both because it’s good business not to alienate potential customers and because it’s the right thing to do. Unfortunately, for a lot of them, they don’t have as much control over organized play as WotC does, so they’re going to have to work with the community on this one.

The second issue is that a certain proportion of their current fanbase is going to be less than sympathetic towards any steps in the right direction, be it confronting harassment or simply improving representation in their products. I don’t see an easy way past this issue, beyond setting the tone and laying down the law like WotC has and weathering the storm.

Why is this important?

I know by now some of you are saying “hey, crimsyn, I’m sick of hearing about politics; finish that article on how you paint your TMM bronze or something.” In some sense, I get it. I’d rather not have to write about these jerkwads either. But I think this is an issue that we, in gaming communities, are going to have to address head on, for three main reasons.

1. Gaming should be for everyone**

I can’t believe I have to say this in 2017, but people shouldn’t be harassed and bullied out of the things they love because of their gender. There is no reason why women shouldn’t enjoy wargaming. However, if you look around at any big wargaming tournament or convention, you will see that they are a tiny minority, if they are present at all.

While we could argue that perhaps some of the issue stems from women being socialized away from playing with wardollies by society, having a gender ratio in the game that is 98-2 on a good day indicates that there are a lot of potential players that are missing. That is bad for the game, bad for the community, and bad for the bottom line of miniature companies.

We need to make efforts in our hobby to reach out to groups that are underrepresented, because those could be missing community members who might enjoy the game. And part of that is going to be improving community standards and dealing with the bullies in our midst.

2. Toxic masculinity is not fun

Compared to a lot of personalities on the Warmachine internet, I like to think I’m a fairly soft-spoken guy. However, the “bro” culture around wargaming, with some of the aggressiveness, trash talk, and bawdy references, can be a little much sometimes. This isn’t to say that all men are toxic, but more that we need to throw away some of the macho man masks that we wear, because wearing those masks all the time is bad for everyone, including ourselves.

3. There are real-world implications

I get it, a lot of us game to get away from all the issues in the real world, whether they be our personal foibles with bills, work, etc., or all the bad things that are happening around the world. Unfortunately, gaming and nerd culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Because 2017 is shit, apparently Nazis are a thing again, even if they prefer the term “alt-right.” I live not too far from Parliament Hill, and I’m not exactly thrilled with the idea of extremist far-right groups and neo-Nazis openly protesting mere blocks from where I live.

Between GamerGate, Sad Puppies, and (ugh) Nazi Furries, it seems as though geek culture has been identified as a recruiting ground for vicious, hateful ideologies, particularly those targeting women. I’m sure someone who knows more about sociology than me has gone into great detail about why young, socially awkward males are such easy marks for people looking to spread these vile ideologies, but this is something that we need to be vigilant of. Especially now that all manner of despicables have been emboldened by the presence of people who share their values in the White House.

At the end of the day, I really don’t want to see the communities I participate in become breeding grounds for racist, sexist ideologies — dangerous ideologies which cause real harm to people, and which have led to really bad places in the past.

Conclusion

In the wake of #MeToo and the latest MtG controversy, I think it’s time for a lot of self-reflection. There are a lot of questions that this issue has raised that game companies, community leaders, and gamers are going to have to grapple with. There are going to be some rough patches ahead and maybe some housecleaning will be necessary, but I think by confronting bullies like Jeremy Hambly, our communities will be stronger at the end.

 

**Except Nazis. Because Nazis are assholes who ruin everything.

 

Grolar Epilogue: Progress and Dojo

In a few of my most recent articles, I talked about how I painted up the Kodiak/Grolar multikit that I won in the Iron Arena at the Capital City Bloodbath this year. This is actually my second Grolar, and if you put them side by side, I think you can get a clear picture of my progression as a painter over the past year and a half or so. I think the newer model showcases a few key aspects where my skill has increased.

IMG_2280.JPG

New Grolar (left) and old Grolar (right)

The most obvious difference here is the weathering. The first model was painted long before I started looking into weathering techniques, so when you look at them side by side, you can see that the newer one has a lot more character to it thanks to all the dirt and rust and battle damage. It took me a long time to really get into weathering (outside of character warjacks), but I think the results really do speak for themselves. Weathering adds character and can help your model really tell a story.

The second big difference, I think, is the whites. In the older model, I was probably still just painting the white in a straight white. Whereas in the newer model, I had actually highlighted the whites, starting with a mix of grey and a touch of P3 Frostbite to push the white into a slightly cooler area of the spectrum, and only going up to straight white on the edges and in the highest highlights. I feel that just looking at these two models side by side, this makes a huge difference, especially on the white piece around the neck area.

But the biggest difference of all has to be the metals. In the old one, I was probably just painting them with a silver or brass colour, washing it with nuln oil or some other black wash, and maybe drybrushing it a bit before calling it a day. It looks okay for a gaming piece, but to really take it to the next level, as on the second one, I had to learn to highlight metals. I would start with a darker silver or brass colour, then after applying a wash, I’d work my way up to either a bright silver or a bright brass. Simply look at the curved pieces on the hammer and the guns to see the difference; the newer model looks a lot more three dimensional, and the brass really “pops” in a way that the older model doesn’t.

In addition, the later model has more brass to it. This has been a theme with a lot of the models in this colour scheme. My early models were mostly purple, white and silver, but as I played with colours a little more, I found that the more brass I put on them, the better they looked. This was before I had an understanding of colour theory, of course, so when I first learned about the colour wheel and how to get good contrast, it totally made sense. Gold is directly across the colour wheel from purple, so of course, mixing purple and a warm gold on a model is going to give you both the complementary colours contrast, as well as some cool/warm contrast, and it’s going to look a lot more balanced and pleasing to the eye than a model that is all purple, white, and a cool silver.

Further, adding more gold can help show more details. For the pipes on top of the original model, I did them all in silver, while on the newer one, I did the pipes in silver but the elbow joints in brass. In addition to adding some visual interest and breaking up the big giant silver piece, it also makes it so that the detail is more easily apparent to the viewer at a distance or at a quick glance.

Overall, I would say that these two models represent progress on my hobby journey. The older once is not perfect, and by my new standards, it’s probably not even that great. However, I’m not ashamed of it or anything like that, because it represents how far I’ve come. That’s the thing with any hobby – no model is perfect, and you get better and better with every piece. It’s a journey, not a destination.

creator3

With apologies to Cyanide and Happiness

Bonus! Grolar Dojo!

As an aside, I took the Grolar variant to a tournament a couple weeks ago, and he did very well. He personally killed two warlocks, which helped me clinch third place after a total brainfart in the second-last round cost me a game I had pretty much won (“I’m going to table my opponent except for his caster, get ahead on scenario, then walk into Butcher3’s threat range!”). Since it was a two-list event, I had a Vlad1 Rockets list in my bag, but didn’t bring it out because I forgot my tournament tray and didn’t really want to unpack 50 models every round. So, I just played the following list all four games:

Theme: Jaws of the Wolf

Strakhov1
– Behemoth
– Torch
– Grolar
– Juggernaut
– Marauder

Greylord Forge Seer x2 (free)
Eilish Garrity
Yuri the Axe (free)
Kayazy Eliminators x2
Battle Mechaniks (max)

This list has been something that I have been tweaking for a while, and I straight-up love it. Though it may take a while to learn all his tricks, Strakhov1 has quickly become my favourite caster, and I would argue that with all his movement shenanigans, he is one of the best jack-support casters in Khador right now (perhaps even better than Harkevich and Special K) because of his sheer ability to put warjacks where they need to be, and threaten to assassinate a caster from downtown. Like Sorscha1, even holding onto the feat in the back pocket can help you control the game by simply threatening to kill the enemy caster if he gets too close, with “too close” being defined as “anywhere within 20 inches of any of these warjacks.”

If we go back to the old page 5, and take away some of the puerile and unnecessarily-gendered language, we can see that Warmachine is a game of aggression. You have a better chance of securing victory by taking control of the game and going on the offensive than by sitting around and waiting for your opponent to come to you. With very mobile, deep-striking heavy warjacks that have the base stats to do a lot of damage when they get there, Strakhov can effectively take control of the game and send powerful pieces deep into the enemy’s line in a way that someone like Harkevich really can’t. Harkevich excels at a fair fight, but that’s something your opponent doesn’t always give you. Strakhov, with all his movement shenanigans, can do some interesting hit and run tactics, and he always has an assassination run in his back pocket.

In short, nothing in Warmachine kills things quite like a Khador jack once it gets there. And with the ability to take a model with a SPD of 4 inches and send it 19 inches up the table in non-linear fashion, no one gets a warjack there quite like Strakhov.

ThINKing outside the box — acrylic artist inks

Sometimes, when it comes to finding hobby supplies, it’s best to go outside the hobby store or the FLGS and look outside the box a little. Art stores in particular can have a wealth of useful products because, if ancient cave paintings in France and Indonesia are any indication, artists have been at this for a while, much longer than us hobbyists.

IMG_2275One of the more recent additions to my hobby arsenal has been the acrylic artist inks made by companies like Holbien or Daler- Rowney, which would likely be available at just about any store which caters to the artsy types.

Both the Holbien and Daler-Rowney FW inks come in glass bottles, approximately 30mL, and are about $10 or so at the art store I frequent. The bottles are very short and squat, so there is little to no danger of spilling them, and the cap has a built-in eyedropper to transfer the inks onto your palette. While the glass in the bottles seems pretty thick and resilient, I would recommend a tight grip when you are shaking them for obvious reasons. The downside is that they are much heavier and bulkier than your average Vallejo-style dropper bottle, so they can be a little annoying to store and transport, especially if you’re someone like me who gets very particular about keeping his hobby supplies organized in an efficient manner. Overall, though, as someone who very strongly prefers the dropper bottles to paint pots, I really like the little eyedropper in the cap and have no major complaints about the packaging.

Inside the bottle, these inks are fairly similar in composition to acrylic paints, except they have a very thin, almost water-like consistency, and a very high pigment density. Daler-Rowney has about 40 different colours in their line, and Holbien has a few dozen more, though with the Holbiens, you will want to be careful that you’re getting the pigment-based ink and not the dye-based stuff. As you can see just by looking at the bottles, some of these colours are extremely bright and vibrant. The intended use for these products is seems to be calligraphy and other forms of 2D art, as the labels on the Daler-Rowney FW inks indicate that they can be used with a variety of different types of pens in addition to a brush or airbrush, however they will work well on miniatures and play nice with your standard hobby acrylic paints.

Anyways, there are a couple of uses that I’ve found for them so far. In addition to using them for glazing and inking your miniatures, they can also be used to help you paint difficult colours like yellow, orange and white.

Thin your paints!

Our average hobby acrylic paint such as Vallejo or P3 consists of a bunch of pigments floating around in some sort of acrylic medium. It’s why you need to shake your paints before you use them, to mix up and emulsify any pigments which have settled out. These paints tend to be not completely opaque, which is actually a good quality if you’re using techniques like glazes and preshading. However, because of the nature of the pigments, some colours tend to have more or less coverage than others. Black can cover pretty much everything up with just one thin coat, whereas yellow and white, with naturally weaker pigments, just don’t have the same opacity.

As a result, trying to create a smooth, opaque base coat with a brush in a colour like yellow can be difficult. The paint just doesn’t cover well, especially if you have a dark colour paint or primer underneath. One way that newer painters sometimes respond to this frustration is to try to glob on a thick coat, but that brings in its own issues. Thick coats obscure detail and show brush strokes, and the uneven coverage from a thick coat just doesn’t give good results. It’s no surprise, then, that “thin your paints” is a meme-worthy piece of common advice given to new painters.

The proper way to do it is in multiple thin coats, however the challenge is that by adding water or some other medium to thin your paints, you end up reducing the pigment density. For a lot of colours, this isn’t really a problem as even thinned out, you can still get the coverage you need with one or two coats. But if you’re starting with a colour whose coverage is kind of iffy at the best of times like yellow and then reducing the pigment density even more, it is going to be hard to accomplish your goal of getting a smooth, clean coat.

This is where our artist inks come in. Because of their very thin consistency, they can be used instead of water as a thinning medium. And because they themselves are jam-packed with pigments and come in some very vibrant colours, you can get the paint consistency you want to lay down a smooth coat while maintaining the pigment density you need to get decent coverage. You will still probably need multiple thin coats, and I would still recommend an undercoat as an intermediate step in extreme situations like trying to paint yellow over black, but this is going to save you a lot of time and trouble and give you a much better result than either globbing on a thick coat or struggling against paint that just doesn’t cover what’s underneath.

Further, when you’re painting freehand, symbols and markings, thin paints and a good brush** are key. By thinning your paints with these inks, you can get them to the perfect consistency such that they will flow nicely off the tip of your brush, and still maintain the coverage you need to get the effect you want. Reaper paints thinned with a white ink was how I painted the bear paw on the front of my Grolar, and that seemed to turn out quite well.

Glazing with inks

These inks can also be used as a glaze to tint your miniatures. On my shelf of shame, I have a few thrall warriors that I’m using to try out different colours, because I figure zombies are notoriously not great at coordinating their sartorial choices. So, with them all assembled and primed using the zenithal*** technique, I figured they would make perfect subjects for an experiment on whether these inks might be good for the “sketch style” that has been all the rage for the past year or so.

IMG_2276.JPG

Sketch style is an increasingly popular way of painting miniatures which has been heavily promoted recently by people like Matt DiPietro. With this technique, you start by zenithal priming, then add some black to the shadows and white to the highlights to create a value sketch on the model. Once you’ve got your values blocked in, you apply coloured glazes and inks using a sort of paint by numbers style technique in order to tint each area the colour you want. The underlying values end up showing through the glazes and inks, creating highlights and shadows without the need for advanced time-consuming techniques like blending and layering.

In the picture, you can see the result on a couple thralls, next to some of their companions who haven’t been inked yet. While I would say that I probably should have highlighted the whites a little more instead of just hitting it with the airbrush from above and calling it good enough, these inks did a marvelous job of colourizing the sketch, and you can see some clearly defined shadows and some bright highlights on the shoulder pads. If you use a lot of inks and glazes and that sort of thing in your painting, or you are interested in moving into sketch style, I would definitely consider picking up a bottle and trying it out.

Other Uses

With the vibrancy of some of these colours and the high pigment density, I would imagine these inks would also be very good for things like fire, lava, and other glow effects. A bright yellow in particular would probably go a long way in conveying the intensity of the heat and light being given off by a campfire, as well as blend the underlying colours of the flames together. For the more fantasy-oriented, between these two companies, there are enough different colours out there that you could do all sorts of cool magical flames.

Also, if the label is any indication, these inks should be able to be shot through an airbrush pretty easily. While I haven’t tried it yet, I would imagine with their very finely ground pigments and very thin consistency, you could probably just drop them in the cup and pull the trigger with no thinning or other additives required. I’m sure you can get some quite nice and interesting effects, especially on a preshaded miniature. Vince Venturella did a product review on the FW inks recently on his youtube channel and he goes into a few other uses as well.

Final thoughts

Acrylic artists inks may not be the sort of thing that you are likely to find at your local hobby or game store, but they are a useful addition to any hobbyist’s arsenal. I’ve been using them for a couple months now and although I have the feeling that I’m just at the tip of the iceberg so far when it comes to their many uses, I’ve found them to be quite the addition to my repertoire. So, for those of you who have used them before, how did you find them, and what sort of tips, tricks and techniques would you recommend?

 

**What constitutes a good brush and how to take care of one so it remains a good brush could be an entire article of its own, but suffice it to say that what you’re looking for is a big enough belly to hold paint (no, put that 10/0 down and back away slowly), a fine enough tip to get that paint where you want it, and bristles with the right amount of springiness to work with your style.

***Zenithal priming is a technique where you prime the whole model black, then with either an airbrush or a rattle can, hit it with some white or light grey primer from above, or from whatever direction your light source is coming from, giving you a quick preshade. Value sketching is similar, only you take it one step further by painting in deeper shadows and brighter highlights with black and white paint.

Painting my Grolar, Part 3

In a previous article, we got our Grolar almost completed, putting down all the paint and getting it ready for the final few steps — weathering, basing, and a coat of varnish to protect it from grubby gamer hands.

Weathering

In general, weathering techniques are a more recent addition to my hobby repertoire.  It was only this year that I really dove into weathering. Initially, I tried to justify not doing it by saying that my warjacks were fresh out of the factory, but once I got into it, I started to really like the results.

For this model, I used four main techniques.

  1. Painted on scratches
  2. Sponge Weathering
  3. Add texture with Typhus Corrosion
  4. Dry pigments

Painted on scratches

Painting on scratches is not very complicated, however it does require a fine brush and some brush control. But before I get into how to paint it, lets imagine a plate of armour that has taken a whack from a sword or a battleaxe or something like that and consider how it will interact with the light.

In my sketch here, we have a green plate of armour with a scratch halfway up and a light source coming from the top left. Due to the geometry of the scratch, the bottom part of the scratch is going to catch the light, while the top part of the scratch is going to be shadowed.

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Left, the plate of armour with the scratch, right, the plate of armour with the top and bottom of the highlight to illustrate.

So, once we understand this, painting a cool looking scratch is going to be fairly simple, as long as you have the brush control and the right brush and paint consistency. Simply paint a dark colour for the body of the scratch, and add a thin highlight on the bottom of the scratch in a lighter version of your base colour.

This technique may not be the most accurate on a micro scale; after all, most armour plates have relatively thin green paint and relatively thick silver metal to them, and these sort of scratches will probably dig deep into the metal, the juxtaposition of the bright highlight and the dark shadow will give your scratch a three dimensional look, which is exactly what we are going for here.

Also, when it comes to scratches, random scratches are nice, but you can get some extra realism by considering what areas are going to take a beating, and in what direction these scratches are likely to form. As one example, I used to work on construction sites, and I remember once staring at the back end of an excavator. The main body of an excavator can swivel 360 degrees on its tracks, and the back end sticks out fairly far to act as a counterweight to the bucket on the front. This particular excavator had a lot of horizontal scratches on the back, which, in context, totally makes sense. As the body of the excavator swivels around on its tracks and the operator is going to be more focused on the bucket than the back end, sooner or later, that back end is going to rub up against something and the body spins around, it’s going to leave horizontal scratches on the back of the excavator.

So in our fantasy world, if you have something like a warjack that is going to do a lot of punching, you can make the weathering look a little more realistic by adding some scratches extending back from the fists in the direction of the punch. This sort of thing can add a little more realism to your scratches, and make it so that your weathering tells a story, or at least more of a story than “here are some scratches and stuff I painted on this model.”

Sponge Weathering

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Sponge weathering is another simple technique, and it uses something that any wargamer has kicking around in droves — soft foam. You can get this in packaging for Privateer Press miniatures, or from pieces that you’ve plucked from those trays for your battlefoam bag. Simply break off a piece of your pluck foam, or cut off a piece of the foam that comes in the PP blister packs, and you’ve got your applicator.

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See the scratches on areas like the shoulder and the fist, as well as the sponge weathering  and Typhus Corrosion all over.

All you have to do with this technique is take the foam, add some paint, remove the excess with a paper towel, similar to what you do when dry-brushing, and start dabbing the model in areas that you want a weathered, chipping effect. This will apply your paint in random, natural patterns that look sort of like the chipping you might expect to see on a military vehicle that has been in service for a while. I like to start with a dark silver colour, such as GW’s Leadbelcher or P3’s Pig Iron, then follow up with a dark brown like P3 Umbral Umber. By doing two colours, not only do I get a bit of a rust effect, with some of the chips looking like they’ve been exposed to the elements longer than others, but it also just adds some visual interest and confusion to trick the eye into making it look a little more real.

Typhus Corrosion

Typhus Corrosion is one of Games Workshop’s technical paints, which is a few paints in their line that have been specially formulated to make some more advanced techniques rather easy. For example, they have Blood for the Blood God, which makes basic blood effects simple, or Nihilakh Oxide which is basically just that greenish patina that you see on old statues put in a tiny bottle.

citadeltechnical.jpgTyphus Corrosion comes in their standard tiny pot, and when you open it, you can see that it is a thin paint, with a consistency somewhat closer to a wash, but with a bunch of crud floating in it. This crud creates a gritty texture when it dries, which helps create some contrast and visual confusion, as well as not doing a terrible job of replicating mud and grime.

Duncan can probably explain this better than I can, but to apply this, you simply put in on the desired area with a beater brush that you don’t really care about. For warjacks, I like to add a lot to the legs and feet, to replicate both the mud that they may have walked through. From there, you can add as much or as little as you want, playing with dabs, stippling, and streaks, to get the desired effect. For warjacks, I think it gives a particularly nice result on the pistons and other machinery that articulates the legs, to replicate buildups of grease and oil and grime. Also, feel free to add some on top of the areas that you had hit with the sponge weathering for a cool effect as well.

Dry pigment

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Some subtle soot on the back of this warjack

We’re just about done here, but there is one more thing to consider. In this steampunk universe, warjacks are fueled by giant coal boilers, which is something that you really shouldn’t think about too hard, given the sheer impracticality of managing the logistics of delivering enough coal to the battlefield to keep even a single warjack going. However, if you’re burning the entire coal production of West Virginia every couple hours, that’s going to generate a lot of soot.

This is where our friend dry pigments come in. These are simply bottles of pigment dust, with no liquid or medium in them. They can be brushed onto the model to create various effects, and I’ve found them to be particularly useful for a few things — adding a bit of colour and visual interest to rocks and brickwork, or in this case, adding soot. They can be applied in a couple of ways, either by simply getting some on your brush and dusting the model with them, or, if you want to get a little more to stick, adding a little bit of water (or saliva) to the model and then brushing them on. Again, this is a product that is very new to me, but I’ve found that brushing the smokestacks, boiler, etc., with some very dark grey or black pigment can really help make it look like it’s coated in a fine layer of soot.

That said, because this is simply dust that you are applying to the model, you will need to fix the pigment somehow to make it stick. Some companies make pigment fixers, but for gaming pieces, I feel like the varnish that I use to protect them on the tabletop (Vallejo Matte Varnish, thinned and shot through an airbrush) is good enough to seal the pigment onto the model.

Anyways, from there, it’s just a matter of adding the glow effect onto the visor, doing some basing, and adding a coat of varnish, and the Grolar is done and ready for the gaming table.

Final thoughts on weathering

Since I’m still building my weathering skills, this is just a tiny sample of some basic weathering techniques. There are many chipping techniques, such as with hairspray or salt, that I’ve yet to try. In addition, you can do a lot with oil paints to create glazes and other visual interest. Oil paints are a completely different beast because they have a lot longer work time than acrylics, which opens up a lot of techniques, however that’s something that I haven’t really gotten into yet because of cleanup and ventilation concerns. Further, there are a wealth of specialized weathering products out there from companies like Vallejo and AK, including a few I just picked up last week (oh, the dangers of having a doctor’s office a couple blocks away from a hobby store…).

One thing I would recommend to all the gamers out there, though, is to check out some of the hobby stores and scale model builder communities if you really want to take your weathering to the next level. Hobby stores tend to have a lot more products for this sort of thing than the six or so GW technical paints that your FLGS might have on its shelf, and the sort of people who spend hours getting their Panzers looking like they’ve been going through Russian mud and snow (and the occasional chunk of shrapnel) have a lot of expertise you can borrow from.