Painting Cygnar – because someone has to play the bad guys

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

Starting out

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

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

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

Deciding on a colour scheme

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

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

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

The project

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Battlebox contents, cleaned and hit with a zenithal prime

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

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Airbrushed and ready for brush painting

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

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

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Glowy Stormdudes

Basing

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

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

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

Acosta

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

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