Southern Ontario Open 2019 recap

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

Champions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Painting

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

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

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

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

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Why did I leave this until the last minute?

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

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Patrick Miller’s Sea King

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

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

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

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

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Group winner – Vincent Beaulieu’s Dreamer

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

The Final Word

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

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

Painting Cygnar – because someone has to play the bad guys

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

Starting out

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

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

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

Deciding on a colour scheme

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

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

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

The project

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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…

“In Enemy Hands” – the Spanish Republican 109

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

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About where I was last time…

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

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The finished product

Painting the Canopy

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

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

The Fun Part

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My yellow process…

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

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Oops…

 

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

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

Weathering, Panel Lines, and Reinforcing Shadows

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

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

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

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

  1. Reinforce the shadows

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

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

  1. Add surface variation.

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

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

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Metallic colours, and some shades

  1. Add stains

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

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

Final Bits

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

The Base

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

Except for the photoetch.

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

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

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

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

Session One: Vows of the Knights of Warhammer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Two: The Ethics of War(hammer)

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two ways to build lists…

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

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

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

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

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

Back to themes

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

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

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

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

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

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Did somebody say my name?

Conclusion

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

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

Man up and go to the makeup aisle

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

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

Organizing your paints

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

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

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No, I do not have too many paints.

Makeup Brushes – the best dry brushes

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

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

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

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

Files and sanding sticks

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

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

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Conclusion

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

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

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Build Update – AMG Bf.109B (1/48)

This is a project that has been on and off my table for a while since I picked up the kit almost a year ago. For a few months, I would take it out, look at the sprues, then put it back, close the box, and back away slowly. Eventually, I got it started, but then I kept getting distracted with gaming pieces that I wanted to either clear off my shelf of shame, or get painted up for demos or tournaments. Because I suppose is theoretically possible that I could go to another tournament.

The theme of the contest I’m building for is “In Enemy Hands.” So, as a tip of the hat to the Spanish Republicans and because I love their red-yellow-purple scheme, I’m doing the one Bf.109 that they managed to capture. The challenges of this project started early; I thought it would be fairly easy to find a Bf.109, but the only kit that I could find of a 109B (or any early 109 with the Jumo engine) was the AMG kit in 1/48 scale.

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Now, I’m not sure that I’ve built enough model kits that I can offer a fair assessment of the fit and finish of the kit, and I definitely haven’t done enough research to determine if it has the correct number of rivets along the upper lower left panel line second from the front on the cowling or if the johnson rod is a hair out of scale. However, my impression is that this is not a kit for the faint of heart. There are a lot of photoetch details, particularly in the cockpit, and it comes with resin and rubber parts as well, not to mention a commensurately large pricetag. There are also a lot of small parts, and the sprues aren’t exactly Bandai or Games Workshop quality, though they are a step up from the 1960s kits from behind the iron curtain that I’m used to. Notably, there are a lot of places where the engineering is such that you don’t have much in the way of locating pins and tabs to help you align the parts.

But, if you’re too much of a hipster to build a popular subject like I am, sometimes you have to take what you can get.

My Progress

So far, I managed to muddle my way through the infuriating photoetch on the cockpit, painted it up, and got the two halves of the fuselage together. I did depart from the official instructions, gluing the side panels into the fuselage first rather than gluing them onto the floor of the cockpit and hoping that they somehow fit flush against the inside of the fuselage. The two halves of the fuselage went together fairly well, though there was some filling, sanding, and re-scribing necessary.

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Cockpit detail

Departing from the instructions again, I installed the tail wheel before putting the fuselage halves together. While I did end up accidentally snapping it off later, I was able to drill out a hole for a brass rod on both ends of the break so it should be a simple repair that will probably end up with something that, with the brass rod at its core, is stronger than the original.

From there, I taped over the cockpit so I don’t mess it up and started getting the big pieces together – wings, control surfaces, etc., so it would look like a plane. I did paint up and weather the engine, only to nearly completely cover it up. At least I know it’s there.

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All this work… for nothing

The nose in particular was a challenging affair. On this kit, the nose consists of eight pieces. With so many pieces, most of which are connected by simple butt joints, one has to be very careful to get the fit just right. Otherwise, the slightest error will carry over and be magnified with each subsequent piece and you will need to use a lot of putty to get everything looking okay in the end. Further, the seam along the top of the cowling is difficult to fill and sand without accidentally obliterating the detail around the guns.

With all the filling and sanding done on the main structure, it is starting to look like a plane. I’m thinking of hitting it with some Stynylrez black before I start putting all the small, fiddly bits on and covering up some areas around the radiatior that I should paint before I assemble. I find it difficult to really see how well you did with fixing the seams until you actually prime it, and if it turns out after the primer that I didn’t do a good job, I want to have a chance to fix it without snapping off the pitot tube and other small pieces.

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My goal is to finish this thing for a contest in early March. I feel like this isn’t an unreasonable goal, so long as I don’t run into any major hiccups. And, while things are starting to come together, there are a number of places in this project where things can go wrong. First, I think landing gear is going to be a challenge. With the narrow track of the landing gear on the 109, the slightest misalignment could result in one wing being much lower than the other, and this kit doesn’t exactly have the most builder-friendly engineering to start with.

Next, the canopy could potentially be an issue. You have to be very careful when working with clear parts because you can’t just paint over mistakes, and there is potential for issues like glue fogging the canopy. I’d like to display it with the canopy open, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. And, there is also some of the aforementioned photoetch on the canopy as well.

Finally, my scheme involves a natural metal finish. While I’m not stranger to painting some shiny metal bits on models, I haven’t done an entire model in a natural metal finish. Obviously, I’m going to use Vallejo Metal Color, but I will probably need to head to the hobby store and pick up one of the 16 shades of grey metal that I don’t already have in order to get it historically accurate. Further, while the scheme itself isn’t too complex and can mostly be achieved through masking and spraying, I am a little concerned with decal application as that is new to me and I’ve seen enough silvered decals to worry about my chances.

That said, I’m really excited to get the thing together and primed and get started on the fun part. I can’t wait to start painting in the red-yellow-purple of the tail. And, none of these challenges are insurmountable. I believe in painting bravely, which is why I do stupid things like trying a resin pour for the first time on a display piece.

No man is an island

The other interesting thing is that this project really shows how the internet has helped connect modellers. First, when I googled pictures of finished scale models of the 109B, I found one made by fellow local figure painter. His is from an older kit, and is painted up in the colours of the bad guys, but I did get a chance to chat with him a bit about things like the proper colour for a Jumo-engined 109 and which seam lines are supposed to be panel lines and which need to be filled.

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Fun fact: Jean is better than me at both aircraft AND painting figures

Second, I’m part of a facebook group for Spanish Civil War modelling, and recently, someone posted their rendition of this plane. Not this type of plane, but this specific aircraft. While my initial reaction was to be disappointed that my idea is clearly not as original as I thought it was, seeing his rendition was a great help in figuring out things like what colours should go where. Also, he linked to a veritable treasure trove of reference material. Couple that with some other pictures of people’s takes on not just the 109B, but any of the early Jumo-engined 109s, and I’ve got some reference material which, if not authoritative, is a big help to me as someone working on a more obscure aircraft.

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Hey look, someone took my idea… only to do it first and probably better than I can

Conclusion

This kit is… well, it’s somewhere between a Bandai Gundam kit and a communist bloc 1960s kit in terms of engineering, details, and ease of assembly. I think I can finish this thing in time for the contest. The sprues are starting to get pretty bare, and the plane actually kind of looks like a plane. So long as I don’t get distracted, I should be able to… hey look, something shiny!

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Warhammer School Clubs, Part 3: Setup for Success, OR The Calm Before the Storm

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

In the last two articles, we unboxed our kit and addressed any concerns that people may have with the Warhammer School Clubs program. Now, it’s time to get ready to get this club going. I decided that, for the size of group that I had and the large variance in age range, there was some modifications I had to make to the official “curriculum” that Games Workshop sent us. This mostly had to do with some of the tools that wouldn’t be harder to use in our program, like allowing the children to use super glue, or using primer (I don’t trust using Abbadon Black base paint as a “primer”, after all).

The plan was to introduce the Warhammer Club to the children after December and the winter break. For the entire Christmas season we were swamped with making gifts, doing charity fundraisers, and putting on holiday plays, so there was little time to go full force into a big project like this. The two week winter break, however, allowed me some time to prepare for the big roll-out so that everything went as smooth as possible.

There were some small moments before the break to get things started with the kids; on the few blizzardy nights in December when there was only one child left in our room late in the evening, I would bring out the models. On those days we had a chance to start piecing the models together. One young man especially was active in helping put the models together.

Some tips on that: be prepared to glue pieces together  Although the First Strike and Storm Strike boxes have the models listed as “snap fit” and thus are theoretically easier for young adults to put together, in our experience some of the snap fit pieces tended to be a little loose. Also, sometimes the kids missed their marks when snipping out the figures from the sprue, which meant that the “snap fit” end didn’t have a connector to go with it.

The models themselves were relatively easy to put together, however.  We had the most trouble with the Space Marines not fitting perfectly and being wobbly or falling apart easily, but the handful of children who helped where able to figure it out. Although the curriculum says to do this with the kids as a workshop day, the reality is that there wouldn’t be enough sprues to go around, so doing them ahead of time with a very limited group of children made it easier and allowed us to have everything prepared for when it was time to get the program up in earnest.

Organizing

With all the figures put together, I went about organizing them all.  I got three containers from the dollar store, and with fifteen models each they easily fit inside. Being the Christmas season, I had some Ferrero Rocher packaging, which I cut into smaller sections  to make a holder so most of the models would stand up rather then roll around willy-nilly. The only ones that didn’t fit in the Ferrero Rocher packaging were the larger based Stormcast Eternals.

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The entire 40K “First Strike” box fit into the container.  The “Storm Strike” box had large rulebooks, so only the warscrolls fit in the box.  However, the “Storm Strike” box did fit all the other kinds of papers, terrain  and magazines that came in the kit.

The paints and hobbying material fit in its own box as well.  I went out and got some extra dollar store paint brushes so that everyone would have one, not just the six or so that GW sent us.  Our before and after program serves applesauce for snacks sometimes, so when that happens save and clean out the empty applesauce containers for water pots.  Some cut up clamshell packaging to make little palletes for each kid and it’s the perfect setup for hobbying goodness.

Priming

This is where most of the work went into during the winter break. Again, Games Workshop sent Abbadon Black as a “base coat”, without any sort of primer.  While I assume that it was intended to be used for priming, I was concerned that this might be inadequate. Priming without a real primer will most likely lead to a lot of chipped miniatures and a bunch of frustrated kids.   And as much as I would like to spray prime with the children, the limitations of my school, and the fact that it is winter limit my ability.

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Instead, my family went to Brian’s house, and we used his airbrush to prime everything after Christmas (along with some of my Warmachine collection).  The airbrush we used was a badger Xtreme Patriot 105, and we used badger Stynylrez primer in black and white.  We laid down a black base first covering the entire set of models.

We then started putting on the white, spraying down overtop in the zenithal style. Brian has talked about zenithal before, so I won’t really talk about it too much, but I will say that I think it will help the children differentiate different areas and really pick out details in a way that if the model was all one base colour (black or white) they might miss.  

It worked well, though we did run into a few issues when we were spraying the white primer. The black sprayed okay, but on the white, we kept on getting clogging in the nozzle, which probably had to do with the fact that the needle we were using was smaller than recommended for priming.

However frustrating it was finishing up the white, we got it all done.  After a day to cure they were all ready to be packed up and ready for the children to paint. Thanks Brian!

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Paperwork

The final pieces to get together was the paperwork. I wrote up a signup sheet and the ‘by-laws’ of the school club, leaving areas blank so that the kids could participate in filling them in. The signup sheet has whether or not the children want to volunteer for a “Student led role”, so those children who want to do something extra know ahead of time that it is an option.

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Honestly, although the curriculum calls for making the rules and roles up on paper, I feel like it may be a bit of extra work – the “coach” (ie adult organizer) of the club can simply do all these things, and have it all under their authority rather then bogging the children down in by-law writing. Maybe this is a holdover from school group expectations in the UK, but I don’t know if it’s as applicable in the North American school context, especially for middle/grade schools.

With that all being said, I am excited to have the children be more involved in writing the rules and taking on student lead roles. It’s often been a dream of mine to add a more democratic culture where the kids are engaged in their own learning and development, but that approach is not really one generally found in North America. Maybe this can be a way to start developing the democratic decision making skills with a group of children.

I also wrote a new permission letter to the parents. The GW written letter in BOOK ONE was fine enough, so I mostly copied those words. I did add the date, time and length expectations in the letter though. A lot of our children get picked up early from our after school session, and for those children who do want to participate but also get picked up early, the parents needed to know that they would be required to stay a bit longer than usual on those days.

Another thing I printed out was two sets of references for the game rules for 40K and AoS. Even some adults get lost in the thick of the rules of a rulebook, and while I expect my children to get the ‘how to play’ after a demonstration, they are prone to forget things. So having an easy flowchart or each of the steps of a game condensed into one page will no doubt help them out when it comes time to teach them how to play the game.

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Getting Started

Over the past couple weeks, children have signed up and the parents permission have gone out. We have 15 children participating (out of a classroom of 30) with the majority of them volunteering for some sort of student led role within the club! I’m excited to get started, as are the kids. The next post will be about how our first two sessions went.

Citadel Product Review – Mouldline Remover and Water Pot

When it comes to hobby tools such as paint brushes and knives, I tend to avoid the Citadel/Games Workshop family of products. Generally, it feels like I’m paying a premium for official GW products, and I’m not getting anything better than if I went to an art or hobby store. For example, I’m not sure who in their right mind would pay $36 for a hobby knife.

However, once in a while, the industrial designers at GW manage to hit a home run, making a good product at a not-unreasonable price that makes it onto my workbench. The latest two I’ve picked up have been their Mouldline Remover tool and their Water Pot.

Mouldline Remover

Citadel’s Mouldline Remover is about $20 and can be found at your local purveyor of Games Workshop products. Essentially, it’s a scraper that does what it says on the tin – by running it over mold lines and applying a touch of pressure, you can scrape them off.

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The concave curve on the inside in action!

The tool is a stiff scraping blade a couple millimetres thick, with a handle screwed on either side. As it is pretty much just a big chunk of metal, it feels pretty solid in the hand. The edges of the blade are square and crisp and work well for what they do. The blade has three main shapes to it: A flat backside, a rounded tip, and a concave curve on the front. This allows the modeller to choose the shape that best matches the part he is working on. The inside, for example, would be useful for scraping mold lines off pipes and tubes without leaving flat spots.

It works on both resin and plastic, as well as certain filler putties, and in addition to removing mold lines, it can be used to even out slightly misaligned parts. The nice, stiff blade is easy to control and it makes the task of getting rid of mold lines easy.

The one downside is that it is a little big for certain jobs. It may be perfect for things like Sector Mechanicus terrain and tanks, but on a small, highly detailed model like an Escher gang member, it’s probably just a little too big for some of the work and you should resort to something like the back of a hobby knife blade.

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This tool is definitely a good addition to my hobby arsenal. Nice and sturdy, it does what it says on the tin. It’s great for erasing mold lines and evening out misaligned panels. Also, this would be a good tool for younger modellers who might not be ready for a knife yet.

Water Pot

Normally, I wouldn’t spend $10 on a simple water pot. However, I had seen it on the desk of a couple twitch streamers and heard good things, so when I was negotiating a trade with a friend who works at the LGS and we were getting close to a mutually acceptable deal, I said “throw in one of these and we’ll call it even.”

I’m a little persnickety about my painting area, always experimenting with ways to more efficiently sort things out. This probably goes back to my time working in aerospace where a clean and well-organized workspace was essential because you really don’t want to lose a tool only for it to be found bouncing around inside a jet engine at 30,000 feet. Also, I don’t exactly have a large hobby space, having to keep most of my hobbying confined to a small LINNMON table from Ikea. As such, I like products where some thought was given to maximize functionality and ergonomics — a tool that has three uses takes up less space than three separate tools, and every square inch I save on my desk is another square inch that I can clutter up with works in progress.

This is one of those products. I mean, Citadel could have just taken a coffee mug, slapped their logo on it, and raised the price by 400%. But they didn’t do that. They crammed this thing full of little features that may not be apparent at first glance, but that painters will appreciate.

First, the shape of the thing. It is about the size of a large coffee cup, however it is wider at the bottom than it is at the top. This means that it is not likely to tip over like so many bottles of Nuln Oil. Further, with the unique shape, it is unlikely that you will mix up your paint water and your drink.

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Citadel Water Pot: ribbed for your pleasure?

On the inside, it has a number of ridges that make cleaning paint off the brush easier. The sides of the cup are gently ribbed, which should help knock stubborn paint out, while the bottom has some sharper ribs. While you probably don’t want to be grinding a kolinsky sable brush against the bottom, these ribs are useful for things like knocking paint out of your beater brushes and cleaning off the makeup brushes I use for dry brushing. Since cleaning your brushes out is important to make them last longer, anything that helps make cleaning easier and more efficient is a welcome feature.

Speaking  of cleaning your brushes, the top has a curve molded into it so that you can place your brush sideways on top without it rolling off. This is actually a good idea for when you’re finishing a painting session. You don’t want to leave a wet brush point up, as that will encourage the water and any debris in it to migrate down into the ferrule. This curve allows you to, at the end of your session, place your brush down on top of the water cup and let it dry out sideways.

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Brush holder in action

 

Finally, there are a series of grooves cut into one side. By running a brush through these grooves, they allow you to reform the point of the brush. This gives you an option to quickly reform the point without eating paint. While this works good in theory, old habits die hard, and I’m still licking my brush and using the corner of my mouth, so I would rather Citadel just focus on making their washes taste better. Further, I’m not sure they work for all sizes of brushes, so it might have been good for them to have an array of different sized grooves so you can use it to form the tip on your big beater brushes you use for terrain.

My only gripe, and this is minor, is that I wonder if it would have been better to cast it in a clear plastic. That way, you can somewhat see the ribs do their work, and it’s easier to tell looking from the side when it’s time to clean your water. On the other hand, it might be hard to see anything anyways with the refraction of light on the water, and the cruddy water look may not have been what they were going for.

Of course, similar to the Redgrass Games Everlasting Wet Palette, the main issue is that it’s hard to compete on value when your main competition is essentially free. Yes, this product has some nice features, but you can probably get away with using any old container or jar indefinitely and save yourself $10, so long as you are careful to choose a container that isn’t too similar to your coffee cup. Still, if you have a bit of cash burning a hole in your pocket and you’re at the LGS, you could do far worse. Like spending $36 on a hobby knife.

Conclusion

I am far from a GW fanboy, and don’t see the need to use official Citadel-brand products very often in my painting. However, I do like both of these products. If I had to give them a letter grade, I would give the mouldline remover an A, while the water cup would probably get a B+, only because although it’s not that expensive, it can’t compete on price with free alternatives.

 

Warhammer School Clubs, Part 2: War, what is it good for?

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

So you’re thinking about starting a Warhammer School Club in your school.  Maybe you’re an experienced gamer and educator wanting to bring your love for the hobby in, or maybe it’s your first time and some kid has brought this odd little game to your classroom and wants support from you to help start a club.  You go to your organization’s coordinator or the school administrator and share this idea. What happens when they aren’t really sold on it?

For a lot of administrators, this is new territory. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, and what it can bring to the educational experience.  We need to be able to make the case for the educational benefits of miniature wargaming in the classroom as well as address any misgivings administrators may have. And convincing administrators is the first step before needing to convince parents to allow their children to participate.

With that in mind, here are some objections that I’ve personally experienced as well as some that I’ve heard from others.

Settings

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The first thing I want to bring up is how the settings of the universes affect how they might be received by administrators. I fully admit that this maybe some of my personal bias, but I find the setting of Age of Sigmar to be less problematic than the world of 40K. Let me explain…

As previously discussed on this blog, there’s something a little too real about wargaming in conflicts that are more recent. I feel a similar (but different) unease about the nature of the 40K universe. Fantasy as a setting is backward looking – It takes a view that our past glories are behind us, and that the worlds of fantasy are one of mythic heroes of the gods that we will never live up too. They are worlds of mysticism where impossible magics and long antiqued weaponry rule.

Science Fiction on the other hand is forward looking – it starts out as an attempt to anticipate scientific and technological advances. So rather then taking a starting point of a long past historical period and adding the fantastical, science fiction takes our now, and extrapolates what may happen in the far off future.  And the far future of 40K is a grimdark reflection of our own.

While the over-the-top grimdark-ness was originally meant to satirize the tropes often seen in science fiction, the satire of it all is often missed with members of community, and will no doubt be missed by the children and school administrators in the school. That’s why a lot the problems that will be brought up are likely to exist solely with the 40K setting, and are maybe lessened from the world of AoS, which has a clearer morality.    because of this, I believe that starting with AoS will be easier to present to administrators and parents at the beginning then the world of 40K.

The starters that come in the box put this into contrast.  The AoS box (Storm Strike) comes with Stormcast Eternals and Nighthaunts.  The 40K box (First Strike) comes with UltraMarines and Death Guard Plague Marines and Poxwalkers.  When presenting these two boxes to administrators and parents, it would probably be an easier sell to present “Heroic Knights” vs “Ghosts” then “Storm Troopers” vs “puss covered, guts-falling-out Space Zombies”.  

That is not to say that 40K cannot be a part of the experience of the school club, rather it would be easier to slowly introduce and carefully curate what parts of 40K you’re using after introducing the administrators, parents and children into AoS.

Violence

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This chainsword is a purely non-lethal weapon…

No matter what the setting though, you’re going to get pushback on the “violence” of the subject matter. After all, the first things parents and administrators will be hearing is the WAR in Warhammer, whether it is the fantasy or sci-fi version of it. The biggest concern will always be about promoting the unending conflict, and whether or not that unending conflict will spill from the game world into the real world between the children.

It is important to recognize that Warhammer is probably not the only war game that the children are playing in school. When seen within a different context, most games with rules children play are simulations of battle. The classic dodgeball is a perfect example – two opposing sides volley projectiles at each other with the goal of removing the opposing team from the field of conflict, with some variations having different roles (like medics to bring into players back into the game) that reflect the roles one would have in a military.

We allow games like dodgeball and football to be played in schools because the “violence” and “war” of it all is abstracted and contextualized in a different way.  Warhammer and wargaming is no more violent than chess; it’s dice and game pieces on a table. Dodgeball is arguably a much more violent game, with the potential of real world injury.  The only way wargaming is more “violent” is that the game pieces are sculpted and presented with weapons or gore. The “violence” is all in narrative, and the School program curriculum does a good deal at contextualizing and discussing the ethics of warfare.

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If there is concern that the “play violence” will spill out from the game into actual violence, then we have to ask yourself the question: Why? Children who act out violently have not developed the self-control skills to communicate the feelings they are experiencing and they use violence as a nonverbal way to show how they are feeling, be it frustration, anger, sadness, etc. By the time the children are being introduced to WarHammer school club (around age 12 and above), most children should have the social and self-control skills to cope with and self-express feelings of frustration or anger verbally and not physicially.

But even as adults, in the heat of the moment have lapses, and for those few children that still have difficulty with self-control around those strong emotions and ‘lash out’, the game can be a way to teach and develop those self-control skills.  The game provides a framework and boundaries, and the curriculum provided by GW places a heavy focus of fair play and personal code of conduct, thus developing the self-control social skills same children may be still developing.

Guns

The biggest issue your probably going to run into is the inclusion of models that carry guns.

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‘Guns in school’, broadly speaking, is an extremely serious subject. The impact of actual firearms within schools should not be contested or belittled. Nor does suggesting that teachers who include ‘gun play’ in school diminish the strong work that students, parents and groups are doing to keep guns out of schools, or suggest that the problem to gun violence in schools is to have more guns in school. We should rightly reject actual firearms in our schools and, in the case of America, where there is a school shooting pandemic, actively resist the culture of gun violence in our schools.

With all that being said, it’s important to recognize the separation between actual ‘gun violence’ and the kind of ‘gun play’ that children are involved in. It goes to a fundamental question: Why do children play?

Children’s play is a process of developing an understanding of themselves and the world around them. As Melinda Walden, an Early Childhood Education teacher at Red River College in Winnipeg, Canada, who focus on risky and controversial play explains in an interview about her own experiences with developing a curriculum around gun play, “A child is just figuring out the world and the things in it through play because that is how they learn, and guns are a part of our world, so how else are they going to learn about it?”

As we continue see conflict unfortunately raging around the world, children need a device to understand why that conflict happens, and even if we think we are shield them from it, they still are passively absorbing everything around them. Some of the parents in our schools may be police officers or military who need to use a gun as a tool in their jobs. By playing with imaginary guns, they are engaging with “a form of socio-dramatic play“  where children can place themselves in the role of ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’ to better understand those concepts.

Demons

Another controversy the could arise is the inclusion of demonic or ghoulish subject matter. GW’s hobby line mascot is a demon, it’s major award is the Golden Demon, and the yellow ‘painting daemon’ is all over the hobbyist packaging and promotional material. Depending on community standards, this can become an issue in needing of explaining to parents and administrators.

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The simplest solution to this is to reframe our look from the ‘Adult perspective’ to the ‘Child perspective’. While we as adults may put a lot of weight on the demonic, depending on our community, children are do not have the context that we have developed. They are approaching these monsters, and understand that due to parent reaction are ‘bad’ but have not developed the understanding of what bad is in context of demons. They with to understand what makes them bad, or scary, or demonic, and the way that children do that is through play.

Let us hypothesize that you are in a school in a community where religion is very important to the identities of the families of the children we interact with.  Our children are going to Church and hearing stories about good vs evil, are being told stories about the devil, hell, demons and sin. That creates an interest in the children about demons and evil, as they are told about how bad and to stay away from these the demonic. What child wouldn’t then have an interest in something forbidden and mysterious?  

Thus we are responding to the children’s fascination in the demonic, allowing them to engage in socio-dramatic play to help the children put themselves into the perspective both of good and evil (and, again, I think AoS is stronger in having more thoroughly “Good” characters compared to the main factions in 40K). They can experience ‘demons’ in the safe boundaries of a tabletop game, giving them a better understanding of the negatives of it.

At least that’s what my argument would be. The truth is, some parents and administrators won’t be sold on pedagogical arguments, especially when it comes to areas of faith. And that’s fine; whether it is on the violence, gunplay, or demonism, some of your co-workers, parents or administrators won’t be 100% on board. If you cannot get people on board 100%, then the best way forward is to organize the club around them.

For parents, the school club is voluntary, and thus need parents permission, so while we know that the child will suffer from not participating, a parent who wishes to not have their children in it just won’t have their child participate.  

For co-workers who are not on board, it simply means putting the work on yourself. Assure them that it is in their rights to disagree, but that it is important to you and that you will be the one organizing and ensuring that it runs well by yourself.  

For Administrators, while risky, there is truth in the adage ‘it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask for permission.’ When I began to bring war gaming into the classroom, it was in the form of those cheap green army guys. We received two bins for two rooms. The younger room snipped off all the guns, while my room did not. There was discussion with the administrator about whether or not they all had to, but I didn’t feel that a decision was made. In that uncertainty, I started my curriculum with guns intact – and the curriculum manager saw and was upset. There was a testy discussion, but keeping them on had already moved the ‘realities on the ground’, and the genie couldn’t be put back in the bottle.

Why do we do it?

The reality is, we are doing this because we believe that it will be a educational and social benefit of the children (be it literacy, mathematics, artistic, technology, etc) in this hobby. There are no alternative motives, like to make children more violent, gun prone or devotees of Satan. We know that this community can make help improve the lives of the children; it is the reason we became educators in the first place. Against all objections, that should be our argument: we are here for the youth we care for