Siege Strider: I hate painting horses

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

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

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

Supplies

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

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

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

The Chariot

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

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

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

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

The Legs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ready for the paint booth…

Painting

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

Conclusions

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

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Paintlog: Ill-conceived conversions and fun with photoetch

It’s been about a month or two since my last paintlog, and if I had to give November a theme, it would be conversions and kitbashes. Possibly ill-conceived and overly-ambitious conversions and kitbashing, but conversions and kitbashing nonetheless.

Greylord Outriders

These are models that have been sitting on the shelf of shame for at least two years. I remember when I first got them, I quickly slapped three or so of them together, and did some conversion work on the other two, messing around with green stuff and alternate heads to add to the gender diversity of this unit. I also sculpted some snowball like things coming out of their hands to represent the magic spells that they cast. These were just paper clips with an extended teardrop shape sculpted in green stuff, then textured by dragging a hobby knife along the length of the item. Drill a hole in the hands, pop the paper clip in, and call it a day.

Then, they rested on my shelf for at least two years. When I resolved to clear off my shelf of shame (that is, my shelf where I put all my assembled but unpainted models), these guys were some of the last that I got to, mostly because I don’t really like painting cavalry, and partly because they don’t exactly fit my army tactics-wise.

When it came time to paint them, I decided to start by using the airbrush as much as I could to bang out the bulk of the actual horses, then paint the riders and details such as the saddles, harnesses, and mane with a brush. After applying black primer and a zenithal highlight, I got to work, initially starting with a mixture of a dark brown and Reaper’s Blue Liner, which is essentially a blue-black that seems to have been originally formulated for doing darklining on blue surfaces like the armour of a space marine. Of course, the blue was chosen over black because colour theory.

From there, I worked up to the  highlights, spraying from above and going from brown to a slightly reddish leather colour, and mixing in a touch of P3 Menoth White Highlight (one of my go-to off-whites) into the highest highlight. When I was satisfied with the horses, at least for a tabletop quality miniature that I wanted off my shelf and in my display case with the rest of my army, I moved on to brush painting everything else. Finally, I did bust out the airbrush again to do quick OSL effects on the magic spells and a couple other little things. I may have gone slightly overboard with the blue glow, but they’re spell-slinging cavalry, so who cares?

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Honestly, some of the green stuff work is a little rough and there are a couple places where the paint was a little quick and dirty and my blends weren’t perfect, but it’s good enough for tabletop and it’s got me closer to having a completely empty shelf of shame.

Vlatka Tzepesci, Great Princess of Umbrey

IMG_1085.JPGAnd, speaking of ill-conceived gender-bent cavalry models, I’ve decided to put my own spin on Vladimir Tzepesci, Great Prince of Umbrey (Vlad3) as well, kitbashing his horse and weaponry with Alexia’s body and head to make my own special version. The horse is basically stock, aside from some gap filling here and there.

As these were both metal models, this process involved a lot of filing to make Alexia fit on the horse designed for Vlad, and make sure that Vlad’s cape fits on her. It was a bit of a pain because cutting, filing and pinning metal models gets real obnoxious real fast. I did a little but of sculpting, using various epoxy putties to sculpt some transitions on places like the cape where the two pieces from two models not designed to ever go together met, and sculpted a cloth hanging down on one side of the saddle to cover up some rough areas where she didn’t quite fit that nicely on the horse. I also, of course, had to sculpt on some big shoulder pads because if there is one thing Vlad is notorious for, it’s oversized shoulder pads that put GW’s Space Marines to shame. I did keep it somewhat restrained though for both aesthetics and versimilitude, not that a model of someone riding a horse while simultaneously wielding a spear and a flail makes any sense on any level whatsoever. Finally, the weapons involved a lot of pinning with very tiny pins because they are small metal pieces that will break off if you breath on them the wrong way, and the shaft of the spear was replaced with a brass rod because leaving it in pewter is just asking for trouble.

In the end, between the reposing of the spear and the elevated base I constructed for this model, I think she is taller than a stock colossal. I know this is going to cause headaches if I ever bring her to a tournament, but that’s one thing that I almost never worry about.

Chibi Gundam

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I’ve also started on an SD Gundam, which is basically the Toon Tank of the Gundam universe. I’ve decided that with the deformed, cutesy shape, it would be interesting to contrast that with lots of weathering. I’ve started off with the hairspray technique in two layers. After priming with Synylrez, I started with the metal and rust layer. I sprayed the entire model with Vallejo Metal Color Steel, then sprayed, stippled and dry-brushed some various tones of brown and orange on there. I varnished that, then picked out a colour that roughly resembles the yellow primer you see on planes and other military equipment from the Army Painter rack at my FLGS. After applying the varnish and chipping medium, I chipped away at it, trying to get about half of the primer off. The idea is that when I chip the top coat, some of the chips will show primer, while some of the chips will go all the way to the metal.

I haven’t quite decided what colours I will paint this in yet, though I’m leaning towards a green and khaki scheme. I’d like to really push the weathering; in addition to doing the double layer chipping for the first time and using my usual techniques of sponging and painting on scratches, I was thinking of trying out oils, streaking products, and really play around with dry pigments.

Flag Statue

IMG_1079.JPGI also figured that for Warmachine, I need a third flag model to act as an objective now that three-flag scenarios are a thing again. However, I’ve already exhausted both Khador standard bearers, so it was time to do a conversion. I took a Kossite Woodsman leader, a flag from a Man-O-War, some pins and a brass tube and made myself a third unique flag. I also used the same Reaper base as my last ones, and will end up using the same painting tactic to make it look like an old bronze statue.

Fortunately, I remembered to take the picture halfway through brush priming with Reaper, so you can see the use of brass tube to replace the flagpole. Now that it’s all primed, he shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to paint through heavy use of dry-brushing and Citadel’s Nihilakh Oxide technical paint.

Me-109B

And now for something completely different, with the successful completion of my PZL 23 project, I’ve decided to embark on a more ambitious scale aircraft, AMG’s Me-109B in 1:48 scale. I don’t have a lot of recent experience with model aircraft kits, but this is definitely more complicated than my last work in that medium, as well as the model kits that I would build in my childhood.

This kit includes lots of advanced features in the box such as photo-etch parts, and is of a sufficiently obscure subject that I can’t imagine that very much aftermarket bling would be either necessary or even available for the more discerning modeller.

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Interior, just prior to joining the two halves of the fuselage

And speaking of photo-etch, that stuff can die in a fire. For the uninitiated, photo-etch are very tiny parts, made through the use of a photographic etching process on a thin brass sheet. This allows for smaller and more detailed parts than is possible with either plastic or resin, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Further, it is not uncommon to have to bend parts into the shape required, such as with the map case on the side of the cockpit. It’s not so bad when it’s just gluing a sheet to a flat piece of plastic, but when you start having to bend it and make complex shapes, it gets real obnoxious real fast.

Fortunately, most of the photoetch is cockpit detail, and now that I’ve got the cockpit in place and by some miracle the two halves of the fuselage actually went together fairly nicely. I think the plan is going to be work on filling seams for the time being, as well as getting some of the sub-assemblies together to glue on once that is done. I’m hoping to get it together fairly quickly, as I have a unique colour scheme in mind and I’m getting antsy to start airbrushing.

Secret project

I do have one more project on the go; though I shared some pictures with a few people, I’m keeping it under wraps for the moment until I’m done. Suffice it to say, it is a very expensive and very involved conversion that involves a lot of plasticard and milliput. And a lot of filing and sanding resin, which is always a task that requires care because that’s some stuff you really don’t want in your lungs.

Next Steps

Right now, I’ve eliminated my shelf of shame, however I have a lot of projects on the bench. I’ve been keeping them organized by using halves of boxes as trays, however it would be nice to clear off a couple and bring my WIP queue down to a more manageable level. But, on the other hand, a coworker is interested in a Warmachine demo, so I think I may pivot to that Cygnar battlebox I have kicking around. I know, it’s Cygnar, but someone has to be the bad guys.

 

 

Ruin: The Overspray is the OSL

When I first started miniature painting, there were two techniques that seemed like elite level god tier things that are the difference between someone who is okay at miniature painting and a true master. One is non-metallic metal, and the other is Object Source Lighting, or OSL. I think it is telling that both of these are about doing tricky things with light, but I digress.

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Ruin, from Warmachine

OSL in particular sounds a over the top. Basically, it is painting the miniature such that if you have a glowing part of the model like a lightstaber or a glowing sword, you paint the glow of the light onto other areas of the model. For example, if you’re painting Darth Vader, in order to sell the glow of the lightsaber, you may want to place some red glow onto his cape where the light from the lightsaber is hitting and reflecting off his black cape.

 

Now, before we get too deep into it, let’s discuss some of the theory behind this to avoid some common mistakes. First, and let us just get out of the way first, this is the sort of technique where realism takes a back seat to artistic license. For something to really light up a model in the way we commonly do with OSL and bathe it in coloured light, it needs to be almost unrealistically bright. Which, I suppose isn’t a big deal when we’re talking about glowing swords and lightsabers, but it is something to keep in mind. We’re trying to sell an effect, not necessarily be super realistic here.

Secondly, we need to think about the ambient lighting as well. In bright sunlight, any light emanating from a glowing thing is going to be overwhelmed by the ambient light of the sun. However, if we’re on a moonless night, then the object in question is going to be the only source of light and we’re going to have strong OSL. Consider, for example, the below pictures of Aayla Secura and Darth Vader. Aayla is outside in daylight, so there is little to no OSL, while Darth Vader is in the dark and we can see the glow on his cape and hand.

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We also need to think of the relative strength of the source of the light, the glow, and the rest of the model. When you’re doing OSL, the brightest spot should always be the source of the light. For coloured light, this could almost go to white. Next should be the glow, then finally, the rest of the model not basked in the glow of your glowing object. This means that you need to make sure you have somewhere to go in your colour scheme. OSL works really well on dark colour schemes like Darth Vader; for white models like Retribution warjacks, it can be tricky to get the glow brighter than the rest of the model because you’re trying to make something that is brighter than white. Which is hard.

Finally, light tends to emit from objects in a straight line. It can diffuse a little around corners, but when you’re placing your glow effect, you need to be careful that the places that are shadowed from the light emanating from your glowing object are in shadow.

Now, if only we had some sort of device that can shoot paint out from a point and in a straight line…

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Oh. Right.

Ruin and Airbrush OSL

Getting back to this model for a little bit, Ruin is the product of a bunch of Khador experimentation with ancient Orgoth relics, so it is a warjack powered by a mixture of coal and the souls of the dead. While the default sculpt is pretty cool, I decided I wanted to kick mine up a notch by adding a glowing patch of swirling souls to the right shoulder, as well as a some poor Cygnar long gunner on the base and a wisp representing his soul being sucked out of his body and into the shield.

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Pictured: dead swan

With the model painted and weathered in largely the same scheme as my Grolar and the rest of my army, and after dropping it off my desk and having to pin it back together, it was time to hit it with the OSL. As this is a robit chock-full of evil magic, I wanted to put in a lot of glow effects. The sculpt had a number of runes carved into it, which I wanted to make glowing, as well as the shield, soul, shoulder, and visor.

IMG_0968For the soul and the shoulder, I did paint them beforehand, trying out GW’s new ghost technical paint, the Hexwraith Flame, over a near-white base. It kind of worked, though you do need to highlight this to get the proper effect, either with layering or dry brushing. However, for the runes, all I did was drop some white paint into the rune as an undercoat.

From there, we’re going to mix up a glaze in our glow colour and drop it into an airbrush, thinning it enough to increase the transparency. The only challenge here is trigger control; you may want to practice on something else first, but you want to be able to pull back just enough to barely tint the target. Once you start seeing the colour starting to change, you can simply stay on target until it you get the effect you want. Finally, it is worth experimenting with both inks and paints until you get the colour and consistency that works for you.

IMG_0969For things like the runes and the visor, simply point and shoot. The paint hitting the . Since we’ve undercoated the source of the light with white, we will naturally get the effect we want — brightest at the source of the light, and duller in the areas of the glow.

When it comes to larger objects like the wisp of souls, what we can do is use the fact that an airbrush shoots paint in a straight line emanating from a point to our advantage. Simply fire at such an angle as though the paint is coming out roughly from the light source and hitting the model. This will lay the glow in where it would naturally fall.

And that’s about it. You may need to go back and reinforce some of the light sources with a little white, or play around with some washes overtop, but a few simple airbrush tricks can get you a passable OSL in no time at all that makes you look to the untrained eye like an elite god-tier painter.

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Paintlog: Pink and purple potpourri

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted some of my painting progress so this may be more of a paintdump than a paintlog. However, I’ve done a lot lately that I figure is worth sharing.

Man-O-War

This past June, Privateer Press released a lot of Khador Man-O-War models, which, as you might have guessed, immediately emptied out my wallet and filled my backlog. I’ve discussed these models previously, as I batch sprayed them with the airbrush then got to work, starting with the tankers and then moving on to the medium-based infantry models.

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Anyways, as mentioned in a previous article, I like to do alternate-gender conversions for some of my Khador models, both to represent the contribution of the daughters of the motherland, increase diversity in my army, and put my own little subversive spin on things. Though, between Sorscha, the MoW Bombardier Officer, and some of the fluff in NQP #05, that may be less of a subversion and more of an accurate description of the Man-O-War corps.

IMG_0727.JPGAs a result, Atanas became Atanasija and Dragos became Dragana. Both were done using bald heads from Statuesque Miniatures. For Atanasija, I kept the hat from Atanas and attached that to the head and in both cases I sculpted the hair on with brown stuff. When it came to Dragana, I did a side-swept undercut, allowing me to add in a couple scars to represent the rough and injury-prone life of a Man-O-War, particularly one as renowned for bashing in the skulls of dirty Cygnaran invaders as her.

Atanasija, Dragana, and the standard bearer were all glorious models: nice and big with plenty of detail and some interesting textures to paint. I would go so far as to say that they have pushed aside the Greylord Forge Seer as the best model in Khador.

IMG_0726.JPGWhen it came to the standard, I knew I wanted to freehand something on there but I wasn’t sure what. After mulling it over for a few days, I eventually found inspiration from a slightly unusual source: the flag of the Republic of Angola. Replacing the machete with a hammer created something that had an air of Khadoriness to it. The Man-O-War Bombardier Officer, as one of the few new releases that isn’t actually a named character, was done up in a pretty standard paint scheme, albeit with the double pink shoulder pad to represent the fact that she is an officer, and some hazard striping on her weapon because believe it or not, when you combine a chainsaw and a grenade launcher, you get something that is actually quite hazardous.

Finally, we get to one of my two favourite characters from the Iron Kingdoms: Kommandant Sorscha Kratikoff. In this case, I chose to stick a little closer to the studio scheme than I usually do as I thought she would look good in white and stand out on the tabletop if I’m playing her with a sea of Man-O-War. Howeer, I did retain the pink and purple from my standard army colours. As I was painting her, however, I noticed something interesting about her pose. If you place her flat on the base as intended, she looks to be in a pretty defensive stance, with her feet planted, her weapons at the ready, and her left leg further back to provide support. However, if you lean her forward a little bit, the pose changes. Suddenly, she looks more dynamic, as though she is rushing forwards. And, given that her signature spell in the game is literally called Wind Rush which allows her to make an extra advance, the decision over whether to go with the studio pose or the leaning forward version was kind of a no-brainer.

So, that’s it for now for the Man-O-War. I also have the chariots, but I’ve got some conversions that straddle the line between stupid and stupid-awesome rolling around in my head, so they will probably be a winter project anyways.

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Butchers

IMG_0888.JPGI’ve never been a big fan of the Butcher; guys who go apeshit and murder their own soldiers aren’t exactly sympathetic characters in my book, and when it comes to his little dispute with Sorscha over who murdered who’s father in cold blood, I have to side with my lady Sorscha on this one. Further, when I got into Warmachine, the competitive scene for Khador started and ended with Butcher3 and something about both his playstyle and the idea that if I wanted to seriously compete I had to play Butcher3 rubbed me the wrong way. So, I can say that none of the Butchers have gotten into my gaming rotation, and that may not be likely to change in the near future.

Regardless, I just have to get them all painted. I’ve showed off Butcher1 before, but my Butcher2 and Butcher3 were both interesting conversions that I did a while ago only to have them sit on my shelf for over a year.

IMG_0891.JPGFirst, Butcher3 was fairly straightforward. I had a bad experience with Nyss Hunters back in Mk.II, so naturally, I decided to incorporate pieces of Nyss and a Retribution wreck marker into the conversion. I decided that the dog on the sandbags would be playing fetch, so I added a bow in one of his mouths and an arm in the other. For the other dog, I used the base that came in the package for Butcher and threw on a sword and a severed head because, again, it’s the Butcher, so I have to crank up the gore. Finally, for the Butcher himself, I noticed that the way his left hand was posed, it would be quite simple to add some sausage links to show him feeding his puppies, which I sculpted out of a paper clip and green stuff.

Butcher2_2Butcher2 was more complex. I figured that it might be time for another one of my gender-bending warcaster conversions, but I quickly ran into a problem. If I wanted her to be tournament-legal, I needed to make her out of at least 50% Privateer Press parts. The problem is that, at least at the time I started sculpting, I couldn’t find any female models in PP’s line that had quite the Butcherly presence that I was looking for. Fortunately, a solution presented itself in a somewhat strange place: the Trollblood warcaster Grissel. I figured if I just filed off any of the lumpy troll skin protrusions and found the right head to swap out, then I’d just have to do a simple weapon swap and do some sculpting here and there to make her look more like a Khador warcaster.

Butcher2_2Initially, I ran into the problem of Grissel being so large compared to the average 30mm model that I couldn’t find a head that didn’t make her look like a pinhead. Eventually, I found something that worked – a 40mm scale head from Hasslefree Miniatures from their Kalee model. This larger scale ended up being close enough to Grissel’s size that it worked.

With the head on the body and the weapon swap working out, the next step was Khadorifying the model a little. For this, I needed to sculpt or scratchbuild a few things to make her look less trollish and more Khador. She needed a few armour plates here and there, such as the shoulder pads and the metal loin cloth thing, to cover up some of the most egregious Trollblood details. and give more of a Khador vibe. I would need to sculpt the cape and make it look like the one seen on Butcher and several other Khador warcasters, with the rectangular plates with three buttons or rivets at the bottom. Finally, I’d need to add one of those special coal-fired warcaster backpacks and some fur around it.

All of this I did with sculpting putties such as brown stuff or milliput and bits of styrene here and there. The only exception was the spikes on the shoulder pads, which were from the PP bits store; I believe they were from the old metal Behemoth model. It was also largely done in layers; a lot of the time when you’re sculpting, it’s much easier to get the basic shape in first, let it dry, then do a second layer to get the details.

After the conversion was done, these models languished on my shelf for a while as I never actually played any of the Butchers, until we started getting close to the end of my campaign to clear off my shelf of shame. There wasn’t too much special about the painting; it was mostly just using the same techniques, styles and colour schemes that have been the mainstay for this army. The one thing I did try was the use of Molotow liquid chrome markers and the ink from them to make the very highest highlight nice and bright. They seem to be useful for true metallic metals, though I’m going to need to play around with them a bit more to see if they are something that I would recommend. Particularly, I want to see how they react to brush painting and blending, and how nicely they play with other acrylic metallics.

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Escher Gang

In the past few months, I’ve been dipping my toe into Games Workshop games in the form of Necromunda, which a few locals have been running. Suffice it to say, it has been an interesting and positive experience branching out, and there are aspects of the game that I find liberating compared to Warmachine, even if there are also some issues that I have with certain mechanics.

The two things that have stopped me from jumping into any of the Games Workshop games before are that I don’t really want to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into a second full-size army game, and that I haven’t yet found a faction in any GW game that really speaks to me aesthetically. I don’t like space marines, boxy tanks or gross nurgley things, and that wipes out a large portion of their line. I like to paint female models, and so many factions have a “no girls allowed” policy. And generally, if I don’t dislike a faction’s infantry, I despise their vehicles or vice versa. The blimpdwarves are okay, I guess, but apart from that, my impression of their style ranges from “ugh” to “meh.”

And then, they released House Escher for Necromunda, which is basically what happens when you give a roller derby team a bunch of guns. Between the mohawks, piercings, and cybernetic implants, GW basically nailed a lot of my tastes dead on with these models. I was immediately hooked, and picked up a box before I even knew anyone who was playing because I wanted the models so badly.

These were great models, though compared to a lot of other miniatures, they aren’t for the faint of heart. There are a lot of fairly small pieces; even the faces and heads are two different pieces. This allows for a lot of customization as once you get the legs and torso together, you can pretty much do what you want for the arms, face, and kick-ass mohawk. Fortunately, they are made of some nice hard plastic and clean up fairly easily, so you don’t need much more than your container of Tamiya Extra Thin to get to work and customize them to your heart’s content

When it comes to painting models like these — a somewhat rag-tag group operating outside of any formal military or anything like that, you want to give each model a little bit of individuality but also have something that ties them together. This goes double for the Eschers with their over the top punk aesthetic. So, I decided to take some common elements and put them in the same colour — their armour plates, chestpiece, and shiny leather boots. With those all the same, I had at least enough of a unified theme that I could go wild and make every model a different combination of hair, skin tone, and colour/pattern on their loin cloths.

As a result, I didn’t really do much batch painting on these. While I’m sure it would have been more efficient if I had, there was enough diversity from model to model that the benefits would have been minimal. Further, I just didn’t feel like it, preferring to at least get one or two more models fully painted before next week’s game.

One slightly odd thing I did was that I added a lot of brass to their guns; while extensive use of brass on guns isn’t very realistic as brass framed firearms went out of style over a century ago, I like mixing brass and steel on my metal bits and love the look of TMM brass with a nice deep purple shade.

Finally, I made myself a little display for them out of a few bits of the sector mechanicus terrain and some sheet styrene. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a nice little extra thing that allows them to have their own special place in my display cabinet.

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Upcoming projects

At the moment, I’m neck deep in Necromunda terrain, trying to get everything I have accumulated for the campaign nicely painted up. However, as I finish that project, I have a few things in mind to do next. First, of course, there is clearing off my shelf of shame. There are only seven models remaining: a unit of Greylord Outriders, a heavily converted Vlad3, and a customized Ruin that spontaneously disassembled after falling off my desk a few days ago. I also have a couple models that I’m planning on using as pets for Necromunda, as the real models don’t exist yet and even if they did, I’m not sure I want to pay Forge World prices for them.

In the stash, I have an Me-109B fighter kit that I want to do up in Spanish Republican colours, representing the one that they captured during the Spanish Civil War. I’ve been a little afraid of some of the small parts, photo-etch and cockpit details included in the kit, but I can’t keep avoiding it forever, especially not if I want to enter it in a themed contest coming up in February. Also, with the focus as of late being on banging out armies, it’s been a little while since I’ve done a display piece, so I’d like to work on either a small model or a bust once I clear my plate.

Finally, there is always finishing those probably ill-conceived chariot conversions. Or, I could just totally blow my new year’s resolution to manage the number of unpainted miniatures I own and totally splurge on sales from the likes of Reaper or Bad Squiddo, but I would never be so irresponsible, would I?

Oh wait, their miniatures come with free candy. Never mind then.

 

 

What I’ve been up to – Man-O-War new releases

So, I’ve had a bit of radio silence on this blog, and aside from some personal and family issues, people who know me well enough have some good idea of what I was up to and why my social life and wallet have both taken a hit over the past month or two.

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Lock and load… airbrush time!

That’s right; after a long wait, the new Man-O-War models for Khador released a month or two ago, and being a good son of the motherland, I had to pick up the full FA right away and start getting them painted. There’s been a lot of discussion online about the competitive viability of the Armoured Corps releases and what casters to pair them with. But, since I’m not actually good at this game, I’m going to talk about the most important part: the models themselves.

Tankers

The tankers are pretty cool and look powerful on the tabletop. The sculpts are sort of a cross between a Man-O-War and a warjack. They are mostly resin with a few metal bits, and they are not multi-kits, which is kind of a disappointment as I think these guys would have been prime candidates for a hard plastic multikit. However, the resin is pretty good. On both of these models, the head, body and legs are the same one piece, aside from a couple metal bits on the knees. They are distinguished by the weapons on the arms, as well as the big shoulder-mounted gun on the suppression tanker. They’re nice sculpts; I would say they are what you would expect for something halfway between a Man-O-War and a Juggernaut-chassis warjack.

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My tankers

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masking is fun… it’s even more fun the second time when your first layer of paint comes up with the tape

The shields pose the modeller with a couple questions. First, you’re definitely going to want to paint in sub-assemblies, and it can be a touch tricky to get the arms installed in a manner such that the shields line up correctly if they are being held together in front. Second, the shields cover up a lot of the model, so there are a lot of details that you won’t see as they’re being blocked from view by these big shields. On the other hand, they do provide the modeller with a decent-sized flat area which can be a nice canvas for some freehand. Personally, I used some 2mm Tamiya tape to mask off a hazard stripe pattern, then added some fun little subliminal messages in Khadoran runes to the effect of “Play it painted” or “3 Colours Min” before weathering. Additionally, I converted the arms on a couple of mine to repose the shields so that I at least have one or two where the detail underneath is a little more visible.

Aside from that, there were two minor issues I had with the sculpt. First, for some reason, my Siege Tankers weren’t quite up to the same level of quality as the Suppression Tankers, with more mold lines to clean up in some tricky spots on the legs and a couple air bubbles to fill. Since the issue is mostly confined to the legs, you can conceal any mistakes in the mold line removal process with mud and weathering, so it’s not that bad. Also, they’re far better than cleaning mold lines on the old restic MoW. The second issue with the models is that the shields themselves are paper-thin and you have to be careful not to damage them when you’re cleaning up the mold lines. However, there is a simple solution to that issue if you have share that concern or if you accidentally stabbed the tip of your hobby knife through the thing while trying to clean mold lines (not that I would do that) – take some plastic from a PP blister pack, cut it to an appropriate size and shape, and super glue it onto the back of the shield to reinforce it.

Solos, Units & Attachments

The Man-O-War Bombardier is okay. I mean, it’s a fine model and I didn’t have any quality issues, and the combination chainsaw grenade launcher is one of the coolest infantry weapons in the Iron Kingdoms, but it also doesn’t hugely stand out like the character models released – which is totally fair, because it’s a non-character model. Yeah, it’s a little plain compared to the other awesome releases in that it isn’t much of an improvement in the looks department from your average MoW mook, but it’s not terrible, aside from one little problem. It’s missing the small bandolier of rockets on the right shoulder that all the other Bombardiers have. This is a bit of a problem because it hurts the cohesiveness of the unit, and it just doesn’t feel right to see the officer without them. Typically, the unit leaders and officers are supposed to be a little more ornate on the details than the grunts, and without the bandolier of rockets, it’s actually kind of opposite as well.

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Bombardier Bombshell

Though, while I’m at it, I will touch on the conversion rules, as a lot of people are looking at the Bombardier Bombshell as a substitute and “is this tournament legal” keeps coming up. This is a cool model, and it’s one that I’ve used as the basis for a conversion a while ago, so it’s no surprise that with this awesome model in existence, people are going to want to use it to represent the most important model in the unit. However, since the Steamroller document specifies that the Bombardier Bombshell has to be used as a grunt, not the officer, and you can’t proxy in a tournament, doing so is technically not tournament legal. On the other hand, technically, anyone who makes a big issue about that is an ass, especially if it’s well-painted, because it’s such a cool model. Finally, if you really want to use her, I think there is a loophole. All you have to do is do a little conversion on her shoulder pads, making them a touch more ornate and looking more like the officer’s, and it’s now a conversion and not a proxy and therefore legal. Just don’t quote me on that if you get into an argument with a tournament organizer or one of the Wills at PP.

 

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Some of the new releases…

On the other hand, Dragos, Atanas, and the standard bearer are straight up awesome. Until now, the Greylord Forge Seer has stood out as clearly the most amazing looking model in Khador, but now he has some serious competition. Dragos has the heft commensurate with his character background as a big badass who dual-wields giant hammers, and has plenty of characterful details in the form of pelts, skulls, and battle damage. The ornate detail on Atanas and the Standard Bearers is just a wonderful touch, and I feel like it’s going to look really well when I finish it.

 

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Sorscha3. My first reaction when I saw the concept art was “shut up and take my money”

Kommandant Sorscha, aka Sorscha3 is great as well; they’ve captured the Man-O-War feel, but made some changes in proportion and design to make her distinct. With how the gun and the armour look, there have been a number of jokes at her resemblance to Samus Aran from the Metroid games, and I’ve jokingly inquired if I can use a tennis ball as a proxy. One thing I’ve noted as I paint her is that if you tilt her forward a little, you can really change the pose from one that gives the impression of Sorscha at the ready or slowly advancing to one that gives the impression of movement, as though she is running. I haven’t mounted her to the base yet, partly because for this model I’m preferring to paint her separately so I can get at all the tricky little places on the leg, and partly because I haven’t figured out my basing strategy yet.

 

Chariots

Image result for man-o-war assault chariotFinally, we get to the chariots. I was a little worried on this front for a couple reasons. First, they are sold by Black Anchor Heavy Industries, which is Privateer Press’ direct-order subsidiary for huge-based models. I was initially a little concerned on this front for two reasons. First, there are the well-documented concerns that the international WMH community has with BAHI and getting dinged with customs, currency conversion, etc. that raises the price of BAHI models. Second, I have seen some of PP’s large resin models suffer from quality issues as of late. That is not to say that PP’s resin models are bad; far from it. When the quality is there, they are great. But if you get unlucky and get a bad model, you can end up with a dumpster fire of mold lines, misalignments, and resin bubbles. Fortunately their customer service is great, but having to wait for the company to ship replacement parts internationally isn’t good for anyone.

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Pictured: Stupid conversion idea.

However, in this case, my concerns turned out to be not well founded. At about $85 USD, the models aren’t that expensive as far as BAHI goes. Further, they are multi-kits and you are provided with both gun and shield assemblies which appear to be relatively easy to swap out, so you only have to buy one kit to get both. Second, the quality was spot on. A couple of the horses had some small mold lines, but the rest of the twenty or so resin parts that make up two of these kits were great. And the horses don’t really matter to me because I have some stupid conversion ideas rolling round in my head.

 

Representation

I’ve been known to do a lot of gender-swapping conversions on my army, in part to balance out the gender imbalance, in part to represent the contribution of the daughters of the motherland, and in part because it’s a creative exercise in making the model very different while keeping the spirit and distinctive elements of the model intact. Man-O-Wars tend to be common targets for these sort of conversions, because due to their bulky armour, conversions are as simple as swapping out the heads.

But further to that note, I’m glad to see that we have a couple female Man-O-War models in this release in the form of Sorscha3 and the Bombardier Officer. I’m a big advocate of gender diversity in miniature gaming for a lot of reasons, ranging from grand political concerns about representation to the simple fact that the more diversity you have in a miniatures line, the more cool miniatures you have to paint and the more likely you will have at least something that everyone will like.

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Zarya: not your average video game girl… but still a badass.

Thing is, gender diversity means more than just the male/female ratio of your models. If you have a lot of female models in your line, but they’re all skinny white girls who are either lightly armoured ninja types or backline spellcasters, then that can be a bit of a problem. First, it undermines the goal of increasing diversity in a miniatures line. Second, there is a harmful stereotype in a lot of fantasy settings that women can’t be the tanky front-line paladins in full plate and are relegated to either sneaky roguish or backline support duties. A good example to counter this is Zarya from overwatch — she is a popular character is because she’s a big, physically imposing female character who plays a tanky role in the game.

 

I think Privateer Press has been doing a lot better on this front in recent years. I was a little critical of them in the past because while they had a reasonable number of female models in their line, a lot of them were kind of samey. They had plenty of high-DEF low-ARM models that fulfilled the wizard or rogue archetype, but not a lot of heavily armoured or really physically imposing female models (outside of the trolls, pigs and gators, who are all trolls, pigs and gators). Aside from the aforementioned questions of representation, from a practical matter, it made my still as yet unpainted Butcher2 conversion kind of tricky because it was hard to find a female model with the requisite body type from PP’s line to use as a basis for the conversion. However, there have been a number of releases over the past couple years that have filled in that hole quite nicely. Sorscha3, the Bombardier Officer, and Sofiya Skirova for Khador are all badass, and other factions have been feeling the love as well with models such as Gwen Keller and Beth Maddox in Cygnar, Cyrenia in Protectorate, and even Iona, the upcoming Circle warlock.

As a result, I think putting Sorscha3 in the Man-O-War suit was a stroke of genius. Not only does it expand the diversity of the line by adding physically powerful female models in Khador, but she’s one of my favourite characters and taking the lightly armoured, high def, extremely mobile Sorscha character and sticking her in this armoured suit really turns her on her head. Before she was teased, I was hoping that we would eventually get a Sorscha3 on a horse (Horscha?), but this is even better. Not to mention that it’s a welcome departure from the “this caster gets two friends” concept when some casters have gone epic as of late. Some people said it should have been someone like Harkevich instead who got put in the suit, but as much as I am a Harkevich fan, that doesn’t really make sense in the context of his fiction.

So, big ups to Privateer Press for this move to increase the diversity in their line through recent releases, and keep ‘em coming. Just don’t steal my thunder by releasing a Butcheress Mini-Crate before I finish painting mine.

Conclusion

Aside from the chariots, which are a little on the expensive side for those of us who don’t live in ‘Murica, these models should be considered a buy by just about every Khador player out there. I know a lot of column-inches in this article have been devoted to my tiny, niggling issues with them, but those are just that – small technical issues on otherwise awesome models that can generally be resolved with a moderate amount of modelling skill. Dragos, Atanas and the Standard Bearer are particularly wonderful models that rival the Forge Seer for the title of best model in faction, and the others are must-haves for anyone who likes steam powered badasses. And if you don’t, then shouldn’t you be playing Cygnar?

Hot Takes: Champions and Khador ADR

Privateer Press recently spoiled some of their changes to the champions format, including the Active Duty Roster. And, like any Privateer Press release, that means there will be a deluge of hot takes, questionable analyses, and not-fully-thought-through opinions. Remember how all the Cryx players thought Ghost Fleet was unplayable trash and their faction was uncompetitive about a year ago? Anyways, I couldn’t let this go by without offering my unsolicited and uninformed opinions on the new format and the new ADR roster for Khador.

Format changes

There are a few format changes for the Masters and Champions tournament formats. First, Divide and Conquer, the requirement that everyone must play all of their lists at least once, is no longer a thing. This is something that may have been necessary in the past when one could just rock something like old-school Haley2 to victory on the strength of one extremely overpowered list, however now that balance is a bit tighter, character restrictions on lists are gone, and outliers are typically addressed through errata rather than being allowed to linger for years, there really is no reason for it to continue to exist and I don’t think it will be missed.

Masters also no longer uses ADR, which means that Specialists are gone from the format. Specialists are basically a sideboard that you are allowed if you bring casters on the ADR list. I like the idea of a format with a sideboard, and feel that there are a lot of underplayed, niche units which are good sideboard choices (hello, Assault Kommandos and Kossites!), however the economy of free points in themes meant it never really worked out. Either you had to create various legal permutations and combinations of your lists with whatever specialists you were afforded, or you had to spend ten minutes futzing around on War Room to get your lists to work out before the game started because you changed out a model which in turn changed the number of free solos from your theme.

They also made a lot of changes to the Active Duty Roster, the most notable being that themes are now a part of it. In addition to being limited to certain casters, you must choose your theme force from a list, and you aren’t allowed to play the same theme force for both your lists. This is an interesting idea, because it makes the ADR a truly limited format by disallowing more than 10% of the models in a faction, and I kind of like it. Further, they are increasing the number of casters available to most factions from four to five, and decreasing the number available to CoC and Grymkin to three, because ADR restrictions didn’t really do much to already limited factions and that helps balance out the big advantage that the limited factions got in the format.

They also discussed in CID the removal of the 15 second minimum turn, which is something that I am agnostic on. I don’t think the 15 second turn is as necessary given the hard turn limit in the game, but I still am not sure it’s a good experience when you’re that low on time and people are just throwing down focus and slapping the clock as fast as they can. However, it’s not something that has affected me greatly; I don’t usually have a lot of clock management issues, and when I do, I’m usually already screwed in other ways and on the way to a loss anyways.

Finally, they didn’t come out and make it official yet, but it’s been said during the CID process that PP is going to remove the painting requirement from Champions. This is probably a controversial statement, but I think it is good for Privateer Press to have a painting requirement on at least one of their tournament formats. It not only encourages painting, but it also means that people who like fully painted armies but aren’t good enough players to qualify for (and/or aren’t willing or able to travel to) huge national conventions like the WTC or Adepticon are more likely to have a chance at having a fully painted experience at smaller, more local conventions. The painting requirement was one reason why I chose to do Champions instead of Masters at the SOO, because it’s refreshing to have a whole day of fully painted games. However, I also think that a painting requirement and a limited format aren’t a great combination, as you could end up in a situation where players aren’t allowed to play their painted models due to the restrictions of the format. I think it would be a good idea to flip the painting requirement from Champions to Masters, or introduce a new format, or something so that painting requirements in Warmachine don’t go the way of the dodo. Dallas and the team at PP do a lot of work to promote the hobby aspect, and it would be sad to undermine that effort by eliminating all painting requirements from every official format and signal to the player base that it’s not important to at least aspire to play it painted.

Our Roster

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Anyways, onto the Khador ADR roster. Our caster choices consist of Kozlov, Sorscha3, Irusk2, Butcher1, and Zerkova1, and we are limited to two themes: Armoured Corps, and Jaws of the Wolf. Of course, I only play one of these casters and Armoured Corps has a lot of new models that I haven’t fully examined yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t spew my uninformed opinions out onto the Warmachine internet.

Kozlov

Ironically, for a caster who is supposed to be an Iron Fang, Kozlov is probably best in Armoured Corps. Fury and Tactical Supremacy are both excellent support spells for Man-O-War, particularly Shocktroopers, and I’ve been running him in Armoured Corps already with my patented “just take two of all the good models in the theme” list. Double Shocktroopers, double Drakhun, double Kovnik, and double Forge Seer, then season your battlegroup to taste. Once our new releases come out, I think that will open up a lot of new tactics and list builds with models that have previously been not that great such as the Demolition Corps and Bombardiers. Also, Atanas is going to unlock a lot, because the ability to move through your own models allows for a lot of options on the battlefield.

Jaws could potentially be interesting. Kozlov has some battlegroup support spells and his feat affects all models, including warjacks. The problem is that after spending three focus on upkeeps, and without any free charges or other forms of focus efficiency on the feat, he doesn’t have the focus to support a large battlegroup. However, PP has proposed allowing journeyman warcasters in Jaws of the Wolf, so bringing Andy1 and Sorscha0 and throwing a jack on each of them, plus perhaps one on a Forge Seer could solve some of those focus inefficiency issues.

Sorscha3

Sorscha3 is the latest iteration of Sorscha to be released in June, and she is my most anticipated model in a long time because it’s Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit and that is awesome. She grants Flank [Man-O-War] to her battlegroup, has a cost 1 jack support spell, Iron Flesh, and a cloudwall feat with clouds that hurt. I think there are a lot of tools here that could potentially be unlocked, but it’s pretty clear here that she’s a Man-O-War caster, so for my money, it’s Armoured Corps for her.

Also, she can take Beast 09 and Forge Seers can now cast Winter’s Wind on Beast. You’re welcome.

Irusk2:

At first glance, Irusk2 seems like he doesn’t really synergize with the themes available. He’s an infantry support caster, but his tools don’t seem to support Man-O-War as good as some others — I mean, how many Man-O-War can you fit in an Artifice of Deviation anyways? And with almost none of his kit doing anything to support warjacks, Jaws seems like a bad choice.

That is, until you remember that there is more to Jaws than just spamming warjacks. Irusk2 is a great infantry caster, and there are some interesting infantry choices in the theme. If you stack Battle Lust on top of the Kayazy Assassins’ minifeat, they can do a lot of damage with those little knives. Between Stealth, Tough, and Artifice of Deviation, they’re going to be difficult to remove on the way in. And just to add on an additional level of obnoxiousness, throw on Alexia1 so when they do finally kill one of your dudes, they come back as a zombie.

Butcher1:

I also think Butcher1 could be interesting in a combined arms Jaws list, if only because stacking Gang, Fury, mini-feat and Butcher’s feat on a unit of Kayazy Assassins allows for some truly hilarious damage potential on those tiny daggers.

I’m probably the only Khador player who has never actually played any of the Butchers (because I’m on Team Sorscha), but over at Avatar of Slaughter, Robert McCormick has been making some noise about Butcher1 in Armoured Corps, so… I dunno, go over there and read something from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Zerkova1:

I don’t know, she… has a cloudwall, I guess? To be honest, I’ve only played Zerkova1 a couple of times, and I haven’t done particularly well with her. She doesn’t really help warjacks or help infantry hit hard, and she seems to lean more towards either Legion of Steel or Wolves of Winter as she would want to use the cloudwall to deliver something that packs a bit more of a punch and has a higher volume of attacks than Man-O-Wars.

On the other hand, countercharging Drakhuns through a unit of Shocktroopers behind a cloudwall seems legit, Ghost Walk could be fun combined with Demo Corps or Drakhuns, Hex Blast can more or less risk free take an enemy upkeep off a unit of Man-O-Wars, and Frost Hammer can be used to spray down single wound infantry jamming your Man-O-Wars without being so powerful that it can actually hurt the guys in the big metal suits.

Okay, I take it back, try her out in Armoured Corps.

My Pairings:

So, what am I going to run? First off, I’m definitely running Sorscha3 in Armoured Corps when she comes out, just because Sorscha is an old favourite of mine and Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit is straight up awesome. For a second list, since I’m restricted to Jaws, the smart thing to do would probably be a combined arms Jaws with two units of Kayazy Assassins and either Butcher1 or Irusk2. However, I don’t own any Kayazy Assassins and probably won’t want to paint 20 of them, and I’m also not particularly smart. Which means I’m going to wait for Sorscha0 to release and then make some sort of weird Kozlov Superfriends list, taking Kozlov and both Juniors and relying on his feat and the ability to stack speed buffs to hit hard and fast and be ARM 22 against melee. Because screw it, Cygnar shouldn’t be the only ones who are allowed to have fun with their juniors.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am intrigued by the new format as I think it will be nice to have a truly limited format, especially for people who can’t be bothered to remember what all 1,200 or so models in the game do or are sick of worrying about the OP boogeyman of the week. For Khador, I think there are going to be two challenges. First is going to be our usual Khador issues with incorporeal and recursion. Fortunately, however, Ghost Fleet isn’t on the ADR so we don’t have to worry about basically autolosing if we didn’t bring mass RFP and mass magic weapons or because our opponent brought a Wraith Engine, so this may be less of an issue than it is in unlimited formats.

Second is the fact that we are restricted to two themes which are generally comprised of heavily armoured, low defense, SPD 4 models. This means that it’s very easy to end up in a situation where you have two similar lists that share similar weaknesses, which is not a good position to be in in a two list pairing. Further, these bricks of slow models could struggle into some of the very live scenarios that exist in a post-SR2017 world.

While this looks like it could be a problem and the first reaction might be to complain about being dealt a bad ADR following on an underwhelming CID because PP doesn’t like us as much as they like Cryx and Cygnar, I think this ADR could be an opportunity to force some exploration and creativity in list building. We could see some more experimentation with combined arms Jaws lists, as well as the use of mercenaries to supplement the weaknesses of Armoured Corps. Already, the wheels are turning for me regarding things like combining Kayazy Assassins with Butcher1 or Irusk2, or finding some mercenaries that may be useful as flanking pieces for Armoured Corps lists.

Now, to sit and wait until my next big order of plasticrack comes in…

Paintlog: Obavnik Kommander Zerkova

Ah, Kommander Aleksandra Zerkova. A master of the dark arts, this blonde bombshell ruthlessly eliminates anyone who gets in her way, and looks good doing it with her tight leather outfits. Known in gamer circles as Zerkova2, the epic version comes with two Reaver Guards to protect her, and goes well on the tabletop with anything that can sling spells.

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Available from Privateer Press and your friendly local game store

I got the idea to paint her a while ago, as a possible counter to the ubiquitous Cryx Ghost Fleet/Dark Host pairing. However, in the process, I kind of fell in love with the model and had a lot of fun painting her up. Though I didn’t get a lot of photos, I felt that she did deserve a paintlog because I tried out some new and interesting stuff on her.

First off, one of the distinctive aspects to Zerkova2 in the studio artwork is the shiny leather. This was something that I haven’t really done yet, so I was excited to try it out.

Black can be a funny colour to paint sometimes, because what our eye reads as black isn’t usually not actually black. While we are taught in science class that black is black because it absorbs instead of reflects light, unless it’s some sort of crazy vantablack or the event horizon of a black hole, that’s not quite true. Black still reflects some light, and our eyes have been trained to read light reflected a certain way as black of varying shapes and textures. Our challenge, then, is understanding how light interacts with a black surface and replicate it at scale.

MatrixTrinity.jpgSo, let’s take a look at something black and shiny, such as Carrie-Anne Moss’ outfit from the Matrix movies. If we take a picture of it and look closely, we can see that the light reflecting off of some areas of her chest and arms is almost white. So, in order to replicate this and get that nice shiny effect, we are going to need to make sure our model has some sharp highlights.

Anyways, we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves here.

One of the first decisions I made on these models was the base. I decided I wanted to give them a little bit of an elevated base to give them a little more presence as I feel character models deserve it. So, I dug into the Reaper Bones collection at a local game store and found #77304, Male Thundernight, a big guy with a hammer standing at the top of a flight of stairs. It was a simple matter of slicing him off and doing a little sculpting on the top to fix up the area of the cut, and then inserting a piece of a paper clip through the plastic base, a layer of cork, the stairs, and into Zerkova’s foot.

For my colour scheme, I knew I had to keep the shiny black leather, and that I also wanted to have some light colours on some of the ending and details, mostly so that the shape of the model and all the fine details pop even from a distance. As such, decided to base coat all the black in Reaper’s Grey Liner, which is a paint that is very close to, but not quite black, and then do most of the details and edging in Amethyst Purple, which is a light purple that I use a lot for highlights on my purple army. And, of course, where you have purple, you have to have to have brass to go with it.

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Note the scar

One of the first things I painted was the face. For this, I used my usual strategy of starting with some very light grey for the eyes, placing the eyeball, and then working out, all the way from blue, to a darker skin tone, to the highest highlight at the tip of the nose. I added a scar on her right cheek from messing around with Orgoth stuff that she probably isn’t supposed to, and painted her tiny bit of hair sticking out from under her hat blonde.

Anyways, now we can return to the shiny leather jacket. As you will remember, I base coated it in Reaper’s Grey Liner. I didn’t use black, because I wanted to leave myself somewhere to go when it comes to shading it — after all, it’s hard to shade something with a darker colour when you’ve already used the darkest colour possible as your base. For my highlight colour, I decided to go with some desaturated blues, just to make the light on the cool side which I felt would go with the model better. I used P3’s Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite, which are two colors that I’ve found to be perfect for this sort of thing, though you can use whatever equivalent brand and colour you have available. The highlights were placed carefully with my brush, in such a manner that they would represent the point at where the light is hitting the jacket and reflecting off, as well as accentuating some of the… ahem… curves of the model.

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Green Orgoth glow is clearly there, but not overpowering

For the metals, I used my usual true metallic metal techniques, which worked out well and which I will write about at some point. The fur was a bit of a challenge; initially I wanted to dry brush it, but I found that there just wasn’t enough texture. So, after hitting it with some of GW’s Drakenhof Nightshate, I decided to work back up and highlight the fur with plenty of tiny grey and white dots in an almost pointillism-like technique, careful to put more white dots in the places where the light is hitting the model.  I added a couple subtle green glow effects on the badge on her chest and on her sword. I didn’t want to overpower the model with the OSL, especially because I was happy with how the face was and because I wanted to keep the focus of the light on the shiny leather, so I tried to keep it subtle, with only a little bit of green on the left side of her face and the fur near the badge.

With all that done, it was just a matter of painting up the base (lots of drybrushing and some dry pigments), sealing it, and showing it off.

Oh, and painting those two other jerks who come with her.

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Fixing your pikemen

The Iron Fang Pikemen, whether they are in their vanilla or Black Dragon version, are one of the bread and butter units for a Khador player. They hit fairly hard, have reasonably decent stats, and between the UA, solos, and soon-to-be-released Sofiya Skirova, there are a lot of buffs available to them. Not to mention that there is a whole theme based around them, and a number of casters which excel at delivering them to their destination.

There is one problem, however, and that is the spears. If you have an older metal kit, you’ve got some very fragile spears that will bend and break if you dare take them to the FLGS for a game. If you have the newer plastic kit, they will just look droopy. Either way, you end up with either broken or just plain bad looking models. Then you start a game and run into even more problems.

The big problem when it comes to play with these IFP is that they are a melee unit with the shield wall unit, so they usually want to either be base to base with each other to get the benefit from shield wall, or getting up close to the enemy to stab them. Unfortunately, when we combine the long spears which overhang the base, a desire to be base to base with each other or up close to the enemy, and the occasionally ridiculous level of precision that the average Warmachine player is used to, we run into a bit of a problem. It’s actually quite difficult to place them down on the table where they need to go because those spears get in the way, and that can cause unnecessary frustration, and, if you’re playing on a clock, burn your clock time.

Fortunately, there is a way to solve both of these problems, and it works for both the metal and the plastic IFP.

Repose and brass rod

The best way to fix the issue with droopy or bendy spears is to replace the spears with brass or steel rods. These will be a lot straighter than the plastic spears, and a lot stiffer and more durable than the metal spears. However, if we’re doing that anyways, we can also repose them, such that they are holding their spears vertically, pointed upwards towards the sky, rather than downrange. The pose will still look pretty natural, and they will still look like pikemen with long reach, but the spears will no longer get in your way on the tabletop.

How to do this

In order to do this, you are going to need a few tools. A jeweler’s saw, a knife, a file, some pinning supplies, and a bit of green stuff or your putty of choice is going to be necessary in order to do this properly, in addition to the lengths of approximately 2mm brass or steel rod you’re going to need for the spears.

Before doing anything, cut the rod to the appropriate length. You can make these spears any length you wish, but if you want to stick to the original length, cut them a little longer than the original spear shaft, as they will be extending into the end pieces.

arm.jpgThen, you’re going to need to cut up the spears a little bit. Cut them away on either side of the hand and then cut off the end pieces, as shown by the red lines in the picture. You can throw out the spear, but keep the arm and the end pieces. Since we’re going to be drilling at these cut lines, it’s best to file down the remaining pieces, just so you have a nice flat spot to start drilling into, which will make positioning your holes easier.

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Don’t lose these end pieces…

From there, we can start drilling out the holes for where the brass rod goes. For the end pieces, this may be a little tricky because they are so small and you have to be fairly precise on both centering your hole and drilling at the right angle, otherwise you will either end up not having enough room for a big enough hole to insert the brass rod, or have the bit come out the side on the bottom pieces.

As a result, what I like to do is start by making a tiny divet with the tip of an exacto knife, right in the center of the piece. Then, I can start drilling with a small drill bit to get the hole started, and widen it to a smidgen more than 2mm by switching to an appropriately sized drill bit. Perhaps I just have some dull drill bits that need replacing, but I find this much easier than trying to go at it with a 2mm bit right from the start.

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A hole for a spear

Next, we’re going to need to make a space in the hand for the spear. For this, we’re going to need to drill out the remnants of the original spear using the same technique as we did for the end pieces. You can leave either a hole or a U-shaped channel to insert the spear into. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but so long as you don’t completely mangle the hand and leave a nice surface to glue the spears on later, it’s good enough.

Anyways, with those done, we can put the spears aside and get to work on the meat of these conversions — reposing the arms.

Reposing the arms

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The original poses of the bodies without arms

In order to get these spears pointed vertically, we’re going to have to repose the right arm of the figures. There are four techniques we can use to do this:

  1. Hot water bending (plastic only)
  2. Cut and bend (metal only)
  3. File and pin
  4. Pin and rotate

Hot water bending is the simplest, however it will only work on your plastic models. Simply dip the model in some hot water so the plastic becomes pliable, repose the arm to the position you want, and then dunk it in cold water to fix it. This is quick and easy, and doesn’t require any pinning or green stuffing, so if you can get away with it, do it.

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How to cut and bend

The metal equivalent is the cut and bend technique, which is useful for changing the position of elbows and hands. What you will want to do is take your jeweler’s saw and make two cuts into the metal at the point you want to bend it. You will want to make a V-shaped cut on the inside of the bend, and a straight cut on the outside. The V-shaped cut is so that you can remove enough material to actually bend the piece. Once you’ve cut away enough that the remainder of the material will bend fairly easily, simply bend it to its desired shape. Fill the gaps with green stuff or your modelling putty of choice, and as long as you left enough material, you should have a strong joint without having to do any pinning. This can be done on elbow and wrist joints to change the angle.

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The original (left) and the one with material filed off in preparation for pinning

Filing and pinning is another technique which is necessary on some of the metal models; mainly the ones holding the spears above their heads. This is simply a matter of making a pin joint at the elbow, but filing down one or both sides to change the angle of the joint from the original sculpt to the desired angle. In the picture shown, we can see how by removing material from the elbow, we can change the angle of the attachment to the arm. Then simply pin the forearm to the body as usual, at this new angle.

Finally, one can pin the model at its intended joint, but rotate the piece around the pin to get a new angle. This is useful on a lot of the shoulder joints, particularly on some of the plastic models, where simply rotating the arm around the shoulder will get a fairly realistic pose of a model holding the spear vertically.

All of these techniques, with the exception of the hot water bending, will likely require some use of green stuff. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to replicate the chain mail armour that these pikemen are wearing by inserting a blob of green stuff and poking it a bunch of times with a hobby knife to get a decent approximation of the intended texture, and most of these joints are in places that are not super noticeable such as armpits and the inside of elbows.

Finishing up

From here, it’s a simple matter of arming your pikemen. Take some super glue and glue the shaft of the spear to the hand and then glue the end pieces onto the spear. If you have a big enough hole for the spear that you have a little play, you may need to wiggle the spear around a little to get it just right. From there, simply slap on some shields, prime, and paint, and you’ll be enjoying your pikemen in no time!

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The “finished” product

Conclusion

Iron Fang Pikemen are a great unit and a pretty good sculpt, however they are let down by the spears getting in the way on the tabletop and bending and breaking. I suspect PP recognized this, as when they released Sofya Skirova, they had her posing with the spear held vertically. Also, I’m not sure whether they used a different alloy or simply made it thicker, but her spear doesn’t really bend like those of the old-school metal pikemen.

Anyways, this is a conversion that will likely appeal to both the hobby gamers and the hardcore tournament crowd, as nobody wants to fiddle around with their pikemen while the deathclock ticks down. If you want to get your pikemen on the table without those spears getting in the way, definitely consider making this modification and it will make playing your Legion of Steel list a whole lot easier.

 

Grolar Epilogue: Progress and Dojo

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

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New Grolar (left) and old Grolar (right)

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

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

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

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

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

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

creator3

With apologies to Cyanide and Happiness

Bonus! Grolar Dojo!

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

Theme: Jaws of the Wolf

Strakhov1
– Behemoth
– Torch
– Grolar
– Juggernaut
– Marauder

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

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

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

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

Painting my Grolar, Part 3

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

Weathering

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

For this model, I used four main techniques.

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

Painted on scratches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sponge Weathering

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

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

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

Typhus Corrosion

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

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

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

Dry pigment

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Some subtle soot on the back of this warjack

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts on weathering

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

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