Sunday, 27 September 2015

Knight Models: Nite Owl

A slight digression from painting up Age of Sigmar today, mainly caused by the exasperation I'm experiencing on the Prosecutors - but that'll be a story for another post...

Today I took some time to photograph Nite Owl, of the Watchmen, for the Batman Miniatures Game, and here are the results:

I found him particularly difficult to photograph, so please excuse the crappy pictures. The model is sufficiently dark to cause problems with the white balance.

Regardless of that, Nite Owl is a superb model to paint! He has an amazing level of detail (especially on the "scaled" bodysuit) and the cape is really dynamic. The sculpt is also sufficiently different to Batman. I always felt that would be difficult, because Nite Owl really reminds me of the Dark Knight.

This shot gives a nice view of the body armour. I really liked painting the variety of browns on this miniature; a colour that I don't use that often.

That means I'm actually building up a pretty decent Watchmen team: having painted up Silk Spectre (II), Nite Owl and Rorschach. Based on currently released models, that leaves Ozymandias and the Comedian. I'm still hoping for Dr Manhattan... 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Age of Sigmar: Finished Stormcast Eternals & some thoughts on the new game...

I recently managed it finish the Liberators from the Age of Sigmar boxed set, and was very pleased with how they turned out. 

These were some very fun models to paint. The new golds from GW are a pleasure to work with; the Retributor-Auric-Liberator triumvirate is awesome for layering bright golds. I didn't go as far as using Runefang highlights, because that as a technique has never worked for me, but these golds really scream.

But enough about the Stormcast Liberators. What about the game?

I'll make clear that I've never been a WFB player, and so the "transition" to Age of Sigmar hasn't been as jarring as it otherwise might've been. I don't have boxes of painted models for a system that is no longer (officially) supported and so came to Sigmar with an open mind. I was impressed by the models, fancied painting up those gold dudes, and wanted something easier than 40k. I actually wanted a game system that I could play with my children, who are always interested in painting and my hobbies. The 4 page rules system seemed a great start to get them onboard...

I don't dislike Age of Sigmar. Actually, I want to like it. But it doesn't really achieve what GW wants it to, unfortunately, and the starter set is a missed opportunity. 

Here's the rundown on Age of Sigmar...
  • Although the rules are short and brutal, the game is actually quite fun. It's a nice tabletop skirmish game. The rules are straightforward, and my son picked them up every quickly (he's only 7!). The core interactions are easy to master, although don't have the depth of any earlier system;
  • Some rules just don't make sense to me. Why, oh why, do we measure from the model not base? This is confusing and pointless. "Combat range" - rather than being base-to-base contact, which is surely the easiest method of measurement - is 3".... Again, why? To new players, this will appear strange and cause arguments.
  • The rules are only 4 pages, but the special rules on the other hand... To say that AoS has a 4 page rulebook is completely misleading. It has a 4 page core rule set, yes, but that means most other rules have been ported over onto the new "Warscrolls". This, very quickly, leads to a plethora of rules being found on the unit entries: as with 40k, you end up flipping back and forth between unit entries to check rules... This is disappointing: we're almost immediately back to a situation where constant special rules and unit enhancements overrule or supplement the streamlined rules system...
  • You say like re-rolls...? This is a general bugbear of mine, but GW loves re-rolls... For new players, this is really frustrating and hard to remember. "Yes, kid, you can re-roll your to hits of 1, but not your to wounds, got it?" Again, it's the reliance on special rules which slows the game down...
  • No points values just doesn't work when your only objective is to annihilate the other side. This is the biggest shift in the rules system, and something almost everyone with an interest in AoS already knows: there is no points system. That is an alien concept to me, but hey, I'll roll with it. That might work if there was, for example, a reliance on objective-based missions: meaning the skilful player could get "under the radar" to achieve mission success. However, the basic game includes no missions other than total annihilation. 
  • Why did GW include terrain rules in the basic rules set? This is a weird one! GW included some basic "mystery terrain" rules in the main rules card, but no missions? I find that a strange choice, given that almost all Citadel terrain now has specific rules sheets...
  • There aren't any Warscrolls sheets (or cards) in the set. For a beginner having unit stats on cards or separate sheets would be really helpful. Instead, the unit stats are included in the 96-page background book. I know that this keeps costs down, and I know that I can print most of these off via the GW website, but considering the avalanche of special rules across all units - wouldn't it have been easier to just put everything on unit cards?
  • The models are beautiful, but they are not for beginners. I know I said I'd concentrate on the rules, but I can't help mentioning the models again. They really are nice miniatures; the Lord Celestant on Dracoth is fantastic. But as starter miniatures? They just don't work. Perhaps I'm being unfair on this point, but so many small and delicate pieces are attached to the sprue that to even get everything clipped off the frame can risk damaging bits! I had a couple of mistakes myself, and ended up doing repairs with greenstuff. I can't imagine how tough it would be for a younger, inexperienced hobbyist to build these guys... Whilst it's great to see GW move away from basic snap-fit pieces, I can't help but wonder whether it might've been a better decision to go with some more basic models in this set.

Those are my views; I hope I don't sound to negative, because I really do like the game - but I think it could've been a lot better. I'm just not really sure who or what AoS is for.

Still, the models are great, and I'm committing the next few weeks to get through this starter set: next up will be the Retributors...   

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Age of Sigmar: Work in progress Stormcast Eternals

I've never been a Warhammer Fantasy Battle player, and to be honest I'm not a huge fan of the fantasy genre in general. I have a fairly limited amount of painting and playing time, and there doesn't seem to be enough to really satisfy my 40k urge: the result being WFB has never been my focus.

But when WFB was shelved by GW, and the new Age of Sigmar set came out, I was tempted to try it out.

The models in this set are really amazing...

There's been a lot of on-line buzz that the Stormcast are basically fantasy Space Marines ("Sigmarines" is the new label), and I can definitely see this. These dudes have that chunky aesthetic in common Marines, which isn't a bad thing but does perhaps reflect the 40k-isation of the new fantasy game. GW now has two very narrow products: 40k, and 40k fantasy!

I wanted to try painting these guys out because I've never been good with gold. So I went with the GW painting method (even going so far as to buy the painting guide!), and I think that the new gold paints really work. I used the Retributor Armour spray as a base, then washed with Reikland Fleshshade, then layer Auric Gold and Liberator Gold on top. Liberator and Retributor are extremely nice paints, and they really shine when applied carefully.

These guys aren't varnished yet, but I will likely go with a satin varnish rather than the usual Dullcote, to preserve the armour shine.

I have four more of these guys in progress, and hoping to get them painted up quite soon. The other models in the set are spectacular: the Lord-Celestant on Dracoth is a really nice piece in particular.

As for the set being a "starter set"? It really isn't. These models are not snap-fit, and some of them require quite advanced skill to remove from the sprue and put together. There are so many small, delicate details... I wonder whether GW should've gone with something a bit more basic for the starter set; perhaps with less spikes and the like. The Prosecutor models are again amazing, but I just cannot see them lasting more than a couple of games. The wing spikes are just too delicate...

And the game itself? I'll do a post on that shortly....

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Skitarii & Adeptus Mechanicus: Onager Dunecrawler

I was lucky enough to be purchased this model, and was really looking forward to building and painting it. The Onager is an awesome kit; a really nice model which forms part of the (pretty small) Mechanicus range...

I found this model to be a lot of work, but in a nice way. If you're a "buy a box, build the model the same day" kind of guy, it'll be even more work. I went with careful sub-assembly and painting by sub-parts. Because the two main colours - the deep red of the hull and the bleached bone of the legs - are so different, painting the piece in a single go would be prohibitive. So I left the legs off, as well as the armour plating, and concentrated on building up the bone with multiple layers. I then used the Khorne Red spray paint on the main hull, which saved a lot of time.

My favourite set-up is probably the neutron laser - that gun is so very 1950s sci-fi - but in-game, the Icarus array is too tempting. I always struggle with anti-air (my regular opponent always brings two Stormravens, and is talking about a third...).

The set comes with a small decal sheet, which is actually packed with iconography. It was nice to see a sheet which doesn't feature the same old Space Marines transfers! The white icons really off-set nicely against the red here, and add some extra character to the model.

I had previously decided to use Martian Ironearth to base all of my Mechanicus models... Now I'm not so sure about that, but I'm probably committed! The Ironearth is very flaky, and I'm not sure about durability. Maybe a couple coats of varnish will improve things. If you do use Ironearth, note that a pot doesn't seem to go very far (I've based this model - admittedly, a larger example - and a couple of Kastelans with the data smith so far, and the pot is virtually gone), and it is quite translucent out of the pot. I painted the base Khorne Red first, to lay down a foundation for the Ironearth.

All in all, a great model and a nice centre-piece for Mechanicus and Skitarii armies.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Swamp Thing: Experiments in Dipping (part 2)

They say never to work with animals or scheduling... At least one of those things is true, but I always seem to mess up the scheduling feature on Blogger! This post originally appeared without the pictures; they've now been added!

Thanks for joining me for the second part of the dipping experiment.

To recap, Swamp Thing came out muted, undefined and a bit dark. Not good enough for a Knight Models miniature.

So, I went back into the figure and added a couple of layers of highlights.

Here's where things got interesting.

Swamp Thing was far less work than I'd thought. He's a big model, and after the dipping there were lots of interesting and organic highlights available to me. I went in with two skin highlights, and added highlights to the raised areas with one or two additional touches.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how Swamp Thing turned out. I'm never going to be a proponent of dipping. It's a technique which isn't for me: you can't control it, and the models have that characteristic "grubbiness" (or at least mine do). But on the right figure, and with an additional highlight or so, you can achieve some interesting results with dipping.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Swamp Thing: Experiments in Dipping (part 1)

Do you remember the whole "dipping" craze that was going around a few years back? Before washes became popular (and GW produced those nice shade paints), dipping with products used for gardening (and the more expensive Army Painter rebrand) were favoured by some hobbyists for instant results.

This isn't a technique that I have used very much, but it is something that I keep returning to. It's just a method that I've never really gotten decent results from, despite picking up the Army Painter Quickshade soft and strong dips. I can never seem to get the balance right; the shade pools, or doesn't provide enough definition, or comes out too shiny even after varnishing... The list goes on. And yet I see people producing good results with this technique online, and it seems a very fast way to paint up large models or regiments of figures.

I decided to try again on a recent Swamp Thing model that I picked up. He seemed an ideal candidate for this technique...

He was painted in bright GW basecoats, and then Army Painter Strong Tone was brushed onto the model. This is a dark colour, but not too dark. I've found that it's important to use very bright, vibrant colours with the dip, as it darkens everything. Basically go a shade lighter than you usually would, and expect everything to turn out far more muted after the process...

... this is the result.

See what I mean about lack of definition? Swamp Thing, like most Knight Models figures, has a lot of muscle tone and really nice sculpted detail. This is not defined by the dip. Maybe I should've gone lighter still?

Not entirely sold on it! So, I decided to add another layer of painting to the figure, but adding some highlights and additional shading to the miniature. I'll add this: you can paint over Quickshade, but you'll need a matte varnish to seal the figure (he came out very shiny after dipping). This I need, and opened the paints again...

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of the dipping odyssey!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Anvil Industry: Finished Republic Grenadiers

Phew! Finally finished and photographed the last few Republic Grenadiers, painted as a spec ops team...

We'll start with the most recent miniatures I painted. These are, I think Spectre Operatives - and I recall that they were part of a Kickstarter from Anvil Industries. I didn't sign up for that (sadly!) but my client did, and these models are a joy to paint. Lovely level of detail and very characterful...

The camo-shielding could be painted in lots of ways, but I went with a metallic finish to complement the black armour. I added a Call of Duty: Ghosts-style marking to the facemasks... I think this worked quite nicely.

Next, some of the regular grunts. Again, great models. They have lots of different weapon options, including an officer-type with a pistol.

And now some specialists. These guys have missile launchers and railguns. Nice models as well.

I particularly liked the missile dudes for some reason. The metallics really shine in these images; I dulled everything down so that the metals look concealed.

Finally, a group shot of the models altogether.