Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Very Good Year

Welcome to the final posting of 2009 as we are now only about an hour or so from the new year. It's been a great year for me personally and I look forward to 2010 being even better still. I'm so happy and joyful in my life that I don't really know how things can improve, but I'm confident that the Tao will provide all that I could need or want in the coming year. Hopefully that will include lots of 40k madness and paint-splattering fun... but I'll wait until tomorrow before going into resolutions, plans, goals, and such. For now I just want to celebrate the year that was.

It was kinda frustrating for a while when I drifted away from painting for those several months, although I am thrilled to be back at it. I don't know for sure why I burned out yet again on the historical miniatures because I did enjoy painting my Hundred Years War army. Regardless, I am happy that I did not let my pride prevent me from returning to 40k, despite what must have been my third or fourth time swearing off Games Workshop, as it has been a lot of fun returning to the game that has sustained my interest for so many years. Considering the limited opportunities I get to actually play these games, it is certainly more rewarding to focus my hobby efforts on that which really inspires my imagination. I find history incredibly inspiring and is one of the true passions of my life, I've just never felt free enough with historical miniatures to let my imagination run wild the way it can with a fictional universe set 38,000 years in the future. With such wide open territory, it just feels like there's more room to make the hobby mine.

Even though it took a few tries, it feels good to have finally gotten into the actual painting of an army. I spent a lot of time assembling dudes for a number of different armies this year, ones which hopefully won't have too much longer to wait. Looking back I should have probably gotten painting them, any of them, months ago and not worried so much about building to a particular list. I am therefore thankful that my wife encouraged me to register for AdeptiCon as that really was the motivation I needed to get me going on my Dark Angels. The Dreadnought, by the way, is now fully assembled and primed. I even was able to get some painting done tonight and so that is now officially underway. Woo-hoo!

Okay, I think I'm boring the wife right now and had better be wrapping it up. Besides, I don't want to ring in the New Year with the sound of typing as I stare at my computer screen. Regardless of the quality of my year-end review, it's time to move on and prepare for what is still to come. All I'm really trying to say is that it's been a really great year for me, and I hope it has been for you as well. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Retrograde Redux

Mercury has gone retrograde again and already seems to be causing all sorts of havoc and chaos... obviously this planet has some strong connections to the Ruinous Powers! Yesterday was almost entirely lost to the ravages of this rogue planet as my family scrambled to deal with the ensuing tumult. Everything is basically okay now, although it does appear that Mercury has some lifestyle changes in mind for me. I don't want to go into any details and I apologize for holding back, but it just doesn't seem appropriate. However, concerning the actual reason for this blog, my hobby interests, it is possible that these changes could improve my painting abilities. If nothing else, this should mean more quality time to paint my plastic and metal, so in fact it may be that Retrograded Mercury has done me a big favor. If this is the worst that happens to me while Mercury completes this portion of its orbit, then I will be grateful just to not get a new hematoma cause that has sucked hard... so here's hoping 2010 is fall-free!

Meanwhile I have kept steadily working at my Dreadnought and was able to finish the interior a couple of days ago. I ended up being really impressed with the way things worked out, especially considering I basically just jammed a bunch of Greenstuff and chopped up bits into the space and hoped for the best. Despite only using the rounded end of a paintbrush as a sculpting tool, it nonetheless actually looks like there are intentionally modeled details like clusters of pipes and hosing. My favorite element though is probably the little tech-screen that I added late in the process to the top of magnetized blob of Greenstuff. Taken from the interior wall-panel of a Rhino, in its new place in the Dreadnought it looks to me like someone thought to install a GameBoy for the entombed Marine's enjoyment between battles.

The other feature I really like will be considerably less obvious once the Dreadnought's torso section is glued together. I cut off the same panel from the Rhino kit (actually I believe it was my Chaos Vindicator that had to sacrifice this bit) the stowed bolter and used it to fit over the exposed inner face of the Dreadnought's power plant. My idea with this was that, prior to being sealed within the sarcophagus, the new occupant's trusted Boltgun was placed in with him as a gesture of respect and honor. I think this reinforces the idea that a Space Marine's personal weapon is an item of reverence and an extension of his identity, as well as being a symbol of his devotion to the Emperor. I thought it would be cool for the Dreadnought pilot's bolter to stay with him in his new metal body even though he could no longer physically use it. Also I think it conveys some of that quasi-religious superstition about technology that so marks the background for Warhammer 40,000.

Painting the interior was a fun challenge and allowed for me to really experiment with some unusual effects. After working up the metal areas from a base coat of Tin Bitz, I then really went to town with the washes. Other than the expected washes of brown and black, I mainly used a purple wash and a green wash to achieve a subtly unusual tone to the technological stuff, like all of it had been inside this hybrid biological/mechanical environment for a long time. I also hit some select areas with a blue wash on the pipes and a red wash on the vox-caster thing sunk into what would have been the pilot's chest or abdomen. Finally I went over everything with a heavy layer of 'Ard Coat to make it all look shinny and wet, as if the interior were bathed in the fluids and whatnot needed to sustain the functioning of these ancient systems. Also from a practical standpoint I think the gloss varnish helps reflect light within the space to make things more visible once everything is glued together, which is nice considering the extra time and effort I'm putting into this guy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Cheer

Merry Christmas, everyone! (I know I'm a bit late but I've been busy so cut me some slack, okay?) This was my first Christmas as a father and it was just so amazing and special. Best. Christmas. Ever... seriously. My little daughter is fantastic and brilliant, she took her first steps on Christmas morning right in front of the tree! Also my wife got for me the coolest gift I've ever received. She commissioned an artist to paint and oil-on-canvas original of my kitty cat Isabel sitting on the desk of C. Montgomery Burns, having a meeting with the man himself. I've never been so surprised, overwhelmed, and touched by a gift before. My wife's the best! As magical as Christmas was as a child, I can now appreciate it all over again from an entirely new perspective. It's like the magic is back, but better than ever!

I've been making some changes today to the website, in particular my links. I decided to delete outright the Manufacturers and Retailers list that I had maintained, primarily as it no longer served much use to me. I have since gotten comfortable enough with my new computer to start making use of the bookmark folders and simply transferred my preferred sites to one of them. I did add a few of them (GW, Forge World, WarStore) to the Wargaming Resources list for my own convenience. I think the list of links now better reflects the shift in focus I've made in going from historical miniatures to primarily 40k. I will also probably be making some other changes in the coming days, like removing some artwork poached off the net. I'm thinking about deleting point values from my army lists as well, though I'm not quite sure how I feel about that on 1st Amendment grounds. Whatever I end up doing, I hope to have all of it complete in time for the new year.

I'm close to finishing all of the Dreadnought's subassemblies and should be able to get the rest put together tonight. I've got a pretty clear idea of how I want to paint it and so I'm looking forward to getting into that phase quickly, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. The four arms are all magnetized but I think I should have used the larger diameter magnets to better support their weight. They hold them sufficiently well but not as strongly as I would have liked. I made spaces for the magnets using my largest pin-vice drill bit but it was just large enough for the smaller magnets. I don't believe it would be possible to find a larger bit and still use the same drill, so when I want to magnetize something in the future I may look into getting a Dremel or something. Otherwise I am satisfied with my first attempt at working with these little things, though it can be frustrating when they become glued together. Oh my!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Magnetic Fields

I started assembling the Dreadnought after finishing the Librarian and had been making slow progress the last two days cleaning mold lines off just a few pieces, not even enough to glue anything together. But tonight I got down to it in ernest, quickly completing the legs before promptly moving on to the torso. But that is where I have since ventured into potentially uncharted waters, a move that if nothing else will add some extra time to this project but will hopefully be amusing enough to make it worthwhile. I have decided to model the inside of the Dreadnought's sarcophagus! I've only ever seen once, maybe twice, a Nurgle Dreadnought modeled so that a zombie dude could be seen reaching out of the damaged sarcophagus. I wouldn't be surprised if what I am attempting has been done before, but I myself have never seen or heard of such a project.

This choice was made on the spur of the moment and was not planned out in advance so I had to make do with the materials I had immediately at hand. Whenever I've put together a Dreadnought's body, the interior space has always impressed me with just how large of a box it really is. This time around I got the idea of sealing inside a good luck token of some kind to help protect my little plastic machine of doom. Initially I considered taking a metal skull, cramming it on top of a column of Greenstuff, and then gluing it all inside and closing it up. It wasn't until I had mixed the two-part epoxy stuff, however, before I realized that I could magnetize the front plate of the sarcophagus so that it could still be opened up for a look inside. So with my Greenstuff already curing, I grabbed the closest bitz box and found an IG vox-caster and a Chaos Marine decoration that were summarily chopped up. I've had very limited experience working with Greenstuff and so I wasn't expecting to sculpt a beautifully detailed interior. Instead I just plopped the mound of green goo into the middle of the torso and started cramming in the plastic bitz. I then built up another mound of green into which I sunk a rare earth magnet, then glued another to the inside face of the front plate, and finally put them together to make sure they still fit. The fit was fine but I soon learned that I needed to leave them alone to finish curing. Each time I removed the front plate, the inner magnet would pull forward as well with its anchoring mound of Greenstuff... these neodymium magnets are strong!

Ideally I would have liked to make the inside of the Dreadnought look even more cramped and confining. I feel like there's still too much empty space when one peeks inside, but I think this might change once it's painted and the rest of the pieces have been glued into place. The next time I put together a Dreadnought, I would like to plan out how to do a more detailed interior and perhaps even sculpt it as separate pieces that could be painted before positioning them inside the body. Since I probably won't be doing another Dreadnought until I get around to working on the Stonecutters, and who knows when that will be, I should have no shortage of time to think it out. I know for sure I would have loved to have had some guitar strings on hand to create cabling running throughout the inside so they will certainly be included on the next one of these guys. Nothing screams "Grim Dark Future" quite like power cables made from guitar strings! Next time, next time....

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Closing In

I'm very close to finishing my Dark Angels Librarian and should probably be able to complete him today. Subtracting out the days missed due to the family holiday season, I estimate the painting time will end up being right around two weeks. I'm really pleased with how he's turning out and is certainly one of the best single miniatures that I've ever painted. Even though he's taken me a lot longer to paint than I had initially hoped, I believe the time has been well spent and that the results will show the care that I have taken with him. It's funny that when I decided to switch to the Dark Angels, one of the motivating reasons was that I thought I would be more likely to rush through them and get them painted quickly. Oh well, so much for that! After working on this one, I'm starting to worry a little about the AdeptiCon deadline which is still 97 days away.

I do not expect, however, to spend nearly as much time painting the rank and file of this army as I did on the Librarian, a dynamic and detail-laden character model. The amount of detail that was sculpted onto him made for a pretty daunting return to the so-called Heroic Scale of Games Workshop figures and I know that this will not be the case as I turn to the plastic elements of my army. Also for the first time ever I did much of my painting with the main figure only partly assembled, having left unglued his backpack and left arm so that I could paint them separately. I have not made up my mind as to whether or not I will do this for more of the guys, though I should have some time to consider it as I am not going directly on to more power-armoured folks. Instead, next up is going to be either a magnetized Dreadnought or a Scout Squad. Exciting times, no?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Legion Revisited

Since I've been focused so much on the Dark Angles, it's been bothering me that I hadn't been able to work out a 1000 point list using my Black Legion guys. It would be nice to have a good old fashion Loyalists v. Traitors bash up, and thankfully I finally came up with a list that I like. What's even better is that it makes use of almost entirely the models that I have already assembled. I will still need to put together a few more squads and vehicles but it shouldn't be too hard to find some nights to glue the rest. I don't have my codex handy right now so I'll have to check the point totals later, but with that being said I'm pretty sure I got them right. So here goes:

Chaos Sorcerer (140) Lash of Submission, Mark of Slaanesh, Terminator Armour

5 Chaos Terminators (210) Powerfist, Chainfist, 2 Combi-weapons, Reaper Autocannon

10 Chaos Marines (285) Icon of Khorne, Meltagun, Flamer, Aspiring Champion with Powerfist and plasma pistol, Chaos Rhino

5 Chaos Marines (125) Plasma gun, Chaos Rhino

3 Chaos Spawn (120)

5 Chaos Havocs (120) 3 Heavy Boters

Points Total: 1000
Kill Points: 8

Another option I would consider is splitting the squad of 10 Chaos Marines into two squads so as to increase the number of scoring units. I could see this being useful in games with objectives, although it would also provide an extra kill point available for the taking. This would however also water down the effects of the squad's Icon.... If nothing else it's an easy way to tinker with things as it doesn't effect point totals or what models are needed, so why not try it out, right?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fifteen Weeks To Go

Okay, we are now 105 days away from AdeptiCon. That's just fifteen weeks left to get my army painted and ready to go. Considering that the minimum amount of miniatures I want to take only totals 1000 points, that probably sounds like plenty of time and I'm sure many painters out there could get three or four times that amount ready in the time I have. But I've always been a slow painter even before having a family of my own so I actually feel like I'll need to really focus on this project if I hope to get it done in time. I'm still working on the Librarian and slowly making my way through the first highlight stage of painting his power armour. I'm trying out a different technique for this compared to when I've painted marines in the past. I'm am trying to follow the conventional method of highlighting only the hard edges of the plates rather than going for a more realistic but subtle approach. In the past my marines would look good when viewed from a very close distance, but on the tabletop it always would end up looking like just painted the armour in a flat color. Since I paint for gaming (in theory, at least), this is something I want to avoid, and thus the new technique.

I've only been able to paint though for about an hour since my in-laws arrival and therefore am not worried about this recent slowdown over the last few days... I'll get back to it soon, and with gusto! I'm going to try to organize my painting time so that I'm working as efficiently as I can. You can see below the army list that I have in mind. I haven't planned the order in which I am going to tackle the various units as I want to concentrate on painting rather than get caught up in assembly as is my usual method. So here it is:

Space Marine Librarian (100) Smite, Might of Ages

Dreadnought (125) Assault cannon, heavy flamer

Tactical Squad (185) 5 additional Space Marines, Plasma gun and plasma cannon

Tactical Squad (170) 5 additional Space Marines, Flamer and missile launcher

Scout Squad (100) Sniper rifles, missile launcher, camo cloaks

Space Marine Bike Squad (155) Power weapon, Attack Bike with Multi-melta

Predator (165) Twin-linked lascannons, lascannon sponsons

Points Total: 1000
Kill Points: 7

Monday, December 7, 2009

Librarian WIP

Since starting work on my Marine Librarian last Wednesday night, I have gotten in another three nights of painting with each session lasting several hours. I'm quite happy to be making progress and to finally be painting again, I am surprised again at how much detail is sculpted onto Games Workshop's metal characters. So far I'd say I'm about half done though I really have no idea how much longer it will take me to complete him. (By the way, the above photo was taken a few days ago and does not show some of the latest progress I've made.) I've got his face and the inner portions of his psychic hood totally done, and even painted the eyes. Fortunately they turned out well or I might have quit and gone back to historicals had I botched his face with some googly eyes, as seemed all too common in the old days.

At this point I also have at least a first coat of paint applied everywhere, plus I've inked the armour itself to give some shading. I think my next step will be highlighting the power armour although I am a little nervous about this stage. Power armour in the past has given me trouble as I would tend to make my highlight stages much too subtle so that the miniature, when viewed from a normal distance and height, ends up looking flat and uninteresting.

It's fun to be back into 40k, I'm enjoying myself immensely. I've started listening to 40k Radio and have even had a couple of chances to paint with it playing for an hour or so during the day while my daughter was napping. Considering that I also have AdeptiCon to look forward to only 109 days from now, it feels like I've entered into a new personal golden age of 40k. Of course before proclaiming this I should wait to see if I can get some armies painted and play some games for once, but where's the fun in being cautious? This is the internet, after all....

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Ideal Size

It had been some time since I had last looked at a table for wargaming prior to when I began working on my Realm of Battle gameboard two weeks ago. Once set up, I was surprised at how small it seemed. Now that I'm painting the pieces, my sense of the gameboard's scale has grown considerably. I am left however with the impression that my thinking about the ideal size for a game of 40k needs some adjustment to better suit the space I will have available.

In the past I have used mostly either 6' x 4' tables or 8' x 5' as well as the occasional smaller battle fought over a 4' square of bloody ground. It is pretty obvious with each new codex that the trend for army lists is to drop point costs for many units, allowing for larger armies for the same amount of points relative to their older cousins. I suspect that this might be why my new 6' x 4' gameboard didn't match up to my expectations after spending the last several months making army lists with the new books. That's the best explanation I've thought of so far, I don't know if it's right though. I just couldn't shake the feeling though that the board would feel too crowded with the armies I had in mind.

I've started to come around to the school of thought that favors 1500 point armies, though of course I really need to get some games in with the new edition before I can feel really confident about that. When I was last playing regularly it was usually with 1850 point armies and sometimes going up into the 2000 to 2500 point range. I'm starting to appreciate however the challenge of making the most out of smaller armies as it makes everything that much more valuable to one's overall performance. Although it can be fun to max out your Force Organization Chart, I think that this will be a rarer occurrence in the future as I think time and space will be a greater constraint for me than a limit of 3 Heavy Support choices. Considering how few games I've played in recent years, I hope that smaller armies could end up meaning more chances to actually play with them. Wouldn't that be nice?