Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kodiak Khadoran Warjack

It's resume and application time for summer internships and research fellowships. I'm already well on my way to wearing out my keyboard, so this post is going to be mostly photos. If you want details about the colors and processes, take a look at my other Khador posts. All the colors are here, they're just in different places.

Next up: Some Circle Orboros stuff, Warhammer Fantasy Battles Dwarfs, and a few Rhulic Warjacks.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winterguard Infantry

It looks like this semester is going to be even fuller than the last one, but I've finally found time to take & post photographs! The trick isn't actually finding time. I have a few hours of free time every day. The trick is finding time when I'm home in the late morning or early afternoon. That's when the sun is in the right place for the best (or at least my best) photographs.

Here are the first models from early January's frantic week of painting: Khador's Winterguard Infantry.

What I did
I painted this unit the same way I've painted everything lately. First everything gets a base of acrylic. In this case that's Pyrrole Red (Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic), Cryx Base Highlight (P3), Menoth White Base (P3), Boltgun Metal (Citadel), Chainmail (Citadel), Bone Black (Golden Fluid Acrylic), Iridescent Bronze (Fine) (Golden FA), Burnt Umber (Golden FA), and Cadmium Skin (Vallejo). That's followed by an oil paint and Turpenoid wash using Raw Umber (Utrecht Artist Colors Oil) mixed with Ivory Black (Utrecht ACO). Then I let the Turpenoid evaporate and wiped off the excess wash with a clean cosmetic sponge.

Once the oil paint cured, which took about 24 hours, I washed the bases with thinned-out Cryx Bane Base (P3) and dry-brushed the stone texture with a mixture of Titanium White (Da Vinci Fluid Actylic) and Cryx Bane Base.The cracks were painted with Cryx Bane Base and highlighted with mixed Cryx Bane Base and Titanium White. Then I took everything outside for a light coat of matte spray varnish (Golden) and let it set for a couple hours.

The snow is PVA glue and Citadel snow flocking, mixed to the consistency of papier mache. I applied it with a toothpick and waited for it to dry completely (3-4 days) before I added the dead grass.

What I Like
This style of painting isn't going to win any award. But the results look great on the table and the process is very quick. It took one day to paint the basecoat the models, and perform the oil wash. Painting the bases, applying the snow and gluing the grass each took about an hour. Overall, that's about 12 hours of labor and four days of drying/curing time (which I spent painting other models, playing other games, and just getting on with the rest of my life). That's lightning-fast for me.

I also really like the combination of melting snow and dead grass on the bases. The grass adds an interesting new color to the palette and it fixes the models in time. The snow is melting, but the grass hasn't had time to grow back. That means they're fighting during the spring thaw.

What I Don't Like
I didn't realize until after the oil wash that four of the Winterguard Infantry models have beards and mustaches. Thanks to the magic of the oil wash, they look OK. But now it looks like our unit has four blonde identical quadruplets who all go to the same barber. I would have preferred to paint each beard a different colors, to make the models a little more distinct.

Kovnik Joe and I have an odd relationship. On the one hand, I love all medals and filigree on his uniform. His pose is dynamic and appropriate for an old campaigner who's accustomed to giving fiery speeches. But that dynamic pose was difficult to assemble (made worse by a large crack in the model's right ankle). I'm not sure how I could have done it without help from "The Crab", my trusty alligator clamp. And even with the Crab's help, Joe still shifted a little before the epoxy set and now his footing's a little funky. You can't tell unless you look closely, but my Kovnik Joe model is just about to sprain his ankle.

Next up...
I'm still working on my epic treatise about teaching new players how to play a complicated game. The next thing I post will probably be a Kodiak or some Druids of Orboros.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Warpborn Skinwalkers

With our winter break coming to an end and an unexpected lull in my work schedule (c'mon clients, approve those sketches before my schedule overloads with grading and homework!), I had a lot of extra time in the last two weeks. I spent a big chunk of it painting. Here's what I finished:

Hordes Models
3 Warpborn Skinwalkers
7 Druids of Orboros

Warmachine Models
10 Winterguard Infantry
Winterguard Officer and Standard Bearer
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich
Kommander Sorscha
1 Kodiak Warjack

Warhammer Fantasy Models
16 Dwarf Warriors

First up, the Skinwalkers. This unit hasn't done whole lot on the table (I'm pretty sure that's my fault, not theirs), but I love the way they turned out. They'll keep seeing action until I figure out how to use them correctly.

What went well?
Privateer Press did a great job with these models. They're dynamic, easy to assemble, and very sturdy. There's lots of texture and detail but it's very clear, even to a half-blind painter like me. The armor was a special treat. After all the tiny whorls and runes on the Woldwarden, it was refreshing  to use acrylic washes on something with such clearly-defined shapes and edges.

I feel like I've gotten fairly proficient with oil and Turpenoid washes, and I'm starting to experiment with different techniques and colors. For the Woldwarden, it was a mixed approach, where some areas had oil washes and some didn't. The Skinwalkers are covered with oil washes, but I tried varying the color. Using Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Ivory Black and Greenish Umber (all from Utrecht) I matched each wash to its base color. Compared to the Tyranids from last fall, the Skinwalkers have a much wider variety of dark tones, but I think I can push things even farther.

Finally, Burnt Sienna (Golden Fluid Acrylics) + a Burnt Umber/Ivory Black oil wash makes a beautiful color for leather. Browns are always tricky, but I really like how the Skinwalkers' capes and loincloths turned out.

What didn't go well?
Although you can't see it in these pictures, the eyes of the bare-headed model are awful. On my first try, I blobbed big patches of yellow all over the eye-sockets. It wouldn't have taken long to repaint the eyelids gray, but I didn't and the oil wash didn't quite cover up my negligence. Thankfully it's mostly hidden in shadow, but it still bothers me. The lesson here, when you make a mistake don't tell yourself "No worries! The wash will take care of that." Especially if it's a small error with an easy fix, take the time to make it right. Otherwise the model will sit on your bookshelf and mock you. I'm pretty sure this one is making faces at me whenever my back is turned.

With their combination speed, ease of assembly & painting, and a nice overall result, the Warpborn Skinwalkers have been my favorite miniature painting experience of the last several months. Now if I can just figure out how to use them on the table...

Next up: more models and an article about teaching complicated games to new players.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Woldwarden: Chasing the green glow

This model made its first appearance last Thursday in my less-than-successful introduction to Hordes.  I was so overwhelmed with all the new rules and interactions between units that it didn't get to do much more than walk a few inches and drop a forest template. In the future, I hope the Woldwarden does better, because I really like how it looks!

The stonework is entirely acrylic with a Raw Umber (Golden Fluid Acrylics) base and 3 or 4 successively brighter layers of drybrushed Raw Umber and Titanium White (DaVinci Fluid Acrylics). The first layer was nearly all Raw Umber. The last layer was about 50/50 Raw Umber and Titanium White. The brush I used was very large for miniature painting. I've had it for so long that the label has worn off, but I think it's a round synthetic sable size 3 or 4. It's large enough to make sure that the lighter colors stayed out of all the model's crevices.

After the stonework was finished, I went back and very carefully painted in the runes, using heavily-diluted Titanium White: 1 drop of paint, 10-12 drops water, and 1 drop of isopropyl alcohol. For this, I used a tiny brush (round size 1), and I let the paint do most of the work. Instead of moving my hand to trace the shape of a rune (which, given the shakiness of my hands, is a recipe for failure) I touched the loaded brush to the center of a line and let capillary action pull the paint out of the brush. It wasn't perfect and I still had to do a little tracing. But it helped me keep the lines relatively clean.

Once that was dry, I added a drop of Green Ink (Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay India Ink). This turned out to be a little too dark, so I kept adding little bits of white (smaller than a drop, more like little dots on the tip of a very small brush) until I got a very light shade of green. Then I repeated the same process I used for the white paint.

The wooden areas are a mixture of acrylics and oil paint. The branches are Burnt Sienna (Golden Fluid Acrylics) and the ropes are Menoth White Base (P3). The tips of the branches are Raw Sienna (Golden Fluid Acrylics). Once the base colors were painted, I painted over them with a mixture of Raw Umber (Winton Oil Color), Ivory Black (Winton Oil Color), and Turpenoid. Then I let the Turpenoid evaporate (this took about 45 minutes), and wiped away the excess oil paint with a round cosmetic sponge. While painting the wash and wiping away the excess oil, I was very careful not to get any on the stonework, especially in the runes. If I had, it wouldn't have been a catastrophe, but it would have meant waiting a day for the oil paint to cure completely and then starting that section of stonework over from the beginning.

What went well?
Honestly, I am thrilled with this model. It's the first time I've been truly satisfied with the glowing runes (or glowing grilles) on any of my models . That's after 2 tries at the Sentry Stone, five (yes five) tries at the Shifting Stones, three Bonejacks, one Helljack, Lich Lord Asphyxious, and two tries at the Woldwarden itself. The results aren't perfect, but they are credible. And I finally feel like I know enough about the process that I can see the path to improvement.

What didn't go well?
There's still a lot of room for improvement. The runes are still somewhat monochrome, and I think they would look a lot better if I added one more layer of ink, this time with a drop or two of yellow ink. But since I was happy with this set of runes, I decided to stop while I was ahead. But now that I know how to get this far, I'll try to push it even farther on the next model.

I also think the lights and darks of the stonework could be better defined. If you look at the model's shins, you can see that everything looks fairly bright, and the recessed areas are hard to see. In future models, I want the stonework to look more like this model's forearms, where the recessed areas are noticeably darker than the raised edges.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hordes: First Impressions

Last night it was time to play my first game of Hordes. Look out! Here come some more first impressions!

What we played:
Although it was a lousy idea, I brought 35 points of Circle Orboros, nearly everything I've painted. That doesn't mean that 35 point games are a bad idea, but it was not a good introduction to a complicated Warlock, in a complicated army, in a complicated game. You know that "learn to walk before you run" canard that your mother used to tell you? Yeah, I forgot it too.

Here's what I had:

Cassius & Wurmwood
1 Feral Warpwolf
1 Woldwarden
1 Gorax
3 Warpborn Skinwalkers
Sentry Stone & Manikins
Shifting Stones
Druids of Orboros + Overseer

My opponent played Khador, with pSorcha, a Destroyer, a Juggernaut, a big block of Winterguard, Kovnik Joe, and two Mercenary solos that I can't remember (they both looked a little like puritans...militant...gun & sword-wielding puritans).

This game was more about learning the game than it was about competition. I suspect, after reading up on his army when I got home, my opponent could have assassinated Cassius by the end of the second turn. But he pulled a few punches, took the time to help me understand my units, and gave me the chance to try out a few abilities before the end of the game. I "won" this game, just like I "won" the last one, but I had a lot of help from my opponents.

What went well?
Most of the goodness came from my opponent and the other people at the store. Just like my last game, this is a wonderfully friendly and accommodating group of people. I found another great opponent who was willing to take the time to help out a new player. And I had some

On my end? Well...I made it through the whole game without falling down, breaking a model or putting out an eye in a freak dice-rolling accident.

To be honest, my favorite part of the evening was the time we spent after the game, talking about painting.

What didn't go well?
Too...much...information. I've mentioned this before, but when it comes to miniature wargames I'm more of a painter than a player. I had a lot of pretty toys, and even though I suspected it was a bad idea, I wanted to play with all of them at once. And since I chose my models by asking myself "what do I want to paint next?" instead of "how well do these models work together?" I had a lot of models, with a lot of special abilities, and not enough experience to see how they functioned as a whole. With more practice, I think I'll enjoy Circle Orboros, but this was a poor introduction to the faction.

When I finished my first 15-point Khador game, I knew I had a lot to learn, but I also felt like I had a decent understanding of my small army and of the game itself. This time, I was juggling so many unfamiliar concepts, I just felt exhausted. As a new player, I would heartily encourage other players to start small. Even if you have a lot of painted models...even if you have a lot of experience in other types of gaming...approach Warmachine and Hordes in small, manageable steps. This is a rich, complex game with a lot of options and nuances. There's no need to take it all in at once. Learn the game at a reasonable pace and you'll end up having a lot more fun.

What's next?
Before I play Circle Orboros again, I'm going to put together a smaller army with a more unified theme. My Khador army, with two warjacks, a warcaster and a single unit of warriors feels like the right level of complexity. So I'm going to aim for something similar with Circle Orboros. Cassius and Mohsar, my two painted Circle warlocks, seem ill-suited to these smaller games, so I think I'll add one more warlock. I'm thinking either Kromac, Baldur or pKruegar.

Sire-wise, I have photographs of a lot of painted models. Rahter than cramming them into one large post, I'm going to spread them out over the next few days.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goodbye, Wink

This morning, I got up at 5:30 and the first thing my housemate said was "your cat's acting kinda funny." And she was right. My cat was acting so funny that I grabbed the cat carrier, found the nearest veterinarian that was open on a holiday and spent the next five hours talking about kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and ... eventually ... humane euthanasia. Then I came home with an empty cat carrier and an unexpectedly heavy heart.

I know that dead cats aren't the usual fare for a blog about painting, model building and playing games. But I'm going to invoke the "it's MY blog, and I can do what I want" clause today and take a moment to remember a cherished pet. And, surprisingly there's actually a little bit of gaming in his biography.

Wink was already an adult when I met him. Every week, I would gather with five or six other game writers, illustrators and editors to test new games, play our favorite older games and enjoy some good-natured conversation. Wink lived at one of our regular meeting places, and although he wasn't particularly brave or friendly, we could usually coax him out by the end of the evening. When Wink's owner moved away, he left the cat behind. Rather than letting him go to the animal shelter, I adopted him. And it was a great decision.

For the last eight years, Wink was a brilliant companion. Just like the best cartoon cliches, he slept every night next to my pillow and woke me up each morning with purrs and gentle, fish-scented nudges (I know, it sounds sappy as Hell, and a little bit gross, but it was also the Best Thing Ever). He followed me around like a little dog. He curled up next to me when I worked. He could watch me paint or play the mandolin for hours. When I sat in my recliner, he would nearly always join me a few seconds later. But he could never decide where to sit, so he would walk from my feet, to my lap, to my shoulders and back to my feet until I grabbed him and tipped him over on my lap. Then he'd settle in for the long haul. He liked to chew on plastic shopping bags, so we were very careful to keep them out of reach. Even though he's gone, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put a plastic bag on the floor without wondering if the cat will get it. He had the least musical meow I've ever heard. We used to joke that he was the Tom Waits of house cats.

Although the exact date was a surprise, his actual death was not. He was an old cat (at least 12 years) with established kidney and thyroid problems. He reacted badly to medication for his conditions, and it was only a matter of time before one of them caught up with him. I'm thankful that the symptoms came quickly. At 5am he started walking funny and he couldn't lift his head. By 10am he could barely move. It was time for him to go. I'm glad we had a chance to say goodbye, and I'm grateful for the veterinarian who made his last minutes as peaceful as possible. I didn't think I'd be able to be there when he died. But I'm glad they let me stay so I could scratch behind his ears and say "good kitty" one more time. For an absolutely lousy experience, it happened in the best possible way.

But still...2011, you are officially on notice. This is not the kind of first impression you want to make. And if you don't clean your @*#$ up right now, then I'm gonna have to let you go. I don't want to go all year saying "it's Two Thousand Dicekty One", Abe Simpson-style, but I will if I have to. So watch it, pal.