Wednesday, 29 February 2012

First steps into the realm of Chaos...

Just over a month ago on a memorable Friday evening, I collapsed into the sofa with a beer in my hand and an unopened box of Chaos Warriors on my lap. The front picture promised a unit of dark and demonic soldiers, their armour gleaming in the volcanic light as they marched towards a glorious victory in the name of the Chaos gods. Cool! So I ripped open the box, tipped it up and what should fall out but.... three racks of approximately THOUSANDS of teeny tiny grey things. Can this be right? What am I supposed to do with all these bits!?!? The answer: cut out each tiny piece (being very careful not to accidentally snip off important parts of your manly warrior’s anatomy). Then you need to clean up each tiny piece with a sharp knife (which invariably finds its way into my clutzy fingers). THEN you can start gluing your minions together. All of this has to be done before you can even think about picking up a paint brush. Good job I have a whole year to get this army done then! Ok, ok, end of moan. To be honest the assembly part is more than made up for by the fun of painting.

So, fast forward a few hours and several more beers and hey presto, I have brought forth into the world 12 hunky 'brick-shit-house' warriors adorned with the skulls of their unlucky victims and wielding weapons large enough to fell mammoths. Their newly sprayed chaos black faces glower at me from the shelf, warning me not to mess up their paint job... or else...

Judging by the sculpted chips in armour and tears in the cloaks, these guys were not preening peacocks. A base coat of brown followed by dry brushing of chainmail had them looking suitably rusty and dishevelled. I’ve also added some mud to the end of the cloaks and the boots. Now they look more like they’ve marched from the Chaos wastes, an area not overrun with bath houses. I wanted some variety so decided to mix up the animal furs – everything from grey wolf, through to Musk Ox (erm, brown), and polar bear.

My grand plan is to have two units of these rather well built warrior types. 18 x 'just dipping my toes in, not too sure I want to sign up for the freaky mutations yet' Tzeentch guys and 18 x hard core Tzeentch fanatics with double heads, mouths growing out of their arms, crab claws, giant phalluses for ears and so on. Then come the very important units. The pony units! Two units of 5 Marauder Horsemen, 9 Chaos Knights with a mounted Sorcerer Lord in their midst (mainly to make them line up nicely so Maisey doesn't start twitching every time he sees my army) and an Exalted Hero (you guessed it) mounted on a Chaos steed. Add to that 10 Chaos Warhounds and a rather large, pot-bellied bandito and that's all I have to paint.

My first warrior unit is still not quite done so here's a pic of my first completed unit of cuddly canines. Who also happen to be my first ever complete unit of Warhammer models! Woooh!

Yours in the name of the Dark (blue) Lord


Sunday, 26 February 2012

Freehand painting tips (part 1 of 2)

For those of you who didn’t know, I really, really enjoy painting freehand banners. Here’s one I painted earlier:

People tend to have two responses to a reasonably well-painted bit of freehand: “Ooh, shiny,” or “I can’t do that. You’re clearly a mutant. I mean... it doesn’t seem physically possible.” There is some discussion as to the best way to follow up on the latter response, although many plump for raising their fists to the sky, shouting, “Curse ye gods for my untalented fingers!” before sundering their brush across their knee and leaving for a temple in the mountains.

It may therefore surprise the budding banner painter that freehand isn’t a mystical art that requires you to have been born under the moon as it waned gibbous. You just need a pair of eyes and the ability to measure stuff.

Obviously, artistic talent definitely helps, but if you’re a decent miniatures painter who still struggles with freehand, chances are you already have the skills you need, but lack the knowledge.

By way of example, I’m going to go step-by-step through a work-in-progress, the second half of which I’ll do in a fortnight’s time (I’m away next week, and won’t be able to paint). The banner in question is for my new Hochland army, for a regiment called the Blades of Taal. I’ll talk about the background for the army in my next post, but suffice to say, I decided a stag’s skull would be an apt symbol for the regiment.

I should mention that I’m not going to go into any detail about the blending or highlighting techniques used here. That said, there’s stuff on composition and drawing that should still contain helpful information for those who haven’t yet learnt those two techniques.

Right. That’s quite enough preamble. Off we go...

If you’re going to paint an object, you need some reference, or you’re going down like an airship made of kittens. As such, my friend Google found me this:

This told me a bunch of stuff I didn’t know about stag skulls. What’s with all the weird broken textures below the eye sockets? What are the holes on top of its head?

Having now seen this, and checked other photos to make sure this chap wasn’t a mutant (he wasn’t), I took some time to make some artistic judgements: other people may not be expecting the broken texture below the eye sockets, so I wouldn’t emphasise that too much, and put more emphasis on the eye sockets so that the design would work at a distance.

Look at the reference image. What’s the basic shape of the outermost points? In this case, a slightly elongated triangle. I therefore put three dots on my banner, making careful reference to my, er, reference to ensure that the angles were correct. The important thing at this stage is that you’re looking at the placement of the design on the banner. Do you want it central? Higher up? Place thy dots accordingly.

This stage is really two stages, but I’ve only got one picture. Gutted. Step 3A is a more complex version of step 2; look at the defining points (the widest and tallest points of the skull, the various antler tips) and look at where they are in reference to the triangle (or hexagon, or square, or whatever shape your design is). Plot them out with more dots. In this image, for example, the top of the skull is vertically central and horizontally 5/8ths of the way up the triangle. Boop. In goes another dot.

Step 3B is to sketch the basic shape. I used watered-down bleached bone (i.e. a colour that would both stand out from the background, and also be the major colour of the design anyway). You’re basically joining up the dots, and don’t worry about making it look pretty, just do it quickly and loosely, like so:

Now hold the model at arm’s length and look at it. Are the proportions correct? If not, re-basecoat the offending parts (or the whole thing) and do it again. The above picture was actually my second attempt! In the first, I made the skull too short in relation to the antlers.

Once you’re confident that you’ve got the right shape, give it a strong basecoat and tidy up the shape. Here I used both Bleached Bone and Chaos Black (with the black working like an eraser). Don’t think like you’re using a pen on paper; you’ve got two colours, and you can use either of them as much as you want.

Side note: having got the design basecoated, I could now paint the black background. I blended Graveyard Earth with Chaos Black (the yellow in the Earth neutralises the blue in the Chaos Black), and then highlighted the trailing ribbons by adding bleached bone into the mix.

I softened up some Chaos Black with a little Bleached Bone, and watered it down to use the colour to sketch the cracks and holes in the skull. Any mistakes were painted over with Bleached Bone (yay erasure!).

Note that the top of the skull’s shape has changed – I realised I’d made a mistake with the basecoat. The lesson here is that it’s never too late to fix things.

Look at the texture of the horns in the original reference photo. It’s not smooth like many of the miniatures you see, because that kind of detail would be impossible to represent on a wee plastic man. Or stag. Manstag? Manstag, bray-shaman of doo... ok this is why it’s important to pin hobby butterflies down.

Whenever you have a high-contrast texture to paint on a flat surface, you need layers, so I started the speckled texture with a mix of Scorched Brown and Bleached Bone, every now and then doing a line of dots hinting at the grooves in the horns.

I then did some more dots with pure Scorched brown, almost low-lighting the texture. To further aid the colour, I applied a glaze of Gryphonne Sepia.

The time had come to work on the bone itself. Using sequential highlights of Bleached Bone, I added Skull White into the mix, making sure to leave some of the Gryphonne Sepia showing in the skull’s recesses.

I was concerned that the horns looked too dark at this point; I didn’t feel the design worked from a distance of 2-3 feet (the distance at which people will usually be looking at it during a game). To fix this, I applied a glaze of Bleached Bone to the antlers, washing out the colour and bringing it closer to the skull itself.

All that’s left to do now is to tidy up the edges of the design a little more, and then paint the other side of the banner.

I should also apologise, at this point, for my bodge-tastic photography skills – the colours are a little washed out, but rest assured I’ll get a better photograph of the finished result in Part Two.

Equally, if there are things you’d like explained or discussed in more detail (like, for example, what aspect of freehand do you find the hardest?), leave a comment below and I’ll incorporate that into Part Two (or just respond in the comments, depending on the question).


Sunday, 19 February 2012

My First Nurgle Model!

And so it begins... The first model of my Nurgle Warriors of Chaos army and it's magic...

Well, a sorcerer at any rate.This charming (if a little drippy) chap is Lothar Pneumophilus, Sorcerer of Nurgle and one of the powers behind my Chaos Lord's throne. The model has had no modifications of any sort as he is a splendid sculpt. The only addition is the wee nurgling chap at the front representing the Warrior Familiar that he has in the list. I actually auditioned Nurglings that I had lying around to see which looked best. My wife and flatmates giving me very odd looks as I ran "Nurgling Idol". Painting started with the clothing. I intend to use what I call "Andy Green" - named for Andy of Lair of the Breviks fame - for the main army colour. This colour starts with a basecoat of Charadon Granite so every piece of cloth was basecoated in one go. I intended to use Charadon Granite as the basis for all of the colours on the model to bind it together.

Working on the principle of painting inside to out I first darkened the under-robe down to black with many layers of Badab Black. Then the main robe was worked up to Andy Green. This is done using the following process: Wash the Charadon Granite basecoat with Devlan Mud, rehighlight all but the shadows with Charadon Granite then sequentially highlight first with a 50:50 mix of Charadon Granite and Catachan Green, then with pure Catachan Green. Moving into the high points we then make a 50:50 Catachan and Camo Green mix and follow that with pure Camo Green. Final highlights are with Camo Green and Dheneb Stone. Eight stages. Yes I know that is a lot but it goes quite quickly and creates a wonderful earthy, nurgle-ey green.

I then moved on to the cloak. I wanted a heavy, dark, canvas look to the fabric. Mixing Codex Grey into the Charadon Granite acheived a nice brown-ey grey. I then glazed the finished fabric with a thinned mix Thraka Green and Badab Black. The weathering on the bottom of the cloak was done after all the other steps were finished. I used Forgeworld weathering powders (light earth and dark earth) to add the dried earth. The wetter mud at the edge are a mix of gloss varnish and dark earth and then an edge of Devlan Mud.

The scrolls were basecoated in Dheneb Stone, the bones in Khemri Brown and then both were washed in Devlan Mud. Scrolls were rehighlighted with Dheneb Stone and then with a mix of Dheneb Stone and Skull White. Bones were my usual mix of sequential highlighting through a mix of Khemri Brown and bone all the way up to bone and white.

The staff top is glued together with some nasty, slimey fluid. Ick. Base coated in Catachan Green the ick was then glazed with AK Interactive Slimy Grime Dark. This is an enamel product that allows you to fade out the effect by "stumping" - gradually removing paint - with odourless turpentine. A hit of gloss varnish finished it off and left it with a slimey finish to the entire piece.

The face of the model shows the corruption and noisome foulness of the flesh that lies within. I wanted it to look bloated but bloodless. Normally overweight people are pinker but I wanted him to look ill, really ill. I started from a mix of Tallarn Flesh and Dheneb Stone as a basecoat. Then a wash of Ogryn Flesh and Thraka Green to send him green about the gills. The eye sockets were glazed with Leviathan Purple to make him look tired and the deep recesses were shaded with Devlan Mud. I then highlighted with the original skin mix and then again with a little more Dheneb Stone added. I washed the beard of boils with a couple of thin coats of Baal Red which self highlighted with the top skin colour. The lips were glazed first in Leviathan Purple then with thin Baal Red. A highlight of the skin colour knocks the colour back into the skin to stop it being too bold. A final very thin glaze of Thraka Green finished the skin tone nicely.

The last element to be painted were the maggots (Vallejo Deck Tan washed in Gryphonne Sepia and rehighlighted with Deck Tan) and the Nurgling. The Nurgling was painted with a 60:40 Tallarn Flesh and Catachan Green mix and then highlighted by adding bone to the mix. Deep recesses were picked out with thinned Devlan Mud. The exposed flesh and viscera were glazed with two coats of my blood mix - 4:1 Red Ink to Chestnut Ink. Picking out the bone and black eyes finished him off.

This model effectively sets the colour scheme of the army, add some rust (well, a lot of rust) and this is what the army will look like. I want to add some slushy melting snow to the base to give a nice contrast to the very dark colour scheme but that will have to wait until I buy some water effects. I'm going to share the progress of the army in my usual way - by marking off completed models on an image of the army list like so:

Try it sometime, it is incredibly cathartic and helps to make the progress on your army seem more manageable. Given that I break the army up into smaller elements and do this with the smaller elements too it seems to go much faster!

Until next time folks.


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Online Resources for Wargamers

Like a proverbial electronic spider amongst the interwebs I spend a lot of time shaking the internet to make useful stuff fall out. It is what happens when you work in the industry and sell your stuff online! It occurred to me that I have a hoarded treasure trove of links and sharing them would be a public service.

Reference Material
It is impossible to have too much reference material, why reinvent the wheel when you can just look at how things are done in nature or by the professionals? Below are a selection of my favourites:

  • Equusite - A treasure trove of pictures of different horse species and their markings.
  • Demon Winner - Many, many images of Golden Daemon winning models from around the world and through the years, great inspiration material.
  • Kamouflage - A database of camouflage patterns with images from around the world and through history. A must for guardsmen.

News Sites
With more and more alleged news sites being more about rumour/creating controversy to drive the hit counters (and ad revenue) or being mere mouthpieces for a company it is nice to find a couple which are independent, fair, actually police the comments of their sites to prune out the kneejerk RageHate nutters and provide good content. These two are my favourites.
Tools and Supplies
While a bad workman blames his tools, it is a hell of a lot easier to get good results from good tools. Here are some brilliant sites for the hardware that I use.
  • Antenocitis Workshop - An astonishing, almost bewildering array of tools, raw materials, basing materials, adhesives... well, lets face it, they've got pretty much it all.
  • E-Magnets UK - Handy little super-strong neodymium magnets for easy storage of large models and for handy attachment of easily breakable parts (I'm going to do a magnets tutorial at some point!).
  • Jacksons Art - Woah, this place is chock-full, while most of their range will not be of use to us, their brushes (especially the Raphael range) and their brush cleaners are incredibly useful.
  • KR multicase - My new best friends. At a fraction of the cost of GW and almost as tough, their card cases are a godsend, add to that custom cut foam (including trays sized to fit GW cases) and amazing customer service make these guys winners.
  • PK-Pro - German company with some innovative products including casting putty. Check 'em out.
Parts Services
I used to be fairly on the fence about services like these, now, I love them. These guys buy boxes of sprues, cut the bits off and then sell them individually. Is it one hell of a mark up? Yes, but would you rather spend £1 or £20 to get that one part off one sprue that you do not have? It has liberated my conversions. Stock is sometimes an issue but if you contact them then they are usually pretty good about letting you know when a restock is coming.

Favourite Miniatures Companies
Aside from Games Workshop these guys are my favourite sources for alternative or just plain weird miniatures. Most are for RPG style models that I do but I have made use of all sorts of models in my armies as well. Take a browse when you've got a cup of tea and nothing better to do, get inspired.
  • Ainsty Castings - Makers of resin scenery, especially what we Beard Bunker Dwellers call "set dressing". They have just released an amazing underground station set that just makes me want to march cybermen through it. Their tunnel and cave stuff is great too.
  • Black Cat Bases - I mainly use these guys for their textured base inserts. Cast in metal these either drop into the "privateer" style lipped bases or could be blended into bevelled ones. They also have a range of cthulhu style figures that are nicer than the photos give them credit.
  • Copplestone Castings  - Mark Copplestone makes nice 1920's-esque and Future Wars models.
  • Hasslefree Miniatures - One of my very favourites, huge range and nice people. Far too many models to talk about, check them out.
  • Heresy Miniatures - Another small producer making some really nice figures, I especially like his Blighted (one of which you will see in my Nurgle army when finished!).
  • Perry Miniatures - The Perry twins historical site. Where a lot of the Napoleonic stuff that Maisey and I do comes from. Perry quality at nice prices. Highly recommended.
  • Reaper Minis - If you are after RPG minis (especially D&D/Pathfinder) then if Reaper don't have it it may not exist!
  • Warlord Games - Another great historical supplier with a large plastic 28mm range.

Sorry for the lack of pictures in this one. Promise there will be a more colourul post next time!


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

How to introduce friends to the hobby

When a lot of people (myself included) introduce their friends to the hobby, they often deploy the best of intentions to fairly bewildering effect. As such, we lose a potential gamer.

With this post, I’m going to try and provide advice for hobbyists inducting newbies into their geek clique. Obviously different people need to be introduced in a way that suits them, but all too often we try to help them with the always popular Ill-Conceived Intro Rant. Halfway into our Rant, our poor friend may now be looking and feeling a little bit like this:

Not sure what I mean by the Intro Rant? Here’s the worst-case scenario:

“OMG Garry you really should start playing 40k because Ultramarines are mad fresh they have 3+ saves which makes them proper nails and I collect them by the way I’ve got like 6,500k of them but you can collect the orks because then we can have super fun battles which I’ll win at first because I’m uber and a bit elite etc but also cos it’s really fun... oh, and orks only have a 6+ save but they’re sweet in close combat because they’ve got furious charge ok ok ok are you ready for a game? Ok cool well yes since you ask there is a big rulebook. Yes, it is big, isn’t it? Don’t worry, all the rules are in my head, so you don’t need to look at the book. In fact, there – I’ve put it away because only noobs need the book. Now, you just sit back and roll dice when I tell you to. Man this is going to be awesome.”

Obviously, the narrator in this example is a moron. If you’ve met the speaker from this example, I’m very sorry. Yes, they are a compelling argument for euthanasia, aren’t they?

Worryingly, though, even the most lovely and well-adjusted people may still find they’ve made some of the same mistakes as Garry’s self-appointed Nerd Guru. Indeed, in almost every instance I’ve ever seen or heard of someone being introduced to the hobby, doing one or more of the following might have helped:

1. Avoiding the use of phrases like ‘40K,’ ‘Ultramarine,’ ‘armour save,’ ‘ork,’ ‘close combat,’ and so on as though your friend is supposed to know what they mean. They probably won’t know what they mean, and they’re probably too polite to tell you.

2. Be sparing in the amount of information you attempt to cram into someone’s head! If it’s their first game, don’t explain every phase of the turn; try giving them a broad overview so that they always understand what’s happening rather than how it’s happening. The how will come in time.

3. Rather than talking at great length, let them look at your models, or the pictures in your rulebooks, and ask them what they think is cool. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a question you want to ask whilst some dude rants at you for half an hour on a subject you don’t really care about. Ask anyone I’ve ever ranted at for half an hour.

4. Be wary of turning into a Hobby Parent, by which I mean, being overly prescriptive with your new wargaming friend. If they want a dragon, feel free to let them know that the game’s rules will prevent its use in a small army, but that if they like it, they should feel free to get it and paint it anyway! You’d be surprised how damaging it can be for someone to feel like the only way they’re allowed to do the hobby is within the path you’ve laid out for them.

There’s a lot more I could say, but that’s the gist. If anyone has some particularly comical or constructive dos and don’ts to add to the list, go ahead and leave them in the comments box.

Finally, my thanks to Jen, a wargamer of many years, for doing such a good job portraying Noobella the Terrified.


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The head bone is connected to the neck bone

So, in my last post I mentioned I was going to wait for the new army book for the Vampire Counts to come out before making any firm choices about my army, well I waited for the new book and picked it up on release day and scurried home like an over excited ghoul bringing his master some kind of tasty damsel. I also picked up a single box of skeletons at the same time, mostly because I knew that on reading the book I would want to start working on things straight away. On arriving home I made myself some tea (which is my hobby fuel) and curled up with the book.

A few hours and 3 pints of tea later I had absorbed enough of the army book to start working on my list. As everyone on the BBB (Beard Bunker Blog) knows, I’m a very gentle gamer in terms of army selection. I’m not building this army to win anything, I’m building it to enjoy myself. So I started off by working out what I want in the army. To me an undead army wouldn’t be worth it’s bones without seemingly endless ranks of skeletons. I love those boney buggers. One of the main things that draws me to an army is the core troops and the VC’s Skeletons are some of the best. So I crammed as many skeletons and grave guard in as I could. I would also have had my application to the vampire country club rejected if I didn’t include a huge shambling pile of zombies in the list somewhere. Zombies are, in the new book, a very viable option now. Not only are they a point cheaper than before (3pts ftw) they are also toughness 3 now. So they will be re-deaded at a slightly slower rate when I throw them at people. The new black knight models are all kinds of shiny so I just had to include them. There is also a fair assortment of characters in the list. Firstly, Philippe and Etienne have been included and given the appropriate equipment to match their personalities. I’ve also included a Wight King as a Battle Standard Barer, mostly because it's a beautiful Forge World model and I couldn't resist it. To round up the characters I’ve included an as yet un-named necromancer, again mostly because I wanted to use the plastic GW kit and partly I wanted some serious magical heft. Below is a screen shot of the 2k list. It’s completely built around the models I wanted to paint and in the numbers I feel they should be there in. There is a 3 k list but that is a story for another time.

So, the next big decision had to be made. What are the army's colours going to be? Well I had already decided that whatever colour I went with as the primary, it wasn’t going to be red. Yes, a Count's army with no red on it. Sounds like madness but I wanted to make them a bit different. I wanted the army to feel cold and eerie and red just doesn’t feel like that. After a few experiments, including a deep green and a very pale blue (think baby blue but paler) I settled on a rather vibrant turquoise. The turquoise is complimented by the orangey/rusty armour and the bone. To me the scheme is fairly striking and, so far, not too much of a chore to paint. Also because of the Bretonnian background to the two vampires I've decided to include the fleur de lys iconography throughout the army. Mostly on banners but characters and some shields will probably have it added as well. Here is the first finished unit for your enjoyment. I’ve started work on the big unit of zombies and grave guard, as soon as they are done I’ll share them with you all.

- Maisey

Friday, 3 February 2012

The 'Lady' of the Lake

In my last post, I mentioned that I'm teaming up with my friend John to participate in a doubles tournament. As I said then, we have to build everything from one battalion box, including our generals. Being a resourceful chap, he combined a pegasus knight and a fat peasant to make a magical drag-queen damsel. Called Precious.

John felt that her hairdo needed to be a beehive, and asked me if I was up for the challenge of sculpting one as big as possible. How could I say no?

Who wouldn't fall in love with a face like that?