Thursday, 17 August 2017

Tips to become a better painter

If you're reading this blog then chances are that you've painted a mini or two in the past, or otherwise you're thinking of making a start.  Either way there's always room for improvement, and that includes myself, in fact I think most people with a creative bent are their own harshest critics.  I waver between thinking that I'm a decent painter, and thinking that I'm slap dash and lacking imagination (usually after painting a squad of dirt coloured guardsmen).  In reality I'm probably somewhere between average and good depending on my motivation and the subject- not every basic trooper gets the full Eggmarine treatment as there isn't enough time.  Anyhow you can see my daubings on this blog and make your own mind up.

Here are my top tips to improve, be warned they're more of a philosophical bent rather than actual techniques:

1.  Take pride in what you do

Are you covering some bits of lead (or more likely plastic) in paint just to get them on the gaming table?  Or are you making a minor artistic statement to the world?  haha that sounds a just little pretentious.  But there is a point, if you create something do your best, so when it's on the table then folk will make a little assumption about you, the same way you might comb your hair or polish your shoes before leaving the house.  People will see that you take care with your stuff.

The fact that my Crimson Fists got wiped off the table last Saturday was overshadowed by the amount of compliments my army got down the club, so I didn't mind losing... although I made a mental note to take more care in my army selection in future.  Always game with painted minis.  If table top is your thing, then make sure your minis are dolled up to the nines.  Take pride in your colours.  Then if you get tabled by an empty soda can and a pile of blutack that rolled through a bitz box, at least you can claim the moral victory.

So what if your minis aren't up to scratch down the gaming club?  You're trying, you're learning, seek out new knowledge and apply it.  The reward comes from perseverance.

2.  Learn about colour.

Get a basic art book from the library, or look online and learn about the colour wheel.  The 'Eavy Metal painters at GW don't pick colours at random, they use complimentary colours, pastels, shades and alternate hues to make that miniature speak to you and say 'buy me'.  Choosing your colours appropriately can go a long way to helping your model 'pop' and stand out on the table.  Observe what you see in every day life and decide what works for you.

No one really knows exactly why orange looks good next to blue, they just do.

3. Learn about shade and highlights.

Without shade, any painted surface becomes a featureless blob.  If, like me your first painted minis started off as beautiful sculpts only to become featureless blobs then you weren't painting with shade in mind.  The counter to shade is the highlight and the two of these act to make any surface three dimensional.  We shade and highlight our minis, because despite being three dimensional they are too small to actually look very three dimensional, so we give them a helping hand.

I personally always work from a black undercoat and shade up from there.  So even if I was painting a white mini I would work up from black, to dark grey, lighter greys and finally a white highlight.  The finished article would not be completely white it would just *look* white and have some pretty heavy shading.  Artists might call this method chiaroscuro, and I never meant to try and emulate that technique of the masters I just sort of got there which leads me on to...

4. Find your own style/ Always be the student

There are painters out there that take it to a crazy level of good.  I'll never be one of them, but it counts to look at their work with a critical eye and try and figure out what's going on there, don't just look, try to *see* and learn from it.

I've tried unsuccessfully to emulate many other mini painters, though in fact copying techniques from other painters is a good way to learn.  You can learn not only the technique but whether or not you like it, and it's okay to reject a technique if it doesn't work for you.  Non metallic metal is my nemesis, many painters can carry off exquisite masterpieces that leave me in tears just looking at them, I've tried and failed many times.  It's a limitation of mine that I've learned to live with. Some part of me thinks I should persevere and hack NMM, other parts of me think no, just play to my strengths.  My minis look increasingly like MY minis the more I paint.  I can do grimy and weather beaten, I can do dirty, but I can make it look pretty too. Sometimes.  Other times it goes straight on ebay and I try to forget about it. 

I suppose my point is, eventually you'll get to a place where you're not copying other minis but painting to your own style, and owning it.  Developing and learning new stuff as a painter will feed into it but ultimately your minis will be YOU.

Epic 40k War Griffons

My expanding Legio Gryphonnicus maniple features a pair of Lucius pattern Warlords and three scratchbuilt Lucius pattern Reavers. One of the Warlords is converted to house some defensive crenellations and i need to add an Imperial character to act as observer on one of the shoulders.

The reavers are scratched from thick card and plasticard with weapons converted from my 40k bits box. The heads are converted from 40k Centurion spares. The scratchbuild was very rewarding and it means I can field a fully lucius pattern titan maniple instead of mixing my patterns.

Epic 40k forumware knights

Some Epic 6mm scale knights for your delection. These are fan sculpts or 'forumware' and are joyous to both paint and game with. GW are certainly missing a trick here so hopefully the recent rumours of a new Adeptus Titanicus game will bear fruit.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Converting Space Marines to 32mm bases

Recently, Games Workshop changed their Space Marine range from the age old 25mm base to 32mm. The results are undeniably better looking, making each figure look better set in it's environment as well as being about 1mm taller.

This leaves anyone with a Space Marine collection with a dilemma, do you update your collection or do you ignore the soze change and carry on? Any new purchases will be on the new bases so you run the risk of having inconsistent base sizes in your army. This might not bother many people, and it would be fine to just carry on. But the idea of updating my existing Crimson Fist collection appealed to me.

The options available are to use the 32mm bases available from GW, which would require hacking each mini from it's base- not appealing; or using one of the adapters available online. Of these, there are the mdf ring adapters on ebay- cheap, plentiful but lacking the actual '32mm base' look as they lack the bevelled edge, and the tabletop adapters from These ingenious little plastic semicircles enable you to get the authentic 32mm base look without chopping your beloved minis of their existing bases. I ordered 100 of these from the makers in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Monday, 22 December 2014

A Change of Scale: From 40k to Flames of War

As a lifelong adherent of all things Warhammer, I've probably been a little guilty of concentrating on the universes created by GW to the cost of the huge amount of other high quality content out there.  Part of the reason for this is that the content written by GW is the richest out there and allows for pretty immersive adventures in 40k and warhammer land, in fact the quality of the content, and to some extent the miniatures, make up for what I think are probably the weakest part of the Games Workshop package: the rules.

As someone who has been playing 40k since the late 1980's, where it was more of a large scale RPG rather than the thing we have nowadays, I've seen the game evolve and develop.  Many things have improved and simplified, we've seen the emergence of a 'tournament' culture with the fascination with winning at all costs over writing a narrative, and now formations, dataslates and the rest. Now I appreciate the need for a company to make money and by effectively monetising individual rules which, while I think is actually very clever from a business point of view, does not attract me in the slightest.   I see 40k starting to lose it's focus and frankly my interest is starting to wane.  Now I have something approaching 10000 points of allied Crimson Fists and Guard, and am in the middle of running a large campaign which is very fun,  so I'm far from abandoning GW, but a break is in order.

After eyeing up several systems over the last few months, including Dystopian Wars (looks incredible, not many people round here play it though), Dropzone Commander (not keen on another sci-fi thing as well as 40k), All Quiet on the Martian Front (again looks incredible but I won't get a game), Deadzone (hate the minis, sorry guys).... I settled on Flames of War, FOW is now an established rule set in it's third edition and it recreates battles in World war 2, the game is more 'beer and pretzels' rather than hardcore historical gaming, whatever that is.  The battles are at the company level, with you fielding several platoons of infantry,  armour, artillery and even strike aircraft.  Owing to the larger scale of the games, the miniatures are smaller at 15mm scale.  This means the rules are more granular, with hits and saves deciding the fates of bases which can contain several actual models, for example infantry bases tend to have 2-4 men per base.

Something that excites me about FOW is the way that suppressive fire, pinning, gone to ground and artillery seem to be represented in a way that might actually be.... realistic.  Now as someone who has never thankfully seen combat, that might seem a weird thing to say, but let's say that the removal of pinning from 7th edition 40k was something that I took quite badly, in fact I was holding out hope that GW were going to enhance this side of the game (gone to ground, pinning etc) to better represent infantry tactics, but I think i'm the only person who thinks like this, in fact I bring it up at my gaming club, and the common counter argument is that 'well 40k is sci fi, it isn't meant to be realistic'.  Well my counter to that is this: suppression was effectively modeled in none other than Epic Armageddon which is (was) an awesome game and one that I still mourn the loss of.  Secondly, while 40k requires a suspension of disbelief to fully enjoy, plausibility is another thing entirely.  Okay, so at this point people start drifting away, or tell me that I think too much... well  I want suppression, and if GW won't provide, I'll go and find it ;)

So the 'Open Fire' box set is on it's way, along with enough reinforcements to bring both axis and allies up to approximately 1000 points.  This isn't 'goodbye' 40k, more of a see you soon, i'll be hanging out with some very fine looking 15mm World war 2 miniatures for the time being.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Holbronx campaign, Turn 7

A quick map update for turn 7, with only 4 turns left until sudden death everyone will be striving to seize those manufactorums and cities to maximise victory points.  All economies seem to have peaked now, so with lots of resources to spend there is sure to be a lot of 40k action coming up!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Apocalypse at Warhammer World!

An hours drive up the M1 took the three of us to Warhammer World in Nottingham.  It had been decided that we should have an apocalyptic mega battle to help decide the outcome of the Holbronx campaign, with Perhow and TJ teaming up against my Imperial forces at 8000 points a side.  At such a high points value we needed a huge table, and we were lucky enough to get a place on the excellent J'migan Bridge themed table that measures a whopping 12 x 6 feet!  Warhammer World is undergoing some works at the moment but the staff are no less welcoming and the themed gaming tables are totally awesome.  A visit is most recommended!

Tracked happiness awaits the interpid adventurer

We played end to end, focussing on the bridge as the main objective with each end of the table having a 'home' objective in their own territory, giving six objectives in all with standard secondary objectives.  It took over an hour just to set up over 16000 points of 40k troops, but by lunch time we were in full swing.

The belligerents are poised, ready to seize J'migan bridge
Turn 1

The loyalists rolled to take the first turn and the xenos/chaos pact failed to seize the initiative.  At this point I remember thinking that the first turn advantage might be weak with 48" of no mans land to cover, my misgivings would later turn out to be true as I lost control of many objectives on the last turn... the benefit of hindsight!  The Imperials opened up with a massive artillery bombardment, stunning the traitor tanks that were poised to roll on to the bridge, while on the left flank the Crimson Fist scouts infiltrated across the river bed supported by a drop podding dreadnought they quickly saw off a large mob of cultists.  A second dreadnought scattered off the table to go into ongoing reserves.

In my back lines I spottted a squad of eldar infiltrators, and a space marine assault squad moved forward to interdict them supported by a 'rifleman' dreadnought.  The assault marines ended up successfully holding off the striking scorpions for the entire game, but their exarch managed to kill off the dreadnought by the third turn.  The problems presented by the sheer size of the table started to present themselves, because infantry without transports are very slow!  This really started to hit home later on when my transports started to dwindle thanks to xenos energy beams :(

On the right flank a large contingent of tactical marines mounted in rhinos surged forward with the intention of crossing the river bed.  Supported by devastators, PDF heavy weapons squads and several Leman Russ battle tanks I had high hopes of this flanking force crossing the river bed and securing the enemy side of the bridge head.  However as we shall see the chaos/xenos pact had other ideas!

Elements of the Atrean Star Knights along with the Crimson Fists defend the PDF artillery
The pact appeared to be having trouble on the left after the early successes of the scouts, on the right a large contingent of bikers, both Nurgle plague marines lead by their warlord and Dark Eldar jetbikers rushed forward to try and refuse my massed attack on the right, it soon started looking like a blood bath would ensue on the river bed.  Unbeknownst to me an eldar grav tank that joined the force was carrying a squad of Wraith Knights.  I hadn't encountered these alien constructs before but I can attest to their combat prowess after seeing them in action, and I advise that you do not let them anywhere near your space marines!  The rest of the pact's first turn was uneventful, with their movement on the road blocked by the Landraider that had been stunned by my long range artillery fire I allowed myself to believe that things were going okay.

Turn 2

My first act of the second turn was to use my Officer of the Fleet to use his logistical nous to get me a 2+ reserve roll.  Thanks to his skills, two of my Valkyries, an assault squad, a 10 man terninator squad with a captain and two dreadnoughts all showed up on time.  At this point I decided to concentrate a large force on the enemy home objective, with 11 terminators and two dreads landing nearby I was aiming to silence the enemy macro cannon and butcher the cowardly xenos within.  By turn 4 I would realise the hubris of investing nearly a 1000 points of my elites in such a venture... as they are not actually 'objective secured' the objective was eventually snatched by an eldar skimmer on the last turn and all was for nothing.  Well at least they looked pretty while they were achieving nothing!  The assault squad was tasked with deep striking behind the nurgle bikers and flaming them, but they scattered widely onto the opponents river bank and lobbed a grenade at an enemy tank, which missed.  Aside from the artillery crippling more of the traitor space marine tanks and thinning out the nurgle bikers, it was a desultory turn for the loyalists.

The xenos started to deep strike their skimmers into my rear lines, supporting the eldar striking scorpions already present.  This attack was to shift my attention away from the assault on the bridge which aided the pact hugely.  My devastators and PDF weapons teams who were meant to be covering the advance across the river bed were quickly cut down by deep striking warp spiders accompanied by the xenos warlord, a rather cocky autarch who would meet his comeuppance on the end a my captain's relic blade.  This would be scant compensation however for a series of events that resulted in three squads of tactical marines perishing over the following turns and me losing control of the right flank.

Deep striking xenos and traitor units wreck the imperial ambitions on the right flank.
To make matters worse, three squads of terminators materialised on the dried up river bed, they would be the anvil against which my marines would be smashed by the xenos hammer.

Turn 3

Recognising the threat from the deep striking xenos in the rear, Pedro Kantor signalled his honour guard forward along with 20 sternguard.  Low difficult terrain rolls for the sternguard left Kantor and his honour guard badly exposed, but I hoped to get Pedro into combat where he would be safer, only for him to take wounds from overwatch fire then fail his charge roll.  Things were getting a little frustrating now and I could feel victory slipping between my fingers.  I later found out that I had been making my difficult terrain rolls on 1 dice when it should be two and pick the highest! That's a real 'rules 101' mistake that may have helped my game quite a bit, oh well.

The terminators and dreadnoughts attacking the enemy macro cannon, a full 6 feet behind enemy lines, finally managed to silence the weapon and kill the eldar wracks hiding inside.  They moved onto the objective and took cover in the ruins.  Back in the imperial sector the valkyries strafed the dark eldar raiders with their twin linked lascannons but didn't manage to actually destroy anything.

The PDF armour, now somewhat beaten and battered, continued to advance onto the bridge.  The second remaining squad of Crimson Fist terminators teleported onto the mid section of the bridge, hoping to protect the PDF armour from assaults.  My only consolation from this turn was that I finally managed to kill the nurgle warlord on his bike with artillery fire, but the tide had already turned to a point where the traitor's combat prowess wasn't really needed.

The traitors, sensing victory, pushed forward onto the imperial river bank and the Heldrake washed the river bank with warp flame, killing more power armoured space marines.  Their xenos comrades continued to catch the space marines in a withering cross fire from behind, using their monofilament weapons, shurikens and d-weapons the river bank was reduced to a steaming abbatoir.  Pretty much the only warrior left standing was the enraged company captain, who accepted the challenge of the eldar autarch, the autarch flounced into combat muttering arrogant alien insults, while the captain remained taciturn and waited for his opening the eldar did some showboating with his blade.  When the captain had seen enough he hewed downward with a single brutal strike from his relic clade, a strike that even the agile eldar couldn't avoid.  Cut in two the alien flopped to the ground, the captain had avenged his murdered brothers, but he knew the battle was already lost.
Kantor is surrounded without the support of his brothers.

 A further two Leman Russ battle tanks went up in flames then to make matters worse an eldar Wraithknight appeared and efficiently vaporised the terminators on the bridge.  The spelled disaster for the imperial armour as they were unsupported by infantry and open to assault by the traitor terminators.

In the imperial sector the cackling xenos opened up on Pedro and his honour guard and they were cut down to a man, his sternguard moved forward to protect their chapter master's stricken form and teleport him to the medicae bays on the battle barge.

Things looked grimmer than ever for the Imperials!

Turn 4

We had just about enough time to play a 4th turn and from my point of view this turn would be about damage limitation.  I still had several thousand points worth of forces on the board but nothing that was within striking distance of the objectives.  I desperately shelled the enemy bridge head with everything I had, killing dozens of traitor space marines, but to no avail.  The survivors trudged on through the carnage to secure the bridge.  To add insult to injury a xenos fast skimmer moved back to secure the pact's home objective, making the efforts of the first company completely futile!  After some discussion we decided to end it there, a full 6 hours of gaming managed to get us four turns, but we had to stop there as warhammer world wanted to close.  A further turn may have seen me recover some of the bridge, but it would have required no small amount of luck on my part to prize those objectives back.  A solid win for the xenos and traitors.

Traitor/ xenos pact   18vp
PDF/Space marines   6vp

A win for the pact!  They get 3 vp's toward the campaign total, though how they are shared out remains to be seen, it was an uneasy alliance at best!  


Playing such a huge game was great fun and a memorable experience, though it made me realise that there is a limit to how much one can remember when responsible for moving and shooting 8000 points worth of miniatures.  I think next time at this amount of points I might recruit a leuitenant or two to get on with the minor stuff while I take the command throne and concentrate on the big picture.  It was really challenging coming up against two experienced 40k players in TJ and Howard and unlike in smaller games where you can feel unlucky over a dice roll or two, in a game this size everything averages out and I can say that I was definitely outplayed through the superior sneaky tactics of my opponents. Well done to Perhow and TJ, top game lads.

We had a '3 colours' painted rule for this game and everything looked spot on when set up on the table, I even got to dig out some of my old rogue trader beakies, (who incidentally showed Pedro's lads how it was done) it was really cool to see all that painted 40k stuff on the table together, it isn't often we get to use all our toys at once is it?