Thursday 8 February 2018

Budget jungle trees

I'm currently  on a mission to create a tabletop's worth of jungle terrain and the first installment is a small forest of slightly alien looking trees. Back in the nineties i had a disperate collection of home made flora for my battlefields inspired largely by Rogue Trader and 2nd edition 40k, and I hope to recapture the feel from those days.

The basis for the trees was a mixture of electrical core wire and florists wire which was either scavenged from the garage or available from.... You guessed it the florists (or hobbycraft,llll they stock it too). The wire was twisted up into armatures and hot glued onto the bases. In my case the bases were 3mm sign board as I find that it has a good tendency not to warp and it keeps glue and paint.

The wire armatures were wrapped in masking tape then coated with a textured paint made up from pva glue, fine sand and brown acrylic paint. Once they were dry i had the basic tree which is good enough to game with if you prefer the blasted and lifeless look which seems to be in vogue these days. However, being of a naturalistic ilk (BSc honours Zoology thankyou very much) then i want plenty of excuse for xeno fauna on my tabletop, and that means greenery, or primary producers if i'm going to get all scientific on you. (Actually you could argue for any colour of flora pigment, it depends on local conditions and the evolution on your chosen planet as well as things such as the type of light the local star throws out, but i'm going to be conservative here and opt for good old chlorophyll. But kudos to anyone who makes a purple or orange jungle. It wpuld look awesome.)

The green parts of the trees are green scouring pads hot glued onto your trees then coated in a green flock of your choosing. Being budget minded on this project i opted for several jars of chopped parsely from Asda. This is glued on to the scourers and when dry add more watered down pva to reinforce the whole thing otherwise it will be snowing parsley every time you game.

Voila, a small forest of faintly xenoid looking macro flora for the cost of a macdonalds.

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!