Thursday, May 31, 2012

Building an Urban Base Part 2

I didn't get an awful lot done on the base today, mostly due to the long drying time of pva glue, but it is slowly moving forwards.

I had left some sand and a few prop pieces in pva glue overnight. Today I 'dressed the set' a little more.

I'm going for a sort of 'striding through the ruins of a burnt out building' scene. All that's left of the building's frame are the two back corners. There are a few floor panels still visible, lots of chopped up sprues and a few spare girders and so on from Cities of Death kits. I have also used a fair bit of greenstuff as this gives a nice sort of frame to stick other pieces in to. So there's a bit of barbed wire, some chopped up guitar wires,a couple of resin basing accessories and then yet more PVA and sand on top.

I've also laid on a fair amount of extra pva and white paint and the sides, edges and a little bit of the bottom surface. This is because my biggest worry at this stage is that the while thing melts down when I spray it all with primer. When I did a two foot square display last year, I basecoated the while thing by hand with a mix of paint, grit,polyfilla, and cheap acrylic paint before spraying. Hopefully I've done enough this time too.

We'll find out tomorrow, I guess :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Building an Urban Display Base

There was a time when I thought I wanted a Grey Knights army. I kind of liked the idea of an Inquisitor-led group, rolling up heretics and xenos, then going home to toast the Emperor. Or whatever an Inquisitor army would do after a good fight. I went as far as getting a Gideon Lorr model from ebay (a £10 bargain!) and a couple of assassins, but never got round to painting them. The only models for the army I have gotten round to painting are these Terminators.

(Picture forthcoming)

Most of the time they just sit on a shelf, all lonely because noone wants to play with them. And most of the time I can't be bothered with entering my local GW's painting competition. But this month the theme is 'an infantry unit' and there may be some other good competitors so, time for these boys to see fresh air!

I am fairly happy with the paint on these models overall, but I particularly like the urban-style bases I did. I'm really proud of the salt-technique painting I did on the sergeant's base to give the impression of a shattered piece of roadway. Frankly, bases are normally my weakest area when it comes to models. Maybe I get bored easily, maybe I lack imagination, maybe I just don't see that many inspiring bases at all (not that they're not out there, just that they're not around here). But usually my basing doesn't go very far beyond sticking a bit of flock or some slate down.

I made an effort with these guys though and I figure I really don't want to lost the competition because even though my soldiers are the best painted, they lose because some other yahoo comes along with his massively over-worked base and wins because everyone goes 'oh, that's so cool', and votes for it even though most of the entry isn't even a GW product....

Didn't there used to be a rule about percentages of a submission being GW stuff?
 Well, not this time, buddy!

So, here's the start of my new project: Urban Display Base.

I'm starting out with a small piece of polystyrene foam, an offcut from another project. I have coated it with a layer of water-thinned PVA glue. This should help seal the base and make spray-paint-related melting incidents less likely further down the line. I've also started building a small collection of urban-themed scenery pieces to add on and will start sticking them on tomorrow.

Stay tuned for more urban goodness!

Monday, May 28, 2012

These boots are made for hiking

Well, the latest GW price sheets are out and there are some corkers on the spreadsheets. A lot of the rises are what one might refer to as incremental. Some would even say reasonable. But check out the hikes on Razorbacks and the Space Marine Battleforce and tell me that's not GW milking the old cash cow a little too much...

Any way, all this makes me very glad I bought a Cryx army from Privater Press last night. I've no idea if half the units are any good, but the worst case scenario is I end up ebaying the surplus units once I get to grips with the game.

I also enlisted as a supporter of Studio McVey's Kickstarter campaign and bought a copy of Sedition Wars. Well, I will have bought a copy whenever they actually cast and box the thing. (Still not happy about paying a UK studio to ship me a game from the States though...)

I did, however, decide against the Mantic Kickstarter though. As much as I want to support UK studios, and promote diversity in the industry in general, I really am unlikely to ever play the game or paint all the miniatures they would send me. Plus there's my experience at Salute, where people where happy to push me towards the sales stand, but not exactly champing at the bit to show me how to actually play the game.

There's one other thing about Mantic that worries me too. For all their talk about innovation, my read of the rules for Warpath, Mantic's sci-fi game, is that it's basically a simple version of 5th edition 40k. Same turn sequence, same rolls to hit and wound. The only difference seemed to be the absence of armour saves. The factions in both Warpath and Kings of War are recycled from GW's games too. So... is Mantic's mission statement basically to make the same games as GW - only cheaper?

Given the massive market share GW has, it's perhaps not the worst business model. It's just not - inspiring. Plus given that 6th edition 40k is just around the corner, isn't Mantic at risk of looking even less inventive and agile, selling a copy of an old game the market leader doesn't even make any more? But then again, Warpath isn't even officially released yet so perhaps the finished product really will be an innovative and novel take on tabletop sci-fi.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kickstarter Goodness

I tend not to follow fashions too closely these days. With two kids and a house to manage, it's hard to do so. So Kickstarter, while being something I have heard of, isn't a site I've really looked at. Until the following offerings came up.

First off is Mantic's Kickstarter. Is a fairly general one. They wanted $5000 to help develop the business and bring forward the development of their fantasy armies. That goal was reached in hours and they are now updating the page with stretch goals and further bonus offers for supporters. I almost went for it, but fantasy just isn't my thing. I'd love to support the studio, but I know us never get round to painting all those minis, let alone play with them. If you are thinking if starting playing a fantasy battles game, this is an excellent place to start.

If only there was a sci-fi offering..

So here is Studio McVey and their Sedition Wars Kickstarter. These gutta Hebrew been petting it some gorgeous miniatures for a few years now, and more recently models for their Alabaster universe. Time had come to release the game but they needed a little help to do so. Their goal, like Mantic's, was reached within hours of opening the fund and the McVey's are also now trying to come up with better and better stretch goals.

Their $100 pledge deal is a great one  - the game,a signed art print, limited edition alternate sculpt mini, and a patch. For some reason you only get free postage in the US though - a little galling for UK supporters of a UK studio.

Kickstarter is such a great place for small startups like this. They already have a fairly well established fanbase, built up in the usual ways. For these guys, launching a new product our development line, funded directly by their customers must be so great, compared to the stresses and strains associated with raising funds, say, through a bank or private investor.

I wish both funds luck. I just have to figure out how I will explain to my wife I bought a new Cryx army and a copy of Sedition Wars in the same weekend...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Moving to Privateer Press?

I've been talking about it for a long time, but this might be when I finally jump on to the PP bandwagon (or us it a ship?).

It's coming up to that time of the year when Games Workshop bumps up all it's prices and, if the figures that have been published for American sets are to be believed, this year is going to be a whopper.

I'm not even going to bother trying to understand why they do it. I know it's about making profit and the final prices are decided on by people far removed from the actual costumers. But it's just getting ridiculous.

A couple of years ago, when I walked back into a GW for the first time in twenty years, a boxed starter set cost £50. Now some of them cost £65. It is likely then that these same boxes well cost over £70 in a month's time. Warhammer is now approaching absolutely laughable, insane, prices for a hobby product intended for a mass market.

There is a tipping point for the price if these models, after which, it is no longer sensible to buy them. The value-added which GW beings to it's products - the great background lore, the supplementary products (books and CD's), it's retail network and associated gaming clubs, will just be outweighed by the fact noone can say with a straight face they paid nearly a hundred pounds for twenty models and a vehicle and then another twenty for a crappy finecost commander, and forty more for the rulebook.

I think we are there, or thereabouts. The competition is circling, waiting to snap up all the customers. I bet they can't believe how easy GW is making it.

On that note, PP is doing a 'summer sale' thing. Importantly for EU customers, there is free worldwide shipping on Warmachine and Hordes starter sets (if you live in Essex, it's still slightly cheaper to collect it from Wayland Games though). They are also doing army bundles for around £75. Each one is, the site says, 25 points and you get a rulebook too. I did a quick comparison of the contents of the Cryx and Retribution sets and their prices at Wayland and it looks like you basically get the rulebook for free - a saving of around £20.

So, my only real dilemma is which to go for -Cryx or the Retribution?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Review: Forge World's 'Imperial Armour Model Masterclass Volume Two'

I have been waiting a long time in eager anticipation for the second in Forge World's painting and modeling books -  the expansively titled 'Imperial Armour Model Masterclass Volume Two'. I even got to Salute a couple of weeks ago, expressly to have a chance of picking up a copy at the FW stand. Sadly I was still too late on the day but FW were happy to let me order a copy for home delivery :) Cue another week and a half of waiting - and it has arrived!

I loved the first volume and have used or adapted several of the techniques described therein on my models (I even got the wife to help build and paint a Baneblade with me, using the techniques FW described). I'm a big fan of learning new stuff and expanding my repertoire and the book certainly had lots of new challenges and things to try. But would the second volume in the series be as eye-opening? Would I be as inspired to hook up the airbrush and dig out the oil paints and varnishes? Most importantly, how expensive would the new toys I would feel obliged to buy be?

The answers to those questions are, it turns out, 'kind of', 'a little', and 'probably not much'.

Its not that Vol.2 is bad by any means. It contains lots of well shot photo's of gorgeously painted miniatures. There are quite a few different models shown as well. The problem really is that it doesn't feel like this book really develops the hobby. It doesn't add as much to the world of painting 40k miniatures as Vol.1 did. Many of the techniques described in Vol.2's guides have already been described in Vol.1. If you already know how to use layers of varnishes, apply decal, sponge on weathering,  you may not learn much more here.

You may think that the chance to learn the colours used in painting some of the gorgeous FW models you've seen at shows or on the web is good enough reason to buy this book. Which brings me to second, and probably biggest, problem with Masterclass 2: it uses the old Citadel paint range. You would have to be either very lucky or strangely prescient to still have a stock of Bleached Bone, Scorched Brown, Khemri Brown, or Mechrite Red, but these and many others are used in the painting guides.

This leaves painters hoping to replicate the schemes presented therein with a dilemma - do you attempt to map those mentioned colours over to the new ones GW describes as their replacements, bearing in mind the new colours are not identical to the old ones and are in some cases, I am told, quite different? Or do you just go with Vallejo's Game Colour range, in which case you can get more or less identical shades with purposefully similar names, albeit possibly of a slightly lesser quality than the original? Given that if I were to follow FW's guides to the letter I would already be buying several Vallejo paints (as FW don't seem too squeamish about mentioning they use colours and products GW don't do), add the fact I hate and fear change and, well, the choice is clear for me.

That said, the guides are nicely laid out and photographed, if a little casual in their descriptions. At times this can be a little silly. In the guide to painting a Reaver Titan there are some lovely pictures of the upper surface of the carapace. This is a gorgeously marbled piece and FW suggests you achieve this effect by airbrushing paint 'in subtle marbled patterns'. But this is a 'Masterclass' book - you are supposed to have some experience/ability/brains before buying it and more often than not the pictures and descriptions are detailed and good enough to enable you to do something quite cool with your next big project.

The question then is, 'if I already have Masterclass Vol.1, do I need Vol.2?'. My suggestion would be this: if you are alread au fait with the techiques described in Vol.1, you probably don't need this book. That is, unless the list of models shown contains some you really like the sound of.

 If you don't have Vol.1 but are interested in discovering and trying some new painting and modeling techniques, I would suggest checking the list of contents of each book, then buying the one with the most interesting models to you in it. That is to say, if you just buy Vol.2 but not Vol.1, you won't be missing out on any secrets of the Universe guaranteed to win you power, money, and Golden Demons.

Be aware though, not all painting guides are created the same. The guide to the Brass Scorpion in Vol.2 is quite detailed and has lots of cool stuff to try out. The Phantom titan bust 'gallery' by contrast, is only a couple of pages long, the largest part of which is big big pictures. If you buy this book hoping to revolutionise your Eldar painting, you may be disappointed.

I was also a little disappointed by the choice of what models went into this book too. The weakness of Vol.1, I felt, was it was fairly traditional tank-heavy. Lots of muddy and rusty Imperial and Chaos cans that is, not so much Xenos stuff. I hoped Vol.2 would therefore switch the focus from the lumbering human technology and show us some tips and tricks for painting Eldar, Tau, and even 'nid models. But, apart from the aforementioned Phantom gallery and a few shots of the Mymeara models, there are next to no xenos in the book.

Essentially the, Vol.2 is 'more of the same'. None of the content is bad, much of it very very good and well presented. But it is also very very similar to Vol.1, uses paints that aren't being made any more, and may not feature models or races you are interested in buying or playing. Not a horrible product at all, but a missed opportunity to develop a brand and a series into new directions.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Just a few minutes to spare while some paint dries to put out a couple of
thoughts on the recent Salute show at the Excel.

I went with an open mind. I went with an open wallet. I went, increasingly
disillusioned and frankly bored with GW games and products, with an eye to
discovering some new games to play and models to buy. Wayland Games
will be opening their new warehouse and gaming centre near me quite soon
so I thought I might get a headstart on collecting a new system.

Over an afternoon of trailing around the Excel, talking to players and reps,
and reading rules and demoing games, a couple of big differences became
apparent between Games Workshop and the competition.

When it comes to low barriers to entry, pretty much every major alternative to
GW games are streets ahead. Warmachines and Hordes, Infinity and
Mantic's offerings all offer free rule sets and cheap miniatures. It can't have
escaped anyone's notice Mantic are practically trying to give their mini's
away - barely a week passes without some mega-bundle deal arriving in my
Inbox, imploring me to buy a thousand Warpath mini's for £10.50 (or a
figuratively similar price). These boxes all come with free rules and there
were indeed several bundle deals at Salute giving free leader blisters, bags,
and the like with purchases of new armies. Warmahordes also come with the
stat cards you need to field the models and free rules are readily available to
download. Infinity has slightly more complex rules, meaning a rulebook
seems a must, but, like Privateer's games, you need very few miniatures to
start playing the game. Compare these startup costs with 40k or WFB,
where you are likely to have to spend around £100 just to get started, then
another £100 to get competitive, on models that aren't cheap to begin with
and increase in price with chilling regularity.

But, and this is important, GW is in turn streets ahead of all its competitors in
a key area - sales training.

Take my experience at the Privateer Press stand for starters.

I turned up, nice and early in the day, big smile on my face and asked a member of the
'street team' for a demo of Warmachine. 'Ah,' he said, 'can I show you
Hordes instead - its pretty much the same as Warmachine?'. Not a great
start, not showing the customer the product he has asked for, but I was in a
cooperative mood so I said 'OK' and off we went. Twenty or so minutes later we wrapped things up and I told my guide and another member of the team that had wandered over to help explain some
rules that I would really like to play the Retribution of Scyrah but didn't know
what models I should buy as there was no starter set for that faction.
'Hmmm,' they said, 'there is a recommended starter list though.'. When it
became apparent they weren't going to tell me what it was, I asked them for
some names and they rattled off half a dozen. I figured I could memorize
the list as it seemed to be largely the names of significant monsters from
Greek mythology. Then there was another awkward silence which I broke by
walking away to look for some of these beasties on the display racks along
the back wall of the stand. It turned out they didn't have most of the names I
was looking for in stock (perhaps explaining the crew's reluctance to help me
find them). They didn't have them at Wayland's stand either, although at least
the store staff there were friendly and helpfully suggested popping in to the
warehouse after the show wrapped up.

Turns out PP were actually the best customer experience I had that day. At
the Infinity table I got a game with a very friendly guy who unfortunately was
new to the system and didn't know all the rules. At the Mantic area I watched
a game of Warpath for a bit before asking one of the company reps if I
could look at the rules on the table in front of her. She said 'yes', then walked
away. Well, if you're not that interested in potential customers, I'm not that
interested in playing your game.

Its a shame really. I get why it happens - noone in the industry does retail
except GW so there's not an abundance of sales staff working for anyone
else. But seriously, why go to the trouble and expense of setting up stands
at the biggest sales opportunity in the UK and man them with people who
don't know the games, don't have an interest in bringing in new players, and
can't be bothered to even deal with people who come and ask them
questions? The marketing managers who come set these things up should
be just a little bit ashamed that the people they put in place were so
unprepared or unable to do the job they needed too. The creatives who work so hard and do such a good job at making entertaining games with gorgeous miniatures should be quite angry they are not being marketed in any way close to effectively.

So, I came away empty handed. The games I wanted to play didn't want me.
The mini's I wanted to buy weren't for sale. And so I shall probably end up
just pumping more money into GW - a company that scorns me, but still
works hard to pull me ever closer (yeah, I'm aware thats pretty close to
definitions of abusive relationships or, perhaps more aptly, those between
crack addicts and their dealers). They want to rip me off, but at least they
want me.