Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eldar Corsairs

I have been posting a lot of photos and text about my Corsair flyers. The sad truth of it though, is that you have to field at least one unit of Corsairs in a legal army. Sad because I hate painting Eldar.

Not their tanks or planes. Just the little individual models. Maybe its the quality of sculpts (unlikely), amaybe its a weakness in my painting skills (most probable). But while I can paint Terminators and Space Marines till the cows come home, Eldar armour is a pain the bum. But still, needs must...

So here are my pretty much finished Sun Blitz Brotherhood Eldar Corsairs. They're not much to look at - I have had to adopt a 'tabletop standard' philosophy towards them in order to just get them done so I can move onto something more fun again.
I hope they're more fun to play than they were to paint
 Its probably worth saying a few things about the Forge World Eldar Corsairs upgrade kit though.

For your money, you get 10 Corsair las-blasters, 10 Corsair heads, 10 Corsair backpacks, and 20 Corsair vanes to stick on them. For the Felarch you have the option of a shuriken pistol or fusion pistol to complement his power sword.

How the parts come in the bag
The las-blasters will require their handles to be chopped off for you to add them to the arms that come with the Guardians box ( from which you will of course need to remove the shuriken guns). The backpacks stick straight onto the Guardian bodies and the vanes are somewhat poseable, having ball and socket joints to fit into.

Orientation of the backpack and vanes
The vanes are the most distinctive parts of the kit and are what will really draw people's attention when you field the models. The helmets and las-blasters though are both nice sculpts though and do a nice job of differentiating these wayward space elves from their worldship-bound cousins.

Some nice options for the Felarch
 Apart from the modification necessary to use the guns, the kit is very easy to use and put together. Some of the guns and vanes in my kit were a little bent but they are so thin they could be reset with hot tap water. No miscasts or bubbles that I could see.

Are they worth the money though? Well, its horses for courses, really, isn't it? You could get away with painting up some standard Guardians in your Corsair fleet of choice's colours, I'm sure. But, if you really want your pirates to be clearly different, this kit is great, particularly if you are planning on fielding them alongside Codex Eldar. Its not cheap, but nothing Forge World is. I would have preferred the guns to have come without handles to eliminate one stage of the upgrade process, but its not a deal breaker by any means. Generally 'ok' for value then.

I did, however, draw the line at the special weapons kit Forge World offer. You get one of each type of heavy weapon Corsairs can carry but for me, this would just leave two weapons on the sprue, never to be used. If the kit came with two of each type and didn't cost £4 per weapon I might have sprung for it. As it was, I decided to kit-bash a missile launcher and shuriken cannon. Each weapon consists of four or more pieces stuck together and are reasonable, if slightly oversized, simulacrums of the 'official' parts. And a lot better value for money.

Just the bases and a power sword to do then, and I can get on with painting something a bit more fun :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eldar Corsairs Nightwing Gallery

I think I've got my Sun Blitz Nightwing where I want it. I used some mixed herbs to add some leaf litter around the base and finished off the cockpit canopy and engine blocks this morning. I wonder if Battlefoam do a tray that will fit it alongside my Phoenix....

I buffed the varnish a little, but its barely noticeable

Looks pretty mean from this angle :)

Side view

Top view

This is what happens if you use a rush tip to move the water effects around

Mixed herbs make pretty good and easy to apply leaf litter

Friday, July 27, 2012

Finishing Touches - Eldar Sun Blitz Phoenix

Its been a busy few days, what with having two kids to wrangle and all, but I've nearly finished the paint job on my Phoenix.

Basic colours
Having finished the main body, hihlighted the edges with Bubonic Brown and a tiny edge of Sunburst Yellow, I did a pretty basic job on the pilots and glued on the canopy. Most of the gems are blue as a contrast to the flaming yellow of the fuselage, with just a couple of orange ones for variety.

With added highlights

Something was missing though. My Nightwing fighter has a nice Sun Blitz crescent (not a spiral, as I had previously erroneously described it) but it was not so easy to get this painted onto the bomber.

I tried the liquid mask method I used on the fighter, but it just didn't look as cool as I wanted it to when I pulled off the frisk. Actually it looked awful. So bad I had to respray the whole thing :(

The problem is the shape of the plane. It doesn't have a lot of large flat areas for painting such details on. It has a tiny strip of wing on each side, connected to the jet sections by a very thin strip, then the dorsal surface is, well cluttered and there are the two fins to get in the way too. I just couldn't see a way to paint on the crescent, or even crescents, without it just looking like a weird red stripe.

So, a couple of nights to think it over were necessary.

I had my eureka moment this morning. I had thought I was going to go with a sort of sunrayish motif, using the two panel/instrument pods as the centres. Their location was still a little problematic though and I couldn't figure out how to do it, using a freehand brush, and get the lines to look straight over a curved surface. I was dreading putting the brush down to find I had just painted, again, some weird stripes.

But then it hit me - the Phoenix! It is, of course, a legendary bird of flame, not just a pretty word the Eldar (the Imperium?) used to denote this flying beast. So, perhaps I could freehand a flame motif on the wing.

A quick bit of research (google) gave me this image:

I also found some other, less savoury pictures
I then practiced drawing those organic, naturally curving and authentic flames/feathers in a notebook (another good tip for freehand painting - practice it with a pencil first) before committing paint to model.

Too much?
 I used thinned Mechrite Red, followed up by a thin layer of Blood Red. Then I went too far, trying to add realistic flame effects, with lines of Gold Yellow, Blazing Orange, and Sunburst Yellow. In the flesh, as it were, the flames looked ok. Only ok. Part of the problem was I'm not very good, that is, haven't practised, at drawing flames. The other part was the yellows and orange were too close to the plane's base colour, giving a sort of diluted effect to what is supposed to be a strong contrast colour.

Not a complete disaster though as I was able to paint back over the flames with Mechrite and Blood Reds. I then added a thin highlight or Blazing Orange and thin shade line of Dark Flesh to each flame. It looks pretty good, albeit not as smooth a finish as it should be. 

I will probably add some more layers of Purity Seal on top and may even polish this, so I don't think the unevenness of the paint will be too apparent in the end. I will also do some better quality shots too as the paint job is, in places, better than these pictures show.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: 'Fear to Tread' by James Swallow

Another great positive from going to GW events is the chance to pick up pre-release copies of Black Library titles. The period of the pre-release varies and, most of the time, I'm happy enough to wait until the titles are on Amazon, thus being able to afford almost twice as many books.

But I'm fairly addicted to the Horus Heresy series, particularly when a title features a chapter I collect and play with. So 'Fear to Tread' was a must-buy for me.

I finished it this afternoon and I can happily say its quite good. Not amazing, but a decent read overall.

For my money, Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett are the kings of the Heresy titles. Noone else seems to elevate their style and standard of writing quite so effortlessly when tackling the grand themes and great icons of the 30th millenium. But James Swallow comes close.

'Fear to Tread' is a Blood Angels novel as much as a HH title. It deals with a central theme of the army's codex and history - the Red Thirst/Black Rage, also sometimes known as 'the flaw'. A couple of brief flashbacks provide the setting - Horus is aware of the flaw, while few Blood Angels other than Sanguinius's inner circle are, and uses this knowledge to set a trap for the Angel and his sons. Part of this trap involves exposing the genetic weakness in the bloodiest of marines and using to destroy the chapter, or the Primarch, or perhaps both. Also lots of daemons. Gunplay ensues.

This is probably the maddest title in the series so far too. Glimpses of the real horror of the warp have been seen in 'Fulgrim' and 'The Mirror Crack'd', but 'Fear to Tread' leaves the reader in no doubt - allying with the warp is not just an alternate lifestyle choice for disaffected Astartes, its a deal with devils, with the emphasis on 'evil'. There's some pretty gruesome stuff in this book.

Sorry if this is a spoiler (it really shouldn't be), but Sanguinius at least does survive the trap set for him. But not without he and his chapter making some hard choices and some major sacrifices. While possibly beginning to answer one of the big questions that hangs over the Heresy series (clue: how does Nikaea tally with what we know of the 40k universe?), the end of 'Fear to Tread' leaves the reader desperate to know what happens next.

Some parts of the book did seem to drag a little bit - notably some of the exposition feels a little stilted and forced. But the action is well written and generally well paced.  There are a few incidental characters who don't seem to serve any real purpose, but then this occurs in quite a few HH books. Maybe the reasons for these characters inclusion will become clearer in future titles.

For fans of the Blood Angels then, this book is required reading. An unparallelled insight into the Primarch and the roots of the chapter we know and love today.

Its possibly less essential for general followers of the Heresy. I don't think there's much there that is truly pivotal in how the war turns out, although its quite revealing as to how Horus and Sanguinius feel about each other and does set the scene for that battle barge showdown nicely.

Next up on the pre-release pile: 'Path of the Outcast' by Gav Thorpe :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Eldar Phoenix Bomber Paint Job - Now with Greyscale!

Finished greenstuffing all the gaps and holes in the bomber this morning. One of the tips I picked up at the GW open day was using the back of a knife to smooth down GS surfaces once they've dried for at least a day. Using this, I've done a passable job on all the surfaces and its time to paint.

I decided to use a greyscale base on the plane, so as to help with shading and highlighting later on. The idea of pre-shading and -highlighting is to apply a multi-tonal base. When you spray thin coats of other colours on top of this, the difference between the dark and light areas shows through.

First then, I sprayed the whole thing black.

Nothing special here, just some black primer.

Then I carefully sprayed a layer of Codex Grey. I took care to avoid the base of the slopes, and where pieces were joined together.

Then a layer of Fortress Grey. This was lighter than the previous one and I took care to put more on the edges of the wings and fuselage and raised areas, such as over the jet intakes.

Now its time for some colour. First a layer of Mechrite Red. This goes on fairly evenly - I'm counting on the greyscale to add depth and definition.

And (almost finally) some Blood Red. As with the greys, I emphasised the edges of surfaces and raised areas.

Thats it for the base colours. Now I need to use some liquid mask to mark out the spirals and probably to protect some of the gems and other details too. This is because this red recipe is really strongly pigmented and painting over it can be a right job to do. For example, painting the gold bits on my Blood Angels sometimes requires a layer of flat brown before the gold paints as the red just shines through otherwise. I want to do some blue gems and the detailing will likely be in gold too, so there's some work to do this evening...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Forge World Void Dragon Phoenix - How Not to Build a Model

This week I got to move to the next phase of my planned domination of the skies by the Space Elves - the Phoenix Bomber.

I was at Warhammer World last weekend, up at the tills, trying to decide which of the two Phoenix models to get. They cost the same. But there is the vanilla version and the Void Dragon edition. In theory, the latter is a special reworking of the original, with a few extra details and female pilots. I believe the supplied weapons vary too. I was a little concerned there might some blatant Dragon motifs on the thing, making it a little uncool for my Sun Blitz Brotherhood detachment. Turns out that stuff doesn't matter - the model is absolute crap any way.

It started off well. Here's a picture of what you get in the box/bag:

At this stage, the model is awesome
The most striking feature of the set is the flyer is pretty much a solid single cast. Its a hefty beast, and you just have to stick on the engine nozzles, two sets of fins, and the cockpit surrounds. All good, yes? No.

For a start, the main body is attached to a a chuck of resin by three solid pylons of material and a substantial amount of flash. Cutting through the flash ought to be simple enough. Except for when you have to get through a pretty solid chucnk of it first, causing your blade to then suddenly run through the inexplicably thin and cuttable wing section. Leaving you with this:

OK, maybe I'm just not a good modeler
Great! A chance to put the greenstuff techniques I learned at the Open Day to use! Grrr... This one I was prepared to put down to poor technique on my behalf when cutting. Lesson learned, I said, move on to the next bit and we'll fix that one later. Its hardly noticeable....

Then I got to grips with the dorsal fins. As far as I can tell, the Void Dragon versions have cutouts, making them more, I dunno, spacey or something. Problem is, they too are attached to a big lump of resin.

Starting to think I'm not the problem
Yeah, thats the upper surface the resin is attached to too. Not the bottom surface you glue to another surface, you know, like a surface you can't see. No, its the top surface. Good luck getting that lump off without ending up with something like this:

That is not my fault
Maybe expert modelers know some foolproof way to deal with issues like that. I would have gone with not casting it that way round to start with, but hey, what do I know. That I need to do more greenstuffing, thats what.

Well, I thought, at least the cockpit canopies look pretty simple. I'll just stick those down, paint them, then add the clear plastic after. Piece of cake. Except....

I knew Eldar were supposed to be tall, but...
Thats right - the pilots are too tall for the cockpits. You can get the canopy surrounds glued on ok (as long as you're prepared to spend a good bit of time figuring out which bits are excess resin and which bits are supposed to look that way, then cutting and filing to make them all sit nicely against each other), but it is then physically impossible to get the clear plastic tops on because the bloody heads are too high.

At this point I realised that my clumsy fingers and lack of experience weren't the problem. Its the actual model itself. And don't even try to tell me Forge World is for experienced modelers and will require some finishing work. I can handle filing don the broken surfaces that are on every single piece of this kit. I can reshape bits with warm water. I can fill bubbles with glue or greenstuff. All that is doable. But come on - at least sculpt pilots that are the right size for the bloody model!

After all that hassle then,  I am left with the choice tonight of waiting till Monday morning to ring FW and ask them 'are all the models this crap, or did I just get really unlucky?' or chopping the heads off the pilots, gluing on the plastics, and then just painting over it all.

I am, shall we say, a little disappointed.

And the bloody weapon pods broke off when I tried to glue the canopies on
Maybe the vanilla Phoenix is great. Maybe I got a bad cast. I don't know. For £67 though, it ought to fit.

OK, rant over. I've spent some time this evening with warm water and lots of greenstuff. Tomorrow I should be able to post some pics of the almost good version of it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Games Workshop Studio Open Day

It was a bit of an odyssey getting there, but yesterday was the GW Studio Open Day. Well, it was initally advertised as such, but at some point that got changed to Warhammer 40,000 Open Day. Still, a good time was had by most.

Having arrived ridiculously early, I found this in the car park:

Naff colour scheme
Apparently the thing is street legal but is immobilized while on display. Yeah, I tweeted a bad joke about rolling a one. Anyway, if you plan on stealing it, bring your own battery.

The doors rolled open on time, at 10am, and in we all trooped.

The whole gaming hall of Warhammer World (or are we supposed to call it GW:HQ now?) had been put to use, with a fenced enclosure full of display cabinets, demo game tables, and, most importantly, Design Studio staff waiting to answer questions and tell us how they make the magic happen. Wait, wrong company? Well, tell us how they do that voodoo dey do do. Or something.

This was a great opportunity to learn from the masters, as it were, and I got a great little tutorial from Edgar Ramos on sculpting cloaks. There was a genuine 'Eureka!' moment, where I realised the trick, that little simple piece of magic that makes these things work, as well as a great look at how a master works, tips on tools to buy, and he even wrote down the name of a good book for further reading. Thanks, Edgar!

Nerds ahoy!
As well as hands on demos, there were also a lot scheduled demos and seminars. These were ticket only events - one had to choose which ones to attend before entering the hall - but, really, once you were in a seminar room the policy is pretty easy going. Its quite possible to stay in the same seat all day and just enjoy talk after talk.

So, what did I see and what did I learn?

First up was a talk on the latest edition of 40k, with Jervis Johnson, Matt Ward, and Jeremy Vettock. Matt was there to talk rules, Jeremy because he was in charge of background, and Jervis because, well, he's Jervis Johnson, man!

We started with some pre-written questions, supposedly based on FAQ's from the community. To be fair, some of these were fairly pointed - why have you added Allies and Fortifications to the rules, for example. The real answer is, of course, because we are a miniatures company that wants to sell more miniatures so we have broadened the amount of stuff you can play in your armies hoping you will therefore buy more of it. Questions such as this were met with fairly professional PR-style answers though - '40k fiction has often featured great alliances but the game has not. We wanted to bring that back to the game and also we want you to be able to play with a cool model if you see it and like it'. Both answers are true of course.

A couple of other titbits - Jervis said 'fantastic new buildings models coming into the range', in reference to the fortifications question. So yes, new buildings are on the way.

Matt Ward said random charge were in the game now as a response to the new wound allocation system. As you lose the closest models during shooting/overwatch, the designers wanted you to still have the chance of pulling off a charge afterwards.

He also said challenges in combat were designed to redress issues typified by the marine sergeant. If he has a power fist, he is essentially a 10-wound model who tends to hide at the back of the combat until the last second when he steps forward and wipes out the enemy squad. Alternately, if he is a Devastator sergeant, he dies first. With challenges, the idea is  you might have one model holding off a particularly powerful enemy, such as a daemon prince, until his squad could finish off the rest and come to his aid. 

The issue of not being able to charge after arriving from reserves was also tackled. The guys said they wanted to remove 'mugging' from the game. The idea of players being able to pull off some hammer-smash, wipeout manouevre, without their opponent being able to react or resist in any way, was unpopular with the designers. Genestealers outflanking and then assaulting you to death was mentioned (although Jervis pointed out to Matt Ward that could still happen) but, more specifically, Vanguard Veterans and Heroic Intervention was singled out as a tactic that will be removed from the game in future.

Jervis also said future codexes will rely less on codex-specific special rules and abilities and more on the core rulebook's USRs. The idea is that by making the core rules more robust, there will be less possibilities of imbalance in future releases. I'm not sure how well this sits with Matt Ward, being infamous as he is for writing codexes with game-shattering rules within. But apparently thats the way we're going.

After that talk I got to go to a sculpting demo with Martin Footit (very good), one on painting Space Marine chapter markings on shoulder pads with Simon Adams (not so good), and a further demo of painting and weathering an Ork Bomma with Stuart Williamson of Forge World (very very good). 

After that it was pretty much time to go. Despite taking place in a fairly small venue, its still a lot to take in and can be quite tiring. 

Its a bomma! Its a bomma, yeah, yeah, yeah!

It is still very inspiring though. Seeing dozens of fellow hobbyists, meeting and watching some of the best painters and modelers in the world and hearing from some of the creators who made all this stuff happened in the first place is very inspiring. These events make me believe in 40k and want to build my own little part of its universe. 

GW does well to put these kind of events together. Frankly, it makes you forget all the awful marketing decisions, all the price rises, and the insulting memos from senior staff and just love the hobby. It could be better though.

Apart from Jervis, none of the GW staff seemed comfortable with or happy to be talking to the public. In the first talk, for example, all three speakers made a big deal out of not wanting to handle the microphone or handle the questions being asked. This is a big deal - why have a public-facing, PR event like this if you are going to put people in front of the public who make it clear they don't want to be there? 

Building this is easy. Talking to people about it, however...

Its a shame in two ways. Firstly, for the guys giving the talks/demonstrations. These guys could be, should be, like rock stars. You're in a room with a hundred or more people who have paid to come and see you because you are bloody good at your job. Should this not be something you enjoy and get a kick out of? Shouldn't it be fun, talking to fans and sharing your knowledge and expertise? Secondly, the fans, the punters, paid to see their idols/role models. Shouldn't we fell welcome and wanted? Shouldn't we feel these guys are approachable, warm, happy to be there? Its not nice to pay for an event and see people who make it obvious they would rather be at home in front of the TV.

Its true that public speaking is a major fear for a lot of people. But it is also true most of these people could be coached and trained to get past that fear and actually enjoy the experience. I know because I married a Vocal Coach. Seb Perbet mentioned he had recently attended a four-day course on anatomy and physiology, paid for by GW, just so he could be a better sculptor. If meeting the public is going to be part of the job, shouldn't GW stump up for some speaking training too?

Still, it was a great day out. You needed to go to the talks to make the day complete - the demo area in the gaming hall is not that big - and it helps that there is a great bar on hand too. But it was still an excellent opportunity to to geek-out, learn from the best, and go home with more toys to play with and more ideas to make them great.

Thanks, GW :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A New Golden Age of Gaming

This is currently a great time to be a player of games. Not video games, mind you - tabletop games.

Indeed, while the videogames industry languishes and contracts, being increasingly dominated by a few monolithic  publishers and publications, there is an unprecedented diversification in the wargames and boardgames market.

We are, as gamers (and I shall just use that term from now on to describe all of us who play our games with dice, cards, miniatures, and friends), exiting a period of time for the industry that may in some respects be seen as a kind of dark age.

Nearly three decades ago wargaming was cool. I was a boy in the Eighties and it was an exciting time for those who, like me, loved sci-fi and fantasy. Special creature effects were being invented, as was the modern movie and the VHS player. Satellites were joining the world up (yes, this was before the internet) and the most influential roleplaying game of all time, Dungeons and Dragons, made it to the UK.

I still remember, nearly thirty years later, being invited to my first ever D&D session. The game was described to me. I couldn't believe or comprehend it. 'You can do anything you want?', I asked. 'How?'. It was an awesome experience.

From the success of D&D sprang Games Workshop. From being an importer and distributor of American games, this Nottingham company was able to become a creator. Warhammer Fantasy and then Warhammer 40,000 were born. For a while, maybe half the kids I knew collected and painted their miniatures or played pen and paper RPG's. It was never 'cool' cool, like being great at football was cool, but it was accepted and widely understood.

Things changed over the next few years.

Few other companies in the industry were able to thrive and survive through the nineties and noughties. A few tried and even made good products. Rackham Miniatures, were, I am told, great figures. But none could match GW's success. Well, I say success - really we're  talking about survival here.

Thats because I don't believe GW is the only large miniatures company to make it across two centuries solely because they made products that were so good noone could possibly compete. Its more a case of there being so little money in the industry's pool as a whole it only could sustain that one big fish.

Think of how much competition there has been for the hobby money of GW's traditional customers since the Eighties ended. The internet was invented. So was internet gaming and, really, the modern game. VHS, then DVD, then Blu-ray. And console gaming. When I was a lad, toy soldiers was all we could spend our cash on. Since then the alternatives have grown exponentially.

In the face of all these broadened horizons, gaming became a niche product.

This may all be about to change though.

Look at how much competition there is to GW today and where it has come from.

For a start, there is Privateer Press. In 2011, Warmachine overtook Warhammer Fantasy as the biggest selling wargame! They sold so well in fact, they could not match demand with product, a problem that likely cost them the chance to outsell even 40k. This, with no retail outlets of their own.

This year Mantic is getting serious. Despite having product for sale on the net and shop floors for some time now, their recent Kickstarter found more than 1500 backers willing to stump up $355,000 to support them. This massive cash injection meant Mantic's Five Year Plan for development got compressed down to about 6 months, a 'Dare to Dream' meeting had to be held to come up with new ideas for stretch goals, and nearly twenty new lines and an expansion have been added to their portfolio.

Boardgames have enjoyed similar success. Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster is now the highest funded boardgame on Kickstarter, raising just south of $1M for Studio McVey and CMON in a month. Can you imagine what that sort of backing means for a small studio like the McVeys'?

SW:BFA overtook another CMON boardgame, Zombicide - $781K, and a Steve Jackson remake, OGRE - $923.7K, on its way to the top spot, showing there is massive support for indoor games that use dice and models and require friends to play.

It doesn't stop at Kickstarter though. This year saw DUST Warfare released, building on the success of Fantasy Flight's DUST Tactics boardgame. Great models, great setting, and a simple ruleset will make for great sales. Super Dungeon Explore and Descent also scratch that itch, for lovers of Fantasy, dungeons, rolling dice and looting monsters.

Much of the success of these games is owed to the internet. Like many other lines, internet selling and fast shipping have opened up massive new markets to localised sellers. GW survived at least in part thanks to its network of retail outlets. A strong high street presence has kept them enough in the public's eye to maintain sales and a turnover of new customers. In fact, their recent profits have been driven more by 'efficiency', i.e. firing staff and opening one-man stores, than increasing sales though. While this strategy may become an increasingly burdensome millstone around GW's neck, its rivals are not so encumbered and are reaching areas and markets without having to worry about renting floorspace or sales staff.

Its perhaps also telling to consider where a lot of the talent for the market's expansion is coming from. Its GW again. Alessio Calvatore is a name that crops up again (Mantic) and again (DUST) in discussion of new games. The Perry twins, Mike McVey, Rik Priestley, and Bob Naismith are all names familiar to longtime GW fans - all now work for, with, or as the competition.

None of this is meant to imply there is no talent or no successes outside GW's stable or the games mentioned in this article. What I am implying is the market is ripe for expansion. While in times past there could be only one, today there is room for many many smaller businesses to live, thrive, and survive. The exodus from GW of well established names and talents shows that these guys see this too. They no longer feel they have to put up with whatever strictures working for GW placed upon them. They don't have to make games for someone else any more - they can make them for themselves. And instead of shareholders (one in particular) raking in dividends from their hard work, they can take all the profits too.

At least where I live, this optimism is being matched by retailers. Wayland Games are now installed in their massive new warehouses in Hockley, Essex, and recently published concept art of their gaming space. I have been there and I have  to say, the visualisations they released don't do the place justice. It is huge.  A new store/game space also opened up in town this past weekend too. ROTDOG has lots of floorspace and lots of games to sell. Their range does not include GW or PP though, suggesting the owner is confident he can make money just from selling other games (DUST, SDE, etc.) and renting tables.

This means that my small town, Southend, now has three retailers and four gaming spaces currently available.

What does the future hold?

I believe it is entirely possible tabletop gaming will overtake PC and console gaming as the cool pasttime for a generation of children and young adults growing up today.

And why not?

There was a time, barely more than ten years ago, when internet and console gaming was uncool. Seriously! When I played my first online shooter (Star Trek Voyager - Elite Force!), dial-up was the standard and playing games over the net was really not a widespread activity. Multiplayer games, at least for the PC were barely even invented!  It was really only when Halo was released that local console multiplayer became popular, I couldn't tell you what game made internet gaming take off.  But we have a generation now that grew up with the net and gaming over it and considers it to be normal, natural, and cool to do.

Things change though and what is considered the norm by one generation very quickly becomes a fad to the next.

People like to play together. I suggest that what has stopped them doing so in recent times is a lack of choice, more than an ingrained aversion to tabletop games, and a cool looking new alternative - internet gaming. Price has been an issue too. But tabletop games are getting cheaper (at least if you price them by volume. And ignore GW) and consoles and PC games are getting pricier. Seriously - £50 for another COD game? That is the same/extremely close to the last one I bought? And that I will only play for four or five months before exchanging it for a clone? And that on top of my £150-200 console.... Compare that to a boardgame where every game can be different, new models or expansions can be added, and where your friends can come over to play too. It costs less, lasts longer, and is not the same game as you bought last year.

So, a new Golden Age of Gaming could well be nigh. What has been a dark time for gamers, with little choice, few places to play, and some small amount of social stigma, could well be ending. We are entering a new period, with great choice, great variety, and new places to play and opponents and teammates too. Its a good time to be a gamer - I hope you are enjoying it too :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Nightwing Scenic Base 2: Forest Pond

Just time for a quick shot of my scenic base for the Eldar Nightwing fighter.

Although my inspiration pic features green water, I figured I would make mine blue. This is to tie it in with the blue gems on the fighter. Just like the picture though, I am going to try to use lots of oranges and reds on the rest of the scenery, again to tie in with the paint scheme on the fighter. There, I must be getting better as a painter. I'm talking about 'tying in colours' and stuff.

Just pretend that glue isn't there...

So, I painted the slates with Bestial Brown, and dry-brushed them, quite heavily, with Kommando Khaki and Bleached Bone. They look earthy, with enough of the brown showing through to get that red hit.

I have then glued on some of that rubbery foliage you can get from any model shop. Its a little stinky and, if you use too much, doesn't look great at this scale. But if you just use a little, and put some thought into where it goes (i.e. coming out of the crevasses between rocks, not just slapped down randomly on top) it looks reasonably like natural foliage.

I also used some Woodland Scenics artificial grass to make reed-like clumps of greenery around the edges of the pool. Not too much - Just enough to show there is life around the edges of the water. I also kept it away from the 'beach' - if this is a living world we're looking at, its likely animals would be coming down to the waters edge to drink. This also helps the base feel more like a portrait - the open edge draws the eye into the water, while the rocks at the far end frame it all.
I ddid add a couple of fallen logs at the near end and some rocks though. I see them as an opportunity to add more red and orange accents, probably in the form of lichen or leaves, to again help tie the base in to the model flying above.

The water itself is really simple. Its just three layers of blue, starting with a dark layer under the rocks and finishing up lighter where the water ends. I will be adding Water Effects later, but this simple paint job will help give an impression of depth and reality to the whole thing.

Overall I'm very pleased with how this thing is turning out. Just have to wait a few hours for all that PVA to dry now...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Eldar Flyers Appear Unstoppable!

A few days ago, when I mentioned to a friend I was considering adding some Corsair Flyers to my Eldar army, he suggested I wait until Forge World released their FAQ/Errata for 6th Edition to see what they could do. Well, the documents were released on the 6th, July, and a quick read shows Eldar flyers are a must have!

Lets start with the Nightwing fighter. As well as being Supersonic (duh!) and being able to Deep Strike, this thing has the Vector Dance special rule. This means you will never have to finish your movement and not be lined up to shoot at something. This is, I believe, a major drawback to the Marine and other races' flyers, particularly on small boards.

Got my gems done today too :)
 On top of that though, you get the Shrouded special rule. Granted, it does depend on your interpretation of the Jink rule (and that really does need to be FAQ'd) but it appears that if you choose to Evade shots you get a 2+ cover save!

Then we have the Phoenix bomber. This has all the above plus Strafing Run - you hit targets on the ground with an extra +1 to your BS! This thing's bombs are going to obliterate nearly every infantry unit in the game :)

Given the power and potential of these two flyers then, it seems likely they will attract a certain amount of enemy fire early in the game. It is possible, even though most players will need 6's to hit, you will spend a lot of time evading. That said, many players struggle with target prioritisation and I can see a lot of players still choosing to spend their bullets on the infantry targets that are threatening objectives.

The smart move though would seem to be to target enemy fliers early in the shooting phase with some high strength (at least 7) weapons to force the controlling player to Evade. Then forget about them if you really do need to take out ground based targets.

The removal of the 12" penalty to range when shooting at fliers will help with this.

Sun Blitz motif. Yeah, I know it looks like a flower.

Fighters and bombers could be one of the most exciting aspects of New 40k though. Its seat of the pants stuff - flying at high speed, out of the reach of most weapons, hard to hit by all others. You can do a lot of damage - if luck is on your side. Or - stray las-cannon slams into your ship, a plasma blast glances you, and its all over. Dominating your enemy from the air sounds like a gamble, sounds risky. But pull it off and you'll be slapping the X-marks all over your fliers and coming up with Ace pilot names before you know it.

I'm looking forward to seeing which way the dice fall for me :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nightwing Scenic Base - Forest Pond

Having spent a fair amount of time and effort on my Nightwing, I decided I had better make a decent fist of its base. As mentioned in recent posts on my Cryx army, I have been playing with water effects recently. A pond in a clearing of some sort seemed the perfect way to resolve the problem of building an attractive, interesting base - that has a massive transparent pylon sticking up out of it.

That said, here's, my guide to building a forest pond themed flying base.

To start with, you will need some inspiration. Unless you're one of those incredible artistic, creative types who can just like, you know, 'imagine' stuff and then create it, its a good idea to do a bit of photo research.

A lot of us like to just wing it. Whether its because we think that is how genuine creative geniuses work (its not) and that we too are so gifted (we're probably not), or we just don't think we have the capacity to or patience to plan out something great, there's really no excuse, what with Google image search being so easy and available, to not at least type in 'forest pond'. Doing so will give you images like this:

Alright - there we go. The idea of layered rocks forming a sort of bracket for the water on at least one side is one I probably would not have had otherwise. The sloping effect is also something cool I can try.

Using some GW textured paint and some pieces of slate I found on the road, we can get something like this:

I'm trying to build up a sort of beachy slope in the foreground. I have also made sure to seal all the gaps between the rocks at their bases so as not to let any of the water effects through when I add them later on.

The textured paint is pretty versatile stuff. As well as giving you a pre-textured and pre-basecoated base, it will dry to form a fairly strong grip on the slates I pushed into it when wet. It is not super-easy to sculpt or shape, but with a little perseverance you can get some good slopes, pits, ridges, and so on.

It takes maybe an hour to dry though, so I will leave it for a while before adding some more layers and rocks.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Nightwing Reworked

Yesterday I put up a piece about my Eldar Nightwing conversion, focusing largely on the painting. I did some more work on it after publishing and then a little bit more this morning. Sadly, in the cold light of day, I could see there were more mistakes and problems with the paint job than good bits. So, with more than a little pain in my heart and some trepidation, I resprayed the whole thing.

The problems with the first attempt at the paint job were mostly centred on the spiral motifs. Basically I couldn't see how to make them look properly painted on. I couldn't figure out how to shade or highlight them realistically. I tried using a Baal Red wash and just made it all worse. Eventually I figured I would go back to my original plan or spraying the whole thing red, masking off the spirals, then spraying again with the Golden Yellow.

To be honest, this didn't really solve the problem. The liquid mask gives really really crisp lines, and I think that sometimes the contrast between the two colours I was using were just too stark. I still needed to solve that. BUT, my second attempt at the Golden Yellow layer was so much better than the first.

Part of this has to do with the practice factor. I'm fairly new to airbrushing and only have a basic brush. Its not really precise enough for infantry models or any real detail work so I have mostly used it only to coat a few entire models. It feels like I'm getting the hang of it now though. It feels much easier to wash and clean the thing between colours now and I have a better idea of what consistency to mix different paints too (Citadel Foundation paints needing much more thinner than layers, for example). Doing the same colours almost straight after the first attempt then was pretty straightforward and I was able to apply them much more precisely.

The other positive for redoing the same paint was I effectively had a pre-shade and pre-highlight layer on the model. That is to say, I had done a fairly poor job of shading the first time round and a reasonable enough job of edge highlighting the panels, and these paints, due to the thin nature of spray paints, are somewhat visible through the top layers. Seeing how easy this actually is to do has given me a lot of confidence to pre-shade and -highlight the next big model I paint.

I have also Forrest Gumped my way to making the spirals look just about presentable too. I need to figure out what other details I need to paint on now, before adding some decals and getting to work on the weapons and engines. Here's where we're at now though:

Bright enough for you?

Weapons will be a light brown, engines a brassy colour

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eldar Nightwing Conversion/Liquid Mask/Sun Blitz Botherhood

Every time I try to get out - they pull me back in...

One of the combinations of armies I want to try in 6th Edition 40k is Codex Eldar and Eldar Corsairs. The Corsairs army list is given in Imperial Armour Volume 11: Doom of Mymeara. It is a fast attack list. Apart from some compulsory cannon-fodder infantry, the list features lots of fast movers, from jetpack walkers and jetbikes, to fighter and bomber aircraft. Since reading the book I've had a yearning to field an army with flyers in it and, as 6th Edition features these vehicles, now's the time.

The downside of this list though is the cash cost. Both the Nightwing fighter and Phoenix bomber are Forgeworld models and quite pricey. When trying to decide if I really wanted to commit more than £100 on two models it suddenly hit me that the Edar Razorwing is very similar to the Nightwing, in shape at least. A minimal amount of kitbashing later, and we have this:

Its not a perfect match, but its good enough. The Nightwing doesn't have the central dorsal fin and does have moving wings. But my model cost half as much as Forge World's, so I'll keep the £30 and use mine, thanks very much.

It is simple enough to switch the Dark Eldar Lance's out for some surplus Eldar ones from the bits box. They require a bit more effort to secure, not having the nice little square peg the supplied parts do. The forward Shuriken Cannons are also quite simple to make from chopped down tank weapons and a couple of other spare parts.

For the paint scheme I have decided to go with the Sun Blitz Brotherhood, also found in the IA11 book.

I based the model with a black primer. On top of this I sprayed a Mechrite Red base coat, then a layer of Blood Red, and then a couple of coats of Vallejo's Game Colour Gold Yellow. I have blended up some of the more raised areas with a mix of Gold Yellow and Iyanden Darksun and edge highlighted the panels with Sunburst Yellow. Sadly, most of these paints are no longer available, but Vallejo probably do passable equivalents of the GW colours or you could just use Air colours.

The next step is to add the red spirals that marks this vehicle out as a Sun Blitz flyer.

When planning this I saw two ways to do it. Either, having sprayed the thing with the reds, mask off the spiral shapes before spraying on the yellows, or spray all the colours, mark out the spirals and then respray the reds. I went with the latter for two reasons: my airbrush is not that great (nor is my technique) and it was late at night when I started painting so there was no way to get hold of some liquid mask.

Here is how the model looks with the Liquid Mask (also by Vallejo) painted on:

I have never used the mask before so here's a couple of things I have learnt:

  • It looks like a fairly watery paint on the palette
  • It can be painted on to a model pretty much like a paint, having a consistency similar to thinned PVA glue.
  • It dries more quickly than a paint. Beware of using your good brushes for application - it will form a gum between the bristles really quickly, so use an older brush you don't mind writing off if you can't get all the mask off.
  • It takes longer to dry on the model than an acrylic paint. I'm not sure how long you're supposed to leave it until painting over, but its been on my model for about twenty minutes now and still feels a little tacky in places. That said, I've seen videos where people sprayed over it almost immediately so I'm going to go ahead and spray it now.

Thats all there is for now. When I have sprayed on the spirals I'll take some more pictures and write about removing the mask.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

First Thoughts on First Gamer of 6th Edition

After a couple of days of speed-reading, cogitating, and performing mental gymnastics to come up with interesting lists and combinations of lists, tonight I got my first game of 6th Edition 40k.

I figured the best way to learn the ropes of this latest revision of the game was to focus on one or two new aspects, picking a list that would enable me to try a couple of new rules, rather than trying to lane everything all at once.

I decided to focus on psychic powers and vehicles. My list was two squads of missile launcher-Long Fangs, three Las-canon Razorbacks, two five-man Grey Hunter squads, a dreadnought with las-cannon and missile launcher, and a Master of Runes. These were joined by a Blood Angels detachment of ten assault marines in a Land Raider Redeemer, with an Epistolary and a Sanguinary Priest. Four psychic powers then and a whole lot of shooty.

I was up against a foot-dar army. A battery of d-cannons, some Striking Scorpions, lots of guardians, some jet bikes, some Vipers, and a Fire Prism. Oh, and an Avatar.

Long story short - I won, quite comfortably. Eldar on foot are hopeless against marine missiles and even the Avatar dies quickly against massed Las-cannons. Basically it was a story I am used to seeing. My army has a lot of targets for an enemy to choose from and I have not yet faced one who could correctly prioritize targets. My opponent tonight, for example, seemed obsessed with destroying my dreadnought, despite there being two scoring units of marines, sitting on an objective in Razorbacks, closer to the Eldar.

I have to say though, at this early stage, I am not a fan of how vehicles work, specifically how they take damage. In the old system, both glancing and penetrating hits could hurt you. You could take a vehicle out with a glancing hit, but it was difficult. Penetrating hits had a greater chance of removing vehicles from play. As 6th edition stands, glancing hits seem to sort of wear vehicles out. There's no element of chance, no difference between any two glances. They are all equally damaging and as few as two will wreck your toy.  Its a simplification of the vehicle damage system - but only the one half of it.

I think GW has fixed a problem here that didn't really exist. They have exchanged a system that, due to the element of chance, could result in a vehicle heroically struggling through a multitude of hits or perhaps just suffering a catastrophic failure early in it's life, for a sort of 'lives' system wherein vehicles have a fairly predictable lifespan and may not be worth taking at all. Meh, only my first game and all. I just liked that randomness in 5th

Psychic powers are also very different. Would you believe that in six turns, I didn't get off one power? My Rune Priest fell victim to a combination of Eldar stones and the new Perils rule. He failed two psychic tests and, now, gets no saves. Bye bye. My Blood Angels psyker, on the other hand, just never had cause to use one. There were no assaults in the game so his Smite and Haemorrhage powers were never needed. The nerf to Hoods meant he wasn't even of any use to dispel the Eldar witches casts.

One positive discovery from all this was that fast skimmers get the Jink rule. So those Stormravens may be of use as transports after all.

Overall then, my first experience of 6th was positive. I wouldn't say the game as a while felt like a massive improvement over 5th. It's more of an acceptable alternative.

I'm not a fan of how vehicles are now treated but I didn't see any compelling reason to change from a list with several of them included. Small units and Long Fang spam also seen viable, but, if there had been some close combat, I might be saying otherwise.

Psychic powers are harder to judge, given that I got to use none of them. The nerf to Hoods sucks though, as does the new Perils. The fact that anyone can resist them and, more so, that everyone has an equal chance to do so, also kind of sucks. Looking at that list then, it seems I'm going to give psychic powers a thumbs-down.

Again though, it's early days and this was a first game. It was fun enough and if course winning if always good. Hopefully I'll get a few more games in in the next few weeks and find more joy from this latest edition.