Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wargames Terrain: Oil Barrels

In ascending order of awesomeness, here are some awesome things to look at:

  • A gaming table full of models fighting each other
  • A gaming table full of painted models fighting each other
  • A gaming table full of painted models fighting each other in and around painted scenery and objectives.

This week I decided to challenge myself a little bit and paint something I don't normally do: scenery. GW added exploding fuel dumps as an optional extra to the latest version of 40k. I have had a small piece of barrel-filled scenery sitting on the shelf for months now, plus I came home with another set from Games Day (free! From GW!), so I decided to paint those suckers up and make some. obstacles/objectives for wargames.

First up, the set of barrels and jerry cans from the GW batttlefield scenery kit. You only get three barrels and two cans in the set, which is barely enough to make one fuel dump. Its representative of a fuel dump, is probably as generously as its possible to describe the piece. But with 6th ed. rules you can hide behind them, I guess, and thus make them explode. So hey ho.

On the other hand, these are the barrels GW gave me fore free(!) at Games Day this year. Now thats more like it. A proper collection of potentially explosive containers. They also gave me some tinfoil (!) and half-heartedly told me I could paint it as camo netting. I binned that though as I had a better idea - see below.

First the paints used and techniques. This all comes from Forge World's Model Masterclass Volume 1 - a great primer on advanced modeling and painting.

I sprayed the cans with Desert Yellow first. GW don't make this paint any more, of course, because it was great, so you'll need to find your own alternative. It doesn't really matter too much what you choose as the base as you'll be weathering the *&%$ out of it later on. But I recommend a khaki or olive colour for verisimilitude.

I then sponged on Charadon Granite to get the chipping, concentrating on raised edges and the top and bottoms of the barrels as this is where the worst wear would occur. And that is a hard sentence to say or type.If you can't get Charadon Granite, look for a dark grey, almost black to sponge on instead.

 To pick out the details I used a mix of black and brown oil paints, thinned with thinners, gently pushed into the corners and crevices. The nature of the thinners causes the mix to flow along these lines, so mixing it up in the first place is probably the hardest part of this job.

I then made up some rust with the brown oil paint. some thinners, and some rust weathering powder. I flicked this onto the drums just by stroking my finger along the bristles of an old brush that was loaded with the rust mix. You get a nice splattering pattern this way, which you can then soften up by spraying on more thinners.

I used thinned brown ink as 'oil' and dribbled it around the seams of the barrels and on the flooring around them. This is definitely a no-smoking area. Lots of oil and dirt lying around. These cans are meant to be used and reused.

To make the larger stack of barrels a proper source of cover and concealment, I wanted to add some camo netting that would look a bit more convincing than painted tinfoil. I'm not saying you can't paint tinfoil to look awesome. Just that I can't. So, using another technique from Model Masterclass, I raided my First Aid box for a bit of bandage. I soaked this in watered down PVA glue, wrung it out, then draped it over the barrels.

The next morning the bandage had dried almost completely stiff. I first glued on several strips of thin masking tape. then painted it all with watered-down Graveyard Earth and lots of it. The bandage naturally soaks up the paint, I may have wrung too much of the glue out, and requires lots of coverage. I finished it off with a drybrush of Kommando Khaki, and hey presto, a camoflaged fueld dump.

 I'm very pleased with how the barrels came out, perhaps less so with the camo netting. I wonder if there is some way to paint the fabric before gluing it and setting it in place.

For now, I have two nicely painted bits of scenery to go on the table :) Next up - the ammo canisters.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kings of War is Getting Ugly

Mantic eventually got me to invest in their Kickstarter when they started throwing out crazy cool ideas like dwarves on badger-mounts, angelic paladins, and dudes riding giant cats to battle. Yeah, I like weird cavalry. One of the more traditional units they pledged to fund though were the ogres. Now, Mantic has taken flakk for initally releasing a very limited number of fairly bland sculpts for some of their armies. But take a look at these images of sculpts, released today, and tell me Mantic isn't threatening to dominate the market for excellent fantasy models:

Once again, I don't normally play fantasy wargames, but these models could turn a guys head...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Whats the Difference: 40k/Warmachine/Hordes?

Tabletop Nation have been running a journeyman league for Warmahordes recently, which has given me the impetus to get painted and the opportunity to play with my Cryx army. I have still only had half a dozen games with them so bear that in mind. This isn't an exhaustive guide to playing either game, just a few observations on the differences between them - things you might like to know if you want to switch from 40k to Warmahordes.

Tabletop Nation's Journeyman League

Firstly, size. Warmahordes uses much smaller model counts to play with. The starter sets come to around 15 points and that may only mean four models. But this is still a very playable force, compared to say half a 40k starter box which can feel like only half a proper army. Even when you go up a level to 25 points, you many only add two or three more units to your list which could again be as few as one, two, or three models. My 25 point list, for example, added four new units to the starter set, for a total of 16 new models. But my 35 point list is only two additional units and two new models.

You can have many more models, of course. I chose two one-model units specifically to save on money and time  but I could have gone for lots of cheap light jacks. Painting earns you points in the league though, so I didn't want to get bogged down with two many jacks and solo's to paint.

Second, Warmahorde units feel less flexible than 40k units do. For starters your force will be led by a Warcaster, at least if you have a Warmachine army, I forget what the Hordes leaders are called. Your choice of caster will heavily influence how you fight and what you choose to play with, partly because each caster has a once-a-game feat to use - a special irresistible effect, unique to each caster - and partly because each caster has a list of themed armies they can take which, if you meet the force organisation requirements, give bonuses to your army.

Units appear very clearly defined in what they are meant to do too. If it is a close-combat jack you will know it. If a unit is meant to shoot at stuff, it will be clear. Actual gameplay might of course change what units have to do - but they start with very clear purposes.

Guess what that dude does...
A criticism of Warmachine is that each fight can feel very similar to the last one then, as your tactics aren't likely to change too much from engagement to engagement. I think this is possibly deliberate on the part of the designers though. This inflexibility pretty much forces you to buy new toys when you want to fight in a different way, but what might at first seem a weakness  becomes a strength when you see how cheap the models are.

Whereas with a 40k army you might have to plan a list for every eventuality, then buy and build every model in that list, with Warmachine it feels more like you focus on one small area of the army book, build and play with that, then expand your collection to allow more tactical flexibility and options. The end result is the same - a large collection of miniatures with all sorts of options. But its much easier to start a Warmachine force and cheaper to expand it.

Warcaster Denegrha's job is to hide behind the big guy.
The next big difference is the turn sequence and importance of individual models. In 40k, every model gets to move, then every model shoots, then every model fights. In Warmahordes, every unit does all those things, one at a time. So model or unit A moves, shoots, and fights. Then model B moves shoots, then fights. And so on. The challenges of each system are similar - you have to plan what is going to move where, and shoot what and fight what before committing. But, as a long time 40k player, one has to take care not to shoot and not to assault a target to death I had also planned to assault with another model, leaving that second model stranded far from the enemy.

Finally the big big difference between the two systems - Focus and Fury.

Warmachine uses Focus. This is mana for your casters and is used to empower your jacks to charge and do more damage as well as casting spells. It is a precious commodity and adds another layer of complexity to planning each turn.

Hordes uses Fury. This kind of works in reverse to Focus, in that monsters gain Fury when given commnds to do stuff and, if not dispersed properly, has the potential to overload your beasts, causing the, to go berserk. I actually quite like this system, it feels a lot less limited than Focus. It has the potential to cripple your force if you're unlucky, but as far as I can see the benefits outweigh the risk.

Overall then, Warmahordes, at least up to 35 points a side, feels like a lot more focussed and intense game than 40k does. It lacks a little of the 'narrative of battle' 40k has, owing largely to the smaller battlefields and forces. It is by no means weaker though, just very different.

It is quick, easy, simple and cheap to collect a strong army for with Warmachine or Hordes. The models are almost all attractive and well made and the game systems have complexities and mechanisms that make them, like all good games, easy to pick and difficult to master.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Building Guide: Project Pandora - Veer-myn

One of the drawbacks to getting older is its often harder to get what you actually want for your birthday. At my age you are basically doomed to socks and other woolen goods unless you really really stamp your foot down and insist on toy soldiers. This year I got my wish. First present up: Project Pandora: Grim Cargo by Mantic.

This is a dungeon crawler, set in Mantic's Warpath universe and includes 10 Corporation Marines and 10 Veer-myn - ratmen. In spaaaace! I'm thinking of converting my marines up into zombie troopers, so here's a quick look at building the Veer-myn.

Here's all the parts you get for ratmen. The important points to note are:

  • There are 8 bodies, four each of two types, that are tail-less. These are the bodies for the grunt troopers.
  • There are two bodies with tails - these are your boss and the heavy weapons trooper.
  • The boss and the heavy trooper's heads are in the little baggie, along with some more tails and the boss's weapons.
  • The guns for the troopers come with hands as part of the cast. They look almost identical but there are two types. Ones with cloth on the fists and ones with studded plates. Separate them out.

Most of the parts for the grunts are interchangeable. The weapons, however, are not. The hands that have cloth wrappings belong to the bodies with cloth rags and cowls - the top set in the above picture. The studded hands go with the bodies that appear all armoured up - the bottom set in the picture.

When gluing your arms on the bodies, make sure to account for the extended jawlines the models will have. These guns cannot really be glued raised in a firing position. The models pretty much have to carry them low down, as if they're running with them. 

Top row: piggies. Bottom row: er, other ones

When it comes to heads, the ones that have gas masks on - piggies, as I like to think of them, generally go better on the cowled/ragged bodies. Conversely, the unmasked heads generally fit the armoured bodies best. You can mix them, as I have, for a bit of variety, just be aware this may lead to some gaps appearing around the necks. Nothing you can't, at the worst, fill with greenstuff though.

Tails you glues. Thankyou very much.

As with the guns, there are two sets of very similar looking tails. These are probably best described as a 'long' selection and four 'short' ones. The long tails are designed to fit into the backsides of the armoured bodies. So, of course, the shorter tails are supposed to go into a little hole below the right knee of the cowled models. I have found you can, again, mix them up for some variety in your models. Fitting the long tails on the cowled models is definitely the trickier job though. It will certainly require some trimming of the tail tabs to make them fit and may also require some greenstuff to get the piece looking really right though.

The above pic shows you the boss parts to attach to one of your tailed bodies. Nice and simple, although why the guy is carrying a gas cannister on his back, I don't know. Can't be very ergonomical when it comes to crawling along ducts. But hey ho. Its the future.

 And here are the parts for the heavy chem thrower rat. The pipe that runs from the tanks on his back to the grip was cast way out of line, but a few seconds under a hot tap put enough bendiness back into it, it was easily fixed.

Here's a nice blurry picture of my Veer-myn boss, whose name I have forgotten, all ready for washing and painting.

And here's the heavy weapon rat.

Once you have sorted out the heads and weapons and so on, these models are all really easy to put together. They are all sprueless, which speeds things up a lot, so apart from a few bits of trimming and a couple of mould lines being taken off, they're quick to do. One of the weapon sections was bent a fair bit, but, as with the aforementioned piping, this was easily fixed with a bit of hot water.

Project Pandora was basically put together on the cheap, as a way of getting Mantic mini's into people's hands quickly, without them having to commit to a whole Warpath army. As such its a pretty good advert for the quality of Mantic's models. I'm not sure choosing not to include a build guide for them was the right choice though as new gamers are possibly just as likely to swear never to buy another game without pre-assembled figures as to choose to invest heavily in Mantic toys. For gamers with a little more experience though, Project Pandora's Veer-myn fit well with Mantic's aim of producing high quality miniatures at very affordable prices.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Future is Mantic

I had the good fortune this past weekend to attend the Open Day at Mantic's headquarters in Nottingham. I had the further good fortune to spend the morning there in a painting workshop with painters from Golem Studio and even further fortune to walk away with a box of Enforcers - Mantic's new army for their Warpath game.

I frame all this as being fortuitous because not only are the folk at Mantic very nice and friendly, they also make some very good miniatures that cost a fraction of their equivalents from Games Workshop.

I have, in the past, been a little critical of Mantic's minis. I checked out sprues for several of their fantasy and sci-fi armies and found them a little lacking. It didn't help that many if the sprues were in fact the same - the same torsos any way, but with different arm options, depending on the timeframe the model is intended for.

But a few months down the line Mantic minis are really starting to develop into something special and cool. Check out the attached photo of one of my Enforcers.

Details are crisp and clear. The sculpts are attractive. These parts all came sprue-free and required minimal clean up before gluing. They come with their own foam-lined carry-case and cost roughly half what ten Space Marines would.

There are still limitations to this awesomeness though, its true. There's little variety between the models and different entries in the army list all use these same models, just varying the number of special weapons they come with.

But this is because Warpath is still in beta - the current ruleset is 2.0. The game, then, is but officially released. The plan is for a Kickstarter to launch the game around April, 2013, shipping product in September. These models are a promise of things to come.

So, there may not be a truly compelling reason for everyone to completely jump ship from the good old S.S. 40k just yet. But its on its way. To of the iceberg, and all that.

I'm already thinking of shifting my Forge World budget over to buying Mantic minis so as to be ahead of the curve as it were, but also to be able to show people there really is an alternative fie toy soldiers from Nottingham.

Who knows, they might even get me playing fantasy wargames!