Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Words of Wisdom - The Sprue Cutters Union #2

Greetings once more fellow wargamers.


Despite the title of this second Sprue Cutters Union post (#spruecutters), I do not in any way laim claim to the possession of 'wisdom'. Any accomplishments that have been attributed to me are either hearsay, the subject of urban legends or sheer fluke.

Now that's out of the way, I have to say that this is actually a difficult question to answer, when I consider all of the things that have impacted my hobby over the two decades I have been collecting, painting and gaming. Even as I type this, different ideas keep dropping into my neural Inbox. You see, there are just so many things that have had an impact on my modelling, so many things I have attempted, so many models I have collected that I can't even remember them all and can't fathom (no matter how I try) what actually happened to some of them. There are a great many things to consider...

As far as the modelling side of the hobby is concerned, the nitty gritty of assembly and painting, I think I have managed to identify the three factors which I believe have contributed the most towards getting me to the modest level of ability I have attained today. Before I commence, another quickie disclaimer. I don't make the assumption that these three nuggets or tips are things that gamers and modellers the world over aren't already well aware of, but though I may be preaching to the converted, it never hurts to get what could be a slightly different slant on a topic you are already familiar with. Now, onward...

Nugget of wisdom #1: Glue

The first thing I would like to mention is glue; the kind you use, the quantity, and the preparation.
I'm guessing all of us use glue in our hobby, be it plastic cements, instant adhesives, art glues and hot guns. I only use two types of glue in my modelling these days: PVA craft glue for basing and terrain building, and 'super glue' or an equivalent liquid instant adhesive for everything else.

I never use poly cement anymore. Why? Well, yeah, poly cement may be designed for use with plastics, and essentially creates a pretty permanent bond, but that's the problem. Remembering that I am speaking as a tabletop wargamer, models get transported, and invariably some will break in transit or in use (see my much earlier article, 'Wargaming Triage'), and when it comes to carrying out repairs or refurbishments, taking apart a miniature or part of a miniature is much easier when glued with super glue than when the components are permanently bonded with poly cement. Sometimes entire units of models must be re-equipped to keep up with changes to army books and lists. When super-glued in place, you can snap bits off whole, but cemented bits pretty much have to be sawn off.

Also, I have bad memories of using cements when I was a much younger and less experienced modeller than I am today: tubes of cement splurged all over the shop, no flow control was awful. These days you can get much better quality stuff with brush application and everything, but I still choose the versatility of super glue every time. Saves hassle and heartache in many situations.

for the type of super glue I favour, I like Loctite Brush On. It's a good quality glue, and the brush allows great control over how much glue is applied and where. It has been recommended that I try their gel tube, which is meant to give the same control, but without the eventual clogging up of the brush and neck.

Still with glue, I would also say that you cannot underestimate the importance of proper preparation of the bits to be glued. Whether initially assembling a miniature or repairing/refurbing an older model, it pays to ensure that you have a clean and flush fit, by filing the contact areas. This allows a much better fix with even less glue, which in turn makes repairs and refurbishment easier still.

Final point about glue, more relevant to gamers than non-gamers. I am what I would describe as a Gamer-Painter, rather than a Painter-Gamer. With super glue I can get my miniatures assembled and on the battlefield fighting quick smart, and when I come to painting them (eventually), I can disassemble where necessary easily enough to allow for painting those hard to reach areas.

#2: Neatness

Ok, I've covered a 'tool', now I'm going to talk about a method. If there is one thing I have realised over the years, having seen some amazing miniatures, it's the importance of neatness. Some of us can paint to a mind bogglingly high standard, others of us can just about scrape 'battlefield quality' paint jobs, but even the least experienced painter can get perfectly acceptable results if their painting is neat.

There are innumerable styles of painting, techniques and processes that painters can apply to achieve the best result they can, be it layering, washes and glazes, non-metallic metals and zenithal highlights (to use the currently trending buzz term), but the key to getting a paint job you are happy with, regardless of how advanced the techniques you use are, is to paint neatly. This can be achieved by practising brush control, being sure to use a size and quality of brush that allows the level of control you need, as well as simple tricks like watering down the paint a little, again allowing better control so that you don't end up with thick paint obscuring the detail on your model and ending up invading areas of the model that you didn't intend. Many painters will say that multiple thin layers of paint give a better, cleaner finish than a single thick layer.

And for heaven's sake take your time when painting. It isn't a race (well, sometimes it is), and speed may come with time and practice. Armies that are painted really fast are more likely to be painted simply and neatly using tricks that speed the job up, rather than painting everything to the same high standard. Complicated paint work is saved for character and centrepiece models, while rank and file may be three colours (or less) and a wash. We probably all have those early models we painted when first entering the hobby, but I bet the ones that make you cringe are simply the ones that aren't neatly painted. Too much paint, and in places it shouldn't be. Neatness is the bedrock of painting skill, and everything else, all the advanced highlights and blending, all the stuff that wins trophies, is all built on top of that foundation.

#3: Motivation

Finally, I have decided to talk about the single factor that all the other areas of the hobby rely on, at least in my world: motivation. I did wonder if this was a bit of a Micky Mouse point to be making, a cop out, but the more I think about it, the more important it seems. Quite simply, the difference between a one time hobbyist that consigns their handful of miniatures to their cupboard of 'tried that and it didn't work out' and the hoary old veterans still playing after decades in the trenches, between the Grand Grey Armies of bare plastic and those that battle in glorious technicolour, is motivation.

I know it's obvious, but it's also significant. I myself am now experiencing a flush of motivation to paint my many (many) unpainted gaming miniatures, and this motivation has come from two sources.
Firstly, I am playing regular games at a local club again, against (some) painted armies, which makes me want to be able to put painted models on the table and contribute to the spectacle of a wargame in full flow, rather than detract from it with my unpainted warriors. Secondly, I am motivated by the community of #wargamers and #warmongers (and dare I say #spruecutters?!) out there who are constantly posting pictures and videos of painted miniatures of every description and skill level, from a dozen genres.

It's inspiring. Inspiration begets action, models get painted, we learn new things from our fellows, and then, all that action begets achievement. We become better painters, and more accomplished modellers, even better generals with all the games we are able to play with our painted armies. We gain satisfaction from our hard work. If you want more of an idea of what I mean, have a read of my Painting Survivor Series article.

I have decided on motivation as my third point, because I know what it is to almost lose touch with the hobby, to have been without a game for so long with no end to the drought in sight that I wondered what the hell I was doing keeping all these old models. Being a part of the community, feeling like our collections of miniatures have a purpose, that we can achieve something cool and worthwhile, is the motivation we need to do more painting and modelling. All the skill and tools in the world won't matter if you just can't muster the enthusiasm to pick up a model and...well, the world is your oyster. In miniature of course.

To read more articles on this topic, check out some of these blogs, all members of the Sprue Cutters Union.

Perhaps you might like to join the Union?

Finally, for a chance to catch all of the member articles on the Sprue Cutters Union #1: Your First Model, The Combat Workshop has conveniently collected the links here. Well worth a read.

Thanks for reading...

Thursday, 25 July 2013

My First Model - The Sprue Cutters Union #1

Greetings wargamers, and welcome to my Antiquarium.

This is the place that my most ancient and venerable curios are stored, some of which are reduced these days to little more than whisps of vague memories in stoppered jars bearing peeling and faded labels. I am here because I am currently aspiring to become a part of the Sprue Cutters Union, a new and fantastic initiative launched by The Combat Workshop.

The first challenge laid down by the Union is to talk about the 'first solo model kit you ever built'. Simple enough introductory task? Perhaps...

The Union itself is a cracking idea, and will hopefully bring together modellers, painters and gamers with great and varied experiences, but all with a passion for collecting, assembling, converting and painting miniatures. Some members may be collectors of scale military model kits, others may be wargamers of one stripe or another. Still others may bring something else entirely to the table. As long as members actively participate, then what they bring to the discussion is of value.

My First Model. Now then, though I do have a pretty vibrant interest in military history (indeed, one of the most amazing books I own is a weighty tome called 'WWII - The Directory of Weapons'), my modelling and gaming interests have always been Games Workshop's varied range of tabletop (and even map based) games. Believe it or not, some of their games other than the big two (40K & Fantasy. I don't even count the The Lord of the Rings games) are pretty good, despite the lack of corporate support for them.

In this jar, the one with the label written on in crayon, we can see the first model kit I ever built, which was actually a WWI bi-plane, and was bought for me before I was even ten years old, but I can't say for sure that this was a solo project. I am certain it was a mess after being smothered in poly cement, and I am sure was never painted, so lets just confine that one to modelling heaven.

I did have to search this place quite thoroughly to find exactly which model was the first one I can honestly say was the first kit I completed unaided, and much as I was almost convinced it was a set of the RTB01 'Imperial Space Marines Squad', when I really wracked my noggin, I remembered; after buying my first ever issue of White Dwarf magazine (issue 160, in February 1993), the first set I ever bought was the 'Space Marine' boxed game...

Now as anyone who has ever bought a Games Workshop boxed game will know, they typically come packed to the rafters with models, all needing to be cut from sprues and at the very least mounted on bases if not assembled from multiple components. This box contained not only several hundred 6mm Space Marines, Orks and Eldar infantry and armoured vehicles, it also contained numerous card and plastic city buildings to be popped out and put together, and a multi-part plastic Warlord Titan! It can be said that starting off with such a boxed set is something of a baptism of fire for a modeller or wargamer, or baptism of poly-cement might be more apt in this case.

I am miffed that I couldn't find a single decent picture of the box contents, but, beyond all hope, I managed to locate the Warlord Titan from the set. I don't have any of the other original models any longer, as I sold and traded away my collection for that game a couple of years ago in order to fund my Ogre Kingdoms army for Warhammer Fantasy, and I don't really know how I still come to have the Warlord, but with all this nostalgic talk of first models, I am glad that I do. Battered and extensively repaired it may be, but it is the first model I kit I ever assembled all by myself.

As always, thanks for reading... script.

In the interests of supporting the Sprue Cutters Union, I recommend checking out some of the following links for posts written by other members on this topic.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Bone Chapel

Greetings once more fellow wargamers, and welcome to the Bone Chapel.

This is a batch of photos I took of the amazing Bone Chapel in the grounds of the Igreja do Carmo church in Faro, while on holiday in Portugal last week. I found the place to be fascinating, and wanted to take some pictures both to document the visit and also to act as a reference for possible wargaming terrain projects.

I'm afraid I couldn't find any history on the building in English, but I do recall that the chapel is lined with the bones of more than sixteen hundred monks, whose remains were moved from a cemetery nearby and used to create this incredible chapel. I expect that this was the result of some kind of building works which required the cemetery to be moved to a suitable alternative location.

I hope these photos do sufficient justice to the place. 

Thanks for reading...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Portugese Pontification...

Greetings fellow wargamers, and welcome to my little haven in the sun. I have left behind my study of stifling stuffiness, and taken a much needed break from the rigours of regular routines. While I sit, Bugmans Best on the table and Piri Piri on the plate, I am free to ponder on the hobby we all love.

I will begin by confirming that to date, I have kept my vow to not purchase any more models until I have a fully painted army for Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000. I can also proudly declare that I have made a start on the painting portion of the pledge, having completed a block of 40 Skeleton Spearmen for my Vampire Counts army, with only a little trimming of the hand painted banner required to finish them off (pics to follow). This effort was encouraged in no small part by my participation in the 'Astro Painting Survivor Series 7', which alas I have had to withdraw from due to an appointment with a swimming pool and no small quantity of ale. As soon as I make it back to Blighty, I plan on painting up a coven of three Witches to use as Necromancers, and a sweet mini my better half bought me from Hasslefree Miniatures for Valentines Day.

Next, I will clear up the loose end left by the first couple of posts I published on our club 40K League-tournament-thingy. At last posting, I had played two games, having once been tabled and once dished out a tabling of my own. After that things got a bit hazy, with several attempts made at arranging my remaining two games meeting with utter failure. It seems some of the other guys met a similar lack of success in pinning their remaining foes to the field, and with other events looming, play was abandoned. I am assuming that a couple of the participants must be concealing pointy ears, as the old Imperial Navy adage that 'you may as well try to catch starlight as bring the Eldar to battle' holds true.

On a more positive note, I can report that my 'Eye of Morrslieb' narrative campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Battle is more than half way through, the first two of three games having been completed, and the planning for the grand finale coming on apace.

The first game went well enough, with all eight players managing to get their games in over a two week period. The result saw four armies victorious and no draws. I lost my battle against an army of Skaven, but managed to put up a fight before losing my Vampire and Vargheists to a Doomwheel. My overperforming Zombies however managed to reduce said Doomwheel to a single wound, while also holding up two fifty strong units of Slaves and still hanging in there till the end of the game, just! In a previous battle against the Skaven (the same opponent in fact) I also managed to lose the Vargheists to a Doomwheel, and so resolved not to allow this to happen again in the future.

Vargheists just don't have the hitting power to take out the Doomwheel before its multiple special attacks whittle them down (not a unit of three anyway), which is easily compounded by crumbling and the Vargheists being Vampiric, and so only being able to recover a single wound from the Invocation of Nehek, plus another from the Lore Attribute under the right circumstances. I have discovered that Vargheists are actually a little tricky to use, as they are Frenzied, which means they must declare a Charge against the nearest viable enemy unit if they fail their restrain test, but they are also a Flying Unit, so you can't just block their charge arcs with other friendly units because they can make a Flying Charge straight over the top of them!

There are a couple of tricks I have picked up for trying to keep them under control until they are in a position to attack where you want them to, which include placing them so that there are no enemies in their front arc to declare a charge against, keeping them further behind your line to keep them outside their maximum charge range of the enemy, and declaring charges against the enemy unit closest to the Vargheists with another unit, so that after Charges have been declared, if they were forced to declare a charge, the unit they declared against is engaged by another of your units across their entire facing, preventing the Vargeists from Charging them as well. The best use of the Vargheists has to be into a unit of Infantry (which they can Stomp) and preferably into a flank or rear of a unit already engaged with another unit, to accumulate combat bonuses and reduce the number of attacks coming back at them. If you can throw them into the flank of an Infantry block with a save of 5+ or worse, they can really add to that combat resolution.

Of course Vargheists can shred most chaff units as well, but they will need to eat a fair bit of chaff to justify their points cost in this role. In my first game the Vargeists did in theory have a fair chance of killing the Doomwheel, probably more so than any of the Infantry blocks in the army, they just didn't manage it on the day. Conversly, the Doomwheel was probably also the enemy unit that had the best chance of taking out the Vargheists. A really unlikely string of movement rolls and a 'misfire' by the Doomwheel saw it smash into the flank of my Ghoul unit led by my low level Vampire, and they just kept failing to win a round or pass a Combat Reform test to turn and get more attacks on the Doomwheel. With only two wounds and the Doomwheel dishing out strength 6 attacks, the Vampire was in real danger.

The second game went better. After discussion between the participants, we decided each player would be allowed to add 250 points to their 750 point list from game one, and also be allowed to change round the equipment selected for their characters to allow them to fix any major errors they felt they had made with their earlier choices. We also decided that a single Magic Item worth up to 35 points could be included. All of this combined would ensure we got the chance to learn something new and different in comparison to the first game. I would have loved to have had the points to fit in a Hero Banshee, but just didn't have the points for her plus the Vampire and Necromancer.

In addition to the extra points, I decided it would be good to include some rules to represent casualties sustained in the first game, so after a couple of drafts, we decided that any characters killed in a challenge in game 1 would roll on a simple table to see if they carried any injuries into the second game, which would reduce one of their stats by 1. I also decided we should roll a die for characters that fled the field, with a chance that they would play game 2 with a reduced Leadership chracteristic, which represented their own courage being shaken as well as affect their ability to inspire their own troops. They had seen them run away once already after all.

Units that were wiped out in game 1 would start game 2 as if they had taken 10% casualties (wounds) on a roll of 1 to 3 on a D6. I did suggest to the gang that this did give my army an advantage, as I could regenerate the wounds with magic, but it was graciously agreed that this was simply an inherent advantage of the Vampire Counts army. As it turned out, all I lost was a single wound from the Vargeists, which was easily replenished.

After working out who won in game one, players all rolled their D6's and applied modifiers depending on how they faired in their first battle. Players added one if they won their game, two if they routed the enemy, and minus one if they lost the first game. This gave us an order in which the players arrived at the crash site from 1st to 8th.

The first four players to arrive had a decision to make: they had to decide where to concentrate their efforts. Did they focus on the glory of their Master by high tailing it back to their Master's main army as fast as possible with their full force and report what was at stake to give their Master as much time as a they could to raise a larger force and return to claim the Eye? Or did they send back a token messenger who would take longer to get back to their Master as they flitted from bolt hole to hole to get back, if they made it at all, but attempt to secure the Eye with the meagre forces at their disposal?
Option 1 would would allow players the chance to deploy further onto the battlefield and therefore closer to the objective in the final game, as their Master's army arrived quicker. Option 2 would more than likely result in their Master's army arriving later and starting the final game further from the objective, but would allow a single unit from the scouting force list to be deployed on the objective at the start of the game.

The earliest arriving players would decide in secret which option they wanted to go for, after which the later arriving players declared which of the earlier arriving players they wanted to attack. Only after players had declared which army they were attacking did we reveal which scenarios they would be playing. Unfortunately, as I had neglected to bring along my 6th Edition rulebook containing the Ambush scenario, we had to substitute in the Battle for the Pass from 8th, which represented the ambushers blocking the path of the enemy at a bottleneck. As a final proviso for selecting opponents, I decided that players could not choose to attack the army they already fought in game 1, just to prevent things becoming repetitive.

In the event, I rolled high and arrived second of eight players, I picked the makeshift Ambush option, and my Vampire Counts found their path blocked by a force of Lizardmen...

The game went well, though ended in a close fought draw. I had a plan and pretty much stuck with it as far as what I wanted each unit to do. My Zombies did their job once again, by engaging and holding up a unit of Saurus Warriors led by Skar Veteran while my Vargheists and Vampire leading his newly arrived Black Knights smashed clean through a second unit of Saurus Warriors and then cleared up the enemy back field.

My Ghouls seemed to be wading through treacle for the first few turns, taking ages to make it into combat with a unit of Saurus Cavalry. I think I underestimated the staying power of the Saurus cav though, as the the Ghouls had a really hard time getting through their thick armour. In the end, the last couple of Saurus managed to finish off the Ghouls, but at least by that point the Saurus cav weren't in a position to affect the rest of the field.

I think the only big mistake I made was the positioning of the Skeleton Warriors and Neceomancer. When the Zombies finally folded, the Saurus Warriors and Skar Veteran they had been fighting overran into the front of the Skeletons, and the Necromancer went down to allocated attacks in the following combat round. I should have repositioned the Skeletons before the Zombies died to take them out of the overrun path of the Saurus Warriors, or at the very least move the Necromancer out of the unit. Either of these two things could have netted me a narrow victory instead of a draw.

In any event, I think things are going well so far, the players seem to be enjoying it, I just need to make sure I am better organised for the final game, making sure there are enough copies of the big rulebook around on the night, as the scenario I want us to play (The Dark Monoliths of Zhulgozar) isn't in the small rule book...

There are already plans evolving for a 40K campaign to follow this one, fingers crossed this first attempt goes out with a bang.

Thanks for reading...