Sunday 4 January 2015

Old Dog, New Tricks...Sprue Cutters Union #30

Howdy wargamers and hobbyists, welcome to 2015 and the return of the Sprue Cutters Union. It's been a few months since the Sprue Cutters last rode onto the field, but as I threatened at the end of last year...we're back!

I'd like to start by saying that I have certainly been looking forward to reinvigorating the Sprue Cutters Union posts, and its return is all the work of Jon over at The Combat Workshop, who does a sterling job of running the show and keeping us all inspired with blog topics, even around his own real life demands, so thank you Jon.

The Sprue Cutters Union posts will hence forth be a monthly emission, so on with this month's topic:

What New Products/Techniques Will You Purchase/Attempt This Year?

Well well well, what kind of things will I be trying out this of all years, when I have set myself the resolution of painting up a minimum of 250 models before the end of 2015? I think it would certainly make sense for most of my efforts this year to be in support of that painting goal, and in order to achieve that goal there is one thing I need to get much better at.

Quite simply, I need to paint faster.

So then, when you are a wargamer with hordes of infantry,  cavalry, monsters and vehicles to paint, what does painting fast entail? Well the first thing I have to talk about is the standard of painting I want to end up with.

Malorian said it pretty well in his recent YouTube video about speed painting: you can get a model painted in about five minutes flat if you stick to no more than three colours and don't bother with any of the details, and with practice you can end up with a model that looks like what it is meant to represent from the extreme limit of battle cannon range - 72", or six feet. I however have spent many years building up my painting skills to the point they are at now, which I consider to be nearing the top end of tabletop standard.

This means I think my painting is better than what someone might achieve if they just rush out models as quickly and simply as possible, but they fall short of competition standard. That's just my opinion though; everyone has to judge for themselves whether they are happy with the work they are producing. 

My hope is to maintain a standard that I would be not be embarrassed to field on the table, but quick enough to keep to my schedule of about twenty models per month. It may be the case that further down the line I come back and take the fine details and highlights to the next level, but initially I would like to get caught up on the huge backlog of unpainted miniatures I own.

So what do I already know about painting quickly? Well, I know how to batch paint, I'm just not all that fast at it. What I want to look at this year is how to speed up the process, so what I plan on doing is experimenting with different coloured undercoat/basecoat sprays.

Until now, I have almost always undercoated my models in either black or white spray, usually black. Now this is pretty much the norm. Long gone are the days of undercoating miniatures by hand with a brush. What I want to explore now is the concept of using sprays to base coat miniatures in their 'dominant colour', and then simply add some details afterwards to get a result I am happy with in a much shorter time. I want to veer away from spray undercoating black and then painting 70% of a model brown when I can just spray the model brown to begin with and take it from there.

Hopefully, if I use my Orks and Bretonnian peasants as an example, I can spray base coat them brown, then just paint the skin areas and weapons, give the various areas a wash to shade, finish the base and call it done. My Tyranids too: spray them blue, apply a quick drybrush highlight, a wash to shade - done. That's the plan anyway.

So what else can I do to speed things up? One thing I can certainly do is give more careful consideration to my colour selection when painting models. In the past I have quite happily spent time mixing colours to get just the shade I want for a model, but when I'm meant to be knocking out models quicker, that is just too time consuming to maintain. From here on in I plan to implement a strict policy of no mixing of colours, unless it's just for a single session of highlighting and that's it. No coming back to the painting table and spending valuable time re-mixing a shade I used last session. If it can't go on the shade it is straight from the pot, it doesn't get used.

Anything else? Well, the last thing I plan to do is less a technique and more a motivational tool. I need to make sure I maintain consistency because I am working to a schedule, and each month I miss the target of twenty models means that much more of a hard time I will have on the home stretch at the back end of the year to meet my goal. I plan to maintain the pace by running pretty much back to back painting challenges online, because they are a great way to ensure that I get at least some painting done pretty much every day. Little and often, that's the way I find gets results, without sapping my will to live.

To summarise then, new things I am going to do this year to help speed up my painting:

1. Buy and use coloured spray paints to base coat miniatures in their dominant colour wherever possible.

2. Avoid mixing colours to produce other shades, because it takes too long. Instead, use colours as they are out of the pot, and if I don't have a colour I really want to use - buy it!

3. Limit the number of levels of detail I go to while I bring my collection to a basic but respectable tabletop standard. I can always come back later on and spend more time on them at my leisure.

4. Don't drop the batton! Do whatever I need to to maintain the pace; paint a bit every day whenever possible, aim for twenty models per month, take part in painting challenges and change it up between armies and units to avoid getting bored of painting the same thing for too long.

There it is then, the new things I will be trying this year to accomplish another new thing and get a record number of miniatures painted before the end of the year.

Feel free to drop me a comment below to tell me about any new techniques or products you plan on trying out this year.

If you want some inspiration, you could do much worse than check out the links below to the blogs of other Sprue Cutters Union members, and to the Topic Hub over at The Combat Workshop where members will post their links after mine goes up.

Check these out:

And finally, if you yourself write any kind of miniature modelling blog, then perhaps you would like to consider joining the Union? All it takes is the dedication to produce one article per month on the topic of the moment, and include links to other members articles at the bottom of your own post as I have done. All you need to do is keep an eye on The Combat Workshop or any of the member blogs for details of the next topic! Look here for more details.

As always, thanks for reading.

Friday 2 January 2015

Storm of Chaos vs End Times

Greetings fellow wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome to the twilight zone…noo-nee-noo-noo, noo-nee-noo-noo…

A very quick post today, touching on a subject that is big in the Games Workshop/Warhammer news at the moment – The End Times.

I am often inspired to type up a blog post by comments that I hear on the many podcasts I enjoy, and only this morning I was listening to The Dwellers Below discussing The End Times and differences between this and the old Storm of Chaos. They chatted about whether they thought the story being developed in the End Times would stick and officially change the setting of the Warhammer game, or whether it may all just disappear in a few months as if it had never been, just like the Storm of Chaos did.

The thoughts I have had since have been about what makes these two events fundamentally different, and therefore very difficult to compare fairly in a ‘like-for-like’ manner.


Comparison no. 1

The Dwellers commented that the Storm of Chaos mainly existed online and in White Dwarf at the time of the event, whereas The End Times are fully supported by books. This may have been an ‘in-the-moment’ oversight by the Dwellers, who I typically find to be very knowledgeable, but the Storm of Chaos did have its own book, which detailed the build up to the events, new army lists and scenarios to be played. Without knowing more about what the guys meant, it’s hard to be definitive in my conclusion, but I think it’s possible that they may have meant that the Storm of Chaos was not supported by books as it progressed in the way that The End Times has.

Comparison no. 2

Game Rules. The End Times has introduced not only characters and rules for those characters to be used in game – which the Storm of Chaos also did – but much wider reaching additions and alterations to the main game rules, in particular the magic phase, and the degree to which armies have been combined to allow a vast variety of new unit and army combinations. This has allowed some lower tier armies to be combined with units from other force lists which either fill gaps in capability or boost the inherent strengths of the army, and has made some lesser used or underpowered armies far more playable.

Comparison no. 3

Plot arrangement. This aspect is what really clicked in my mind and made me want to address it in a blog post. A while back in one of my ‘Forging the Narrative’ series of posts, I raised the question of how you might arrange the narrative plot when organising a campaign – do you have the entire plot laid out in advance and allow the players to ‘play through’ the pre-determined story, or do you build up the story and then let the players take over from a certain point and determine the path of the conclusion for themselves based on their ‘in-game’ actions – wind it up and let it go?

This is in my opinion the single most profound difference between the Storm of Chaos (which was a worldwide campaign intended to be played to its conclusion by Warhammer Generals across the global community), and The End Times, which is in practice a set of source books which allow players to use rules in their own games set around the End Times events). This is also where the discussion ties back into my earlier Forging the Narrative post.

Games Workshop have seemingly decided to retain control (at least so far) of the plot development, rather than allowing the actions of the Warhammer community to dictate the development. When we compare this to the Storm of Chaos, this is quite possibly the reason that the Storm of Chaos went the way of the Dodo, because the way the story played out wasn’t what Games Workshop planned for or expected, and they had a hard time writing it out in a manner that players could believe and engage with. In other words, the well laid and well set up plan went somewhat awry, because the games that were played sent the campaign in rather a different direction.

I think that this was a good idea on the part of Games Workshop and their talented team of writers, and it’s also what has kept gamers hooked on the story as it has progressed, no matter how fantastical and unexpected the turn of events. With the number of well-known characters that have bitten the proverbial bullet as the story has gone on, and the way in which the relationships between races and nations has changed quite dramatically in some cases, the story so far is for me what I think GW would have wanted the Storm of Chaos to be if things had followed their grand plan, and then some.

Comparison no. 4

I would very much hope that people have already twigged this one, but I suppose that when I remember how many years it is since the Mild Breeze of Chaos blew out, it also reminds me how old I am.

The debate about The Storm of Chaos and The End Times needs to account for one rather significant piece of information, and this is something I mentioned as part of the last comparison:

The End Times is a vast and sprawling narrative with accompanying rules to allow gamers to play out battles using scenarios, special characters and rules all forming part of the release. In essence, although it is ongoing, it is a set of source books. It provides a setting and rules for playing out battles in the setting, or to actually re-fight key battled in the manner of a historical battle. The Storm of Chaos, in stark contrast, was a worldwide campaign, with all the associated implications – the story was built up, and then the gamers themselves were given the tools to go out and play out the action to a conclusion.

These are two very different formats and ways of running an event, particularly in the way the information is controlled by the ‘Games Master’ or Narrator (Games Workshop) and in the impact that the players are allowed to have on the development – in the case of The Storm of Chaos the impact of the players actions was huge (and relinquishing that control to the players is probably where things started to fall apart as far as the story was concerned), in The End Times the impact of the players actions doesn’t extend beyond depleting stocks of the wonderful books and models, and giving headaches to tournament organisers, for whom I have a degree of sympathy trying to deal with all the changes and uncertainty.

Anyway, before this quick post becomes a ramble, those are my brief thoughts about the differences between the two events. If you have any thoughts about the comparisons, or think I have either made too much of some points and not enough of others, feel free to drop me a line.

Thanks for reading…