Monday, 20 October 2014

Hero Hammer

I have a confession to make. I quite liked 4th and 5th edition of Warhammer Fantasy battle...

It was unbalanced, entirely focused on characters and monsters (as the description "Hero Hammer" might suggest) and had many elements of 3rd Edition simplified to make it more approachable for younger audiences. But I still kinda liked it. Let me explain why.

Army Books

Compared to the lack of background material for 3rd edition, 4th and 5th had a huge influx of content in the form of army books. Each book began the modern concept of describing, fully and completely one race or faction of the Warhammer world. Both in background and rules, the foundations of the races were laid down, units described and hobby ideas given. I still have quite a few of them on hand to read when bored as the imagery they present are, to me at least, the definition of the Warhammer races. The artwork was great throughout and really brought the world alive for my 10 year old brain (and little development of the grey cells has occurred since), even though it was mostly black and white the intricate pencil works and contrasting, smooth inks just kicked something primal in my head.

Later editions of the army books are more or less rehashes of this format, maybe they move sections about but the general shape of it is there. With one notable and rather tragic omission. In all of the Armybooks, barring the first High Elf and Undead books, there was a dedicated hobby and army building section. The reader was presented with a one thousand point army list, made of only models from the book, few magic items and the majority of the units made from the plastic regiment boxed sets. Following this was a brief discussion on what the units were for, roughly what they did, how to expand the force and what to do with older models as you bought more. This presented a much needed shove in the right direction for new players of the game, basically saying " I know this book may seem confusing, but here, use these guys and the rules for them in this book and you will have fun."

I cannot, for the life of me work out why this section was removed for later editions.

Supporting Content

This was a period when White Dwarf magazine was at its best, in my humble opinion. Featuring scenarios, battle reports, painting and modelling tutorials and new rules to support its existing games. Naturally interspersed with adverts for new and old products that for some reason didn't feel quite as obvious as they do today. This might be down to adult cynicism on my part though. 

A Gathering of Might battle report and surrounding fuss was a tour de force of these principles. For those that do not know, A Gathering of Might was the biggest battle report featured in White Dwarf to date. Using all of the Orc, Goblin, Chaos Dwarf, Empire and Wood Elf armies in GW's cabinets to fight as big a battle as they could. No one bothered to count the points for it but they guessed at about 25000 on the table.

Additional rules were provided for command and control, as with 4 players per side communication needed to be limited to simulate the Generals on field difficulties and prevent too close a co-operation. Mobile phones have of course yet to be invented in the Warhammer world.

Robin Dewes had written a short story as a pre-amble for the battle, mentioning two previous battles that had lead to this titanic conflict. Both of these tussles with greenskins had actually been White Dwarf battle reports, creating a sense of story and emphasis that this wasn't a random fight in the park. The battle was fought, fun was had and the Empire was dealt a heavy defeat. A few months later, follow up scenarios that describe the Empire's subsequent actions were printed. The two linked games were simple, if the Empire won the first battle they would be able to fight united in the second. If they didn't win, their reinforcements would be delayed or not turn up at all. So very simple but so very satisfying.

There also seemed to be a concerted effort to show an army building progression for newer players, to show them, in baby steps, how to grow their army and of course spend more money in their local GW. The 4th edition boxed game contained a staggering 104 plastic miniatures as well as card cut outs as stand ins for larger models that you could buy at a later date, or not. Split between 40 High Elves and 64 Goblins, it gave a great base for their respective armies. This was demonstrated in a White Dwarf battle report that used the boxed game as a base for both armies and included a few more additional units as well. These miniatures were then used to fight an Ambush scenario. To me, this is salesmanship at its finest. Showing that with just a few more miniatures you could recreate this spectacle and move on to have your own fun as well, yet didn't feel far out of reach as everyone already had the core of each army...

Man-O-War was also still a fully supported game so the ability to add that extra level to your game was also there, ever tempting by GW's cunning sales team.

The models

Much of the 3rd edition and earlier miniatures were around still, if they were not in the shops then they were available via mail order. Yet there were still a steady stream of releases, not always for the army of the moment but others too, including my favourite, High Elves and the 5th edition Army book. I will be honest with you, before 5th High Elves had it rough, 3rd gave them a motley bunch of poor (in my opinion) casts and 4th brought in a raft of chunky marauder metals and a glut of plastic spearmen and archers. For 5th, they were given some of the finest metal models they have ever had (again, in opinion), Gary Morley's mounted characters were fantastic, having such fine details and regal bearing they were often drooled over by a much younger me. Later on, the White Lions were released which again I found to be particularly fine.

5th did usher in some of the worst multi part plastic kits GW produced though to be fair, from comical Zombies to hunch backed Chaos Warriors. The again plastic models are the devil, so I ignore them anyway...

I do wish they hadn't painted so much stuff red though... If they had simply kept the aesthetic of  3rd it would have been perfect.

The bad and the really bad

For all of its completeness, 4th/5th had some serious downsides. The huge amount of magic items available made characters highly customizable and to all intents and purposes almost unstoppable. While most characters could be made pretty damned heroic, they never really stood much of a chance against a fully formed unit but some builds were definite stand outs. One particularly horrible aberration was a Chaos Lord of Khorne (ws9 with 10 attacks thanks to frenzy) wielding the blade of darting steel (all attacks hit automatically) just having drunk a potion of strength (+3 Strength) with the Helm of Many Eyes (always strike first). If the player was a total cunt, he would mount it on something flying as well so you couldn't get away from him. So yeah, that's 10 strength 8 hits that always go first and there is fuck all you can do about it. Units, monsters, even other characters, couldn't really do anything other than be removed from the table. Not really much fun. 

And sadly that was not the only cookie cutter beat stick. So 5th turned in to a character fuelled arms race giving it one of the worst reputations with players as so few people actually had fun playing it.

Which is a great shame really as it is so very easy to fix, yet for some reason GW never tried.

It also lacked quite a few of the complexities of 3rd and so suffered to a degree from a tactical angle. The moral system seemed particularly odd and it wasn't uncommon to see entire armies turn and run at the first loud bang.

Army selection

Army selection had only a few, broad outlines. Only 50% of your army could be spent on Characters, 25% on monsters, 25% on warmachines, 25% on allies and at least 25% had to be spent on units. It really doesn't take a genius to see where the emphasis lies looking at those numbers. 

Now what happens if you reduce characters to maximum 25% and put the minimum of units to 50%. All of a sudden the power builds are not possible, the points are simply not available. Units now must be the majority of the army, meaning that they have to do more than be artillery guards to justify their points. All of a sudden things start looking more like an army. Not really that difficult, is it?

Yet, GW didn't do this, they just released an entirely new version of the game designed to use more models and subsequently sell more boxes. A bit rubbish really and a way to put the final nails in the coffin for what could have been a golden age.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Army of four

So after a recent visit to Worcester Wargames, my local purveyor of new and old wargame tomfoolery, I have picked up some elves I did not recognise from the second hand boxes. Too new for me most likely but I have to say that they are fine models. I think they are Shadow warriors from the WFB 7th Edition releases but if anyone could confirm that it would be great. Usually, I am not fussed by a lot of the newer miniatures but these seemed particularly well done and certainly fitted my aesthetic of Elfdom, even if the leader does have a striking resemblance to Jon Bon Jovi in the 80's.

In the picture below they are about 70% done, all that remains is to sort out the skin properly and the smaller details, I think. Chances are I will find something else I don't like and spend ages pissing about with them.

Looking at the photos now I can see a load of different stuff that I have missed and/or want to do differently. The big knob on tip of the leaders sword is one culprit, I am rather aghast that I did not see that while painting but now it seems so obvious. Photography has multiple uses it seems, not only can I share what I have painted but can also used it for error checking!

Painting was super simple, as befits the one who painted them*: Green bits were Dark Angles green, highlighted up using progressive percentages of Goblin Green. The white(ish) was Astronomican grey highlighted up with more and more white before black wash being applied to the recesses. The dark brown is Vallejo's Dark Flesh with Graveyard earth mixed in for highlights. Light brown is Graveyard earth with Witch elf flesh mixed in for highlights. The skin is Vallejo's Bronzed flesh highlighted up with Vallejo's Elf flesh, all washed down with Gryphonne sepia.

*All paints are from GW unless otherwise stated.

Painting faces in helmets is causing me some trouble. As readers of some of my other blog entries may know, I struggle with flesh in general but on a helmeted head there is so little to work with it just seems to end up looking like a messy splodge. Any pointers would be gratefully received.

I am also looking to "Oldhammerify" them a little, so some stripy trousers may well be working their way in to the picture very shortly.

Life in the field

I hope to use these guys in 3rd Edition fantasy at some point so I went to the rule book and smushed together some rules for them.

Bon Jovai, wanted dead or alive in 6 realms will be an Elven Hero, with longbow, hail of doom arrow, light armour and a greatsword. That sword is far too large for a hand weapon but I am not sure where he will put his bow while using it. That is a problem that Bon must face alone.

He will be accompanied by six (as soon as I can source another three, if anyone has some up for sale please let me know) Elven warriors. +1 missile Elites, with longbows, light armour and greatswords (again the swords on the miniatures are huge). They will also be scouts.

Just out of curiosity does anyone know if Bon needs to pay to be upgraded to a scout or does he just get it by joining the unit?

Scouts in 3rd Ed don't get to deploy closer to the enemy like they do in later versions of the game so use of the advanced forces will get them half way there for some close up longbow action. Skirmishing and standing around some bushes should keep them relatively safe from missile fire but in close combat they will be living on a prayer.The hail of doom arrow should also be a nasty shock for any heavily armoured units not expecting it. 

I have also started work on some Silver Helm knights, so keep an eye out for them soon.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Elven Enigma

Out in the cold

Elves in Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd edition were one of the popular races. Often featured amongst the pages of white dwarf, rule books and these days on Internet forums. Wood Elves were often seen, particularly in battle reports and were used as the general Elf representatives. Dark Elves were well favoured as well but maybe that was more to do with the associations between Witch Elves and nerds...

High Elves on the other hand were a relatively rare sight. I was pondering on this and think I have found a few reasons why.

The fluff

In the 3rd Edition Rulebook, the High Elves aren't really presented in a wonderful light. Being described as hedonistic and lazy, with no mention of their martial abilities. Ulthuan is shown as having an inner and outer lands, held apart by difficult to traverse mountain ranges. The outer realm is never mentioned. Not the most inspiring write up in the world but if anyone could point me to any background material that I have missed, then please let me know!

The Rules

Where the background is scant, the rules are almost absent! High Elves have one rule: their Mages can swap out any of their battle magic spells for other spell types. Handy, if you happen to be a Mage, pointless if you are not. While magic is intrinsically linked to Elves, there must be more to them than that. Wood Elves have their Archery and Field Craft, Dark Elves have their Witch Elves, Assassins, Hatred and even potential mutation.

Improving the view

So, enough of the bitching, its hardly going to help to whine about a game that is nearly thirty years old. Instead, we could look at the Elven background from later editions and try and reverse engineer something fitting but more interesting to be used with mutual agreement with your fellow gamers.

Using 4th and 5th Edition fluff, Ulthuan is described as a glittering kingdom that has somewhat passed its best. Despite being over the hill, it is still one of the world's major players. The High Elven army is described, both visually and in text, as being well equipped and well trained with many elite troops. They are proud of their race and their kingdom, often looking down upon the other races and even on their more feral cousins. 

Everyone also seems to wear armour, even archers and war machine crews, who otherwise would not have any protection. I guess when you have so much time to make stuff and a dwindling population, there is always going to be a surplus of equipment. It also makes sense to try and stop that population dwindling further...

Actually that makes me think about one of the typical Elven units, the Spearman. Why would an Elf want to use a spear? They gain no bonus from the initiative boosts as they almost always strike first anyway and the extra half rank of fighters only works if they stand still, rather negating the advantage of movement 5. Maybe it's the desire to be another foot or so away from an enemy when you kill him. I dunno, but I prefer them to have greatswords personally, they are elegant weapons to be used with great finesse to match the Elven psyche yet also let them kill with alarming regularity.

High Elves strike me as the sorts who firmly believe that they are better than everyone else by nature. They have long lives with which to hone their skills and create wondrous works so who can really blame them? If any being lived hundreds of years and watched generations of lesser species die of old age, I think a little hubris is quite likely.

Representing the Pompous Artisan

As an addendum to the Rule books rules, I would suggest the following:

Pride: High Elven units are not subject to panic by fleeing allies of any race other than High Elf. All High Elves have +1 leadership up to a maximum of 10.

Elven Armoury: All High Elves come equipped with light armour for free. They are still bound by the Elven movement reduction and must still pay 3 points to purchase heavy armour.

Any thoughts?

Is a Dwarf just a Dwarf and an Orc just an Orc?

The class system

In a word, no, not really. At least not in 3rd Edition Warhammer anyway.

True to 3rds flexible form, the way of describing troops is much more customisable than in later editions with the use of the Elite troops system. The four additional purchasable ranks are split in to shock, or missile troops, with respective bonuses. Below are sample statistics for the varying level of Human Elites shock trooper, missile simply has +1 BS instead of WS which is a bit rubbish really.

4 3 3 3 3 1 3 1 7 7 7 7
+1 4 4 3 3 3 1 3 1 7 7 7 7
+2 4 4 3 3 3 1 4 1 7 7 7 7
+3 4 4 3 4 3 1 4 1 7 7 7 7
+4 4 4 3 4 3 1 4 2 7 7 7 7

As these upgrades are not tied to any weapon load out, your veteran troops can be armed with whatever you desire without the use of Warhammer Armies. If you desperately want hugely powerful +4 Dwarves with javelins, then that is entirely possible. I'm not sure why you would but hey, that is up to you.

So that's cool, we essentially have five different ranks of soldier for each race, no army book required, just the basic rule book... Well, technically there is a 6th, but soldier is not necessarily the best description.

The peasants

Human Levies 4 2 2 3 3 1 2 1 7 6 6 6

Levies! A noble general's last resort and a ruthless general's cannon fodder. Skaven do have this sort of troops in later editions of the game in their Skaven slaves but in 3rd every race can take them if they would like to. They cannot really be relied on to actually win a fight and their special, mandatory mob formation means that they will not be as useful or flexible as real troops. However, if you want an arrow shield or a lot of ranks, then levies are an option. Goblin levies especially, at their measly cost of 1 point per model.

For some reason, Levies got me thinking. They are named, they are not -1's. So I began to try and rationalise the Elites system, a particularly silly thing to do about a game revolving around toy soldiers but meh, I was bored.

Starting from the bottom

Levies: those who have not chosen the soldiers life but those that have been pressed into service, forcibly or otherwise. Slaves, potters, scribes, tailors, hairdressers anything you like but probably not a military sort.Terrible statistics and the mob rule limit their usefulness.

Militia: Those that have been given basic military training, they know which end of the weapon to hold and can follow orders, march in time etc. Basic statistics and can maintain a proper formation.

Professionals: People that have spent their life fighting and are making a career of it. They can do everything that a militiaman can but are better drilled and have more than likely actually fought before. The extra point of weapon skill representing their extra training and experience.

Veteran: Professional soldiers that know their way round a battlefield and have the scars to prove it. Hopefully they have even won a few fights and done more than just turn up. Their extra point of Initiative represents their confidence and a few dirty tricks they have picked up.

Hardened veterans: Killing people for a living is a lucrative business, the extra exercise and better food have made these guys stronger than their compatriots, not to mention it is often only the strongest that survive this far.

Seasoned Campaigners: Practised killers that have fought in several campaigns and survived. With the same stats as a unit champion, these guys are something to watch out for.

Beyond list building

So as established, the elites system is a flexible and open approach to list building but what happens when you go beyond the list? To use this system to enhance play not just when writing your army out but in other ways.

In a campaign setting troops would naturally distinguish themselves and the elites system is a great way of giving perks to victorious forces. If a particular unit destroys its own points worth of enemies without sustaining more than 25% casualties, they could receive a free +1 upgrade until they take 50% casualties in a game? Just a little boost to reward well used units and carefully played strategies.

As a direct antithesis to this, if an elite unit repeatedly performs poorly, knock one of their levels off! Obviously this would have to be done with mutual agreement with the view to fun and random dickery, not when people are actually aiming for a competitive environment.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Hirst Arts Terrain

Hirst Arts, if you have not heard of them before, sell high quality latex molds for various scenic purposes. I recently purchased three of these and have begun an extensive production in my kitchen.

The online store is rather archaic by modern standards but still does everything that it needs to. Naturally, when my bank saw I was spending a reasonable amount of money in the US, immediately halted the transaction and informed me of a potentially fraudulent attempt to purchase latex molds.... Sometimes my banks fraud department remind me of a puppy who brings you your shoes. They sit there in front of you all proud and happy, slobbering over your expensive footwear. Objects which you have recently put in the cupboard and have no intention of using any time soon.

Fortunately, Bruce Hirst was very helpful and emailed me swiftly to inquire about the transactions halt. I contacted the bank, he put the transaction through again and we were in business. The parcel was sent through US mail, was traceable so I could keep my eye on it and see just how long customs decided to sit on it for.

Eventually my molds arrived and I set about casting up as much stuff as I could.

This is the first time I have attempted anything like this and I am not going to lie, there is a bit of a learning curve. The Hirst Arts website has quite a bit of useful information on it which I recommend a read of and Bruce enclosed a letter with my parcel providing a few hints and tips for latex care. Our first batch came out looking a bit bubbly.... we did some research on the internet and found a great video by Famous Gaming explaining how to make a budget vibrating table. While we didn't have a hot glue gun ( I need to get one of those) or four identical sized small sponges, we did have two car sponges and a bit of hardboard. Armed with our scrounged resources, we mocked up a very crude version of the device seen in the video.

It made a huge difference, bubbly fail was reduced by a good 90%, OK, we still got a bit of bubblage but for improvised equipment I was very happy with the result.

The box of casts so far. The huge disks come from the bottom of our mixing bowl and will be used as Helipads, frizbees or maybe thundercat symbols.
As mentioned above we have acquired three molds, my favorite of which being that makes a rather cool looking bridge. To get all the required pieces, we will need to cast the mold 16 times, which is quite a lot. So far, we have done 4 and used maybe a quarter of the 1kg of plaster we have. The others were piped and industrial flooring and one that makes up an extensive plumbing system. All of these will hopefully make some great terrain for Necromunda/Rogue Trader or 40k.

Floor tiles are possibly the easiest to cast as they are, rather obviously, relatively flat. The bridge pieces came out quite easily too but the pipe sections were an absolute bugger. We have been really struggling to get them out of the molds without damaging them, especially the very thin rims. This may well be down to the plaster that we are using. Without wanting to order huge bags of plaster online, I went to a local hobby store and picked up whatever they had. It is described as being hard, good for models and takes paint easily but maybe it is quite a bit weaker than the more traditional dental plaster.

Anyway, the project is in full sing and we are both having a great time casting all the bits up. I cannot wait to actually build something!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Advance forces!

Upon reading the Third Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle Rule book, I came across a very cool but under developed idea called Special Deployment. I have never seen this concept in any of the following games but have become quite interested in the idea.

Special Deployment splits the traditional deployment phase into three distinct sections.

Advance Forces 

Advance forces represent task forces sent ahead of the main army to secure certain vantage points and assets or just to cause havoc. This is a tactic often used in historical warfare but is completely absent from most wargames.

In Third Edition, advanced forces are chosen by the player in secret, their movement value written on a piece of paper and then compared with the opponent. The player with the lowest movement value is considered the losing side. The winner then chooses to deploy the advanced forces first or second, using the standard rules and a normal turn is resolved. Movement, shooting, combat etc.

The main force then is deployed on the table edge and moves on during its first turn.

I think that this is a really neat idea. It adds another layer of tactical flexibility and could really help build a story. It does however present a few.... issues, which would need to be house ruled.
  1. There is no limit as to how much of your army can be in the advanced force. Why not put an entire Bretonnian army in it and get a first turn charge?
  2. All units can seem to go in to it as well, even war machines. It seems a bit odd to march ahead with a cannon or catapult.
  3. The only requirement or restriction is that you can only have one advanced force and that it must have an officer in it, if the force contains fliers, it must have a flying officer.
Reasonable adjustments can be made to get the rules in to playable shape though. Restricting the Advanced forces points value to 25% of the total army, saying no war machines and that any units should have an officer would resolve these issues in my eyes. What does the wider community think?

Standard Deployment

Normal, run of the mill deployment unless an advanced force is in place. Then entry location of units is marked on the board edge, rather than plonking them down anywhere in the deployment zone.

Trailing or Outflanking Forces

This is another interesting one. You can put anything you want in to the trailing force, these units are not deployed normally instead at the beginning of the game you simply write down what turn you want them to arrive on. On the specified turn the trailing force takes a leadership test on the leadership of its officer, if it is passed the trailing force units move on to the table as described above in Standard Deployment, if it is failed they are delayed by a turn and must take the test again next turn.

This is demonstrated in the Gathering of Eagles battle report Orlygg has posted recently. The trailing force rules were used successfully by keeping two counter attack units in reserve and safe from artillery fire.

Outflanking forces are exactly like trailing forces but they can turn up on the flanks from turn 3 onwards or the enemies rear from turn 4 onwards. The board edge has to be chosen before the game begins, so your units could end up far out on a limb, especially if you play on a large table.

There doesn't seem to be as many rules implications with this as there is with the advanced forces, the only possible thing I would suggest (as well as the 25% point limit) is that the unit is placed on the entry point the turn before it arrives. Just to reduce the surprise charge of twenty knights from off table. This one turn announcement can still be pretty shocking but at least gives the opponent a fighting chance of getting their forces in to position before hell arrives. If anyone can think of any other possible implications, please let me know.

Overall the concept seems to be a fun one, it changes the deployment phase from one where you plonk your stuff down to a potentially three stage split in which to try and outwit your opponent. The thought of applying this to other games has now occurred to me, an advanced force of marines in a Rhino hurtling up field towards a critical emplacement sounds just awesome. Or a flanking jetbiker squad ready to come tearing on and get behind the enemies cover. It could be applied to pretty much any game to increase the level of strategic flexibility.

However this is all just theory, I have never used these rules personally, have any of you out there used these rules? Success or failure, leave a comment below.

Product Review: Kromlech Space Legionary Bionic Legs

For a long time I have admired Kromlechs work and have often thought about getting some of their conversion bits. Recently the owner of my FLGS announced that he was taking an order for Kromlech (amongst others) and if anyone wanted anything then to let him know. Like an excited school boy, I was bouncing up and down shouting "oooh oooh me me, I do". I'm a lazy bugger by nature but if someone is going to do the ordering, tracking and picking up parcel part for me while giving me a slight discount, then I am all for it.

I ordered some bionic legs for some veteran Spacemarines that I wanted to paint up for a modern Killteam game. Naturally being veterans, I imagined that they would have had quite a few bits blown off by now so mixing them in with the Forgeworld Iron Hands kit left them half way to being Necron.
Links below:

The parts, shipped from Poland and arrived with remarkable speed. Notably they turned up  several days before a Forgeworld order, made at the same time, despite the extra distance.

Made of resin, I couldn't feel a hint of release agent and the quality was incredible. There was no mold slippage at all, the detail was crisp and perfect throughout. They fit seamlessly with the Forgeworld parts I used them with, taking the appearance of a quite old mark of power armor (MK 2 I guess?). Size wise, I couldn't work out if they are larger than traditional power armored legs or if they just avoided the full nappy stance GW's sculptors seem to adopt. Either way, they stand notably taller than plastic power armored legs.

For me the size is not an issue. I have long held the belief that Spacemarines are too small when compared with other miniatures in the same line so I embraced the idea. Adding spacers at the marines waist and sculpted an armored section to cover the gap stretched them further and helped resolve the issue of a short torso. The five that have been built so far now tower over their plastic brethren and aliens alike, yet are still smaller than terminators. In my opinion they fit in perfectly and more accurately reflect an Astartes true stature.

Paint went on them very nicely, the details are well laid out and not over bearing, they would even look good with a quick and dirty drybrush. Though I must admit the very idea of it makes me shudder!

I cannot recommend Kromlech enough and will be ordering from them again soon, they just did everything right. Their range is expanding and they have some charming Ork models that would look great on a shelf in my house somewhere...

The idea for the marines I used the parts on started off with them being Iron Hands, then I decided black was boring and a nice metal affect would be better. Then for some reason a gold shoulder trim was added and Bam, they look like very clean (or Pre-heresy) Iron Warriors. Not my intention but I'm so happy with the result repainting them is unlikely to happen.

The fate of the remaining five marines I have parts to build hangs in the balance. Should they also be these proto-Iron Warriors or should they just be painted as a different legion all together? The idea of doing some dark angels painted up with the old Rogue Trader markings is very tempting.....

Your Pound of Flesh!

So with great intention I recently purchased some of Mengil Manhides dark elf company from Ebay, I acquired 12 for the princely sum of £20. I'm not sure if this is a particularly good deal or not as I am no hardened trader but I was quite pleased.

I did not really approach them with much thought, I simply selected a male and female unit member and began painting using the pallet I had out after painting some Silver Skull Spacemarines (more to come of those later). Right, so that’s the metal and leather on the armor sorted, time for the flesh then.

Oh, that stuff.


I quickly realized after painting Astartes, aliens and not much else for so long I hadn't actually painted any skin of any color in quite a while. So full of enthusiasm, I went digging in my paints box for some fleshy paints. I found a bit of a haphazard selection and went to it with gusto.

Unfortunately, gusto does not really equate to quality. I quickly realized that I had no idea what I was doing and stopped with the following results:

Learning points:
  • Just because the models come undercoated, it doesn't mean they have been undercoated well. It was a bit thick and claggy in places and hid some mold lines that came out when color was applied.
  • Throwing yourself in without a reasonable pallet of paints will not produce slick color transitions.
  • Some of the older sculpts facial details are not great and require an intelligent approach to get the best from them.
Realization that I needed some practice, if not a better selection of paints, dawned on me so I went to the internet to learn from people who actually know what they are doing. Over the next few evenings I watched a variety of video tutorials and some written ones to get a better grip of what I needed to do. While all this was going on, my ever patient wife was listening carefully and providing supportive comments. The next evening she returned home from work with the Vallejo skin and leather paint box for me.

Yep, she's a keeper.

Now I just needed something to practice on. At this point I remembered that a little while ago I had ordered some of the very fine models from Hasslefree Miniatures and they had kindly included a free topless dancer in the box. Sadly, it was only a miniature one but it would prove an excellent practice canvas.  Below are the results.

I had not mixed the colors well and the difference between the layers was far too noticeable. I had then tried to merge them by using washes. Unfortunately this caused it to look chalky and the skin to be much darker than I had anticipated. Darker skin is not a bad thing but it didn't match the ginger hair color the dancer already had. As we all know a tanned ginger is a physical impossibility.

Undeterred I grabbed the next miniature in line, Marina from Hasslefree. This time I was a bit more careful with my mixing. The tones were much closer and the transitions much less obvious. I started with a Bronzed flesh (Vallejo) base, washed it with gryphon Sepia (GW) and then added repeated layers of Bronzed Flesh with more and more Pale Flesh (Vallejo again) mixed in. It's not perfect, placing of some of the highlights is a bit odd and it will never win a Golden Daemon but I am quite satisfied with it and now feel confident enough to have a crack at my intended victims.

Speaking of which, Mengils bunch really need to be stripped and prepared properly before I can paint them to a  standard that I would be happy with. So that will be the next project for me. Assuming that I do not get distracted with the Hirst Arts molds that are currently winging their way across the pond to me. :)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

And so, my rambling begins.

First off, I feel an introductory post is in order to establish myself and my incessant wittering regarding wargames and why I do what I do.

I have been playing a variety of wargames for a good 20 years now and feel impassioned by the hobby, which I see as wonderful and beneficial but slowly going to the corporation dogs. By now, you have probably guessed my interest is primarily in Games Workshop games, while I have played many others, I keep being pulled back in by their back ground, artwork and other imagery.

My gaming career started by playing 4th Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle and 2nd Edition 40k, around 1995 or so. While I have little fondness these days for 4th Edition Fantasy (herohammer ahoy), 2nd Edition 40k is stuck very firmly in my psyche. Don't get me wrong, its a terribly unbalanced game and can be horrendously abused to exclude as much fun as possible, but when played in the intended mind set, it opens a huge amount of possibilities.

When you discount the varying power builds, 2nd Edition 40k is relatively robust and very enjoyable; some of my most cherished/funniest wargaming memories come from playing this game due to its relative complexity and room for comedy. A perfect example would be my Spacemarine Captain heroically shooting an Eldar guardian off his jetbike at close range only to have the bike itself crash on him and kill my noble captain. Both my opponent and I were laughing so hard we were pretty the rest of the game is quite a blur. There doesn't seem to be room for this kind of nonsense in the modern games, which for me is a great shame. Some people complained that heroes were over powered, in a similar vein to the contemporary fantasy games. I found that a heavy weapon to the face sorted that out, something that Fantasy lacked.


The tipping point

As time has rolled on, 40k got simplified in to the horrific abomination of 3rd edition and has been patched repeatedly since, making the game progressively more and more playable. I played through it all, mostly because I found the back ground so engaging (I will get to that bit later).While the rule sets have been getting a bit better, I think the whole ethos of the game has been going down the pan. A purchasing arms race has emerged, where if you don't have X you don't stand a chance vs Y.

When fliers first emerged, I did not want to get one as I find the concept of air support being present on a  field about the size of a football pitch odd to say the least. Until my first game against an airborne opponent; a Necron army with three Doom Scythes. They turned up on my opponent's turn two and by the end of it, all I had left of a once large army was a combat squad of marines hiding between a wood and the burnt out hull of their Razorback. The rest of my army fell prey to death rays and the shooting from the rest of his army, in one turn. At this point (beginning of my turn three), I chucked in the towel as five bolters against an entire army is never going to amount to much.

Afterward we both agreed that the game had not been very fun and discussed what I could have done to avert the massacre. The only answer either of us could think of was to buy either fliers of my own or some AA guns.

So I got a AA gun fortification as a compromise. Still no fliers but at least some defense against them. This time I did better, I lasted until my opponent's turn three and even managed to shoot down one flying croissant. Further analysis found that neither of us had enjoyed the game again and that I needed to buy a Storm Raven. In true scientific fashion, we repeated the experiment using differing armies and terrain lay outs and came to the same conclusion.

For me this was the NOPE! point. I had played multiple games with an hour + of set up and just under 30 minutes of actual game play which had not even been that fun. After lengthy investigation, we had concluded that the obstacle cannot be over come by strategy and instead requires quite a bit of money. For me this is when a wargame breaks, when it no longer depends on the players skill but solely on their wallets. When I saw the same thing happening with the Titan/large walkers that came along shortly after, I knew that my interest had died completely.

So boo fucking hoo, an old man throws his teddies out of his pram and declares that he is not going to play this game any more in true nerdite fashion, right? Well, kind of yes to be honest but most importantly for me, it made me sit back and take stock of the bits I actually like and want to experience more of.

The root of my addiction

I am a strategy fan, either in physical games or video games. I love pitting my whits against someone else in a good natured and gentlemanly fashion. It helps me improve my mind, gives me something to think about while bored (this happens a lot) and builds friendships with some noble types. Wargames do this nicely and often in real life rather than through a screen too.

Art is something I have always been into. Sketching characters, banging out story boards or just generally shitscribbling is something I have previously spent a lot of time doing. These days with a house, a wife and a career, I cannot dedicate as much time as I want to it to get to a skill level I would be happy at. So for me miniature painting and scenery building is a nice compromise. Some nice person has drawn me the picture and I can get my kicks by coloring it in. There are also lots of very nice video and written tutorials which I can glance at in breaks between work in a bit of slow digestion. Thanks to the internet and the general free flowing of knowledge, my painting skills have really picked up in recent years, even when not actually painting that much. For me this is a big improvement over regular drawing which I was beginning to suffer frustration with.

Storytelling is an essential part of wargaming for me. I'm not bothered by "My hero is going to go and slap yours after I run this block in to your chaff and blast the rest with magic." Although that is a brief and honest description of what may happen, it doesn't really set my pulse racing. When I start putting names to faces and plots together in my head, I start enjoying the experience from a second angle. In my rather deluded head the above passage would read "While his henchman engage the puny human skirmishers Davoth Tyr, Captain of the Black Ark will gut your hairy savage as Kelmon the Spirittalker rains death upon you". (Or something to that affect).

It sounds sillier written down than it does in my head but pleasing my inner twelve year old is quite simple and requires just a hint of imagination. Stringing games and the characters in them together again gives me something else to think about when bored and adds to the vividness of the experience.

In short, there are more aspects to it than just the moving miniatures around on a table that I enjoy and modern 40k just wasn't encouraging the things I like, so I needed to readjust my focus and off I go looking for something that does tick all my boxes.


About a year ago I discovered that I was not the only one who longed for days gone by like true old farts and that there are people out there, still playing game they like because they like them, not because they are newest and they don't really like them. A new concept pinged in to being in my mind that I had previously discounted. I could, you know, choose which games I like to play and find people to play them with. As I said this had been previously discounted because I thought everyone still only wanted to play the newest games and keep up with the masses. Over the last year, I have been eagerly reading as many Oldhammer related blogs as possible during my spare time as well as digesting the Warhammer 3rd Edition Rulebook.

And that, dear readers is me. A once cranky old git, reinvigorated and back in love with his favorite past time that will hopefully create some readable content. Maybe. :)