Sunday 15 June 2014

Kill Team Tournament

I spent the last few weeks putting a simple force together for a one day event at my local gaming store. Alas, completing any detailed painting stalled in the interest of getting in a few more games of 7th Edition, though the nearly finished Rhino and brand new bases made the models satisfying enough to play with. The extra few mm in height certainly adds some drama when only a small number of troops are on the board.

I have found Tactical Marines are the best balance of models vs firepower in Kill Team games.

With a Storm Bolter Sargent, Heavy Bolter "Specialist" with Relentless, and a Storm Bolter on the Rhino, I was able to move around the board quite quickly while still laying down enough shots thanks to the Firing Points (6" full BS shots, 12" Snap Shots). I added a Multi Melta with Master Crafted to make the most out of the invested points (re-rolls to hit), while the third Specialist was a Bolter Marine with Preferred Enemy. Despite the bright red armour I chose my list from the new Space Marine Codex, and gave them Iron Hands Tactics, which saved at least one Marine a game (Feel No Pain 6+) and even made the Rhino a pain to kill when two Hull Points were restored in one game! Codex Blood Angels would have given me about four less Marines for the points!

"King of the Hill"

The opposing armies were a great mix of Xenos (Tau, Slaneesh Daemons, Chaos Marines, Eldar) and fellow Space Marines in Tactical, Bike, and Scout formats. The tournament allowed a choice of two lists per game, but with only alternate Jump Marines to choose from I decided to stick with the big metal box and had no other weapons to switch out. I had tried Imperial Guard in a previous campaign, but Strength 3 weaponry really struggled against Bikes, and any other specialists were easily taken care of given the "every man for himself" Kill Team rules. Orks were a past favourite of mine as well, though the limited movement speed hampered them in objective games and against fast moving opponents. This time around I found the Rhino to be a great speed bump to taking out my shooty models, while not too overpowered as to make it impossible to destroy. 

Eldar Jet Bike "Move-Shoot-Move" tactics are very frustrating!

The 6th/7th Edition changes really make Kill Team much more engaging and exciting. I had my Multi-Melta kill an Alpha Legion marine that was charging in (Master Crafted really helped with Overwatch shots!), and a Chaos Daemon dying in the same circumstances while charging my Rhino (the occupants of a transport can fire overwatch, which was news to my opponent). The Kill Team rules from December 2013 also included specific missions which were each individually challenging and rewarded their own specific tactics, rather than just playing six of the same game.

The new Kill Team rules now allow "Beasts" as well as Cavalry.

With eight players and six missions it felt a bit awkward playing only six of the seven opponents, as I was 5-1 by the end of the day (losing in an epic cat and mouse battle against the Eldar Jet Bikes), and didn't end up playing the overall winner and his unbeatable Tau Devilfish and Crisis Suit combo. But that's not really the point I guess, as I had a great deal of fun and found almost every single game tactically challenging and rewarding, not something I can say for all "regular" games of 40k where it can be a struggle to remain engaged once more than half your army has been removed from play. With the games starting at around 10:30am and finishing before 4pm (with time for a burger in the middle) it made for an incredibly enjoyable day with time to spare and an event I hope will be repeated in the future. There were a couple of miss-matched armies and quick conclusions, but I think most folks shared the same level of enjoyment.

Action Shot! I used my Rhino to block movement in the "get to the other table edge" mission.

A very big congratulations to my friend and regular opponent Harry, who picked up best painted with his bright yet brooding Alpha Legion, which you can see in the (blurry) photo above. When I met Harry he was content with simple basecoats and washes to get models quickly to the tabletop, though this time he spent many months converting, green-stuff sculpting, and painting his Kill Team which really paid off and looked great on the tabletop! I am hoping to do the same with an Inquisitorial Kill Team in the future (the mythical place where all hobby goals are achieved!)

In conclusion, I highly recommend you try out the new Kill Team rules, and get painting!

Sunday 8 June 2014

Land Raider Rebuild

Following on from a Rhino I "rebuilt" a few weeks ago and included in a series of photos talking about my new camera, I turned my attention to a very old purchase which has been in bits on the shelf for too many months. In a classic "craigslist" moment, I traded my small collection of Warmachine models for a Land Raider plus cash, only to drive an hour to pick it up and find it was a very spiky Chaos Land Raider, and not the flat sided soon to be Blood Angels Land Raider of my dreams!

After toying with the idea of starting a Chaos army, for which I would probably want to re-model the Land Raider anyway, I took to the spikes with some side cutters, a hobby knife and a sculpting tool,creating a nice neat pile of bits and an extremely battle scarred tank. For six months or more it sat gathering (even more) dust, during which time I found an even more wildly converted Land Raider from my Ork collection, and they both sat on the shelf taunting me. So what changed? The rules of course, with this year revealing yet another edition and the ability to field "objective secured" scoring Land Raiders!

Fast forward a good many days waiting for green stuff to harden sufficiently to be filed, scraped, and carved to rebuild the pitted surfaces, a little sanding and the addition of new barrels, weapons and accessories, and it was nearly ready for a can of spray. One small detail which nearly had me in knots and trying not to slice my fingers creating was the super thin rivets to glue back in place. In the end I drilled holes in the hull and inserted plasticard rods, trimming and filing to near the correct height. This used a lot more material than just slicing rivets, but saved a lot of effort and swearing!

So after many months procrastinating, and a few days worth of modelling while watching a movie or two, I have my first ever Land Raider ready for paint! With a delay in starting my Blood Angels due to additional skills learned at a recent painting class, I am itching to try out some "two brush blending" on a large model such as this! As you may recall, when I first started glazing models it was on a Leman Russ Battle tank, so it seems fitting to be trying out yet another new technique on the largest model I can find. This make it both easy to practice something new (as you can clean up large surfaces easily) but also not very forgiving if the transition between colours is not smooth!

Monday 2 June 2014

Review: Painting Class with Meg Maples

A few weeks ago Meg Maples, of Arcane Paintworks and (formerly) Privateer Press fame [here is her Putty and Paint  gallery] took the short trip up from Washington State to teach more than a few budding painters in Vancouver about her preferred "two brush blending" technique. Additional topics included painting flesh tones, faces, eyes, hair, painting white and black, "true metallic" metals, object source lighting, blood and other liquids. Add in a little colour theory, paint brush selection, priming technique, one-on-one painting assistance with particular models and you barely have time to try everything once before the weekend was over!

My new "dry well" palette and a few new P3 paints to try out.

Model Priming was first and foremost, with most of us finding we are using way too much paint during the first spray undercoat. Meg is not a fan of air-brushes so after the model is primed she will be base-coating with a brush, something I always thought required a nice even, flat coat of white to bring out the best in whatever basecoat you are using, but apparently not so. She referred to the "tooth" of the undercoat being all that is required for the next layer to hold to the model. Need a more even coat? Try a few thin layers instead. Below you can see the undercoat on a recent model, with the previous paint layer showing on the hull, and the plastic of the newly attached storm-bolter showing through the thin undercoat. The dollar savings in spray cans is worth the secondary benefit of crisper details being retained as you add the next few layers!

(The "yellow" is light reflecting off a nearby bag covering the spray area)

Two Brush Blending is the core of what Meg teaches, and although she was previously employed by Privateer Press she sticks with their P3 paint line because it was designed for this particular technique. I have tried a little of it with some GW paints and you have to be careful in thinning down without losing the pigment once you start spreading it around. P3 does seem to save a lot of hassle, being much thinner already, though they do sell a medium which can add some of their particular properties to other paints. One of the students in the class had great success in using this method.

Contrary to what a few of the students (myself included) presumed, two brush blending involved only one colour, with one brush applying the paint and the other "feathering/working/wiping" the paint across the surface with the addition of one's own spit. I won't go in to too much detail suffice to say it can be used to both highlight and shade, required minimal effort to get some great results, and once you get the technique down it reduces a lot of painting time indeed! The armour and cloak in the above photo were painted with two brush blending, while the model on the right has been undercoated ready for the skin tutorial.

After a couple of hours with one brush resting in your lips and the other dabbing away with the paint, you feel like you're the master of the pigment, that two brush blending will solve all your painting problems. It's once you add in the highlights that it comes tumbling down (as Meg pointed out, she shades first, making it easy to touch up the base coat before highlighting). In the above photo you can see a relatively smooth orange in the centre, all ready for a nice glaze to even out the redness of the cloak. However, if you click on the photo and look closely you can see what looks like yellow dust on the model where the orange arrows are. I tried rushing things, skipping the orange and going straight for a highlight while playing with the pigment too much. It broke up, leaving a "chalky"effect as Meg describes it. Patience with this technique, gradual highlighting layers, and thinning the paint a little further should make for a smoother finish in the future.

Faces, Skin Tones and Colour Theory were the next most important set of lessons beyond the brush work, with Meg providing step by step recipes for a skin tones, hair and metals, all of which involved the use of colour theory to add depth to surfaces of the model and draw the viewer's attention to certain areas (usually the face). Even something as simple as painting an eye involved more than six steps! I look forward to trying out some more faces in the future. (A notepad was certainly essential for this class!) As you can see above, it pays to take a variety of models along with you to try out the various techniques. Although not finished, you can see the slightly ham-fisted attempt to add some depth to the skin tones in the model above.

Object Source Lighting (Meg has another term for this but I have forgotten it) was actually a simpler technique than expected, especially after watching a number of other artists go to great lengths in blending all of the cast light surfaces, not to mention intricate recipes for the source of the light itself. Two colours, white and the colour of the cast light, was all that Meg used in her demonstration, and I tried the same technique on my own model at home, which you can see above. Although not a match for some of the great artists out there, or even some of Meg's competition work, I am very pleased with how it turned out, and happy to be able to easily add a little more colour to flat surfaces like the one above. As always it payed to practice my two brush blending with some other colours before trying the yellow out.

A lot of chin holding. (Apparently a lot less chin wagging than the Australian class)

There were a number of additional in-depth demonstrations over the two days, but I have not had a chance to try these out on any models yet. Painting black and white surfaces is always tricky, and Meg clearly described things in terms of percentage of surface area covered as indicative of the overall colour, which helped out in theory at least. Lastly she demonstrated the use of certain gloss/clear mediums, glues and certain paints to create blood and "other fluids", much to amusement of the class. I can't say I'll be trying anything more adventurous than a splash of GW blood effects, but it's a good way to add a little something extra to a future project.

I have already been using some of the techniques on a number of different models, and instead of changing how I paint entirely I have instead used "two brush blending" to complement my current glazing and layering. Above you can see some work in progress models (ignoring the bad spray job on a humid day), with the model on the right shaded using techniques from Meg's class, with the addition of a few of my usual darker glazes and highlights to the model on the left, and the armour is already looking better than anything I have painted before. I really wanted to change my game away from the harsh highlights of the "Eavy Metal" paint style and try for a more somber and smoothly finished paint job, and Meg's class has really helped in that regard. As for the added bonus of a relatively easy OSL effect? Between the two, worth the price of admission alone. Now back to the painting desk before I get lazy and forget these new techniques!

Sunday 1 June 2014

New Camera! [Pic Heavy]

I have spent most of the time since arriving home from holidays in assembly mode, eager to get everything in the cupboard and bits box from sprue to model in an attempt to clean up my collection. The new Imperial Guard codex has passed me by as I have no intention of breaking away from my Necron and Blood Angels collections to play a static gun line style of list now that the new edition favours mobility over firepower (to a certain extent), nor do I wish to throw money at more large tank models to fill the cupboards. But I digress, as the most exciting thing at the moment (from a purely materialistic point of view) is my new phone/camera, a Nokia Lumia 1020 with a big ass camera on the back!

I won't bore you with and some sort of Windows vs Android vs Apple debate, suffice to say I enjoy the simplicity of the interface and the ease in taking, editing and sharing great photos. I had toyed with the idea of buying a basic SLR for miniature photography but already felt I had too many devices, my previous phone was on its last legs, and the local shop had the equivalent of a floor model for cheaper than retail. So far I have found find it very useful for documenting things at work and on the go, including some nice sunsets, fancy cars, relatives and quick copies of instructions or similar reference materials. I even tried the inbuilt navigation (once you download the maps you don't use any data).

Shooting from the hip with a decent camera!

Here's what went on to the blog...

...and the original photo.

Once home I quickly set things up to take some miniature photos, using my usual light box set up, and you could see a photo of some Iron Hands in my last post, which i have included above. I also took some better photos of painting class figures for a future blog post, but I have found the ease of use and being always "on hand" a great way to document work in progress shots, for which previously I would have had to move the model to a better location and get the dedicated camera out. All of which dents the enthusiasm for the actual project itself. Below are a few "off the cuff" shots from the past few weeks:

Which brings me to (hopefully) my next blog post covering a recent painting class I attended, in which we practiced "object source lighting" as shown in the above photo. So far I am loving my new brushes, paints and techniques for creating a much deeper, smoother colour transitions. Keep an eye out for the next post!