Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Playing fair with conversions

Modeling to advantage. Ah, what a loaded concept. Want all your Fire Warriors to be able to see under a tank? Just model them all with kneeling legs! Want your Wraithlord to be able to get cover saves from Guardians? Just model him crouching or kneeling! Want to stop playing 40K? Just start modeling to advantage and watch yourself get banned from tournaments and lose all your opponents!

Yes, we know it happens anyways. It's sad the lengths that people will go to compensate for bad tactics. I'd think it easier to just learn how to play the game...

But what about the other side of the coin? What about those people who want to do something different, but are worried about being accused of modeling for advantage. A few days ago Enter the Nurgling was contemplating a certain problem: wanting to do a properly heroic base for a champion without people thinking it was modeling for advantage.

Being a rather avid fan of conversions myself, I shared my thoughts over there. Still, I thought it might be good to share here too with a few updates.
When doing a major conversion or base work:
1. Try not to increase (or decrease) the vertical height of the model's head by more than 1-3mm. So for example, a large rock can offset a partial crouch. After all, it's the final position that matters and not how they got there. In the same sense, also try to keep true to the general bulk and displacement of the original figure.
2. Having the base decoration extend off the normal circle is fine as long as it doesn't interfere with gameplay. Overflow shouldn't be anything too overly elaborate and the original base should be visible. It's also good to overflow in one direction only and to follow base overflow of the model itself.
3. Base decorations shouldn't be higher than mid-shin unless the model is interacting with it. The model should be the focus and not the base. (So a column just sticking out of the ground is bad. But one they're stepping up on, leaning around or otherwise "doing something" with is fine.)
4. Even if the base or conversion isn't that extreme, always be willing to swap the model out for a normal model of the same size. I've never had anyone ask me to do this, but the willingness is there if they do.

As an example of this, I offer up the conversion I did to my Farseer's jetbike. Even though it's a custom built conversion, it places the guy at exactly the same height as he'd be sitting on a normal jetbike.

Cheers and enjoy! More Space Wolf unit reviews and maybe actual content posts when I get back from a brief vacation!


  1. I've never run into someone concerned with this excellent point, but I imagine it could be a major contention in tournaments.
    I've got some bases that could be considered modeling for advantage, in that it could count as "cover." I follow the "overflow in only one direction" guidance, so if there is ever a question, you simply expose the most exposed side to fire.

  2. I tend to raise up my HQ/Lord/Hero models on more epic bases. Is there ever a gaming advantage to raising an HQ model up over his subordinates? I can see the crouching/prone advantage, but I imagine being raised up higher would cause as much vulnerability as advantage.

  3. I have a fly tyrant that is mounted on a foam rock about 1.5" taller then his base. I did this for two reasons:

    One, it just looks cool having him above everything else in my swarm.

    Two, he has balrog wings in his upper shoulder sockets. If anyone has not seen how big these wings are just consider this, he measures almost 11" across.

    Now, in almost every case he will not get an advantage by being bigger (cover is almost impossible to find for him), but one case that could create an issue is for shooting. This is one reason why he is double talons and never has warp blast.

    I have yet to have someone object to him, but I imagine some might try it just to get a 229pt combat monster out of my list.

    It is cool though. No matter what, I get to take home my own little trophy... :)

  4. "...Just start modeling to advantage and watch yourself get banned from tournaments..."

    Does this actually happen? It's certainly beardy, but I don't see why someone would be banned for converting their models. In many cases, modeling a figure to be either higher or lower comes with innate advantages and disadvantages all in one. While it's true that a model on a raised dias does gain a certain advantage to see over intervening terrain, it also can be shot at more easily. Likewise, models in crouching positions gain access to cover, but also lose their field of fire.

    Naturally, this lends itself to modeling dedicated hand to hand troops in crouching positions so they get the advantages without the added hindrence. Modeling though, is as much of the hobby as painting is though, so I think it's important not to discourage people from doing it.

    Sometimes it will work out in your favor; sometimes it won't. Granted, there are people that are out to abuse the system, but I'd hope they're few and far between. I believe this is the part where I say:

    "Can't we all just get along?"

  5. Sorry about the slow response guys, I took a week off to go camping and am just catching up...

    @the other Kevin: Thankfully, there's the BRB, page 21 rule of "Scenic rocks and other decorative elements that players might have placed on the base of their models are
    always ignored from the point of view of determining cover (you cannot take your cover with you!)." So decorations like that are always ignored. My bit about not having decorations rise too high is more an aesthetic one rather than a gaming one.

    @Mike Howell: Raising the height of a model really can give an advantage, since that's how LOS and cover is traced. A few mm isn't really going to make a difference, but a couple inches really will. Notably, this is something that's not going to matter much for your standard character or infantry model, but what about a guy with a Heavy Weapon?

    @mchmr6677: Now that is an excellent example of doing a great conversion and then making deliberate choice to not gain gaming advantage. I applaud your choices there.

    @Warhammer39,999: Usually it is the model that gets banned and not the player, though I've seen both happen. Also, it's worth noting that this only applies to the most extreme and blatant cases.
    Still, it does still happen, especially in an environment where there's tangible gains, such as a tournament.
    A local example would be a DH Dreadnought where the missile launcher arm was extended a good 6" up and out from the main body. He'd deploy the thing behind a wall with just the weapon sticking out. The increased height gave him better LOS and capability to deny cover saves, since those are both drawn from the weapon mount. In turn, since the hull of the vehicle would be completely hidden, he'd try to claim a 3+ cover save against all incoming fire.
    He's since stopped bringing that model out, but I don't think it was because he "got it"... he's spent the last several years chasing whatever the newest internet power list is. :-p So his DH were dropped for Dark Eldar, Nob Bikerz, IG, Wolves, and I expect he'll soon be playing Tyranids.
    I agree that modeling is a major part of the hobby. Heck, I arguably spend more time building and sculpting than I do painting or playing. This post was mainly a commentary on being aware of the idea of modeling for gaming advantage, so that your conversion doesn't get you labeled as "that guy".