Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sculpting Spirit Stones

Hey there folks! There's been a few recent inquiries about how to sculpt Spirit Stones. Thing is, there's no "right" way, only whatever works best for you and the current piece. I know three different techniques to get the same effect and I'm sure there's more. (Feel free to share if you have a different method!) Please pardon the photos: I had to use Paint to edit as I recently upgraded to Windows 7 and can't find my Photoshop install disk...

Method 1: "Gem then Casing"
This is a two-step method. To start, you sculpt a protruding ovoid that becomes the gem. Let this dry. Then come back with a rolled out string of putty. Work it around the gem in a "C" shape to create the casing. Clean and smooth as you go until the ends meet. Remove any excess and then go back to clean up and shaping.
I find this method works best when you're sculpting the underlying layer and want to add a gem at the same time. It is mediocre for adding onto an existing layer as there isn't much surface area for the gem to stick to... even sculpting the casing can be enough pressure to break the bond.
Here's a straight shot...and an isometric.

Method 2: "Casing then Gem"
This is also a two-step method. Here you start with a flat circle of putty. Form your casing shape using a rounded tool, such at the top end of a small pin or a circular shaper. Press it into the center of the cicle and then rock the tool up and down to create your dished oval. Clean up as desired and allow this shape to cure. Then roll out a small ball for the gem and squish it in the center. Use a flat buffing tool to smooth the gem into place. If you squish too close to the casing, the blade point can be used to pick that back out.
This method is meant for applying to an existing surface, as it has maximized surface area. It is possible to do at the same time as an underlayer, but can be tricky as you have to press in and can easily mar the whole piece.
The two-step method does mean you have to wait to finish the piece. It is best for when you're creating several stones at the same time.
Here's a straight shot...and an isometric.

Method 3: "All at once!"
This is a single step method. Start with a protruding ovoid slightly larger than you would for Method 1. Then use the tip of a very sharp tool to press in around the edges to create the casing. Start at one side and work in both directions, so that you don't skew the shape when tooling. Once you've shaped the casing, go back to clean and smooth the piece. Be careful during this as it is easy to ruin the piece.
This method is only for applying to an existing surface. You CAN try doing this at the same time as the underlayer, but it will give you headaches.
The main advantage to this method is that it is done in one go. However, it is MUCH more difficult than the other 2 methods. It requires careful tooling and some sculpting experience to pull off.
Here's a straight shot...and an isometric.

Cheers and hope you enjoy!

As a personal note: No, I am not dead. :-p Life has been very busy both normally and at work. My 40k time has been cut drastically and my blogging time even more. I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things, but I expect the rest of the summer will still be slow. I hope to be more prolific after that!

***I'm sure the image is copyright someone, but I'm currently too lazy to hunt the name down... Used without permission, blah, blah, blah...***

Friday, May 14, 2010

W&N Matte Varnish

Greetings! A while back I ran out of my trusty bottle of Dull Cote Lacquer. Needing a replacement, I dropped by several stores to see if I could pick up a new one. Yet while I found the spray can version at a couple places, nobody was carrying the brush-on version.

Why did I care? Because there's certain things you can do with brush application that just don't work with spray. You can hit (or avoid) specific parts, control the thickness of coat, and get a LOT more coverage for your buck. On the downside, it requires a more time to apply and can be fiddly. But I figure that after I've spent *mumble mumble* hours on my average fig, what's an extra 5-10 minutes to hand apply the lacquer?

Eventually my quest washed my up at my local fine art store. Alas, they did not have what I was looking for. However, they did have a 75ml bottle of Winsor & Newton Matte Varnish. At only $5 after my university discount, it wasn't that much more than a spray bottle.

So here's Before:And After:About 5 minutes work and an hour or so of drying. Interestingly, my camera saw a large difference in saturation and muddled some of the colors... especially on the lighter yellow tones.

I've now done several figs with this product and have been very happy. It applies smoothly, tones things done VERY well, dries in a reasonable amount of time and doesn't leave the "grainy" feel that I've seen with sprays. It also thins out quite nicely.

However, do NOT mix it with other varnishes. The glossier a varnish is, the tighter and stronger a coat you get. Thus a gloss is much less likely to chip or flake compared to matte version. I normally do a base seal of gloss and then matte over that to the desired veneer. A couple days ago I started applying a bit of the matte to a fig when I realized I'd forgotten to do the base gloss. So I switched over, not thinking of what might happen... Yeah, it turned milk white. I should have taken a photo as it would have been an excellent example of what not to do.

Other than that, I have been quite happy with this product. I expect you'll see (or not see, as it is clear) this product on my figs for many, many posts to come.

Cheers and see you later!
***I'm sure the starter image is W&N's, but the others are my work...***

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Space Hulk Genestealers

Greetings everyone! After the heavy tactical content of my last post, I decided it was time for some lighter fare. I've been trudging through painting a Space Hulk set and recently finished up the Genestealers.

If you've seen the Broodlord I did, you might know that these guys have a non-standard color scheme. The reason for this? I'm painting them for a friend so that they can also field in his Tyranid army. He loaned me a couple sample figs to compare against. Note that these were NOT painted by Mark or myself. They were done by a friend of his up in Portland. First up was a simple Genestealer:Each major color was a simple basecoat, drybrush or heavy edging, and then maybe a wash. The application was... generous and layering non existant. I knew I could just slap something out at the same level pretty quickly... or I could challenge myself to paint better. I opted for the latter.
I do have to give the guy some credit: the paint job is fine tabletop quality and there are a lot of great conversions conversions and base work, as evidenced by this Warrior:The very first thing I did was nix the big green accent marks and large purple gun. I did keep them as accent tie-ins on eyes and tongues, but desaturated so that they wouldn't mar the overall effect. This brought the main colors back to a split compliment balance of true red, brown-white, and blue. Go read Sandwyrm's excellent series on Color Theory for a more detailed explanation. Then I did the guys a little something like this:There are 22 Genestealers in total. I did a test piece to see if the re-color and concept would work. Then I did the rest in sets of 7.The red is Mechrite Red darkened with Black, midtones of Red Gore, highlights in Red Gore mixed with Bleached Bone, inked in Black and washed with Red. Most of the base=>mid=>high transitions had 2-3 mix steps in between as I was thinning for translucent layering. This was an experiment that more or less worked, but was time consuming.The bone carapace was a base of Khemri Brown, midtone of Graveyard Earth mixed with Bleached Bone, highlights of Bleached Bone and then a couple washes and inks of Sepia and Devlan Mud. When I say "ink", that's usually undiluted ink or wash deliberately placed into recesses. "Wash" was usually a thinner version that was applied to the whole area to blend the color layers and darken the tone.The claws were based Regal Blue, midtone Ultramarine Blue, highlit with Ice Blue and washed with Asurmen Blue. I deliberately used a a non-transitional set of color here to make them look like they were glowing or powered rather than just claw.These guys were all sealed using diluted Future Floor Wax, to give that nice "new floor or wet Genestealer" sheen!

As a break from just painting bugs, I also knocked out two of the objective markers
Ironically, the Genestealers and Screamer-Killer I did ended up being about 1/2 of Mark's army at a recent torunament. Why ironic? Mark won "Best Painted"... and his idea of a complex paintjob is to touch up the drybrushing after dipping the model in wash. Even better is that in all my years of playing, I've never won Best Painted. I've gotten every other top laurel, but it's just never worked out for me to get that one. Heh.

Cheers and see you next time!
*** All images taken by ME! Use them at your peril...***

Thursday, May 6, 2010

B2B: Wound Allocation

Welcome to another exciting installment of "Back to Basics"! Today we're going to look at the fun-filled and oft confused subject of Wound Allocation.

So what is Wound Allocation? Simply, after a unit has received wounding hits, the owning player needs to distribute those hits among members of the unit. These rules exist to instill some structure to the process. They mainly focus on evenly distributing wounding hits (and casualty potential) throughout all members of the target unit.

Do we really need these rules? Yeah, sadly. When given the choice of losing a pawn or a rook, what one would you usually choose? Early 40k editions had fairly crude rules about how evenly wounds were allocated. It wasn't too difficult for for a decent player to shield their star models with the bodies of lesser troopers. Later turns of a game often devolved into a scrum of Captains, Sergeants, and special weapon troopers trying to beat on each other amid piles of rank and file corpses.
Now I do have to give the game designers some credit though... ... if you left all your dead models on the field, it really did start to resemble a lot of the old hero-centric artwork.
But as the game (and many players) grew up and got through puberty, the common desire shifted towards a bit less game and a dash more war in this wargame. Torrent of Fire, direct targeting effects (like Vindicaire Snipers or Mind War) and other rules started making it a bit harder for upgraded models to hide behind bullet shields. One of the effects of this evolutionary trend resolved as the current 5th edition Wound Allocation rules.

Okay, nice segue... but how does all this work then? The rules for Wound Allocation can be found in the Big Red Rulebook (aka Warhammer 40k 5th Edition Rulebook, or BRB for short) starting on page 24. Buy and RTFM for full details. But as a general look, these rules cover 3 types of targets: Simple Units, Complex Units, and Multi-Wound Models.

Page 24, Simple Units: A simple unit is when every model in the unit is exactly the same. Some units start the game this way, such as many Tyranids and Necrons. Others can start off as a complex unit and revert to a simple unit due to casualties. These are good rules to know and understand. Not only will you see this type of unit on the field, but it's also the basis used in more complex versions of the system.

When a simple unit is wounded, the owning player simply tests the number of wounding hits against the unit's best applicable save. The player then removes a number of models equal to the number of unsaved wounds. As all of the models are interchangeable, any model in the unit can be removed as a casualty.

Page 25, Complex Units: A complex unit occurs when one or more models in the unit is not like the others. No, we're not talking about the one guy you converted to making an obscene gesture. Checking to see if a model legally differs from his fellows checks 4 specific items: statline, wargear, weaponry and special rules. A unit can become complex simply by taking a Sergeant, buying a weapon upgrade or even just giving a single model a different type of grenade. Games Workshop designers are very fond of using limited upgrade availability as a method of keeping units balanced and varied, especially with Space Marines. Thus most units you will see on the field will be complex.

When a complex unit receives wounding hits, the first thing to do is group the members of the unit into wound groups, as if the unit was comprised of multiple simple units. For example, a complex Marine Devastator squad breaks down to:
Grouping 1: 5 Devastator Marines with Bolters (the baseline)
Grouping 2: 1 Space Marine Sergeant with Bolter & Signum (different statline & wargear)
Grouping 3: 2 Devastator Marines with Missile Launchers (different weapons)
Grouping 4: 2 Devastator Marines with Lascannons (different weapons)

The owning player can now allocate any wounding hits between the different groupings, in any combination they prefer. This often allows the owning player to skew the odds so that members of a particular wound grouping will have a higher or lower amounts of risk.
The big catch is that you can only assign one wound per model in the group. Then you have to move on to another grouping. It isn't until all models in the unit have been allocated a wounding hit before you can "wrap around" and put a second wound on the model. This (usually) keeps the owning player from saying something like "Corporal Cannonfodder jumps on the Void Grenade and takes all 120 wounds!". Instead, they have to spread those wounds out equally to all members of the unit.

So how can we use allocation to affect the odds? Say the above Devastator unit takes 12 wounding hits. Everyone in the unit must be allocated one wound each and has a 33.3% chance of failure.
You can modify the odds of a wound group surviving based on how you allocate the additional 2 wounds. Say you want to preserve your heavy weapons? The additional 2 wounds can be placed on the normal Bolter Marines. This forces that wound grouping to take 7 total saves. It increases their individual risk of failure to 46.7%, but leaves everyone else at a simple 33.3%. In reverse, say you don't need the Lascannons any more? The extra two wounds can be tucked into that wound grouping. The Lascannons then have a 66.7% chance of dying while everyone else stays at 33.3%.

Multiple Wound Models Some models are just bigger and tougher than the average bear... and this is represented by having multiple wounds in the statline. These are often heroes, veterans, monsters, daemons, mecha or other such hard to kill beasties.

Since these models can be wounded one or more times before being removed from the table, their wounds are organized into wound groups exactly the same as a complex unit. You can then allocate one wounding hit to the group per model. Unsaved wounds to a wound group cannot be spread among the group with a "these 3 Obliterators each take one wound each." Instead, whole models are removed within each grouping.

With the basics now established, I'd like to point out a few places where people often make errors or get confused about Wound Allocation.
1. Wound Allocation works the same in Shooting and Close Combat. Page 39 of the BRB wastes two full paragraphs to say that simple sentence. It's also the default mechanic for "No Retreat!" wounds, as that affects the unit and not individual models.

2. Dangerous Terrain tests are NOT subject to Wound Allocation. BRB, page 14, Dangerous Terrain, notes that each test is checked against the model. So these wounds CANNOT be allocated to other members of the unit, even ones of the same wound grouping. Be aware of this subtlety as many players will try to remove casualties to their greatest advantage. If it is feasible, I recommend having your opponent rolls for each test individually. It can really put a crimp in someone's day when they want to assault and their only models in range get eaten by a tree.Yeah, it looks a lot like that. Especially their horrified facial expressions.

Okay... but isn't the B2B series about taking basic rules and using them for all they're worth? Well, yeah! Let's also talk some advanced use of Wound Allocation:
1. Excess unsaved wounds in a wound group are lost. It doesn't matter if Sergeant Dies Horribly failed all four of his armour saves, it still only counts as one kill. This can really be fun when combined with...

2. Wounding hits that reduce or ignore armour are allocated (and can be stacked) into wound groups per the choice of the defending player. Take the above example of the Devastators, but consider what it would look like if 2 of those 12 hits were from a power weapon. Both of those could be stacked onto the Sergeant. Yeah, he'll "die twice", but only count as one actual kill and protect someone else from auto-failing their save.
Wrapping wounds onto auto-killed models is also a nice way to reduce the risks to the rest of the unit. Say you don't need those Lascannons but really want to keep the Sergeant's Power Fist alive long enough to hit back... You can dump the 2 power weapon hits onto the Lascannon guys, put normal saves on everyone else, then put the 2 wraparound saves onto the already dead Lascannon guys.
Enjoy this while you can as I suspect that this mechanic will change in 6th edition. I forsee it becoming like the Instant Death rule for multi-wound units, where you will have to allocate all wounds that ignore or reduce armour (or are of a specific AP value) at the same time. This would mean that you can't stack multiple on one guy as easily.

3. Units that diversify their wargear when purchased can abuse Wound Allocation by increasing their number of wound groups. Single wound units can benefit from this by wasting the wounds as mentioned above. But you see this most commonly with multiple wound units like Nob Bikerz or Thunderwolf Cavalry. The idea is to get the unit to have as many wound groups as possible, so that you can spread out multiple wounds without having to remove whole models.

4. Unsaved wounds can be put on any model in the unit of that wound grouping. Casualties can be taken on models that were out of Line of Sight, out of range or even such that it puts the unit out of coherency. This can be used and exploited to such extent that it probably deserves an entire article. For a few quick ideas: casualties can be pulled from the front ranks to deny your opponent the charge, they can be pulled from the back to make sure your front line is as far forward as possible for charging the enemy, or they can be pulled from models out in the open to put 50%+ of the remaining unit in cover.

Whew. I think this wall of text has gotten more than long enough and it's way past my bed time. Hope you folks have picked up a useful idea or three from this.. Cheers and catch you next time!

***Images from a Shooting Gallery game, Games Workshop and the old RTT Hero-Hammer artwork, Simple Jack is proof you should never go full retard, f33r teh LOLm33rCats, and the creepy-awesome Mark Ryden. WARNING: Searching for post images with SafeSearch off can be very... distracting.***

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Space Hulk Librarian

Hello All!
Continuing show & tell time, here's my recently finished Space Hulk Librarian. I still want to go back with DullCote to tone down the shine on much of him, especially the recesses of the tabard. But I'm currently out of DullCote and the photo setup was ready, so I decided to go ahead and get some pics. Here's what he looks like, in all his flaws and glory:I'm not ecstatic about his face. It seems my limited selection of flesh tone paints had died and dried up over the years since I last used them. As it's tricky to get good artist paint late at night and I wanted to be done with this damned project, I mixed this and the highlighter up from a couple brown, a red and a white.
I am underwhelmed with several things about this sculpt. There's a number of little details that fell victim of the CAD sculpting process. There also the super-sized axe he's holding up like he's selling it on late night TV. But I've realized the part I hate most is the sculpting on his eyes... or, I should say, the utter lack thereof. They are these huge featureless orbs bulging out of the caverns under his mighty jutting forehead. They look like a normal human had his eye sockets staved in with a sledgehammer and some joker stuffed a pair of golf balls into the cavities. It looks better once I freehanded eyelids, but the effort was probably more than it was really worth. I understand now why many people don't bother to define his eyes or do them with a glow effect.
As if all that weren't enough, I got inspired by the work of several other bloggers and decided to try my hand at doing his shoulder heraldry...It's not a well known thing, but the entire reason I taught myself to sculpt is because I hate doing freehand. Attempting this took me a number of tries... It was bad enough that I had to just scrape the surface clean a couple times. (Yes, I know how bad that is to do... the alternative was worse.) It didn't help that the first time I tried doing it all in metallics. Wow, was that a mistake. Guys, please note that layered metallics do not allow for a clean definition of shape nor blending of tone. Trust me on this mistake.
Still, I'm glad I persevered. I certainly learned that I need to have a better idea of how I want it to look before I start. Also, I need to replace my flesh tones and build a decent wet palette. The end result isn't great work, but it's decent and it's mine. Plus, I'm tired of working on him. It's time to work on some other projects now.

***All images are MINE! They are my precious... and totally posted on the internet. This makes them about as protected as your average Taiwanese hooker. Have fun and don't complain to me if you catch a virus, you perverts.***

Friday, April 23, 2010

Nid Screamer-Killer

Cheers and welcome back to another exciting adventure in rambling 40K blogging! I thought about sparing you all the wall of text and just doing some pics, but the pics can't tell the full story...

So today's post is on an old Tyranid Hunter-Screamer-Killer. A few weeks ago, my friend and gaming buddy Mark called. He wanted to see about picking up the Space Hulk Genestealers I'd painted for him. (They'll be detailed in a future post once I get more pics of them.) This was a Tuesday and he wanted to use them in a tournament that Saturday. (Sadly, I had family obligations and couldn't attend.) While we were chatting, it came up that he was still debating his list. He knew what he wanted to run but it would knock a few painting points because his Carnifex was only primered. I gave it a quick thought, calculated the timing and told him that if he got it to me soon, I could have it at least minimally painted. So he dropped it off the next evening.

Then per the best laid plans of mice and men, I got sick with a nasty upper respiratory infection. I spent a couple days doing nothing more complex than sleeping and coughing. I wasn't able to focus on the fig until some time Friday evening. I should note that I'm not a fast painter; glacial might be a better label. I over think things, apply more layers than most people will ever notice, get easily distracted and generally move projects along only when the muse is with me. But I was down to the wire for this guy. I threw on the main basecoat of color in about an hour. This ended up being a good thing as I got a call from Mark as I was just finishing a wash of Devlan Mud. Seems he wanted to get a full night sleep and could he pick them all up in an hour? Silly Mark, sleep is for the weak! So I spent the last hour doing highlights (while avoiding the still-drying wash), picking out details, and fixing any glaring mistakes. The end result was this:And from the back:I have to say, I'm pretty damned happy with the results for only 3 hours at the painting table. Also, yes, these were taken with the new lightbox setup.

***All images are MINE! What am I going to do if you borrow them? Throw a hissy because you like my work?***

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lightbox Adventures

Hello again everyone!
I'm not really a big painter or photographer, so I've never invested in a lightbox. Typically I'd just put the fig on a white backdrop, make sure there was some decent ambient light and take a few snaps. It was never great, but it wasn't horrible either. Yet occasionally I'd want a nicer base pic for a contest or something. So I'd set up extra lamps, offer some voodoo sacrifice, play with the camera settings, take a lot of source pics and generally do a lot of dancing around and playing with variables. All this extra work would get me pics that were slightly better but never drastically so. I even built a standard do-it-yourself lightbox with wax paper filters, but was underwhelmed with the improvement in lighting compared to the headache of storing that extra junk. I figured my main problem was my antique, crappy digital camera.

Then a couple weeks ago I ran across a post on a different lightbox approach from Corvus Miniatures. The main point was to use direct or strong ambient lighting, but diffusing it across the miniature by having the side walls of the box covered with aluminum foil. I figured I was capable of doing something similar... and if it didn't work, I'd learn something and only be out a couple sheets of foil. Might as well try it out and see what happens! Being the penurious sort that I am, I didn't even make mine as complex as his. I simply covered two pieces of cardstock with aluminum foil. The foil was held in place with duct tape. The rest of the setup was one piece of white printer paper, my usual lamps and lighting, a stack of hardback books to be the framework, another book to raise the camera up a bit, and the lid of a Play-Do jar to angle the camera. The end result looked a little something like this:But how to really compare any difference? I'd recently put up some pics of the Space Hulk Broodlord I recently finished, so I "volun-told" him to present for a mug shot. A couple pics were made and I opened them into Photoshop to see how much work they'd take to correct... and I was blown away by what I was looking at. Here, have a side-by-side comparison:The one on the left was with bright ambient light and no redirect. The one on the right is with the aluminum foil lightbox sides. Click the image to see a larger version... the difference is even more notable. Same lights in a similar setup, same crappy camera, same background paper, same miniature... but OH, what a difference! The pic almost looks better than the real model. There's still a bit of light glare cropping up, but it is a high-gloss model and I kinda expect that. What I didn't expect was how much of the shading and color tone would appear. Wow.

There's an old saying I recall, "There's none who cry louder than a thief accused of a crime they didn't commit or a sinner who has just found God." Well, I'm a convert. If you've been being lazy and just snapping shots of figs on your table, STOP! Spend a couple minutes to put up some aluminum foil and a backdrop and you might find some amazing results. With the way I built mine, it even goes nicely flat back on the book shelf.
Hopefully this has given you guys some ideas and inspiration. Cheers and see you soon! I'm off to work on my super secret BIG project...

***Starter image grabbed from a blog for audiophiles and may or may not have been theirs in the first place. The usual standards apply. The rest of the pics are MINE! Use them as you wish.***

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How many Troops are "Enough"?

Hello boys and girls! Today, I've decided to talk about a critical component of army list building: balancing for "enough" Troops.

Cruising around the interwebs yesterday, Sildani asked me to take a look at his armylist on Warseer. Some of the comments made me shake my head in despair, but one in particular caught my eye: that Eldar should have "one Troop per 500 points".

This comment pained on several levels. Not only did was I misquoted, but he also called it an "adage". Ouch. All things considered, there's worse rules you could follow when building a list, but it's mediocre to use such a generic formula. Not all Troops choices were created equally. There's massive differences in cost, stats, offensive effect, battlefield role and other special rules. This diversity means you need to apply more complex analysis.

Troops are often the bland, common, grunt soldiers of the army. Everything Troops can do, selections from other Force Orgs do larger, faster, stronger and louder. For example, compare to the basic Tactical Marine. Assault Marines are faster and better in assault, Devastators get more heavy weapons, Terminators tougher and better in assault... heck, even most Troops Transports are outclassed by dedicated platforms such as the Predator. But there's one thing the humble Tac Marine has that they don't: Scoring status.

Now what does Scoring really mean? In 2/3's of normal games, living Troops will be critical to winning the game. It only takes ONE guy to survive and be standing next to that objective. The likelihood of a unit surviving is mainly a factor of Toughness, Save, Wounds/Unit Size, and Cost. Low survival units like IG Troopers or Eldar Guardians balance out by having a cheap cost and high unit size. While high survival units like Plague Marines balance with a high cost. How you play, how aggressively the unit is used, the unit's maneuverability, the necessity of having them on the board rather than in Reserves, and even their perceived threat level can affect overall survivability too.

A unit's overall value should also be rated against what is needed to protect them versus the amount invested in them versus what is needed to make them actually "do something" other than Score. For example, Dire Avengers as a Vehicle Upgrade are a durable Troops choice because they're cheap enough to not care about ever getting out of their tank. Plague Marines are also a good Troops choice because they're extremely durable even without the a protection of a tank, meaning they're happy to get out of the tank and zap with a couple meltaguns.

So the truth is, there's no one "perfect" system for figuring out what is "enough" versus "too much" or "not enough". You'll have to find that sweet spot based upon your own army and playstyle. However, I'll share my general formula for Eldar:
5 Guardians, 5 DA or 3 Jetbikes = .5 points per multiple
10 Wraithguard as Troops = 3 points
Non-mechanized but with FortuneSeer = x1.5 points
Mounted in a Tank = +1 point
Tank has Holofields = +1 point
Unit designed to not leave their Tank or hide in Reserves (ex: DAVU) = +1 point
Mechanized with FortuneSeer = +1 point

A force should have a minimum of 1 point per 500 points of game. Optimal seems about 1 point per 275-300 spent. More than 1 point per 200-250 spent and you're probably overspending on Troops. So at 1750 you want a minimum score of 3.5, optimal is about 6-6.5 and going much over 7 is questionable.
2x10 Guardians or 2x3 Jetbikes? 1-2 points and asking for trouble.
2x DAVU Falcons? 7 points... viable but a little limited.
1x10 Wraithguard w Eldrad and a 9+Jetbike squad with Fortune Jetseer? 6.75, fun, durable, and surprisingly effective.
2x Storm Squads in Serpents and a DAVU HoloFalcon? 7.5 points and so solid that more Troops will often be a waste.

Hrm... for more articles on list building, check out Sandwyrm's "4 Things", Raptor1313's "Opportunity Cost", Stelek's "Unit Redundancy", Kirby's "Army Composition", and TheKingElessar's "Dropping the Metaphor". These authors all have some excellent articles on the subject if you poke around a bit, but the ones linked are items I think every 40ker should read. Cheers and see you next time!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sculpting 202: Layering

Hello fearless readers! The last few weeks I've been finding myself returning to the part of the hobby I enjoy almost as much as playing: Sculpting. Today we're going to look at the concept of Layering.

Layering is comprised of two key concepts:
1. You don't have to do every little detail in a single go.
I consider this THE biggest tip anyone can receive when getting into Sculpting. For any sculpt more complex than a simple fill or small detail, you should build up the piece in small sections or layers. Then allow each stage to fully cure overnight before working on another. (This can be cut to about 2 hours if you use a cooker.)
Why do things in stages? Because there's few things as frustrating as getting a sculpt just right, starting on something else and accidentally obliterating or marring the first sculpt. By allowing each stage to fully solidify, you don't have to worry about an errant thumb squishing your prior work. To quote my grandfather, "If you can't take the time to do it right the first time, how do you have time to do it twice?"
So once you've finished a layer, set the piece off to the side and work on something else until the work is cured. This is a large part of why I typically have 3-6 different sculpting projects on my desk at the same time. As a bonus, doing it in layers also means you're (probably) not staring at the same fig for hours and hours!

2. It is much easier to make the outer layer look "right" when you are building onto a correctly shaped underlayer.
In the same way that armature becomes the miniature's skeleton, the underlayer is their flesh. These layers don't have to be perfectly detailed and 100% anatomically correct. After all, you're just going to be covering it up. But it is good to have the general shape and size of the muscles and flesh defined. This will greatly assist you in keeping the miniature's overall proportions and mass correct. It also makes it much easier to gauge the correct shaping for covering layer(s). This is particularly critical for clothing, but also applies to armour, jewelry, decorations and even bare flesh.
For a great example of layering and underlayers, I again recommend checking out Klaus' Ogyrn. It's an excellent example of generally defining the basic musculature and bulk before adding the final layers of clothing and armour.
Another good example is Colonel Corbane's recent Sergeant Harker conversion. For the shirt, he's used the original bare-chested sculpt for his underlayer. The cloak is also built up in several layers to achieve the correct shape and look.

To show you how a project breaks down for me, I've dusted off my photo library from when I'd first planned this article 8 months or so ago. This part of the project was specifically done to show the concept of layering in stages. Originally I meant to just put a pickelhaube helmet on an Assault on Black Reach Ork, but my muse struck and it developed into a little bit more...

Here's what the ugly little blighter looked like to start. This was just after I'd modified his neck for the "Simple Fills" article. Note that I've stuck a length of pin into his skull to act as a basic armature and mounting point for the eventual helmet spike.Then I added my first layer of Green Stuff. I took care to get the right thickness for the dome of the helmet and smoothed the layer, but didn't bother making the edges all neat and proper.On the next application I cleaned up the edges and added the basic temple guards. There's a few tool marks here as I knew I'd be adding some more layers later. I could just as easily left them as he's just an Ork... they're not exactly known for their studious maintenance protocols.It was about this point that I realized he really needed an iron gob! So the next layer spent some time on that. Note that I only did the right side on this step; the left was added in a later step. I also added a small line of putty around the front of the helmet to start defining the brim. It didn't seem like this helmet should be "pretty", so I made sure there were some dents and scratches on the final brim.It looks like I skipped a session or two between this picture and the last. Those saw the sculpting of the left side of the gob, defining of the brim, and the addition of a rivet hinge for the gob. This shot was right after rolling out the putty for creating the helmet's crest.Once the crest was sculpted and cured, I finished him off with a spike stolen from somewhere. I think it was a Fantasy skeleton's spearhead or something...
Anyways, that's it for today. Hopefully you've gleaned something useful and/or inspiring! Cheers!

***Starter image borrowed from this site on CSS tables and randomly found via Google. As usual, it will be removed on request. The rest of the pics are mine.***

Off-topic note: Due to life, distractions and other whatnot, I promised this article "next week"... something like 8 months ago. :-p I find much more enjoyment from blogging when I write about what's on my mind at the time rather than trying to force an article. I hope you guys don't mind, but the quality seems much better when my muse is present.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Space Hulk Broodlord

I've spent the last couple days off work sick with an upper respiratory infection. I'm doing better now and still managed to do a few useful things with the down time. Mainly, I finished off the last of the Space Hulk Genestealers and turned my brush on the Broodlord. He looks a little something like this (Updated Pic):Old Pic:I still need to go back and dull coat the base as it's a little shiny. I'm also thinking about touching up the purple on his tongue and maybe lightening up the top of his back spines.The high-gloss finish on this guy made him a trick to photo. A lot of the subtleties aren't showing. Doesn't help that most of the walls in my place are light-absorbing Khemri Brown and I have a crappy camera. Of course, maybe I could have done a bit more to set up the shot...I'm going to try some other shots during the day to see if I can get something a little better.
Also, we have a cameo by my fearless helper!I also did up a little something for my wife:I found this wee beastie in a bargain bin a while back and have been meaning to do it up for her. She's doing her PhD in NeuroScience and has a thing about brains...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Brush Cleaner

I'm a cynic in general and especially when it comes to rave product testimonials. I always wonder if the person's a paid shill or getting a kickback. Still, late last year I was cruising the interwebs and came across a post on caring for your brushes.

Now after ruining my first few brush sets, I picked up the normal care stuff like cleaning and rinsing as I go, cleaning with a bit of soap at the end of the day, storing them so that the tips don't get smooshed... all that. But I'll admit, over the years I've mainly bought GW brushes. Their drybrushes are pretty nice and the normal ones aren't that bad. Even better, they're readily available and not too expensive. So if one died, it wasn't any big deal. While "art store" brushes might be nicer or hold a point longer, the costs never balanced out. They would be three times the price to only get twice the longevity. So I only bothered with a nicer brand for my detailing brush.

Then Thanksgiving '09 rolls around and the family is headed out of town to spend the weekend with the in-laws. Now an evil thing about Tucson is that my favorite art supply shop is right next door to my favorite coffee shop. It's a dangerous combination for my checkbook... If you're ever in town, swing by the area. It's worth the time. They get bean from Intelligentsia and have a pre-Starbucks Clover! There's also a large used bookstore about a block away. It's not Powell's, but decent and local. Also cruise across town to stop at Hat's Games and drop me an e-mail if you want to arrange a game!

Ack, back on topic! Faced with the choice of several days socializing with my in-laws or sitting on the porch painting minis, I needed a new detailing brush! We stop to get coffee for the drive and I pop into the art store. A master of swiftly grasping the obvious, the big neon orange "30% off" sign on Escoda brushes eventually catches my eye. I decide to splurge and pick up a few brushes, including a size 6 shader. (I've been VERY happy with it.) Ironically, due to an error on my part, the detailers I picked up were actually watercolor brushes. Thankfully, my wife and some friends do watercolor Illumination and can use them.

Anyways! While I was standing there in line contemplating how to tell my wife that I just spent the cost of a sushi dinner on three tiny brushes, my eye falls upon this:Yes, a jar of "The Master's" Brush Cleaner and the eventual topic of this post! I figured I was already spending too much and remembered that article I'd recently read... so I tossed in a jar to try it out.

This stuff is AWESOME.

So awesome, I was tempted to make "AWESOME" animated with sparklies...

One of the color shifts I've always hated switching between is from painting red to painting white/bone. Yes, the same colors as my Eldar army. Why do I hate this so? Because despite how transparent GW red is, the damned pigment is PERVASIVE. You can clean your brush obsessively and it will STILL creep back in and tint your clean white lines an annoying pink! I already get enough guff for being an Eldar player, I certainly don't need them PINK!

So how awesome is this cleaner? Let me tell you... no, no, let me SHOW you! I did a bunch of Mechrite Red on a Broodlord for a friend and then cleaned my brush. The brush was dipped into clean water, spun at an angle against the side of the water cup to open up the bristles, and then the head and ferrule were press wiped on a napkin. Here's what the napkin looked like after cleaning with water:I did 2 sets of wipes with 6 on each row for a total of 12 wipes. The end result looks pretty clean, right? Well, then I immediately took the "clean" brush and did the same process with brush cleaner. Here's the result:All the pink you see is what came out AFTER I'd already "cleaned" the brush with water. How about an overall shot:With the brush actually clean now, I was able to immediately switch to working with white and didn't have any pink discoloration. Even better, this stuff can help restore old brushes and helps your current brush keep it's shape longer.

So pick some up and try it out. You won't be disappointed. Just don't forget to rinse your brush before sticking it in your mouth... this stuff tastes almost as horrible as GW's Foundation paints. (You should never stick your brushes in your mouth... don't ask me why I know how these things taste. :-p )

Cheers and hope you've enjoyed my mad ramblings this afternoon! I needed something to do and knew better than to try and paint fine detail when doped up on cough medicine. Maybe I should apply that rule to blogging too...

UPDATE: It looks like I'm not the only one shilling for General Pencil this weekend... The esteemed Colonel Corbane also posted on how awesome this stuff is. Great minds think alike or simple minds seldom differ? :-p

And no, I didn't receive a dime for any of the links in this post.

***Images grabbed from this site, General Pencil and my camera.***