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.***

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sculpting 105: Fine Line Shaping

The fine Colonel Corbane has compiled and posted an excellent set of links on Sculpting and kindly included some of my posts. This drove some traffic to my Farseer on a Jetbike post where JRV stepped up with a question. (Stop reading this right now and go check out his kit bash Leviathan. It's okay, I'll wait...) He wanted to know "How you are getting those fine detail lines? Is that a press mold or something?"

The answer is no, that's not a press mold. Those lines are all hand sculpted. However, the process is really quite easy once you get the hang of it. Spinning out a thread of putty and trying to adhere it to your fig is going to be a study in frustration. You'll smoosh the detail, break the thread and generally want to give up in frustration or throw things at the wall. (Trust me, I speak from first-hand experience...) The trick is to do majority of your shaping through the REMOVAL of putty.

Step 1: Roll out a thin tube of putty and stick it to the fig. Just go for the general shape you want and make sure there's excess putty. The big thing is to have the putty where you want with a good contact surface to the model. Having the correct general thickness is nice too, but the specifics can be fixed later.In cross-section, it should look a bit like this:Step 2: Use the blade of your sculpting tool to cut away the excess putty. Be careful to cut all the way through, pull away slowly and work in sections. You don't want to pull up your contact surface.Step 3: Now that you have the correct amount of putty where you want it and a good contact surface, you can sharpen the edges and top of your line with the sculpting tool.It takes a little care and practice, but the technique itself is not that difficult. Cheers and hope this helps!

***Inset image from a biomedical site that had the look I wanted...***

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sculpting 104: Silicon Shaping Tools

Way back when I started this blog as a regular thing, I posted an article "Sculpting 101: Tools". In there I gave a brief overview of the general tools you will find on my desk during a project. Well, mchmr6677 recently dropped me an e-mail asking:
"I've read articles on BoLS and other sites about using clay shapers with greenstuff. Do you use them? And, if you do, which ones do you use? They seem a little expensive (around $8 each) and come in a myriad of sizes."

Okay, I have to sidetrack into a bit of history for a sec. Technically, almost every "sculpting tool" out there pitched for use with miniature sculpting is actually a rededicated wax/clay carving or shaping tool. Yet the term "clay shaper" has become nigh synonymous with silicon tipped tools. This is largely thanks to Royal Sovereign's "Colour Shapers", of which a sub set is specifically billed as "Clay Shapers". This is like Kleenex, Xerox, Green Stuff and several other brand/product names that have slipped into the vernacular due to great marketing and a nigh monopolistic dominance of a niche audience. You can now find several off-brand copycats marketing their silicon or rubber tip tools as "clay shapers" too. Gotta love it.

So is a silicon tipped shaping tool better than a metal? Yes and no.
1. Extremely slick surface.
Probably the best thing about these is how smooth they are. You can work with the sculpting epoxy sooner and will require less lubricant. They're also ideal for buffing out large smooth surfaces due to the reduced sliding drag.
2. Shape. Silicon and rubber tips have to be of a heavier and thicker material to resist bending, deformation, and tearing. So they have thicker head shapes than you would normally find in a metal tool. I've often found the difficulty level of a project can drastically change when you have the "right" shaped tool for the job.
3. Cleaning. Because of the ultra-smooth surface, many materials won't bond to the surface and will easily peel away. Cleaning is often little more than a water rinse and toweling.
4. Purpose of design. These are excellent tools specifically designed for artists working in this type of medium. They have decent thickness handles, good ergonomics for grip and just feel "right" for this kind of work. In comparison, most metal shaping tools are actually re-purposed dental tools. They often have a minimum thickness to the shaft to save on material and many sets have tool shapes we're unlikely to need.

1. Flexible tips.
I strongly recommend getting the "Extra Firm" model. The pliability of the softer versions seems perfect for a light medium such as fondant, marzipan or even oil paint. Combine a pliable tool and the finickiness of epoxy and you have an exercise in frustration, especially if you aren't familiar with how the sculpting epoxy handles. These tools are not "beginner friendly".
2. Shape. Again, because of the material involved, silicon tip shapers tend to be heavier and thicker than their metal counterparts. Certain shapes just aren't plausible, especially sharp points and edges. Everything on them is just a little rounded. So where they might be the perfect tool for one job, they'll be horrible for another.
3. Cleaning. Those few materials that do manage to bond to the surface can mar your tip to remove. Metal offers a small advantage in that anything that really bonds can simply be sliced away and/or buffed off with fine-grit sandpaper.
4. Tip Degradation. Not only is there the above, but many forms of silicone lubricant (such as KY Jelly) and caustic chemicals can rot your tip. Even worse is if you leave your tools out and have a cat that likes to chew on things...
5. Price. Silicon tipped shapers are cheaper than good brushes, but still kinda expensive. For the same price as one or two silicone tipped shapers, a little bit of hunting around can get you a complete 12-piece set of metal dental tools.

So if you're just starting to sculpt and want something a little more precise than your fingers, I'd suggest getting a metal tool set. But if you've got a few sculpts under your belt, these won't replace your normal tools but are an excellent item to pick up to expand your toolbox. I would particularly recommend Royal Sovereign's Size 0 Angle Chisel and Size 2 Taper Point as my "best buys" and the ones I personally use. Cheers!

***Images are undoubtedly copyright of Royal Sovereign, FOX and Universal Studios and will be removed if asked.***

Thursday, March 11, 2010

B2B: Escorting

Another "Back to Basics", today we're looking at the concept of "Escorting".

Units that are Falling Back are automatically removed from the table if any model in the unit hits the board edge or at the end of the game. This makes them easy Kill Points and unable to Score or Contest objectives. Also, a unit that is Falling Back counts as having moved that turn and can't use Heavy Weapons, even if they Regroup. There's exceptions, of course, such as Space Marines that Regroup using "And They Shall Know No Fear" and/or anyone able to move and fire Heavy Weapons. Still, these are categorically "Good Things" when it is happening to your opponent. So once you've gone through the laborious process of breaking an enemy unit, don't you want them to stay broken?

Units can take a Regroup check at the beginning of the unit's Movement phase. If they pass the test, they regroup and hang around. If they fail, they run another 2d6" or more. Simple enough. The problem here is that you're relying on luck of the dice when odds are probably in their favor. Many units, such as Space Marines, don't even have to test and automatically Regroup. But there's a simple solution: never allow them to test in the first place!

There's three criteria that must be met before a unit can test to Regroup. If any one is failed, the unit keeps on running. These are:
1. The unit is in coherency. This one is probably the most uncommon reason for a Regroup to fail. Not only will smart opponents remove casualties or move models in an order so that this doesn't happen, but many people naturally bias the movement angles and/or distance moved to keep the unit in coherency. As you've already Broken one of their units, getting picky about this with an opponent is a sure way to kill the fun of their game. There are certainly ways to create this occurrence with some really tricky tactical use of another unit, for an opponent to get unlucky on a unit with weird wound allocation, or even for them to make a stupid mistake when moving their models. But these aren't occurrences I'd suggest relying on.
2. The unit is at or above half strength. Just killed off 1/2 those guys and made them run? Great! You can ignore them now as they'll keep running. Well, unless they're Eldar with an Avatar near, IG with Orders, Marines with "And They Shall Know No Fear"... the list just goes on and on. Almost every Codex has some way of getting around this requirement or won't break in the first place. So be aware of what your opponent's army can do before you rely on this one.
3. There's no enemy unit(s) within 6". This is the key to Escorting and the most common reason for a Regroup to be skipped. Why? Because it is a factor that YOU can control. As long as there's an enemy within 6", even the bravest Space Marine will keep "Advancing to the Rear".

As with all things, there's a catch. I've been asked "Units that are Falling Back can still shoot! Why would I want my guys to Escort and get shot up?" It comes down to one thing: Tactical Opportunity-Cost. You need to honestly assess the amount of damage that unit will cause to your forces before they are removed from the table. Also look at secondary factors like if pursuing them will put your unit out of position, open to other fire or otherwise at a disadvantage.
Then compare that to the amount of damage the enemy unit would be able to cause if allowed to regroup. Given that the unit will be under your opponent's control, looking to cause maximum havoc, and able to Score or Contest objectives? The majority of the time you will want to keep them running.

But wait! There's ways you can minimize the amount of headache the broken unit causes you. My personal favorite? Don't make Escorting your primary objective. Instead, look to accomplish another tactical objective AND Escort the enemy. For example, this can include charging other enemy units (this usually protects you as the Broken unit cannot shoot into CC), securing a mission objective, shooting up another target, Screening, or even just annoying your opponent in hopes that it causes them to make a mistake. How can you do this? Here's an example where some Genestealers have found themselves in charge range of the Red Squad of Space Marines... and then charge on in.The Marines killed one Genestealer but lost three of their number, fail Morale and Fall Back, aren't caught on a Sweeping Advance, and move 9".So what do you do now? I've seen many players just move their entire unit back into the ruins and spread out to avoid enemy Blast markers. But is this really worth it? Those Marines are probably just going to regroup, walk back up and shoot you anyways. They're also going to get extra attacks if they opt to charge. Worse yet, your opponent might not play your game and have the unit wander off to support somewhere else! So why not move up a few guys and keep them running? The majority of the squad is still in cover and you've lost nothing tactically by moving up. Yes the unit is going to get shot by both squads, but they were going to be shot anyways. Now when the Red Squad checks for Regroup, there's enemy units within 6" again and they will Fall Back. This can potentially put the Red Squad out of Rapid Fire range, their move direction isn't optional, and they won't be able to assault!But that's not the end of it... say the Red Squad only falls Back another 6" on their turn. This puts them out of your unit's range, so they will Regroup on their next turn. So why not move in such a way that you prevent this?Then when you charge, you will have models within 6" even if the combat is a press. On your opponent's turn, that squad will hit the edge of the board and be out of the game.

Now remember, these Fall Back moves (and Regroup checks) happen at the start of the owning player's Movement Phase. The average Fall Back distance is going to be 7". With a 6" move and the option to Run or Assault, a unit should normally have no problems keeping up with a fleeing enemy and forcing them off the board.

UPDATE: sonsoftaurus brings up an excellent point that Transport vehicles are a great unit to use for this purpose. They are fast enough to keep up, can Tank Shock to cause extra Fall Backs, and might as well be doing something anyways. It's a great use of a Rhino or other vehicle that's hanging around.
ChimeraHiveMind also notes a very important side effect of Falling Back: "Troops who are falling back automatically fail all Morale checks, except those to regroup." Subsequent Morale checks from Shooting, Tank Shock, Psychic Powers or otherwise can cause the unit to execute additional Fall Back moves. This can be used to push a unit multiple times in the same turn and cause them to quit the field even sooner. Learn this, know it, love it.

Cheers and hope you've learned something! For my part, it was so difficult to write this entire thing and not make any "Sisters of Battle Escort Service" jokes... "Get thee to a nunnery!" Heh.

***Images from Motor Trend, July 1990 and Monty Python's Holy Grail. Used without permission and will be removed upon request.***

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sturgard's Space Wolves

Greetings everyone! So part of the reason I ran the contest was to try and get ahead on posting... That didn't happen. So instead I'm going to share some pics for a friend of mine that doesn't have a blog. These great Space Wolves belong to sturgard from Warseer, a gent I chat Space Wolf tactics with quite regularly. Please give him some feedback! (Well, other than that he needs to turn off the flash and use a light box to really show these guys off...)

First up is his Rune Priest in Terminator Armour, based off the Logan model.The first squad of Grey Hunters.The second squad of Grey Hunters.And his Mark of the Wulfen Grey Hunters.A solid Long Fangs squad.A Rhino with spiffy FW doors.A VERY dynamically posed Biker.An ancient Dreadnought.And a Land Speeder Storm. It's a shame that the rules for this didn't make it into the Codex as this is a great model.
***All images are Sturgard's and published with permission***

Monday, March 1, 2010

CONTEST: Results!

To distract myself from constantly refreshing the standings, I played through a whirlwind 8 games of Blood Bowl yesterday. But when the Banner Contest polls closed...
Warhammer39,999's Jetseer banner swept the standings. Congrats! He's getting a base model worth up to $50, with custom sculpting and conversion to spec. I'm looking forward to hearing what he has in mind.

Also, thanks to Suneokun for the "Lone Ork" entry and my wife for the "Thinker". I ended up liking all three primary entries so much that I'm going to work something out in trade for all of them. That way I can alternate between them at whim!

But I'm sure the rest of you are here about the results of the second half of the contest! With the aid of a handy number generator...
Sculpting Tools A: 19, Scherdy! Who doesn't have a site to gander at...
Sculpting Tools B: 15, Rusty Dice! A great painter with some amazingly clean freehand. Your time would be well spent stepping over there for a look.

Then there was a choice of a fig seen here. These are an LE Chaos Sorceror, Marine Captain, Slaaneshi Renegade "Chainsword", Slaaneshi Renegade "Fiend Head", a Tech Priest, a mk2 Terminator, and (not pictured) an LE Emperor's Champion. This goes to...
Choice of Model: 1, Noeste! Not only the first commenter, but also a great sculptor. Go check his stuff out!

And since we hit 39 comments here and 1 via e-mail... Because I can, I'm going to offer up TWO more picks through the figs I put up:
Second Choice: 9, Sons of Taurus! If you're only going to read one post there, read this one. It's great advice and you should check his other stuff out too.
Third Choice: 27, Max! An IG player, but we can forgive him. Maybe this will be the start of something new?

So, thank you all for entering, voting and everything else. It has been an interesting experiment at the very least. For those of you that won something and have e-mails listed, check your e-mail box! For those of you that don't have e-mails listed, please leave an authenticated comment with your e-mail here and I will get in contact with you. If you want to keep it private, just delete after posting. You've got a week to get back to me or I pick a new winner...

Cheers and thanks again everyone. Now what to do for the next one...?