Thursday, November 16, 2017

Back to the Greenskins: a Megaboss enters the fray

Yesterday I finished my Ironjawz Megaboss model. And even though I foolishly glued the head in place and picked a paint scheme that didn't seem to work while painting, I'm rather pleased with the end result. The rusted metal plate was inspired by the incredible work the various AoS28 (Dark Age of Sigmar) people have been showing off over the past few years. For those of you who missed this I think Ex Profundis is a perfect starting point and the Aos28 Facebook group features some nice work as well. Basically it mixes (attempts at) John Blanche's style of painting, Sigmar models and the gothic horror theme of the Old World. It turns Sigmar's high fantasy setting into a Hieronymus Bosch like hellscape. It's awesome :)

I'm here to swing axe and chew squig, and I'm all out of squig....
The problem with this Orruk (aside from the glued on head (last time I'll mention this, I promise)) is that the armor takes up most of his body. I planned to use the same style I used on my Black Orcs Orruk Ardboys. That is: start by airbrushing a dark metal (Vallejo Gun Metal), zenithal airbrush a lighter metallic tone (Vallejo Steel), follow with a wash of Agrax Earthshade, then apply Gryphonne Sepia and finish with a strong highlight with Stormhost Silver. Then (aside from painting the skin and wooden weapon handles) pick a few interesting pieces of armor and paint them red. This helps to paint a unit of Ardboys quickly and effectively (I think). Here is an example.

The unit of immortals I painted in 2016 is about to receive reinforcements.
 
The Megaboss is a much larger model and his armor is basically to big for this to work. It turns into a really boring valley of 'nothing to see here'. Thanks to some texture a drybrush helps, but just not enough. As I was painting my Deathwatch marine's base I decided to vent my frustration over the ugly look of the model by going a bit Jackson Pollock on the armor, albeit not with Oil Dripping but with Airbrush leftovers. I thinned down whatever was in the cup (mostly browns and rust tones) with some flow improver and then randomly added small splats of it to the armor. At a certain point I actually added a purple sheen too. It's quite well visible here. All in all don't think just spray and try to feel artistic while doing it.

I don't think I'll ever worry about adding weird colors to metal armor again, just go for extremely thin paints and channel Bob Ross's 'there are no mistakes, just happy little accidents'.
After this step the armor got a lot more interesting, but the model was still suffering from a very serious case of lack of variation. That's when I decided to make the blood indentations in the armor and the cords tying the skulls down red. This extremely small thing helped a lot more then I expected. It manages to make a rusty model look interesting and also ties it in with the rest of my army.

Even though I usually shirk away from adding blood to a weapon, it adds the right amount of menace to this model.
Last, but certainly not least was adding blood to the axe and claw. I'm always slightly worried about adding blood as I think it can quickly look like a cheap effect (or worse perform the same ignoble job as badly placed mud (i.e. attempt to cover a painting mistake)). But thanks to this blood painting tutorial by ThirdEyeNuke from Tale of Painters I have a technique that works and looks spectacular (IMHO). Although I usually just mix Tamiya Clear Red with Vallejo Smoke for the effect. For the Megaboss I waited with the blood until the base was glued on so I could add some blood drips to match the location of the axe. All in for a model I've been cursing at for the last few weeks I'm quite satisfied with the end result. I think he looks big, grim, intimidating and deadly enough to boss all my other Greenskins around. As soon as the Orruk bug leaves me I'll shoot a bunch of pictures of my army so far which will serve nicely to get a better sense of size, especially of old models versus the new (my Orruk collection features models from as far back as 1987). 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I'm temporarily suspending the green tide to bring you this member of the Deathwatch

The local GW here in Eindhoven has sent out a request to all customers to build and paint a Deathwatch Space Marine before the end of November. I think it is actually a cooperation between a lot of European stores, but being very blonde and easily distracted I have to admit I forgot most of the details. I just remember: 'end of November', 'Deathwatch', 'Black rim on base' and 'Paint your own name on the rim'. So the relevant details (I hope ;) ). As I was planning to convert my Primaris marines to Deathwatch I already had some shoulder pads on hand. And here is my marine.

Eat your own medicine you Eldar scum!
As the Deathwatch are allowed naughty things my marine is carrying an Eldar weapon. Sure as the Adeptus Mechanicus would point out it is an ancient and inferior design, but well it was on hand. Being a proud Son of Russ my marine picked it up and is using it anyway. The fact that I will give this model away so I won't be using it in regular games gave me an excuse to make a conversion that is not covered in the (modern) rules.

Given that my Space Marine is holding a flamer and a plasma pistol I have to assume this is someone else's victim.
One of the takeaways from this is that I still suck at painting black. I tried giving some gradients with different shades of grey and finished up with a thinned down purple to make it a bit more interesting (I actually regret that, I don't think it looks that good). I tried subtle highlights but they were practically invisible. Overcompensating I used highlights that look a bit too harsh I guess. So, lets say black is not my color and take some time to paint more black power armors soon, who knows practice may make perfect and all that... I did have a lot of fun setting up the dead Eldar on the base. I also improvised a small dais from bits to make my marine stand out amid the expected crowd of other models.

I think I can finally check 'successfully apply a decal' of my bucket list.
This shoulder pad makes me very happy. I think this is the best decal I ever applied to a model (and to think my initial respons to decals was 'this is cheating'). After painting the shoulder pad I applied a layer of gloss varnish. When this dried I applied Micro Set followed up by the Decal. I gave it some time to dry in place and then applied Micro Sol to melt it down. After that I managed to refrain from immediately applying more gloss varnish (my go to mistake at this point). My Vallejo Gloss reacts with Micro Set forming tiny white grains (and generally destroying all the hard work). I waited for the Micro Set to dry completely overnight and then applied the gloss varnish. After this had dried I ended up using an airbrush for a layer of mat varnish. I think I can safely say this works. So next step: visit my local GW to drop off the model.

Monday, November 13, 2017

An(other) Orruk Warboss steps onto the stage...

Has any serious research been conducted regarding the sanity of wargamers? Just as I was about to actually finish my remaining Orruks I went ahead and bought even more Orruks! *sigh* Anyway a bunch of Black Orcs Orruk 'Ardboyz and an Orruk Warboss (in two versions) have joined the 'to be painted' line of models. It was a second hand offer that proved to nice to resist. As a way of atoning for my reckless spending I've finished the Orruk Warboss on a boar.

I can't wait to bum rush this villain into some hapless enemies. 
I bought this model waving a flag and sporting a different head. A few deft flicks of the scalpel later and it is a warboss with an axe, a shield and a killer one eyed stare. Orruks on boars shouldn't be in the background waving flags, they should run screaming ahead of the horde and start putting the axe to the enemy. I've switched the flag to his counterpart on foot (to be painted).

Blood on the axe, or no blood on the axe? That is the question. I always feel like adding blood to the axe but I'm worried that it will look like a cheap effect so I stop myself.
Of all the things that changed over the years I have to say ready to paint 'ogre face' shields are among my favorites. An ogre face adds a lot of character. Ready made ogre face shields look better than my mediocre freehand skills ever could make a shield look. But back to generalized insanity, here are a few snaps of my trays with models to be painted soon(ish).

Screw focus, just work on everything at once!
My main tray features Goblin crews for my Spear Chukka's and Doom Diver catapults (and one catapult and two Spear Chukka's). I've also assembled two metal giants that were languishing in the to-do box, two trolls that are 'almost finished', three ancient Ruglud Orcs that I just purchased to fill out that unit to twenty strong. Some of the new Orruk Brutes and a Skaven Doom Flayer that has inexplicably surfaced on this tray....Oh yeah and a bunch of Squig Herders and Grot Fanatics.

Almost done: just add a few more washes, some edge highlights, green for the skin, a few browns and some reds.
Tray number two currently features twenty Ardboyz. I painted a unit of ten metal Arboyz a few years back, and bought another ten metal Arboyz from a friend. With the plastic set I acquired two weeks ago I could finally glue together the right sort of Ardboyz to make one unit of twenty with two hand weapons (and command) and one of ten with two-handed weapons (and command). That'll save me a lot of head scratching and counting whilst playing. One major change Orruk 'Ardboyz have undergone as they metamorphosed from Black Orc is that you have to choose before battle what weapon combination they use instead of alternating between rounds. The models above have already been painted (airbrushed) metal and partly washed. It should not be a massive job to get the lot painted up. (at least that's what I keep telling myself).

Who was the idiot that glued this guys face to his body before painting? I was that idiot!
Last but not least is an Orruk Meganob in (currently) very boring armor. I do not want to follow GW's lead and paint it bright yellow, blue or red. But just metal and a bit of washing is not going to cut it. As I've already foolishly glued the head to the body (making it impossible to give the face a proper paint job) I think I'm going to go wild with this model and just experiment away. Not shown on the painting station is a solitary Deathwatch Space Marine. The local store manager has asked all customers to build and paint one for a special plan, and who am I not to join in on the fun?

A quick snap of the ten Orruk Ardboyz awaiting reinforcements in my display cabinet (with apologies for the poor lighting).
Anyway with the end of painting Orruks almost in sight I've foolishly bought even more Orruks to paint. Add to that an order of Shadespire and breaking ranks and ordering a non-GW miniatures game and I have more then enough to keep me painting for a long while....However Christmas is around the corner and with it will probably come the (special price) collection boxes...oh dear the to-do-list will just grow....let's not mention Necromunda just yet....no really...I should not go and pick up a copy....I can wait until January....oh oh....

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Boyz, Boyz, Boyz, get ready for a Waaagh!

Not that they need it, but my Snotlings have got some backup in the form of twenty angry Orruk Boyz.

Hack, slay, blood, gore, nothing less, nothing more!
As part if my (extended) Orctober I assembled these models and undercoated them with a Mournfang brown spray I had on hand. After that I painted five (the boss, banner bearer, drummer and two random boyz), planning to paint the rest in groups of five. As with the Snotlings this didn't work out, so inspired by just forcing myself to paint 'the lot' I sat down and painted them all (Ken Burn's excellent The Vietnam War documentary provided a very nice background that helped me keep going through the painting).

I love the expressions on Orruk models, and think the most important part of painting is giving some extra love to the faces. 
The banner is a piece of paper on a set of spare Pig Stikka's that come with the Orruk Boyz. It had to be done as I like big banners. With all the work on the Chariots last month I think I'm actually running out of spare Pig Stikka's.

After a single freehand I thought 'no', and decided not to do more. I'll save it for more important models.
The Orruk boyz could be spiced up with a some freehands (like the one in the center of the image above), but I have a lot more Orruks to paint, and I'm slowly but surely getting the ambition to actually paint my way through the entire supposedly green colored part of the lead&plastic pile. In other words, I'm calling this group finished.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Snotling gits reinforce my Greenskin ranks...well they'll be sort of standing there in the background....

Why would anyone in his or her right mind add Snotlings to a Greenskin army? Please feel free to put your answer in the comments, I don't have one ;) As to this ragtag group: a few years ago I had the chance to buy back almost all the lead models I sold around the start of the nineties. Among that lot was my Snotling Pump Wagon. I think I bought it in a blister when I just started collecting. On re-acquiring the Basic Pump Wagon I stripped and repainted it. As Age of Sigmar was not on the radar I based it square and stuck it in my display cabinet. Zap forward to opening my Orruk project box in September. It contained a rather large collection of unpainted Snotlings (41 plus a pair of drunk Snotlings) and a second (half-finished) pump wagon with expansion (a second deck was optional way back then). To jump forward to the conclusion of this post, all of the models have a coat of paint on them now and the old pump wagon has received a new base.

Now these gits are ready for almost nothing!
Back to the 'why Snotlings?' question. Well there is the nostalgia fueled basic pump wagon. The other pump wagon has a nostalgia claim a well. I always regretted not buying an expanded pump wagon and had the chance to get one second hand. As for the Snotling bases I have to make an admission. I actually bought two bases of Snotlings from Games Workshop a few years back (against my all second hand rule for the Greenskin army). I was hit by a completionist vibe towards my expanding Greenskin collection and decided painting two bases of Snotlings fell within the realm of sanity. A week later I bought a second hand lot. In this case a badly photographed box labeled 'assorted warhammer' on the second hand website. Fate has a wicked sense of humor so Snotlings to cover another two bases turned up in this lot. Exit sanity enter a total of 41 Snotlings (and two drunks) to paint.
In Age of Sigmar regular Orruks inspire Snotlings that fight close by, this still does not make the Snotlings useful in a fight.
The hard part about painting Snotlings is that these models are actually lovingly sculpted. They have funny facial expressions that beg to be pulled out by the brush and they carry more accessoires then you would expect. On the other hand they are tiny, die in droves and manage to turn invisible when you put them between other models. Also I had 41 of them. The odds of finishing that many Snotlings to any sort of standard are small (at least for me). Attempting it will more likely result in putting my own collection in a second hand box labeled 'Warhammer' and selling it for next to nothing. I decided not to go down that road.

A dreaded part of any half-forgotten project: counting how many models you actually have.
Instead I assembled the Snotlings on my cutting mat and decided a number needed to be washed of excess old paint. Into the Aceton with you, my diminutive troops!

There they are, all washed and ready to be bascoated.
After (tooth-)brushing them I dropped them on some paper towel and allowed the Aceton to evaporate.

One advantage of Snotlings is that they don't wear more than a loincloth.
The next step was basecoating them by airbrush and after allowing the basecoat to set spraying the lot (Vallejo) Goblin Green.

I admit it! I dipped the little runts....I couldn't think of a quicker way to get them washed.

I followed this step by turning to the dark side. I used my large pot of Vallejo Sepia Wash to just dip the lot. As I lost all joy in painting Snotlings at this point I gave them ample time (weeks) to dry.

One Snotling done, another forty to go....groan.....
After some time I manned up and decided to finish a single Snotling. Only forty more to go! At this point I decided to go for a 'one a day' approach with the intent of finishing the lot within a month and a half. The next day I followed up by not painting a single Snotling. Another week passed and the kitchen towel with green painted, sepia-dipped Snotlings started to weigh on my mind. Was it watching me accusingly as I lavished attention on chariots and shamans? In the end I decided action was needed. I executed evil plan number two: drybrushing the lot.

Drybrushing is a fine technique for furs, chainmail and quickly getting a blob of Snotlings in a basic coat of paint.
To ease my conscious I then carefully applied a thin line of (human) skin color on the bottom lips of all Snotlings involved in the process. At this point all it took was for me to sit myself down twice. Once on Friday evening and again on Saturday morning I just had to take a few hours to finish the lot up. Not pictured: me cursing all Snotlings and the Warhammer painting hobby.

Two ends of a toothpick attached to a bit of plastic rod and we have something resembling a pump handle.
During this cursing I found time to make a quick emergency repair to the two story pump wagon (its crew and the pump handle are missing). Yes I really hate this hobby....mumble mumble...okay it's actually a lot of fun....

Just add some Mournfang Brown....
Sitting on the bottom floor I'm going to pretend the crew have taken a quick break from pumping to pelt the enemy with mushrooms, small rocks and harsh language.

Cleverly hidden on the bottom deck of the pump wagon: my improvised handle.
I have to admit I rushed the project just to finish it. Also the larger wagon is still missing a base as I had to mail order a fresh one and it isn't in yet. As to the other base I'm quite happy with the green stuff mushrooms I made for it. Should do that more often. So a bit of a rush job (between the scenes as it was spread out over almost two months), but still better then the alternative. I'm quite sure these Snotlings would be terrorizing a plastic bag at the bottom of a project box if I had tried to paint them with all bells and whistles. So there they are, ready to fail at achieving any serious battlefield goals. But where are the two drunk ones? They haven't been finished. Over the years I think I have painted the drunk Snotlings about a dozen times and every time I finish I hate the paint job so much I have to start over...it's just something of a tick I have with models I love a bit too much. Next up: me finishing a unit of boyz (maybe).

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Green Horde rides forth, supported by a soulful Orruk Shaman

Today I finished a major part of the project I started on September 18th by applying the final blobs of paint to my Orruk Boar Chariots. Now five of these machines stand ready to enter the table and cause a mediocre bit of havoc.

Grunt, grung, stab, stab, Waaagh! (and all that...).
To be very honest I never really liked the concept of chariots, but painting these has changed my mind. I did a lot of converting as I found all of these in various states of 'crushination' at the bottom of second hand Warhammer lots I purchased over the past few years. Aside from the boss-chariot (only by name, no rules available), I'm quite happy with my Fury Road inspired 'guitar-guy' chariot.

Warhammer games of all stripes need more 'guitar guy' conversions, or am I the only Fury Road fanboy wielding a brush?
It should actually be called a drum-tar I guess, bringing it on par with the key-tar in the realms of bad taste. The leather clad head is actually part of the Runtherd kit. I also took some time with this chariot (and the other two newly finished ones) to add a bunch of bits. It all makes the mono-model look different enough to get a messy Orruk horde look. I did not give the boars all the attention they should get but these models are so ugly, I just get annoyed staring at them for the time required. So these have been painted at a very negligent high speed.

Over there! Stab 'm! Stab 'm good!!!!
Sorry for the rather badly focused picture here. It is autumn so I have to take quick shots between rain. With a (delayed) move still in the works most of my usual backdrops are also unavailable. Perhaps I should switch things around and build some terrain next, but then there is the risk I will not finish my Snotlings and regular boyz. No, I should stick to the plan and just extend Orctober into Nidvember...

Meanwhile, safely from the back of a flying monster, the view was amazing...
Lets finish up the chariot project with a top-shot. I decided a bit late into the project to add some flowers to the bases. I actually bought those to spruce up my Higborn Aelf bases but I think it works quite well with the Orruks too.

Aw man, do I have to use Gaze of Mork? I'd rather just sit around and mope....
While waiting for my (grossly overused) Agrax Earthshade to dry I took a brush to this soulful Orruk Shaman. I love this model for his melancholic expression. As for the paint I decided to keep it mostly simple and just use a lot of different browns. I took some time with highlights, washes and glazes on the staff to give it a proper magical feeling.

I've held this sword up against so many different metal models I've lost count. Now it is finally on the back it was made for.
As I finished the model up I spotted a small metal cilinder on its back and realized that it was needed for an orphan sword I had in my bits box. So not only did I finish another Orruk, I also solved the mystery of the odd dagger*. All in all I had a splendid Sunday and even if I don't paint another Orruk in the next two days I think I can call this Orctober a success.

*scenario pending ;)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Storytelling in wargaming through AoS Open War Cards and other means

Playing this scenario pack actually got me to read Shakespeare (for a great bard, he showed a decided lack of interest in featuring treemen in his tales).
True old school Warhammer requires a game master as well as (at least) two players to fight battles. Fantasy (and sci-fi) wargaming followed pen and paper roleplaying in that regard. That is not entirely surprising as Gary Gygax & friends started D&D out as a variant system to wargaming. It should be no surprise that the oldest game supplements Games Workshop released tended to be adventure like campaign packs linking mutliple battles into a story. I vaguely recall playing through The Tragedy of McDeath campaign in the eighties (sadly with cardboard counters (if only I had taken the 100 quid miniatures deal way back then)). Unfortunately I remember the long discussion between players and GM about the utter lack of balance in the missions better than the actual game itself. That and playing an Appetite for Destruction cassette so many times the tape actually wore down. Sigh, happy times, nostalgia.  Looking back through the booklet makes me want to revisit this scenario someday, AoS style of course. It has rules for buildings that beg to be made into warscrolls and scenario's with interesting special rules. Let's first finish my drawn out move to a new house, then do something with the Grudge of Drong and set McDeath AoS style to somewhere after that...

A group of Rattlebone undead take on some Seraphon for no reason at all.
Regardless of gaming system, nostalgia and worn down tapes, narrative play and the accompanying scenario's tend to require a few very dedicated players or they go off the rails ('discussing game balance' ranks somewhere below 'doing my taxes' on my 'fun things to do with spare time'-list). Also it requires a steady stream of scenario's with (preferably) ready made lists (that limit the odds of finding an opponent with the right army). Age of Sigmar at launch was supposed to stimulate narrative play by doing away with points. All it proved was that this made quick pick-up games almost impossible to organize. For regular games (narrative, matched or competitive) some sort of 'balancing system' (points, power levels) helps all involved grasp the size of the battle and the time required to play it. All nice and well but how do you stop regular games from devolving into 'slaughter the other side' exercises?

81-90 Abdul Goldberg stole your ship off you....oh Abdul you rascal!
The original Rogue Trader and the Realm of Chaos books had lots of wonderful tables to generate narrative missions. No old school gamer can forget the Rogue Trader Plot Generator with Abdul Goldberg; everyone's favorite rascal. These work rather nicely to give a sense of purpose to games. They do however require a GM to work out if there are any special rules to spice up the scenario.

I really loved this expansion to 5th edition 40K. Also: could we get plastic Vostroyans please GW?
For a wargaming world without GM's, Games Workshop offered a set of basic scenario's in the rule book. As I was on a Fantasy hiatus I have to focus on 40K for a bit. the 5th edition 40K book had six scenario's. I remember playing them so much they got boring. Each scenario consisted of objectives to claim, a (few) special rule(s) and gave some sense of purpose and story. The Battle Missions book released around 2010 (going by the stolen picture above) offered a lot more fun. This expansion featured three specific scenario's for every faction in 40K. You could fight through a typical Tyranid invasion for instance. Sixth edition 40K added Maelstrom of War missions to this palette. Maelstrom missions require six objective markers on the table and give the players cards with specific goals (for instance: claim objective marker six by the end of your turn). This makes the player's goals asymmetrical which in turn makes for more interesting battles. As goals shift it (occasionally) manages to reduce armies camping on a single objective.

I really feel the need to invest in another (few) Arcane Ruins. They serve as the basis for interesting terrain (and are cheaper then the AoS specific kits).
Back to Age of Sigmar. One of the strengths of this game is the ease with which you can spice things up. Need an unholy lodestone to take center stage? Give everyone within 3 inch with the 'wizard' keyword a +1 to casting rolls while there (and subtract 1 bravery from all others within 3"). Or maybe add a table of effects and allow priests to pray. The campaign books and battle tomes give you a lot of scenario's to try out and the (sparse) terrain warscrolls give some extra inspiration. Still I mostly play matched play scenario's. The narrative scenario's are presented as generic but tend to require specific armies to truly shine. Most scenario's also give one side a decided advantage. This doesn't matter with the right sort of opponent, but in a more general setting can quickly kill all fun. It also doesn't help that you need to plan ahead to play a scenario, making them less useful for quick pick-up games, or last minute gaming club skirmishes.

Open War cards: pull a few cards from the deck and you get a ready made scenario with an interesting twist.
To solve this GW has released Open War cards (both for AoS and for the new 40K). For Age of Sigmar the cards consist of 12 deployment cards, 12 objectives cards, 12 twist cards, 6 ruse cards and 6 sudden death cards. These cards do wonders for a quick narrative game. You take one of 12 random deployment styles and objectives. In the battle pictured above my Greenskins faced of with a Spiderfang Grot army. The objective was to kill as many enemies as possible (counting wounds from killed models). To be sure, there are a more interesting objectives in the deck but this was the one we were dealt. We deployed in triangular deployment areas with a 12 inch gap between the armies. So far this would do as a standard scenario. The beauty of Open War cards comes from the twist. You usually take one twist to spice up the game. In the game above we were fighting in the Dead of Night reducing all weapon ranges (and casting ranges) to 12 inches. There was a chance of things clearing up during the battle (this didn't happen, making my poor Greenskin artillery crews very unhappy (prior to becoming very dead)). As we were in the mood for more challenges my opponent and I decided to draw a second twist. Apparently Gork (or possibly Mork) took an interest in the battle. We both had a chance of getting wounded through the wrath of the gods every round. I have not used the ruse or sudden death cards yet. These are used to balance out a game where one army is markedly weaker then the other. Twists make the game more unpredictable, which tends to give you a lot of laughs. They also build story. This battle turned into a the story of a Greenskin army getting ambushed in the dead of night by a ravening horde of giant spider riding Grots (and my poor Orruks got utterly annihilated in the process).

As it turns out, not all spiders can be murdered with a simple rolled up newspaper.
Storywise Open Play cards may not hold a candle to playing a full on campaign of linked scenario's. Someday I will update and play Grudge of Drong, McDeath and (while I'm at it) Terror of the Lichemaster in Age of Sigmar. While looking for the time to do that, I'll use these. The cards work very nicely if you want to keep your games varied, not get stuck with a lot of preparation and still get a nice injection of story each time you fight a battle. Here's me hoping GW will release an expanded deck in the near future. Open War Cards are a truly lovely innovation that expands upon the old scenario tables.