Friday, 22 May 2015

Dark Ages Fun: Feeling all Anglo Saxy

Yes it is time for my weekly "wot I did been paint'n this week" spot, and it hasn't bee a whole lot, the flow is constant which is good, if slow as a wet weekend. To mix things around and keep it fresh I decided to paint some command figures and try to reclaim some of my old painting prowess (if that is what it was) and work on some nice soft transitions, things didn't go quite according to plan, the reason, although glaringly obvious, did not occur to me until the job was mostly done and dusted. Soft transition? The bit in between changes in paint tone, if you soften them your trying to make that line between the shadow tone and the mid tone disappear same with the line between mid tone and high light. Enough with the jargon and general wankery lets make with the photo's already.

Last time we saw this bloke he was standing around with his hand on his hip, guess what? Yep, he is still trying to do the "I'm a little teapot" routine (although his "here is my spout" needs work) thing is he is now performing it on an exquisite (pffft, please, a used plastic) base. A single figure base is required here as this figure is to be my "opportunity marker" (required in Impetus), he can also pull double duty for SAGA as well seeing all the figures are individually based.

Other changes... muddied up the bottom edge of the cloak, the pants and the shield, which has also had some naff battle damage added. The main thing is that even though the damage may not have turned out so well I've learned where I slipped up and how to go about it next time. You learn just as much from an idea that bums out as from one that goes right


I still haven't located my tufts so I expect they are in the storage container with about half of my household (while we renovate), the prospect of having to unload god knows how much of the container was too terrifying to contemplate so I have ordered some more improved tufts of just about every shade known to man, in fact I believe they had to invent three more seasons just to accommodate all the different colours.  Pulling apart my cow pasture mat might have been OK for the Impetus bases but a bit of a stretch for a single 25mm round base, anyway with the new arrivals and what eventually resurfaces from the storage container I may well have a couple of lifetimes supply of grass tuftery and other scenic goodies. I could put down a bit of static grass in the interim but I absolutely hate the stuff gets everywhere and ruins your painting, so I never use static grass in the vicinity of my painting area, the problem is I have been relegated to shed division for painting (formerly my flocking locale) while the house is undergoing much needed surgery.

With these command figure types I decided as with most of the other repaints to keep the colour as close to the original as possible to save time and drama, if I decided thatI wanted to paint them in a completely different colour it would probably more beneficial to strip the figures back rather than fight a battle hiding the juxtaposed original. A lot of purple was being bandied about when these guys were being painted first time round, being command and undoubtedly high status chaps I figured it would probably be OK to stick with the purple theme.

We have two figures in basic chainmail ie the smurf cos player holding the draco standard thingumy and his mate hanging fat and looking all Brian Blessed, not much to do here nice simple repaints with  Brian Blessed having a really interesting head and face which gave me a few ideas.

The next two figures have lovely large cloaks that will provide plenty of room to practice blending (softening) the transitions between highlights midtones and shadows. Now because I paint with fairly well thinned paint and blur the transitions with even thinner glazes of paint I need to make sure the suface to be painted is relatively free from surface blemishes ie pitting and crazing in the casting. If these are present the thin paint gathers in these and make the whole job look like a dog breakfast so it is time for a TIP!

I paint the surface with 2 or 3 layers of varnish to fill in these little horrors it also has the advantage of smoothing out the whole job softening sharp angles etc which is really just the ticket for large surfaces of cloth. With my two cloaked figures I mixed in a very dark purple and blue with some varnish and gave the two cloaks 3 coats each, the chap with the blue cloak had very sharp angles on both the convex and concave folds and this trick worked wonders in taking out some of the sharpness of the cloth as well as making all those small pits and defects in the surface just go away

It was very hard to paint the draco bearer in anything other than a blue and white outfit, in the end it was pretty standard fare and I was happy with the way it turned out, although in hindsight I should have ripped the pole out of his grasping chubby fingers and reset it into the hands properly. It is not a criticism of these figures in particular, lots of brands do it, but it would be nice if the hands and fingers were long enough to be wrapped around whatever it might be that they are holding.

I went back to using the old Citadel paints for the flesh tones on these figures so mixes of tanned, dwarf and elf flesh, dwarf is a bit too orange for me and elf to yellow but they make a pretty decent mid tones and highlights when mixed. The old Citadel colours (or GW if you like) were quite plasticky paints and I find with the flesh they are a little easier to work with when your wet blending and making for soft transitions.

Brian the Saxon, again pretty straight forward in fact he is nearly all chainmail, which I find incredibly dull, quick and easy to paint yes, interesting to look at, no way. I've read that not only was chainmail blackened to protect it from rust but coloured versions of protection were often applied, I dont think I have ever seen anyone attempt this but I would dearly love to have a go if I could find out more about it. I really liked the hair and facial expression of this figure so I thought I might have ago at painting greying hair rather than grey hair which is often the norm. I put a little bit of salt into his beard and roots, looking at it now I could have gone with a bit more grey in the roots

This guy comes across as a bit of a grump and pretty stilted looking (dark age pile perhaps), being sculpted as an older chap, quite possibly an earl, it seemed appropriated that I should enhance his grumpy old fart vibe so I made sure to highlight the eye brow ridges so he gave the impression of frowning. As I mentioned earlier the folds in the cloth on this figure are really angular and sharp, the prepaint with the varnish softened up the concave creases quite a bit, if I was painting a newly purchased version of this figure I would definitely knock those sharp ridges back with some  carborundum paper.

Another big cloak to paint but this time with soft flowing folds, I find it really hard to get a good bead on areas where the folds aren't regular either horizontally or vertically so the big billowy section to the left  never quite seemed right to me and I stuffed up visualizing what should be in mid tone and shadow, so instead of getting the shits on and throwing another tanty I thought it best to draw a line under it and spend some time over the next week looking for some samples of billowy cloth on the interwebz so I'm all set for the next time. The sword was painted in straight Mithrill or something like it and black glaze used to slightly darken the reverse side and blade down the centre line. The blade also received a touch of blue and green glazes front and back to reflect the world around it (not orkses). For the chainmail on thes figures I used Reaper honed steal, a very matte silver with a hint of blue, and a light black wash which I think better reflects (a pun, moi?) the blackened nature of the metal ie bloody dull

It's all jargon to  me
So where did I make the glaringly obvious mistake I made mention of at the beginning (so many hours ago), well it isn't going to be obvious to you and it wasn't obvious to me until I had a little tanty about how everything was going wrong. I have hardly ever worked from a black base in the last 4 years, I work from a white, light grey or light olive (for bare skin) but mostly white undercoat. Now if everything you do suits a particular style changing something as fundamental as the undercoat colour totally throws your whole painting vibe off course, particularly when you are too thick too realise the bloody obvious right under your nose. I kept painting the deep blue base tone over black blue undercoat and wonder why nothing was happening then doing the same with the purple.... what a silly bunt!

Thanks for looking

Saturday, 16 May 2015

More Dak Ages Fun + Hate Play Love, My 5 Things

So A few bloggers are doing the "Big Andy 5 things" thing. Now I usually avoid these blog equivalents to Chain Letters (read too lazy) but seeing as I have made a promise (to no one in particular) that I would try and make a blog post once a week and the only painting I have been doing is in 1:1 scale and involves ceilings and walls this seems like as good a time as any to break my duck (Donald is innocent!)

Oh yeah, this is not going to bare any resemblance to Eat Pray Love, in case you were wondering or have read the book.

So lets start with Hate. Why should I find anything to hate about a hobby I choose to be involved in would be my first observation, so I  gave it some thought and this is what I came up with. Long winded as usual but I think if you are going to bore the pants off people you should do it properly.

I should also point out that I'm more Old School than new, I love my figures shiny, I cherish and play Grant and Featherstone rules, I find green painted contour block terrain and home made balsa scenery a joy to look at... particularly with a regiment of Willies or Surens holding the ridge from all comers. Do I limit myself to the old ways, not likely. I enjoy looking at and reading glossy new rules, talking to people that play them. I've embrace the new approaches that gamers and designers have introduced to the hobby, and if I don't find something appealing or useful to me and my hobby I don't have to buy it or adopt it but accept that others do.

So on with the show

While I was mulling my "that shits me" part of the post over It occurred to me that when it comes to dislikes a theme was definitely starting to develop, my dislikes all shared a common root ie people or to be more precise whinging people. This is sort of odd because one of my chief likes in regards to war gaming is the people. Maybe having been a bit of a whinger in my working life (who doesn't though) I now find the type eternally annoying, besides life is too brief to be spoilt by your own or listening to others boring whinges.

and now I don't need to whinge anymore
1.     The rules winger exhibit A,  the chap or gal who prefers set A over set B and is happy to let everyone know each and every game, from the very first roll till last. Most groups I game with will be prepared to let you give your preferred rules a run, but please, don't turn up and not have a good grasp on how to play them. Your mates are relying on you to show them the ropes, so it is up to you to demonstrate that which make your preferred rules at least the equal of the set that are the object of your ire, fail that simple task and all will see you for what you are. Hells bells there are a number of rules I don't particularly think are great but they do the job, sometimes (not very often) I might quietly have my say and then get on with the game.  It is the game and the chaps I game with that count, not my eccentric preferences. If you don't like a set of rules to the point you endlessly complain about them and you have nothing better to offer then bugger off and play somewhere else with the set you favour, geez it ain't rocket science.
2.     The rules winger exhibit B. I'm referring to that champion of all that is wrong with the latest set to hit the shelves, but doesn't own the rules or play them. Either the rules are too expensive or have too many colour plates or they are too dumbed down or the author is too popular or not as knowledgeable as the complainant or all of the above and more (authors seem to be an easy target for the type).  In every case it is the thin edge of the wedge or the very thing that will make the hobby implode or corporate greed feeding off imbeciles much too stupid to think for themselves. The most remarkable aspect is these chaps have, in just about every single example I can think of never owned a copy, never borrowed and read a copy and never played a game using a copy of the rules yet they are fully qualified to pass judgement. Be very afraid if they are called up for jury duty.

War gamer formulation, extra strong.
To my mind these types aren't complaining about rules, war gaming companies acting all coorporaty,  or even wedges having thin edges.  These arbiters of correct war gaming yearn for the good ol' days, what ever they were? I have been gaming for more than 35 years and I sure as hell don't know what was so special about the "good ol' days." In reality are insulting our intelligence, our ability to choose what, why and how we game. You name it, there is bound to be something wrong with just about every new set of rules not printed on manilla stock using a hand cranked gestetner, smelling faintly of methylated spirits and bound together with jute or a bent nail .....and retailing for thruppence.

3.     The rules lawyer whinger, it is an easy term to kick around and to label people with so I shall explain. In my opinion it is the type of chap or gal with a  uncanny recall of every sentence in a set of rules and also every circumstance not covered by the rules. And here is the rub, they display an incomplete understanding of historical tactics and battlefield nuance, or more correctly, deliberately ignores them in the interest of a favourable outcome with a ready argument to justify their position. This is how I describe a rules lawyer, frankly I cant think of anything as likely to destroy my enjoyment of a game more than these pests. Indeed I will often excuse myself from a game if one is in attendance and asked to be informed when the game is over and another due to start, that is how I deal with them. You may think the bat and ball approach only serves to make me look foolish (pfffft, as if i need help with that) but when you find reasoned discussion fruitless as often as I have try it, life is too short to be wasting it on un-enjoyable games.

4.     The observer whinger, never games just hangs around the table edge commenting "that shade of green is all wrong for January 43 - mid May 44 pea dot cammo" "RPG's don't have that range in real life in fact they are blah blah blah " "that figure is completely wrong, Vikings start their beard plats left hand over not right" "your watermill should be undershot for this period the over shot mill was developed some where around the blah blah blah". Usually inhabit the fringes of demo games but may be found at your weekly garage game, these types usually have the biggest piles of shame (lead mountain) and will offer to sell you figures at 10% more than the retailers asking price.

You know you want to
5.    Poor quality control, I'm quite prepared to pay the asking price for most figures but when you receive your figures you should have a right to expect that they have been well cast. Not with pitted surfaces and fissures, or cast from worn molds that produce figures with millimetres thick flash or great lumps of metal that need cleaving and finally castings that haven't received their full quota of metal ie arms without hands, incomplete swords etc etc (probably because it has gone into great lumps of metal that need cleaving) some might slip by and I can live with that but I would prefer to wait a couple of extra days than go through all the faffing about getting them replaced. In fact I could almost say that poor quality figures is something I hate.

Interlude, as the title suggests this is a Hate Play Love post, I have done away with the hate... or the "things that shit me" as I prefer and it is time for the Play.....

Can you guess what I'm going to be playing this year?
My latest haul of pre-loved goodies, never one to jump onto a fad until it has past I will being going all SAGA crazee on yo ass. Nice quick enjoyable game that requires a good chunk of tactical planning via the battle board abilities and also lends itself perfectly to setting up small scale campaigns, this is just the set of rules that you can use to get kids involved in gaming. I would start by limiting some of the special abilities and let them get a firm foot hold first and then open up the rules progressively. The young'uns will love the hairy Vikings feel and it is short enough to keep their attention to the end.

Some WF Saxons thegns and fyrd which will provide ample opportunity and spare parts for some creative conversions and lastly, what you cant see (in the baggies), a good haul of Foundry Vikings for my wife's SAGA war band. Foundry figures offer some lovely stereotypical caricature miniatures just right for SAGA's individually based figure system. Now I just have to get the shield maiden set to go with.

Now in case some of you missed that bit, I said my wife's war band, yep SAGA and a certain telly show, have got my wife into having a go at war gaming. Amazing what an overpriced, dumbed down, glossy, corporaty set of rules coupled with a non historically correct, button counters nightmare, fantasy of a telly (which never tried to be more than a piece of telly entertainment you pedantic so and so's) show can do.  Fortunately buying second hand I didn't fall into the trap of purchasing Gripping Beast figures and displaying my inability to think for myself. I bought my 2nd hand GB figures about a month ago and they are being prepped for Impetus instead

It's time to feel the Love people

1.     This is too easy the "thing" I love the most about war gaming is the interweb. The whole wide world of gaming is at your command, obviously the most (not necessarily important) useful aspect would have to be that it has changed the whole dynamic of buying figures, rules and other accoutrement. For those living outside of the UK (arguably the home of figure manufacture) this is a massive plus, we can browse, compare, decide and pay with a few simple clicks. And then there is blogging, I can see what you and you and you are doing, how you paint or bases and game with your toys, blogging is a wonderful tool, I don't really have to spell it out do I.   Forums? While forums are a great place to have an in depth discussion involving more than 3 or 4 people face book is (and I predicted so, along with many others) where it is at at the moment, war gaming companies were a little slow to take fb up as a whole but now they are on board (most anyway) and we can get our gaming news as it happens, and we can share links and ideas with our mates instantly, even via video chat. One last word on forums.... ahhh.... nope I wont go into this, let me just say I would recommend the Lead Adventure and Steve Dean forums over any other nowadays, if I were to be asked by a noob. Want a quick intro to your new SAGA rules or Impetus or any number of rules  to see how the game plays and study the mechanics, jump on You Tube, there is sure to be a video on how to play. Finally I have met (in the virtually sense) and kept in touch with some wonderful people over the internet, I cant imagine anything that has enhanced my hobby more in the last, almost 40 years that I have been gaming.

Working that lead mountain
2.     Choice, choice, choice. It's all out there, okay not all, but pretty close to all and for the bits that aren't "build it and they will come" seems to work. As I mentioned above it is time for me to ride the SAGA wave, want some Dark Ages figures Dave? Uh huh, well climb aboard the interweb express we have a shyte load for you to choose from Gripping Beast, Foundry, West Wind oh you want it in 15mm well there is  blah blah blah. Going to get dual use from your figures Dave, uh huh, well lets look at Impetus or maybe Dux Britanium blah blah blah, get the picture?  Of course with such a great range of choice, and I'm talking periods and genres here, the ability to create narrative games or campaigns has greatly widened, for instance the first thing that came to mind when looking at SAGA was a campaign based around a raiding party and another on land grabs by the Saxon kingdoms. I can buy the warriors, of course, but I'm not locked into Anglo Saxon and Vikings with Scotts, Irish, Welsh Francs you name it available, then there are the civilians, livestock, clergy everything is out there the wealth of choices makes for even greater greater creativity than ever before.   I really do love the choices.

3.     Painting, sculpting and modelling, some may call one or all a chore but I don't see how you can be a war gamer without having an attraction to painting ye olde hoard of figures (okay painting services do make it possible). Yes painting can be a pain in the arse sometimes, but I loves it anyhows and you get a real sense of achievement when that motley collection of bare white metal men/women/vehicles/mechs are finally finished, same goes for scenery, basing or conversion tasks. We have great quality paints and brushes to work with nowadays (ahh I miss the smell of Humbrol enamel in the evening), beautiful transfers for our shields and flags for those that can't, green stuff and such like to flex our sculpting/conversion muscles and that much under rated material MDF which really has made this gaming life so much easier, whether you buy pre-cut or scratch build MDF is the ducks guts.

I love converting figures, now if I just give this a little tap....

4.     Research, yep, collecting books and studying the history of the period I'm gaming. Once armed with "the knowledge" I can then go on and create a narrative for a campaign, series of scenarios and even rules! ImagiNations, those endearing creations would not be possible without a solid grounding in the history, political and military, of the period, a Very British Civil War or the Weird War themed games require a good knowledge of the history of the times and then set the gamer free to go with their imagination. Some might say I'm talking a load of old tosh, maybe, but let me point you in the direction of a certain chap who must be the premier example of carefully studied history unleashed into fantasy a certain Mr J.R.R.Tolkein. I guess the same could be said of sci-fi creation, I'm not a fan of sci-fi so I shan't try to comment. Yep, studying a given period in history and creating a narrative for a campaign or even a battle whether fictional or otherwise is a truly wonderful thing... well I think it is.
It's easier than it looks
5.   Finally the people are, without doubt, the best part of my hobby, the mates that I have clicked with, there are plenty of great "things" about the hobby but the people (except for some of the wingers) are what makes it. 

Thanks for looking
As usual all errors grammatically and in composition are the sole responsibility of google and the reader

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Dark Ages Fun: base and run

No long winded explanations about the bleeding obvious this time, very busy with house renovations and today is painting day..... not the type of painting I would prefer to be doing. So I will love you and leave you with a few photo's of this weeks activities. That would amount to painting a couple of shields, not a massively difficult task you might say but something I have rarely done, just wondering if I have ever done it.........

......and basing the figures from the last post. My hoard of tufts must be in the storage container so I had to get creative with some railroad mat and recycled some bits off of the old bases.

Thanks for looking

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Dark Ages Fun - re-painting 2nd hand figures

I rarely buy painted figures, only once before actually,  the reason being I enjoy painting.... well OK did enjoy painting, I probably dont enjoy it as much as I once did, that's not to say I dislike painting but as my have eyes tired over the years it has become more difficult to achieve a certain standard I have set for myself. I found this very frustrating and off putting, coupled with a long hiatus from the brushes doubly so. The purpose of buying second hand troops was to be able to get a quick start army on the table, unfortunately I'm a pedantic bugger, I found I could not just satisfy myself with rebasing and be done with it, nope I had to go fidgeting around and before you could say "dont go fidgeting around" I had.

No problem getting gaming straight away but I have to fidget with things

As far as things go I could have rebased and had a game with my new troops as is and the enjoyment would have been up to expectations irrespective. I could not let it be, the painter in me had to get in the way, and personal taste I suspect too. My newly acquired Saxon army had been painted with a blocking in of colour and then using either a black wash or dip to shade, serviceable, but I am not a great fan of this method. It works very well on plastics and cleanly cast metal figures but unfortunately picks up any defect in the miniature whether it be from casting or at the sculpting stage another reason why I chose to repaint or touch up the figures.

Black wash and dip highlight any irregularities in the castings surface

I was quite convinced that I was not going to strip the figures back, why pay extra for painted figures and then take them back to metal, it would just be defeating the purpose, a purpose I was getting more and more confused by my actions, but paint I would. Strict neatness (if that is possible) was not the order of the day, keeping it simple was. As is often the case I derailed a few times before I got this idea through my thick head, what I needed was a quick method that would achieve negating the black wash and it's effect of highlighting defects, and provide room to reclaim points of highlighting. There was no room or need to work subtle transitions with multiple layers of washes or glazes, besides I don't think my skills, and eyes, are up to distinguishing such nuances anymore. What was needed was bright, clear and distinctive. Well bright and clear as a rabble of dark age warriors would allow. I repeat speed was of the essence coupled with a reasonable standard....

Compared to a mini of the same starting colour, shadow and mid tones

For the most part I have taken the original painted colour and placed a layer of like (red on red etc) paint over in a slightly translucent mix, this allows the blacked areas to influence shading. taking the same colour I have then applied a layer of quite opaque paint to just the mid and higher regions of the figure, damp brushing is a quick way of achieving this, the translucent paint in the deeper black washed areas and the opaque paint on the higher projections of the figure give an effective shadow and midtone effect in just a couple of minutes from the what is essentially the same paint with out mixing or opening another lighter shade, I might add when it works it looks more natural. Now I either mix in a bit of paint to lighten what I already have on the pallet or open an appropriate highlight shade, more often than not I mix my highlight using the existing colour on the pallet but really this is up to the individual, without telling gran how to suck eggs pick out the highlights in your preferred method.

Highlights crudely applied, I want this to be quick
Nothing fancy, keep it simple

If there are numerous folds close together I'm happy to dry brush, if they are further apart or subtle folds then I will go in and paint them. I like to keep the paint translucent if I'm picking out the highlights it may require two or more coats but with a care you can reduce the area of application for each layer (much like you would for three step but with the same paint shade on a much smaller scale) and this gives a nice effect.

Two coats of wash and everything has tied together

Shading from the original black wash clearly visible
Now using my base colour I add some shade colour to darken slightly (I avoid black and look for a deep shade of the same colour a good example would be GW scab red for red) and thin to a wash consistancy and coat the figure. This will darken your highlights a little but has the satisfying effect of tying it in with the base colour ie reducing the transition, now if I feel like it I redo the highlights and wash step. A pretty quick method for a quite reasonable result all up (with hair dryer) this takes about 10-15 minutes per figure which is about half the time I spend on flesh and hair!

Note: with the example in green everthing was still in the experimental stage, the final wash was of the base colour, I felt the shadows worked fine as is and didn't need deepening. The example in red below was done as described with most of the mid and highlights painted on using the dry brushing method, a very quick repaint.

Now I still haven't decided which army I'm building but it has occurred to me that for the most part, as far as painting is concerned, it isn't going to make a huge difference one way or t'other. As long as my rabble look suitably rabble-ish they can slot in nicely with a goodly selection of Warlords from a number of nations. At the moment I have decided to group the figures ie skirmish types, huscarls, spear etc and make up bases accordingly. This will give me a generic army of like based troops which can be drafted into games/nationalities on an ad hock basis

My skirmish warriors ready for battle they just need ....

... a couple of mates before they are based, 4 to a base in Impetus.

Getting into the swing
Thanks for looking
As usual all errors grammatically and in composition are the sole responsibility of google and the reader