Will o’ the Wisps

I’ve been away from the painting desk for the last few weeks but I did make some time to paint my last few remaining Malifaux models. I don’t play the game any more so it was more of an opportunity to practise with my new airbrush – I figured the rather bulbous Will o’ the Wisps figures would make excellent test models.

Part of the reason I stopped playing Malifaux is that I don’t like assembling or painting their new plastic models. They are incredibly detailed but I find the details are so fiddly that they’re no fun to paint. However the Will o’ the Wisps I actually really like! They’re so full of character, the details are big and chunky, and it’s hard to tell if they’re creepy or adorable.

For their skin, which is most of the model, I used the airbrush to undercoat dark blue and highlight up to turquoise. This left a pretty good starting point, but I can tell I’ve got a lot to learn with how to handle the airbrush. Specifically thinning my paint, it’s always either too thick and I have constant blockages, or too thin and doesn’t dry quick enough.

After airbrushing.

I used a regular bristle brush for the rest of it. I took it up from turquoise in a few layers but I wasn’t too happy with it. However I’d just been to my local Warhammer store and got a demo on Contrast paints from the guy there, and ended up picking up Leviadon Blue for some Genestealers. I figured I might as well give it a go, so I washed the Will o’ the Wisps with thinned Leviadon Blue – I ended up quite liking it! It wasn’t as magic as they claim but it did handle a lot better than regular washes. I got the best results when I pushed the paint around before it dried.

Creepy.

The rest of the details were pretty straight forward, and I must say a little rushed. As I’m not likely to play with these models I wasn’t as precious with them as I otherwise would have been.

Wyrd’s concept art hid the wings in shadow so I couldn’t tell what the original artist had in mind when designing them. However I the hero Will o’ the Wisp, Adze, has much more useful artwork so I based my wings off that.

Adorable!

Overall, fairly happy with them. It’s not often I get to paint such a wild variety of colours on a single model and have to work to get them to sit nicely together. The bases were rushed and I should have spent some time on the blue/green “hood” and feathered areas on the shoulders. They were a great test for the airbrush and I’ll definitely be deploying the airbrush + contrast wash combo in the future. Should make quick work of the Genestealers!

Putting them on my display shelf was a bittersweet moment. It’s always nice finishing minis, but these are quite likely the last Malifaux models I’ll ever paint. Felt like the final closing of that chapter.

Colours

Skin: VPA Periscopes, up to VMC Turquoise, highlight with VMC Flat Flesh and VMC Ivory. Wash/shade with ⅓ Citadel Contrast Leviadon Blue ⅔ Citadel Contrast Medium.
Wings: Base coat of 80% VMC Ivory, 10% VMC Flat Yellow, 10% VMC Yellow Green (will take multiple coats on a black undercoat). Two washes with SW Yellow Snow, one wash with Citadel Fuegan Orange, then multiple light glazes of Citadel Orc Flesh Wash to blend into the body. Also apply the green wash to the upper back.
Skull:  ⅔ VMC Ocford Blue ⅓ VGC Warlock Purple, up to VMC Ice Yellow. Small highlights with VMC Ivory. Small amounts of wash/glaze with SW Amethyst and SW Purple.
Lights: Shade the area with Citadel Leviathan Purple. Raised areas with Citadel Lothern Blue up to VMC White.

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Scratch-building a shield

Now that my Macedonians are finished, I’m choosing to ignore what I really should be doing (DBMM terrain) and looking around at the other painting projects that I’ve had on the back burner for a few years. Two of them are vying for my attention: an adventuring party (just for fun) and brightening up my Space Hulk terminators.

I thought it’d be nicest to work on the adventurers, mainly because I’ll be painting each figure on its own and that seems like a real luxury after years of bulk painting. I’ve got a dozen miniatures covering the whole gamut of classes from barbarian to bard, from two of my favourite sculptors: Tre Manor from Red Box Games and Kev White from Hasslefree Miniatures. In true nerd style I settled on painting them in the order that they were introduced into the D&D canon, so first up are the fighter, cleric, and wizard.

For the wizard and fighter I have two retired minis from Red Box Games, Herbert Hedgewyrd and Vilhanna of the Shield. They’re both ready to go, just needed minimal cleaning up and undercoating. The cleric took a long time to find – cleric minis can be boring figures, usually a dour individual in chainmail carrying a shield and a mace looking very judgemental. However I really like Mother Morrigan from Hasslefree, she’s interesting and powerful-looking enough to join the ranks of my crew. I didn’t think either of her weapon choices were particularly fitting for a cleric though – either one two-handed warhammer or two smaller warhammers – to me the iconic front-line cleric should always have a shield.

Making the shield

I had a look through my bits box and didn’t find any suitable shield, so figured I’d have to make my own. I started by blu-tacking together the arms and a suitably-sized piece of plasticard to check it for size – I’d hate to have made up a shield and then found it was the wrong size.

I googled images of medieval knights with shields to get a rough gauge on size as a starting point. They were smaller than I thought, roughly from foot to groin, but it still took me a couple of goes to get it right.

Next step was to take the plastic rectangle and make it actually shield-shaped. For this I googled more images, found a shape that I liked and that suited her armour style, and made a couple of measured cuts to get the basic shape. From here I took a file and rounded the whole shape off, then did another test fit to make sure I was still on track.

However it looked a bit boring, especially compared to the detail on the rest of her character. Sure, I’m going to be able to add some detail when I paint it, but I wanted some physical detail so it didn’t look like just a bit of shaped plasticard.

First step was to bend it – this was pretty easy, I just found a small round cylinder and pushed the shield up against it until it maintained a curve. Second step was to add a lip around the face of the shield. For this job I used one of my favourite modelling materials, that nice foil that you get around the corks of sparkling wine. It’s great stuff – pliable, able to be neatly smoothed, but easy to cut and shape. I put the shield over a sheet of it, cut out the shape, then free-handed a shape out of the middle which left me with a rim I could tidy up and superglue to the plasticard.

I was very happy with it at this stage, so I removed the second hammer and glued everything together. Two little steps left do to: smooth out the edges of the shield with putty (I used Prince August’s mastic plastique) and make the leather straps that Morrigan will use to actually hold the shield. I used the wine foil again to make thin strips then used superglue to attach them.

Once the straps were on I felt that the shield detail matched the rest of the miniature, and she was ready for a coat of paint. If it was originally sculpted it would probably have wood grain but that can easily be painted on.

Macedonia, finished

Four years after I first ordered them, I managed to finally paint and base 297 men, 4 women, 75 horses, 3 goats, 2 bulls, and one faithful mutt:

All ready to raze Thebes and topple the Achaemenid dynasty.

This was a massive project for me. It’s my first army-scale force in over a decade, my first historical 28mm army, and by far the largest ever painting project I’ve undertaken. It was so big that I had to break up the project over the years as doing it all in back-to-back would have burned out my enthusiasm very quickly, so that probably doubled the time it took me.

Alexander, his mount Bucephalus, and his dog Peritas.

I finished a 400AP DBMM army early last year so I could play in ValleyCon at the Hutt Wargaming Club. What’s taken me another 18 months is all the extra options that I got along with it, so now I can theoretically field about 570AP.

I’m taking a break from historical minis for a while, next up will Blood Angel Terminators for Space Hulk and some D&D-style adventurers from Red Box Games and Hasslefree Miniatures. It’s been nice to be able to spend time on one mini at a time without getting stressed out about the other couple of dozen that I have to paint in exactly the same way!

Anyway, enough of the waffle, here’s the army:

I’m back!

Well that was certainly a busy 18 months, we have got a lot to catch up on! I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s a quick skim of what I’ve done since February 2017. I’ll start with the non-hobby stuff so you can see why I’ve neglected the blog for a while:

Personal:

  • Moved house! My wife and I have shifted out of our old cosy/shoebox-sized apartment into a house a little further out of town. Means much more office-space and room for hobby stuff.
  • The videogames studio that I run with my brother, Dinosaur Polo Club, has gone from three people to seven people. We’ve started work on two new titles, as well as spent time helping out two other studios.
  • I also co-direct an annual week-long videogames festival, Play by Play. We ran the second one in April 2017 and the third in April 2018, and have begun planning for 2019’s. Turns out putting on a festival takes a lot of effort!

Most of my time in 2017 and the first half of 2018 was very much focussed on the videogames side of my life, it’s only since Play by Play 2018 wound up in late April that I’ve been able to get back into miniatures.

However I’ve not neglected my toy soldiers! I’m never far from the painting desk and here’s a brief recap on what I’ve been up to:

Hobby:

  • Stopped playing Malifaux. I might write more about this in future, but after five years playing Malifaux and spending a lot of time trying to grow the local community, I hung up my spurs and packed my fate deck away. I was struggling to keep up with the ever-expanding catalog of miniatures, the world wasn’t drawing me in any more, and I hadn’t been very happy with the art direction and the plastic miniatures that 2nd edition brought with it. I still have all my miniatures, I doubt I’ll ever sell them, but for now they’re just sitting on my shelf looking pretty.

    Malifaux
    So long, and thanks for all the flips.
  • Started playing X-wing. One of my core gaming group had been playing a co-operative campaign for the X-wing miniatures game with his kids and had really enjoyed it. We’d been looking around for what to get into post-Malifaux, we tried it out, and it’s been amazing! I played a few games of X-wing when it came out but didn’t really like it, but co-op against a pretty decent AI it’s a totally different beast. I ended up enjoying it so much that I bought a bulk lot of second-hand minis and have started playing it at the office.

    X-wing
    This ain’t even all of it! Most of the TIE fighters and Rebel snub fighters are sitting on a shelf at my office, awaiting every second Wednesday.
  • Sold my Blood Bowl teams. They’d been sitting on the shelf for years and I wanted to raise some funds for the X-wing miniatures I hoped to get. So I brushed off the Saphery Magisters and the Norsca Under-17s, spruced them up a bit, and hocked ’em off on eBay. Nearly covered the cost of 90-odd second-hand X-wing ships.
  • Finished my Macedonians! I kept plugging away at this army and got it finished in time for ValleyCon in January 2018. Played four games, won one, lost one, and drew the other two. Had a great time and ended up taking home the award for best painted. I’m currently painting up even more of the buggers so I have some options and can field 450AP.

    Macedonians
    By far the biggest hobby project I’ve ever undertaken. Not in a rush to start another 28mm DBMM army!
  • Had to throw out most of my wild west buildings. Unfortunately the room I kept them in the new house was cold and a little damp, so the exposed MDF began to get mouldy. After a year of sitting in that environment they were positively toxic so I made the call to bin the lot. I’ve kept the one that I painted – “Florence & co. Haberdashery” – and will spend some time with bleach and a toothbrush to de-mould it.
  • Got my Space Hulk miniatures back from Awaken Realms. I’m about 70% happy with them. It’s great to get the genestealers painted, but I definitely want to go over the terminators myself and do some extra detailing.

    Terminators
    I opted for cheesy second edition 40K colour schemes, I feel that they need to be brighter to really pull off the look.

So right now I’m painting the last of my Macedonians (84 men and horses to go!), next up will be tidying up the Space Hulk terminators, finishing the last few unpainted Malifaux and Infinity miniatures I have, plus I’ve got a small dungeoneering party on the way just for fun. I still have to get some proper DBMM terrain and start playing that regularly, alongside my weekly co-op X-wing games.

Malifaux Terrain

I’ve found that most wargames follow a general rule: as the miniature count goes down, the terrain density goes up. Malifaux is no exception to this, so you need a reasonably-sized collection to put together an enjoyable game. Nothing as out-of-control as Infinity, just some buildings, obstacles, a few forests, some scatter terrain, that sort of thing.

Terrain has traditionally been something I’ve lazily left to other people to provide, but a few years ago I thought I better stop freeloading and get some of my own. First stop was Sarissa Precision, purveyors of fine old west-style buildings. The Battle Flag Blackwater Gulch range also caught my eye, but they were too big, and much more expensive! I bought seven of their buildings and painted up four of them, invariably drifting off to some other project… so since then I’ve been playing on the same set of partially-finished terrain.

Sarissa Precision corner hotel
Sarissa’s Corner Hotel, the centerpiece for my old west town

During that time I discovered that Malifaux isn’t that fun with large, clunky buildings. Even the smallest Sarissa buildings, which are only 10cm square, really clog up the board. I’m now glad I didn’t rush to paint all my buildings right away, as I don’t really like playing with them as is.

The Plan

To remedy this, I came up with the idea of having a ruined town made up of L-shaped buildings, with two walls missing. This frees up all that internal space, is easy to move around in, stops preventing pushes so much (something I feel bogs down Malifaux), while still giving almost the same amount of cover and line-of-sight blocking. I spent a few hours and put together a table layout that I felt would work well. Malifaux doesn’t make this easy as you have to factor in two deployment options (6″ and 12″) for all four sides, plus two options for each corner! I found that the grid layout of a town suits this quite well, as you can have two lines of walls at each 6″ and 12″ mark, leaving a reasonably open 12″ x 12″ area in the centre. So, something like this:

img_4089
Layout, with all the buildings intact – demolishing to occur later

My plan is to have an impact crater in the centre of the board, near the rear corner of the hotel, which has sparked the ruin of the town – while also nicely marking out the centre. Buildings provide most of the cover at 6″ and 12″. Two exceptions are the fence and “Welcome to …” sign on one edge, and a hedged and fenced railway line on the opposite edge.

The Execution

I’d just finished a block of troops in my DBMM army, and was going up to my parents’ place where I can use Dad’s bandsaw, so took the opportunity to test out my theory of how to turn a perfectly good Sarissa building into a ruin.

img_4090
First L-shaped test building

Overall I was really happy with how easy it was to make – a bandsaw makes short work of MDF – and it’s still very sturdy even with the single join. I painted it the next day and feel like it came out really well. It was my first time stencilling and while it wasn’t perfect I think the rough-painted look fits the old west aesthetic very well.

img_4093
Coming up with the names is the best bit

I printed out the top sign on paper and cut out the letters by hand with a craft blade. Next time I might try laser-cutting a stencil onto some thin material.

The next job is to mark up the rest of my buildings so I can get them all cut next time I’m up at my parents’ place. I hope to report back in a few weeks with more finished buildings!

Diary: 31st of August, 2016

Date: 31st of August, 2016

Opponent: Valerii

Factions: Gremlins vs Outcasts

Strategy: Extraction

Schemes:

  • Convict Labour
  • Take Prisoner (me: Nurse, opponent: Gracie)
  • Show of Force (me)
  • Framed for Murder (opponent: Trapper)
  • Inspection

Deployment: Standard

Terrain: My usual: fairly open in the middle, scattered small soft and hard cover around the centre with a lot of blocking hard cover around the edges.

 

Crews:

Som’er Teeth Jones, Dirty Cheater, Can O’ Beans
2 x Skeeter
Gracie, Saddle
Lenny, I’ll Love it and Pet it…
Burt Jebsen, Dirty Cheater
Slop Hauler
3 x Bayou Gremlin

vs

Jack Daw, Writhing Torment, Twist and Turn
Convict Gunslinger
Johanna
The Hanged
Freikorps Trapper
Nurse
The Guilty
2 x Desperate Mercenary

My plan: Use my heavies to control one side of the centre to prevent a possible Inspection, while being close enough to score both the strategy and Show of Force. I assumed that he’d probably win the Extraction tussle so I had my Bayou Gremlins to charge in at the end of each turn to score my strategy points.

How it worked out: I had a strong opening, by the end of turn two I had taken out the hanged and a desperate mercenary and had moved Gracie and Lenny into a threatening position to get into the centre the next turn. We were both scoring strategy points but as predicted Jack was able to move it further back into his own half. As there were no non-Master upgrades in the opposing crew Show of Force was quite simple to score.

From turn three onwards it became a sprawling melée in the centre around the informant marker. We exchanged models for no great effect however I was having to shift more and more into the centre to get the strategy points. By the middle of turn four my position was looking very precarious – only Gracie was nearby and one Bayou Gremlin in range.

Somer and the slop hauler were stuck in the backfield drawing the attention of a guilty and Jack Daw. They both managed to escape relatively easily (Jack failed to give Somer Tormented and the guilty pushed back into the centre). Somer used this opportunity to charge into the melée and managed to summon a pig after giving himself a crow and dispatching a wounded Desperate Mercenary with his pig sticker – the extra activation and significant minion in the centre of the board really tilted the game back in my favour, I don’t think I quite appreciated at the time how important this was!

The last turn was very quick and just decided a the last few crucial VPs. Gracie had been neutralised for two turns by the nurse and in hindsight it was obvious that she was a target for Take Prisoner. I foolishly moved my last non-Tormented model away from her so Jack Daw was able to push Somer away (he’d been given Tormented by the guilty earlier in the turn), then moved in for the 3 VP capture.

Score: 9-9 draw.

Lessons:

  • I’m becoming familiar with Jack, it’s my second game against him and I was a lot wiser to his movement tricks. The volume of pushes that his crew gets did still take me by surprise a few times and I need to always have it in the back of my mind when I’m planning my turns. Also listening to the Jack episode of Schemes and Stones helped! 🙂
  • I finally got to use Somer’s Come & Get It! trigger! I’d always seen it as a bit of a gimmick, but if you’re able to get the crow with Do it Like Dis! and either focus or charge in (or hit someone reduced to 1 Wd already, maybe from Hard to Kill) then it’s a great way to get an extra body on the ground. Piglets are a real pain – Df 6, 5 Wd, – to Sh attacks, and having one in the right place can be critical. Something to think about when I’m low on models to contest something.
  •  This is the most important – I have to think more about my opponent’s schemes. This was two-fold:
    • I was pretty sure that he had taken Frame for Murder, the Trapper is always a favourite sucker model, so I should have ignored the trapper till after turn three. He was fairly inconsequential where he was so if I just left Gracie until after the Trapper had activated I could have hurled her into the centre for much greater effect – Lenny’s Ram and damage avoidance makes her nigh-unstoppable.
    • Also towards the end of the game it was obvious to both of us that we’d both chosen Taken Prisoner. If I’d thought about it more it was obvious it was on Gracie – Jack struggles with her Armour, the Nurse had been nullifying her to keep her where she was, and he was pulling the Informant marker further away from her to keep her alone. Then in my last activation I handed him 1 extra VP by moving my slop hauler right away from Gracie. The hauler was only on a single Wd so was unlikely to have survived anyway but at least it would have meant a few flips!

Why we paint

Modelling and painting miniatures is the part of the hobby that I spent the most time on by far. It can be a gruelling task, spending your evenings hunched over a small desk working on a never-ending pile of toy soldiers, but I find it’s always worth it when you finally get your latest model or army on the table.

Like almost every other gamer, I’ve watched as my pile of unpainted miniatures has grown larger and larger. I’ve found that this was sapping my motivation – I’d buy something on sale (or, my eternal weak spot, a limited edition miniature) and add it to the end of the queue, then by the time I got to it I found I wasn’t that interested it any more. Kickstarter made this far worse but thankfully it only took me one big pledge to find that out. I felt bad painting something up straight away instead of getting through my old stuff first.

So a couple of years ago I made the decision to not buy anything else until I had everything I owned painted up and ready to use. I sold a lot of miniatures that, once I was honest with myself, I knew I was never going to game with. So all my unpainted Infinity went (including all my limited edition stuff), and all my various Hasslefree, Reaper, and Red Box purchases that I kept making for some ephemeral RPG experience I was collecting miniatures for but never quite knew what it was going to be. I’ve been working through my backlog and now only have a handful of Malifaux and Infinity models left, plus a lot of Space Hulk miniatures. My resolve did crumble somewhat and I ended up with about 300 miniatures for a DBMM army – my excuse was that Foundry were dropping their amazing bulk-buy deals so by doing so I saved myself a few hundred dollars. (Usual excuse!)

Space hulk miniatures
23 Terminators, 42 Genestealers, 1 Broodlord, 1 grail, and yes, 2 CATs. Don’t ask.

So after all that, staring down the barrel of nearly 70 Space Marine Terminators and Genestealers has led me to the surprising decision of getting them professionally painted. Long ago I thought I would never become one of those barbarians who does so – what’s the point of gaming with miniatures that you didn’t paint yourself? This was another me in another time though, a me who had much more free time on his hands, and couldn’t care less if he spent every evening and the entire weekend painting (even if he should probably work on his essays for uni). I’m in a much different space now and I have other things I want to spend time on. I want to be able to spent my hobby time doing the things that I really enjoy, putting together models that I’ve only just bought and enthusiastic about, and not feeling guilty that I haven’t done my “homework” and cleared my backlog first.

Once I made the decision to have them painted by someone else I felt a massive sense of relief. Besides my DBMM miniatures they make up the overwhelming bulk of my remaining backlog – 69 minis compared to about a dozen for everything else. I set about researching who I could get to do them, I wasn’t going to paint them myself but I still wanted them to look at nice as possible! After a few evenings’ research I settled on Awaken Realms in Poland. Their prices weren’t cheap, but pretty reasonable given their quality, and their example work looked very impressive. After a few emails with their team to confirm I spent a few weeks preparing the miniatures and looking up source material before shipping them off half-way around the world.

Awaken Realms
I think I could handle my stuff looking this awesome.

This really got me thinking about my hobby, and why it is that I paint. Do I really enjoy painting that much if it causes me all that anxiety? Or do I get stressed about because I enjoy it? Or is it just because it’s been a big part of my life it for 23 years and I can’t imagine not doing it? I’m so close to it that it seems I can’t think rationally about it, not being able to see the wood for the trees. At times it seems a little daft to think about it that much, but it is something I spend a huge part of my spare time doing so it’s worth taking it seriously. I’ll have a clearer idea once I’ve done two things: totally cleared my backlog (most of a DBMM army still to go…), and played some games of Space Hulk with miniatures I paid to have painted. I look forward to being able to report back.