Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Swiftly Goes The Swordplay

Elven hero is now painted, 
I will be very impressed if anyone, 
Actually gets what this was a reference to 

As the second of my two Wardancer troupes is now finished (you can check 'em out in the previous post), the number of Wardancers in my kingdom has now grown large enough that they should get direct representation in my court. So I went and painted up a Wardancer Noble, Aemiria the Queen of Muses.

I also now finally understand what all the fuss about this Finecast stuff is about. You see, up until now all my experience with Finecast had been... reasonable. Not fantastic by any stretch, but... reasonable. The only real problems were the odd bent component. This one on the other hand had, in addition to badly bent weapons, a lot of tabs and/or flash (I often have trouble telling the two apart. Unless flash is that thin membrane that sometimes forms between parts?) in very awkward places (most notable being directly over where the poor Elf's heart would be) that was thoroughly annoying to remove. On the upside though I've finally worked out where I was going wrong with the 'bend components back into shape with hot water' trick - I didn't have the water hot enough! I do feel rather silly for trying to drill out the model's spear shaft now however. Interestingly, the main source of reference material I had for painting her was also perhaps the least likely - the White Dwarf Weekly issue covering the 8th edition Wood Elf re-release, which had the largest image of the studio Wardancer Noble model that I could find. It also showed me that even after all this time and all the other stuff that has happened since, my pure hatred of the 8th edition Wood Elf release has not diminished over time...

In other news, I also have more additions to my collection of old GW publications.

They are, as I understand it, the 6th and 7th edition Empire army books. The same second-hand bookstore I found the Beasts of Chaos and 5th edition Vampire Counts books in also had a bunch of other GW books. I missed out on the 7th edition High Elf book (I think it was that one at least, it had a red border and a guy in white-blue armour swinging a white sword around on the cover) and the 3rd edition Ork codex, which I was actually going for, so I consoled myself by snatching up both versions of the Empire army book while they were there (my original plan was for just the 6th edition one).

I've only read the 6th edition one cover to cover so far. I've skimmed through the 7th edition one, and it seems to have more or less the same sort of content if in a considerably different layout. Both books actually had less background than I thought they would have, especially in regards to the different territories (States? Provinces? I see both terms used for them in the books) of the Empire - the closest I could get to a run-down on what each one is like in terms of culture and resources and whatnot was a little two-page spread at the back of the 7th edition book, which was very surprising. I can only assume that detailed information on people details of each Empire territory was lost in the changeover to 6th edition along with the War Wagon.

On the other hand, one thing the 6th edition book did a really good job of was getting me inspired to start an Empire army. I was instantly able to 'click' and understand how an Empire army was supposed to work, and why it worked the way it did, and gave me a whole bunch of ideas about what to do for it. It's also something of a paradox however, because the Empire books are a textbook illustration of why I hate rigidly defined background settings with no room for flexibility so much.

You see, it all started when I came up with the idea to (hypothetically, since all the models have been discontinued) do an Empire army with a Shakespearean theme. I've had a soft spot for Shakespeare ever since High School, and given the whole neo-Elizabethan thing The Empire has going on I thought it might be cool to do an Empire army with characters taken from Shakespeare's plays. I was all fired up for this, and there was just one last detail remaining: what colour scheme to use. I thought about this for a couple of moments, and then found the obvious answer, green and white - the red and white studio scheme looked pretty cool, and green is my favourite colour, so the logical solution seemed to be to take the red and white studio scheme and replace the red with green. Simple enough.

Now, in case you're not familiar with the background of The Empire, the idea is that it's split up into several different territories with their own leadership and infrastructure and what have you, who in turn answer to a central court headed by an elected Emperor, kind of like a feudal version of the United States (or those little German states that existed before the 19th century if they all had a common governing body, if you're more historically inclined). As I've already alluded to, each one of these territories does have it's own outlined history and heraldry and state colours (that red and white studio scheme is the colours of Talabheim for example), and as an enthusiast of background I'd naturally therefore have to check to make sure that the green and white colour scheme I wanted isn't already taken. So I fliped over to the colour section of the army book, to find...

... that green and white is the official colour scheme of Stirland. Fuck.

It's actually for the Stir river patrol to be precise, Stirland proper is green and what seems to be a sort of yellowish off-white creme , but the river Stir is (presumably, since like I said there aren't really that many descriptions of the different territories) mostly Stirland's problem so it seems to be pretty much the same diff. Ok, calm down, it's not the end of the world, this is bad but it's still salvageable. These areas seem to be pretty big and expansive, if the details about them are vague enough, it might just be possible to drop an army down there without anyone noticing. Now, I want a fairly archetypical Empire army, a big core of lots of State Troops (in units no bigger than 25 of course. Giant 30+ units just feel wrong) backed up by a plenty of firepower in an arsenal of artillery, Handgunners and a Steam Tank or two. With some Crossbowmen as well. Y'know, as backup or something. And some other stuff as well in support. Oh and plenty of characters - this is supposed to be a Shakespeare themed army after all. So if I can get all that and have them looking nice and resplendent in noble Elizabethan style, I might just be ok. So I scour the army book for information about this 'Stirland' place...

... only to find that it's a poor rustic backwater with a propensity towards low-end units not always in the best shape they could be, in other words exactly what I don't want the army to be like. Fuck.

Alright, so at this point it looks like the whole Stirland thing isn't going to work. Yes, there's some fun to be had in being the ragtag underdog triumphing against the odds through skill and courage and all that, and yes the Mechanicals were a fairly big part of A Midsummer Night's Dream, but well I've always gravitated more towards the nobility characters in Shakespeare, mostly because they're usually the major characters, get the most lines, get the coolest lines, and I tend to be a glory-hound. So green and white is out. Ok, time for a new approach. I can't do green and white, but maybe another colour scheme will work instead. Hmmm, let's see, my favourite colour is green, but my second favourite colour is red, so what if I used both of them? Yes! Brilliant! Green and red, my two favourite colours, and they'll provide a good contrast too! Now let's make sure it isn't already used...

... It's the official colour scheme for Hochland. Fuck.

To be fair, this isn't a total deal-breaker. There seems to be enough room for the sort of army I'd be looking for here. But it was used in the little introductory short story towards the start of the army book, and that annoys the rebelious non-conformist in me, so I'd prefer to avoid it if at all possible.

Ok, so I can't do green and white, and I can't do green and red. Alright, forget using my favourite colours, let's just start completely from scratch. Now, what are some nice interesting colour combinations. How about yellow and purple?

Ostermark. Fuck.

Alright, what about red and blue?

Altdorf. Fuck.

Blue and yellow?

Nordland. Fuck.

Blue and orange? They're supposed to be complimentary colours according to the colour wheel, surely they'd be an interesting combination that isn't taken?

Actually it isn't, but it looks ugly to me. Fuck.

In theory I could just do a mixed force representing a coalition of troops from different areas, which would allow me to use a whole bunch of different colour schemes. On the one hand this could tie into the planned background fairly well, allowing me to place characters from areas of The Empire that line up fairly well to their background in the plays (Hamlet could be from Nordland, for example), but the catch is that Warhammer Fantasy armies tend to look best when each unit is part of a unified whole (and unified looking armies tend to pander to my delusions of grandeur better), and such a mixture of colour schemes could start to make it look too disorganised and chaotic. At this point it also occurs to me that one colour scheme that isn't taken is green and black (the closest is Nuln, which is black and, well, more black really), which could actually work quite well and would be one that I'd be interested in, but it still doesn't quite grab me.

So my options for this hypothetical army would be:

A) Green and black,

B) A mixed force from different areas using their appropriate colour schemes or,

C) Biting the bullet and painting them all green and red and making the army from Hochland.

All three of which are instances where I like it, but I don't love it.

I suppose the thing to take away from this is that The Empire background is really aimed towards hobbyists with a very different mindset to me. The impression I get is that the Empire background is really geared towards the historical-focused 'rivet counter' type, the sort of hobbyist who spends countless hours poring over detailed historical accounts and guidebooks and painstakingly replicating a force that's 100% accurate to a historical one from the source material right down to the most meticulous of details. The sort who won't just make any army from faction N, but the XYZth regiment of A troop, B corps, with every unit present and accounted for as it was at the battle of C. And indeed most of what I've seen on the internet supports this - in my experience the typical Empire collector will usually have latched onto and fallen in love with one specific province or city-state or whatever, and base his or her army around that.

Which is all well and good, but the problem is, well, that's a very different mindset to me.

I am not like that sort of hobbyist at all. I'm a creative, imaginative sort with a brain that can perhaps best be described as a sort of living fiction factory. I tend to be fairly individualistic and have a non-conformist streak a mile wide (as you can probably tell if you read the last post). This means that I approach the tabletop hobby as a sort of self-expressive art, and consequently I don't want to replicate some existing army or fleet or whatever, I want to make my army or fleet or whatever. I want to take a bunch of models that I like and make them mine. Even when I use a colour scheme that's reverse-engineered from the studio one (which in fairness is basically every army/fleet I've done so far), it almost always ends up gaining some sort of twist that makes it unique to me. And they almost all have some sort of unique backstory - they're never based on an existing force. My Wood Elf army, for example, was never inspired from any particular part of Athel Loren or Wood Elf history, it was inspired by symphonic and folk metal music. The Vampire Counts army I planned to do was never going to be based on one of the established bloodlines (it was almost going to be Lahmian, but they're supposed to use lots of Skeletons, and I wanted the army to be heavy on Zombies, Wolves, Bats, Spirits and, well, not Skeletons. Don't get me wrong, I like a good horde of Skeletons as much as the next guy, they are a classic Fantasy staple for a reason, but the way I see it armies of Skeletons are what the Tomb Kings are for, so I wanted to focus on the non-Skeleton elements because they're different). And I've already mentioned my idea for a Shakespeare powered Empire army. Heck the only reason my Tau are always from the T'au Sept is because my fondness for them predates my non-conformist side coming to prominence (that didn't happen until a few years after getting into 40k - and by extension tabletop gaming - through the Tau).

And so the upshot of all this is that I need to have the sort of creative freedom to do those things in a tabletop setting in order to fully enjoy it. Which is why I hated the 8th edition Wood Elf background splitting up Athel Loren into 12 all-encompassing 'eternal realms' so much, and why I seriously struggle to find enjoyment in Battletech's setting, and why my biggest complaint about Battlefront's new Team Yankee game is that it's based on a technothriller book. I don't want to make armies that conform to ones present and accounted for in the setting's in-universe history, I want to make armies that are an expression of who I am and are distinctly my own thing and a small part of myself within that setting. And the sad thing is I'm having a harder and harder time to find that.

You know what, forget about it. I'm probably the problem. Just some no-good loner freak who can't fall in line and doesn't get what it's supposed to be about.

I'm going into space. I may be some time.

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