Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Fight'n Four

Sorry, no metal puns today. On the upside though there should also be a minimum of violent furious ranting about the Donald Trump of tabletop wargaming that is modern GW's latest misdeeds (and trust me, I could write a LOT of ranting about them. But too much horror and rage is bad for my health, so I'm trying to limit it to just the occasional topical swipe. Any hardline conservatives out there are just going to have to put up with the occasional bit of snowflaking unless they want more thousand-word rants).

What there is, however, are pretty pictures of the last two of my Firewarrior guinea-pigs test models.

There weren't that many wild experiments this time, as I've pretty much nailed down the paint scheme I want. The main one this time was on the bases, marking my first ever use of a new basing element - tufts. Much like everything else about this project, I spent a long time beforehand thinking about what I wanted to do with the bases. The bulk of it was easy to work out - like the classic T'au desert camouflage scheme used in the 'Evy Metal studio army, I also wanted to emulate the desert/badlands basing theme that was used in it. This was pretty straightforward, as I conveniently already had everything I needed for it, but I decided that I also wanted something more for my army bases, some kind of little extra embellishment or doodad to really spice them up a notch, and decided that some grassy tufts would be just the thing (I thought my model bases needed tuft-ening up). This then resulted in a decision to use two kinds of tufts - one that was a very strong green to contrast with the more barren base colours and make the whole thing really pop, and one that was a more subdued sandy colour to enhance the overall theme of the bases and go more with the colour scheme on the models. Putting all this together would ideally result in a kind of Savannah wastelands look - something similar to the Badlands map theme from Starcraft is essentially what I'm trying to aim for here.

The third test model isn't anything special painting wise. The main innovations with her were in the assembly stage, where I manage to refine my greenstuff skills to an acceptable level. I'm using only the older kits for the Firewarriors in my army, for several reasons of varying importance, which came with rather infamous mold defects on the leg armour. The obvious solution would be to reconstruct the deformed sections with greenstuff, which seemed simple enough on paper (the leg armour being comprised entirely of simple shapes and lines), but proved somewhat infuriatingly troublesome in practice. My original plan - to take an ordinary staple and bend it into the right shape to use as a press for the panel lines - fell through when I was unable to get it into the right size and shape (the shape wasn't too hard, but getting it into the right size was another matter entirely). So instead I tried scoring into the greenstuff with a needle, which had always worked before when I needed lines in greenstuff, but this ran into the problem of getting sharp corners - they would inevitably either come out curved (which didn't look right) or deform into one straight line. I tried making greenstuff molds from incact leg armour pieces, but they couldn't quite get the right pattern on.

The breakthrough finally came when, as I was going to bed after another fruitless night, my thoughts turned to the recent Disney film Moana. I thought about a brief shot in that where a character is getting tattooed and suddenly had a Eureka moment - I could simply tattoo the details on with a needle! I conducted a quick experiment the next day and the concept worked like a charm, although it was still imperfect and the sculpted leg armour came out rather wonky. But it was progress, and I quickly came to the conclusion that the problem had been too much greenstuff on the section, which was causing the detail to cave in and 'lip' when I pressed in too deeply with the needle. I tried again with another set of legs using a much thinner layer of greenstuff and the results were much better, though there was still some deforming towards one end (the moral of that story is never work with greenstuff in less than ample light conditions). But I considered it good enough to start painting with, and indeed it's far less noticeable now.

The other important breakthrough was learning to work with the leg armour sections, only using greenstuff on the middle area where the panel lines are supposed to drop down. Any missing panel lines on the sides of the armour were simply carved into the plastic using - very, VERY carefully - a razor saw.

The tuft I tried out on her base is the current planned sandy-coloured tuft, a GW Mordheim Turf tuft. I doesn't look quite right to me, but I suspect that may be because it was squashed by the fingers of god as it was being peeled off the sheet and glued down. Further study may be required.

The final model is where things start to get more interesting, as she is a testbed for a number of tricks, mostly for the Shas'Uis that are planned. On the building side of things I tested out a new conversion. I want to give all the markerlight equipped infantry models in the army data-cables running from their helmet aerials in the same manner as the original 3rd edition Pathfinder (and Stealthsuit Shas'vre) models, because it just looks aggressively awesome. Much like the component repairs above, this seemed simple enough in theory, as all I'd really need is two pieces of wire cut to the right length, bent to the right shape stuck together, with a little bit of strategically placed greenstuff to cover where they met the gun and aerial. Closer inspection of the 3rd edition Pathfinder models that I own revealed that there's also a small circular... thing... part-way down the cables at about chest height, but that seemed easy enough to replicate with greenstuff too. The trouble came in finding the right wire. I initially planned to use regular old 1mm wire, which is the standard wire I've used in every other hobby project so far and something I am now swimming in after buying a ton of it in preparation for this one. The 1mm wire however proved to be much too thick for the infantry models, effectively making it look like the Firewarrior helmet had tusks and blowing the greenstuff details all out of proportion. I desperately hunted around in local shops for something suitably thinner, before finally finding the answer in very thin Florists' Wire from the local flower store. It was available for a very reasonable price, and proved to be the perfect size for the infantry when I tested it at home.

Painting wise the model represents my first real attempt at the bane of any painter's existence - painting white. The only real experience I've had so far with white has been my Tau fleet, which just used very heavy drybrushes of Skull White (and later White Scar). This worked fine for Battlefleet Gothic models, but I had the feeling it wouldn't quite cut it for 28mm heroic scale models. I searched long and hard for an answer to how to layer white properly, but could find very little online. Eventually I talked with a painting goddess I encountered at the local GW store and she confirmed what I had already begun to suspect from squinting at examples of white 'Evy Metal painting (start with a grey and work up), and then pointed me in the direction of which colour I should use as a base. Conveniently, it was one I already had from painting the ATT orbital. Thus began the basis of my attempt at painting bright white on the scanner. starting with Fenrisian Grey (forever Space Wolves Grey to me) as a base and then layering it with a mixture of White Scar with a little bit of Fenrisian Grey, then highlighted with White Scar. It seemed to work out well enough for small details like the scanner, which is all I really need it for at this stage.

The bone white on the helmet and shoulder guard were an attempt to recreate the bone white panels in the old studio example Tau army. I initially tried following the driections for painting white helmets in the Crisis Suit painting guide on page 40 of Codex: Tau, but quickly ran into a problem with the main colour. The guide specifies that this should be a Skull White-Vomit Brown mixture, with a ratio very heavily Skull White's way, but my experiment quickly proved that all such a mixture would produce is a very light sand ochre (this might seem to you to be simple common sense, but I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt at the time under the reasoning that the old 'Evy Metal painters might know something I didn't). Thus I defaulted to an old method of painting bone white that I used in a couple of places on my hobby minions, starting with Ushabti Bone (which I actually had to physically stop myself from typing as Bleached Bone) and then highlighting with Screaming Skull and White Scar. It seemed to work out good enough, but I can't help but think I could get it closer to the studio examples by using a mixture of Ushabti Bone and White Scar as the main colour instead (of course, that would then raise the question of how to highlight it...). It also represents my first real attempt at painting Tau markings at 28mm scale. They turned out reasonably well, I suppose, but I can't stop thinking that they're slightly crooked.

The tuft used on this model is an Army Painter Woodland Tuft, which I discovered in a local hobby store and plan to use for the rich green tufts. The actual production infantry models are going to have the smaller size Woodland Tufts on them, but the sheet came with more medium tufts so I decided to use one of those for the test case.

And finally here's the whole group together. All in all I'd say these tests have proven successful. This paint scheme is now approved. Full scale production: AUTHORISED.

Friday, 17 March 2017

We Rise

Hot off the painting space, here is the second of my pre-production Firewarriors (out of a planned 4). This time I decided to use the bare head so I could practice painting Tau skin, and a pulse carbine so I could try out how the colour scheme looked on something other than a pulse rifle.

I have never been able to quite master painting faces (one of the reasons why I love the Tau models so much; almost none of them have visible faces), and to this day it remains one of my weakest areas in painting. This one represents a quantum leap in my face-painting capability however, as not only is it one of the best ones that I have done so far, but it also marks the first time I have come close to successfully painting eyes.

During the buildup for this project, which took multiple years, I put a lot of thought into how I was going to paint the eyes on my bare-faced Tau. Most background material I've come across suggests that they're usually mostly black, with a bit of reflection or traces of colour. In the GW studio army the bare-faced Tau usually have their eyes painted red, which doesn't quite look right to me, but at the same time just painting them black wouldn't do it either - that would look like they had no eyes, just empty eye-sockets (or like they were possessed by one of the demons in Supernatural). The solution I came to was inspired by older Tau artwork in the first and second codexes, specifically the close-up of a Firewarrior's face on page 60 of Codex: Tau and the artwork of Shadowsun in the 4th edition Codex: Tau Empire. The impression I always got from those two pieces (and Tammy Haye's colour scheme on Aun'shi, until I looked a little closer and realised she had painted his eyes red too) was that the Tau eyes in them were reflecting goldey-yellow or pure white light, which gave me the idea to paint my Tau eyes yellow. I experimented with a few different colours for the eyes on this one, before finally settling on Yriel Yellow (or Golden Yellow - I still know and recognise the Citadel range by its older names) for the effect I wanted. I was a bit worried it might end up looking like my Tau all had Jaundice, but it seems to have turned out not quite as terrible as I feared.

I also experimented with leaving the backpack separate during painting. In theory, this would give me better access to a couple of areas, at the cost of increasing the number of painting sub-assemblies from 3 to 4. In practice it resulted in a lot of very awkward fiddling around for little comparative gain. I don't think I'll be doing that for the other Firewarriors, but then that's exactly what these test models are for - to find out what works and what doesn't.

Finally, I experimented with the undersuit on this model. The Rhinox Hide (or Scorched Brown as I call it - see above) main colour was drybrushed on rather than layered, and I tried using Mournfang Brown instead of Steel Legion Drab for the highlight colour. Here's the two test models side-by-side so you can see the difference for yourself.

Personally I think I'm leaning more towards the Steel Legion Drab highlights, as I think they stand out and make the model 'pop' more. The drybrushing, however, was a definite success I think. It provided a close enough level of coverage to layering to be satisfactory for me, bur with much less fiddling around trying to see where all the folds in the undersuit were.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Start A Revolution

In a world... 

Where Tabletop Games are dominated by ugly CAD models... and shitty metaplots... 

When your tabletop characters and armies are no longer your own...

ONE MAN.... will take a stand... 

And say NO MORE to modern GW... 


From the creator of Symphonic/Folk metal elves... 

Comes a sequel seven years in the making... 

And so it begins - my return to 40k. I always knew this day would come.

You may not know it from reading this blog, but the Tau in Warhammer 40,000 were the first ever tabletop army I properly started. Since then they have always been one of my favourite factions in Battlefleet Gothic, but since around 2010 or so I've neglected the army in favour of building up the Tau fleet in Battlefleet Gothic that I've posted about on here. The last few years, when my tabletop capacities have really taken off, were focused on Battlfleet Gothic and Warhammer Fantasy (don't I have the best luck when it comes to picking tabletop games?), leaving 40k to languish on the back-burner.

This all changed a few days ago when I started on a long-awaited massive rearmament program to totally modernise my ground-sloggers.

To start with, let's go back a bit and take a look at where it all started, with this guy.

A metal XV15 Stealthsuit Shas'vre (plus his faithful gun drone) - and the first Warhammer 40,000 model I ever owned and painted, when I was 8 years old.

This wasn't the first tabletop model I owned and painted. I had been collecting Lord of The Rings models in the form of the old Lord of The Rings Battle Strategy Game magazine series by DeAgsostini, (what a fantastic stroke of brilliance that was), but those were only ever meant to be a stepping stone to 40k, something to practice on until I got to the models I was really after.

Thus, I consider this to be the official start of my journey into 40k and tabletop games. He came from my first ever trip to a GW store, which in those days was conveniently located just downstairs from my optometrist at the time. I had been doing some research beforehand (read: spending hours on the GW and Forgeworld webpages ogling all the gorgeous Tau models displayed on there and ravenously devouring every scrap of information about the Tau I could find on there), so I already had a good idea of what my first model was going to be, the one GW kit (not Forgeworld) that had so far captured my admiration and imagination more than any other - a Hammerhead Gunship. Extrapolating from Forgeworld (which I did not know at the time was a separate subsidiary of GW and not usually stocked in stores), back when Forgeworld still listed normal GW kits on its website, I initially assumed that the Hammerhead would be a relatively small model no larger than a Rhino, and with a cost of around $25. You can perhaps then imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was in fact a massive $72 beast of a kit, which put it squarely in birthday and Christmas gift territory. This disappointed me somewhat, especially when my plan B - a Broadside Battlesuit - also proved to be out of financial reach at $55, but that was quickly forgotten as I started my first introductory game of 40k, commanding 6 Firewarriors against 3 Chaos Space Marines. It was a quick victory as I ended up shooting one or two to death and then beating the remainder in close combat with zero casualties sustained (I still have lingering suspicions that the staff member opposing me might have fudged the results somewhat to get me more enthusiastic about it), and then ended up walking out of the store with the models posted above after being allowed to get "One little thing" from the shelf of blister packs. My primitive childhood reasoning for choosing them was simple - I loved the Firewarriors (remember the Fire Warrior artwork that first got me interested in the Tau), so naturally when I saw a Firewarrior with a Gatling gun I picked him. I was wild with excitement when I got home and actually read the label on the blister pack to find that I was in fact now the proud owner of a Tau Stealthsuit - a Firewarrior with a Gatling gun, a jetpack, a robot sidekick AND he can turn invisible? Hell Yes! Even now I'm still very fond of Stealth Teams.

In addition to the Stealthsuit, I also went home with a Citadel Paint set, which went on to serve me well for over a decade - in fact I still use some of the paints from it to this very day. The Stealtsuit went through several changes in colour scheme over the years. You can see the colour scheme he was originally painted with on the gun drone, and it was a crude attempt to recreate the Fire Warrior cover artwork that was so compelling - my child logic was that I wanted an army of troops just like the one on the Fire Warrior cover, and that one was wearing yellow armour, and I had a pot of Sunburst Yellow from the paint set, so naturally I should paint my new models yellow, with some red optics. I then spent the next two nights lavishing Sunburst yellow on the two models until I was satisfied with the coverage. The end result can be best described as a pair of mostly yellow blobs, but I was still very happy with the results. This continued to be how the Stealtsuit looked until one day after school I suddenly thought to myself "You know what would look really cool? A gold Tau army! Think about it, an entire army of high-tech Tau in solid gold! Gold is cool and high-tech, and lots of cool ancient cultures had gold everywhere, and they looked cool, so I should make my Tau GOLD!"

It never occurred to me at the time that this would have resulted in my army all looking like C-3PO, so I rushed home and immediately painted all the Tau models I had at the time (3 of them) in a full coat of Shining Gold over a Mithril Silver base. I eventually converted most of them back to what would become the colour scheme I settled on, but this guy remained gold for a bit longer before I finally decided to get serious and painted him in the crude attempt to recreate the GW studio stealthsuits that you see today.

The Drone was lost down the back of the desk I did my hobby work on back then, and so was spared the many colour scheme revisions I made. I no longer remember whether the orangeish-tanish splotches were an attempt to paint over the yellow areas with Vomit Brown, or if I just put so much Sunburst Yellow on it that it ended up looking that way. There was originally a second pulse carbine on it, but that has since been lost to time along with the flying stand that I foolishly decided to glue it onto. Working without any kind of assembly instructions, I was confused about which way to stick the antenna on - I had faint memories of seeing it pointing backwards on the back of a Firewarrior box, but then seeing the artwork on page 60 of the Tau codex (which included a gun drone with the jetpack exhaust facing forwards and the antenna away from it) threw me off, causing me to end up gluing the antenna on the wrong way. You will be glad to know that I did not make the same mistake again.

At some point in the past the other antenna on the Stealthsuit's jetpack broke off. I think I might still have it somewhere, but never attempted to glue it back on again.

Now, let's come back to the present and see what 13-14 years of experience and progress (like learning to actually layer colours) can do. 

This is the first of my revamped Tau army, a Firewarrior test model. The colour scheme I am going with is the same one I attempted to recreate when I first started a Tau army - the classic T'au desert camouflage scheme. This project is to be a homage to and celebration of the old Tau army I first fell in love with as much as it is a renovation and modernisation.

Thus, the process I used was almost exactly the same one described in Codex: Tau, substituting in newer colours for those no longer available. I had originally planned to follow the process as described to the letter, but eventually found out (as I had already discovered when building my Wood Elves) that even the older GW painting instructions are a lot like the cooking recipes my grandmother used to share - an accurate general set of instructions, but they don't tell you everything you need to know, missing out one or two key details that are on the 'Evy Metal examples. To compensate I added an extra stage of highlights - Ungor Flesh for the armour and Steel Legion Drab for the undersuit, and applied the same process used for the Battlesuit mechanical areas on the darker areas of the gun and backpack. The other final details were relatively straightforward, and this is one of the very few models I've ever painted that I'm genuinely happy with - I still have trouble believing that the highlights and jewelling on the helmet were done by my own hands.

All in all, I'd say I've come a long way since the days when yellow blobs roamed the earth. Now to see what I can do with a full army...

Monday, 6 March 2017


 And now to begin this blog with what is fast becoming my favourite part of the tabletop hobby - reminiscing about old books.

 I actually got most of the above books for Christmas, but in typical me fashion I completely forgot about them when I came to write the last post. Once again, the nearby second-hand bookstore proved a goldmine, yielding two (well ok, 1.5 really) Warhammer 40,000 codexes and a 6th edition Warhammer Army Book.

The 3rd edition Codex: Eldar represents the first 'true' early 3rd edition codex in my possession (as opposed to the Tyranid codex, which is really closer to a 3.5 edition book in most regards), though not the first one I have encountered at that store - that title belongs to the 3rd edition Ork codex I was never able to get. Interestingly, the 3rd edition Eldar Codex was also the first codex outside of the 3rd edition Tau codex that I ever looked through, making it the second codex I ever looked through, ever.

At the time, I was very impressed by it, considering it a truly worthy gamebook that any Eldar player should be proud to use. It certainly seemed a lot larger and more comprehensive then, but overall my opinion about it hasn't changed, and it's probably my favourite Eldar book I've encountered so far. It still has what I think is one of the best cover art for a 40k codex, a piece that does a brilliant job of reflecting both the wondrous sprawling space fantasy epic and the more sinister and malevolent sides of the Craftworld Eldar, and the book itself is full of amazing artwork, including a number of suitably bizzare Blanche pieces (incidentally I've also noticed a lot of John Blanche artwork in the other early 3rd edition 40k books I've come across - it seems that there was a particular drive to promote that style of 40k at the time). There's also some fantastic background material (I think my favourite is a long speech from a captured Ranger that starts out praising Eldrad Ulthran but slowly devolves into a venomous screed against his/her human captors) and a colour section giving collecting advice and painting tips.

Early 3rd edition 40k books often get a bad reputation, with many people considering them too short and bare-bones ('pamphlets' is a common derogatory slur levelled their way), but really I honestly don't see what the problem is. Yes, the early 3rd edition 45-pagers are a little short, and I certainly wouldn't say no to more little short stories and what not (after all, my favourite 40k codexes, the 3.5 generation, are full of that stuff), but really they're small but perfectly formed, and I can't think of anything more that I'd really need from one. Maybe I'm not greedy?

Perhaps most importantly of all however, this book and its companion supplement managed to do something that no other book has ever done before - get me excited about starting an Eldar army. Reading through these two books finally made me 'click' and understand the appeal of the Eldar, in much the same way that the Witchhunters codex made me click and get the Imperium. If it were not for the current circumstances regarding 40k and GW, I know exactly what kind of Eldar army I'd build and would hardly be able to wait to get started on it. However, at present I will never end up building it, or any of the other 40k armies I had planned. GW (and pretty much the entire Tabletop industry, for that matter) just seems to be going in a direction I can't follow or enjoy.

Oh well, it's not like I would have been able to afford it at any rate.

I think I mentioned it before in an earlier post, but the supplement Codex: Craftworld Eldar was one of those 40k books I never really understood the purpose of when I first got into 40k - the Craftworld Eldar already had a codex, why do they need a second one? The answer only came years later through internet readings and a closer inspection. It provides some extra background information and hobby advice for Eldar players, as well as 5 variant army lists for major important Craftworlds (Iynaden, Saim-Hann, Alaitoc, Biel-Tan and Ulthwe), and is best viewed as an extension and part of the 3rd edition Eldar codex (funnily enough, if you were to combine the two you would get roughly the same page length as a 3.5 edition codex). What's most striking about it though, is the model photographs. The Craftworld supplement was clearly published at least a few years after the Eldar codex, as it shows the Eldar model range as it was during the later part of 3rd edition, when it had finished maturing into the 3rd edition model range that I remember. Gone are the 2nd edition Guardians, with their chain-mail undersuits. Gone are the 2nd edition Dark Reapers with their conical helmets. In their place are a new wave of Eldar models that would define the Eldar aesthetic for the rest of 40k's lifespan. The Eldar range at this point in time is probably my favourite, with a good blend of both old and 'new'. Indeed, most of my favourite Eldar models come from this period (with the rest coming slightly before).

This one came as a pleasant surprise to me. It is the 6th edition Lizardmen army book for Warhammer, and in very good condition. The Lizardmen have always been somewhat intriguing to me, and I flirted with the idea of starting with them in Warhammer from time to time, but ultimately settled on Wood Elves in the end. I still find them a fascinating part of Warhammer, and this book still has my curiosity piqued. It is the first Lizardmen army book I have been able to really get to grips with, but it certainly does not disappoint, especially with all the characterful 6th edition trimmings in it such as variant army lists for Southlands Lizardmen and the legendary Sacred Spawnings. Like other 6th edition books, I've found its magic item selection somewhat lacking, in that nothing really resonates with me like the magic items in the 6th edition Wood Elf and Bretonnian books, though like the other 6th edition books I've found the magic item selection is nonetheless perfectly serviceable. There's also a whole bunch of fun lore, including a schematic of a Temple City.

The crown jewel in the lineup, however, is this.

That is, of course, a copy of the 3rd edition Warhammer 40,000 core rulebook. I thought I had lost my chance to own one forever when the copy in the Second Hand Bookstore vanished, but either they had a second copy brought in or the one I found was never bought at all and simply went into storage, because there it was when I walked in, nestled discretely amongst a shelf of sci fi and horror art books. It is a softcover, version, which lines up with what I have heard, as it would appear it never received a hardcover print run, unlike the later rulebooks that are its direct descendants. It is an open question as to whether this one came from a starter box or not - from what I have read it would appear that the 3rd edition core rules were never sold outside of the starter box, and yet I swear I can distantly recall seeing 3rd edition core rulebooks being sold on their own at multiple legitimate locations. It bears a strong resemblance to the 6th edition Warhammer Fantasy rulebook that is its direct contemporary, with a largely identical content layout and the same display of complete 2nd edition model ranges, with no sign of the glorious Silver Age models that would be destined to follow it.

The important thing though, is that it is the crucial piece I needed in order to play games of Warhammer 40,000 in one of my two favourite editions, the legendary 3.5 era. It seems that it is missing some later rules additions, the most egregious one to me being a total lack of access points on transport vehicles (they are essentially all open-topped for the purposes of disembarking passengers, regardless of how impossible it would be to exit them from a given direction), so I will likely have to hunt down some Chapter Approved annual collections as well for the full 3.5 experience, but it is a big step forward nonetheless. And in the meantime I still have the 4th edition core rules to use...

As well as all this fun with the best years of GW, I also painted up these Glade Guard for my Wood Elf army.

This is the fourth and final regiment of Glade Guard in the army, Forever Autumn, proving that I don't just shamelessly rip my unit names from Symphonic and Folk metal - I rip them from funkitronic 70's sci-fi rock operas too. Not only is it the last Glade Guard unit for the army, it's also the last core unit - all of the core choices in the main Wood Elf force I envisioned are now finished (always a good thing when building an army). It's also the last plastic kit for my Wood Elves - from here on out, everything left to do is in glorious, glorious metal.

It's been fun relaxing in the Enchanted Forrest and roaming the lands of fantasy this last month, but now I find myself looking up at the night sky again. War calls in the future, and I'm now gearing up for one of the big projects I have for this year (actually last year, but then 2016 happened). With the tabletop hobby crashing down in flames all around me, I'm going back to where it all began.

I have work to do...