Thursday, 21 August 2014

Quantity has a Quality all of it's own

Hi folks, something new for you today. My first Bolt Action models. I actually painted them quite some time ago but hadn't gotten around to photographing and sharing them. Time to do so!

My first Bolt Action army is the awesome might of the Soviet Union. The picture above is of a Light Machine Gun squad. I've always had a soft spot for the poor bloody infantrymen of the Soviet Union. They basically won the second world war (or the Great Patriotic War to the Russians) despite what the movies say. We helped, don't get me wrong, but the Eastern Front was pure murder for the Germans. However, in order to do this they took massive casualties. 14% of the population of the USSR was dead in battle at the end of the war. This compared to 0.95% for the UK. Mind numbing numbers. Mostly because of the theory that forms the title of this post. Quality was all very well - and sometimes Russian tech was brilliant - but Russian combat doctrine essentially boiled down to throw enough men and cheap materiel at the enemy and you will win. Quantity has a Quality all of its own...

General Mulder in da house
Bolt Action itself is a cracking game. I'll go into the mechanics and so on in the future (a battle report vs. Maisey's Germans might be in order), for now, I'll just say that it is an engaging game. Mid sized skirmish with a brilliant turn mechanic that keeps you concentrating as your plan has to adapt fluidly to events on the ground. It is one of these games where list munchkins could run a bit riot though. There is nothing stopping me filling my Russian army with veteran submachine gun squads for example. It's history and recreation that save you from that. Like I say, mechanics another time. Now lets see more figures.

These are an inexperienced rifle squad. The Soviet special rule is that you get one of these for free. Yup, inexperienced troops are so chaff worthy that we get a squad for nuffink. Other nations get snazzy guns or more leadership. Us? More men to throw at the guns. Very Soviet. Painting wise, I will confess that these are not the best painted models. Mostly because the models themselves range from very good to ooookay.... Some of the eyes are lopsided and a lot of details are soft. They're ok for what they do though. Just don't expect top of the line. There is a lot of argument about Soviet army colours. Most people go with brown because that is what Osprey's illustrators default to. Trouble is, they're actually mostly green-brown with varying shades because the factories just used whatever dye or cloth was closest to the colour they needed (Quantity not Quality comrade!). As the army was distinctly late sprine/early summer weight clothing I didn't have the brown greatcoats to do either. Using a paint guide for Battlefront's Flames of War models I set to work. Vallejo Russian Uniform was used as the base coat with occasional bits of Khaki and Flat Earth mixed in to give that variety. All the webbing, blankets and the like got picked out then a whole load of Agrax Earthshade got deployed.

These are the nastiest squad in the army. Submachine gunners were a big part of the Soviet plan. The Winter War against Finland had taught them the usefulness of large numbers of small-bore automatic weapons. In Bolt Action they are lethal, especially on the charge. I expect these lads to be rather heavily shot at in future games... Once the Agrax has dried I picked out the flesh in the usual way (little darker for the steppes lads) and the helmets in Val Camo Olive Green washed in Athonian Camoshade. Black boots and some basing and we're pretty much done!

Snipers team, anti-tank rifle and the officer (destined for a metal replacement as the face is... not good) with his ADC. Officers in Bolt Action really do lead, you need them to get pinned guys back in the fight, to force men to advance when the bullets are flying. Another "feels right" sort of rule.

Finally we have my ZIS-3 divisional gun. The Soviets were big on artillery and this thing was called "the god of the battlefield"! It's a versatile piece able to fire as either an anti-tank gun or a high explosive howitzer. Very handy. The model is a tricky build, tiny contact areas and ill-fitting axles. Worth it though, looks cracking. Easy to paint too as it is essentially one colour all over! In order to prevent the gun from falling apart all the time I mounted it on one of Renedra's large oval bases with slots for the crew.

sad gun has no crew
To do this, just use a curl of masking tape to stick down appropriately sized bases before you start texturing with the sand and rocks and the like. Once the sand is dry you pick off the bases and paint the resulting blank areas. The small bushes are just clump foliage soaked in watered-down PVA to fix their shape and prevent shedding. Afterwards they are firm to the touch not squishy like the clump foliage is before the glue.

And that is that! The first 500 points of the Soviets. Will definitely be increasing this army as I've already got a gorgeous Hobbyboss 1:48 T34/85 to add to the force and intend to add even more basic infantrymen. Proper Soviet tactics. Overwhelm them! Then it'll probably be little reinforced platoons of other nations, British Commandos are on my mind, but then so are Desert Rats, Afrika Korps, US and UK paratroopers... the list goes on...


Monday, 18 August 2014

Life-sized Saint's Skull

Heya folks, I know mostly this site deals with inch and a bit high little men but it is not the only thing I paint. Quite often I am fabricating props and costume bits for the LRP game I help run. This time, it was quite a lot of painting so I thought I'd share with the group.

I was making a jewelled skull of a venerated saint for my players to, well, loot... The starting point was an old plastic skull (roughly life size) from the front of a kids anatomy magazine. The whole thing was the colour of the teeth and had a split all the way around the cranium as though lobotomised (there was a brain in a future episode or something). It needed to look a lot more... bony. First I removed the teeth and cleaned all the mould lines from the skull and each tooth. The teeth went to one side and I primed the skull white. Next a basecoat of VMA Hemp was airbrushed over the whole thing. This gave a decent analogue for old bone colour. The sockets and deep shadows were darkened with VMA Camouflage Black Brown and the highlights were just Hemp mixed with white.

At this point I reinserted the teeth and washed some canopy glue (strong but thin PVA that dries crystal clear) into the roots to cement them in place. Once this dried I washed AK Fresh Mud all over it and then sponged it off the high points with kitchen paper damped with Odourless Turpentine. This gives the dirt, the cranial sutures, the plaque on the teeth. Everything in one quick wipe. Finally I acquired some edge trim from a haberdashery (love that word, technically Hobbycraft) which had nicely shaped plastic dangly bits in a leafy sort of shape. These were detached from the trim and hot glued into position to hide the split in the plastic cranium in a laurel-ish wreath. Vallejo Liquid Metal Old Gold coloured any exposed hot glue and gave a nicer lustre to the cheap plasticky gold. A final wash of some reddish-brown oil paints thinned with the odourless turps and the edges wiped down again. Oils take a day or so to dry fully so there is a lot of time for mucking around with it.

I wanted the skull nicely presented but was low on budget. Poking around a cheapy department store called The Range I found a nice little decorative chest. Horrible fabric but decent construction and the right size. Airbrushed black over the fabric erased that faux-urbane pattern and made a sombre reliquary. Needed some work inside though:

Pro-tip, if you want to make something like this yourselves? Scatter cushions are the cheapest source of fancy fabrics and come with the bonus of having all the padding you need included for free. I Evostick-d the fabric into the top edge of the box with a decent amount of cushion stuffing in there to support the skull. Job done!

Hope you enjoyed this departure from the norm, more models next time!


Friday, 15 August 2014

Corsair Armour

Greetings one and all, today I can finally, finally, say: I've finished the Corsair commission. It's done. Finito. Phew. It is a fair wager to lay that these will be the last Eldar vehicles crossing my painting table for a looooong time, if ever. But enough of that. Lets look at shineys!

First, the real meaty punch of the armour. This Fire Prism was made from the excess bits left over from the Warp Hunters and a Falcon kit. Sadly, Forgeworld don't include the crystal sprue (fair enough) and of course, you cannot get one from GW for love nor money. Seriously, I tried. A lot. Mystifies me, "Here, I have money, give me stuff! Oh, you won't? Oh.". But there still needed to be a Prism cannon so ingenuity, enter stage left. I used the plastic parts of the cannon to make templates of the quite complicated irregular pentagonal sections. I cut them out of plasticard and then glued them into place to fill in the lasing crystal. For the firing crystal I nicked a High Elf wizard's staff top. I tried a few different colours for the crystal - at one point sort of cloudy green - but none worked with the rest of the scheme. Finally I just used an old school trick I saw on the last edition Fire Prisms. Cross hatching with ever brightening shades of the gem highlights. A longitudinal catchlight cutting through them helps.

Next up is a basic Falcon. Transport for the hordes of Corsairs, well, six of them anyway. As with previous ones the grey is a mix of airbrushing and edge highlighting. The red the metallic mix I made with varying mixes of red and Hashut Copper. The red bits are frustrating though. One of the reasons that these three took so long to do is the same reason that the hexagons are a smidge more irregular than last time. Ages ago now I really, really did my wrist in with an RSI. Now, it has recovered, I'm pain free. This is good. But... in order to stop a recurrence of the condition I have to paint with my wrist straight. For 25 years I've painted with my hand cocked back at about a 20° angle. To say that fighting two and a half decades of muscle memory kills your very finest control is an understatement. It is coming back, but I am having to relearn-ish the freehand skills I had. Irksome to say the least.

Finally though, we have one where through concentration and choice of subject, nifty freehand got painted. The Corsair Lord's Falcon needed something nifty. The sigil of the Corsairs is the stylised winged serpent. What could be cooler than a pair of dragons as your wingman? Not much thought I. So, I looked up a few tribal-ey/stylised dragons online (what did we do before Google?). Once I'd found a nifty one I traced the outline of the Falcon onto scrap paper and worked out where the lines of the dragons would fit. I can heartily recommend this. Saves a lot of pain. Then, with a nice sharp pencil I sketched the dragon outlines onto the Falcon itself and simply coloured them in. Shaded lower edges and highlighted upper finished them off. Simple but quite effective.

That's all folks! I'm off for a week of getting bludgeoning with latex weapons (I help run a LRP game) but I've got a couple of posts queued with Mulder to stop you feeling abandoned. To my strange, giggling glee I realised that this was my 365th post on the site. That's one per day for an entire year. Seemed like a milestone but I've no idea on the way to what :) See you in a week or so.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Brotherhood Champion Hutriel

Greetings folks! I needed some variety in the painting diet and just the man for it was standing on my painting desk. Behold Grey Knight Brotherhood Champion Hutriel.

I've been very slowly building my Grey Knights force for a while now. Recently, though, I'd been musing that I wanted the option to field them as a pure Knight force rather than with the Inquisitorial contingent they currently have. As it is a small army - designed to be an allied force so restricted options - it needed a lower status commander than the captains and Grand Masters (doubt they rock up to lead a couple of dozen...) and in the Grey Knights that means Brotherhood Champion. I've also added a slightly nasty squad of Purifiers to take the place of the retinue:

As far as model options go, there really wasn't all that many on offer. Grey Knight characters are somewhat few and far between, there isn't even a Brotherhood Champion model. Instead I decided that Castellan Crowe would be an excellent stand in, with a few modifications:

left image © Games Workshop used for illustration
I fancied an old school metal Crowe for my champion so Ebay provided a preloved one. I already knew that I wanted to replace the weirdly plain - other than the flappy flag - back banner pack with one of the fancier plastic GK ones. The sword also had to go. Crowe wields a daemon sword that he keeps under lock and key with his purifier powers. My champ just needed a Nemesis Force Sword to be his Annointed Blade. I went with the one with the Inquisitorial =I= symbol carved in. Changing the sword also gave me the opportunity to "correct" his stance and the angle of the blade a little. As I didn't have to care about casting and undercuts I could have the blade at a greatsword rather than baseball stance. Small things but they matter to me.

When it came to painting Hutriel (named for one of the seven angels of punishment) I had a fairly clear image in mind. Rather than mark him out with the white helmet and so on that Crowe normally has (purifier regalia) I would paint him to be a perfectly ordinary brother. Just one who was prodigiously talented with a blade and thus nominated as Brotherhood Champion. A simple red-lined, black cloak would be his badge of office. I've changed the way I paint the blued steel armour and am much, much happier with the results. I start with a basecoat of AP Plate Mail Metal mixed with a couple of drops of blue ink. Once there is a solid colour on board I shade it with a thinned 50:50 mix of blue and black inks with a bit of Lahmian Medium thrown in. Then I start highlighting by adding more and more AP Shining Silver to the mix, 2-3 highlights do it. A final edge highlight of VMA Steel added to the last mix really makes the edges pop. Way more work has been done than can be seen in the photos of course. The rest of him is painted just the same as all the other Grey Knights!

He's turned out quite nicely I reckon. I've now got all the models to finish the Knights so they'll probably come together over the year. I can see my 40k projects being like this in the future. Small, ally style armies to merge together to form bigger armies. Can't see me doing another 5k stormer like the Blood Angels. Until next time folks.