Monday 31 October 2016

In Which A Workman Blames His Tools

Part of the aim of this blog has been to make myself get better at painting and converting. I started out a bit better than average at conversions and very much average at painting (if that), and the aim has been to improve in both. Part of improving is not thinking "it'll do" when something could be made better. You have to be honest about it.

So, that in mind, I dismantled the flamer lady and took off her legs, which were much too bulky. I added new legs made from a Mantic orc, of all things, and did some tidying up of her gun and face. Here she is, standing next to the genestealer limo for contrast.

I'm still not totally happy. There are a few intrinsic problems with the model. For one thing, it's based on a very old miniature which, whilst having a lot of charm, is lumpier and less sophisticated than more recent sculpts. For another, I've used a lot of green stuff, which never seems to set entirely smooth and is a pig to paint. It always looks as if you haven't watered the paint down, even if you have. And of course neither white nor black is an easy colour to paint.

Oh, and there might be the tiniest element of human error involved as well.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Mild Disappointment

A rather short post, this. I painted up two of the Van Saar scientists over the last couple of days. Here is the leader of the gang:

I think he looks quite good, in a primary colours sort of way. It's not the subtlest paint job, but it does have quite a nice dramatic feel. His hair needs a bit of tidying up, but beyone that, I don't think there's much that I can do. The sludge on his base was made with Water Effects.

The second model was the flamer lady I assembled last time. I'm not going to put a picture up, because frankly, she looks godawful. Maybe it's my rubbish camera, or the rubbish lighting, or my rubbish painting, or a mixture of all three, but it looks very crudely done. I'll have another go, but it's going to be tricky.


Friday 28 October 2016

But That's Heresy 2: A Surfeit of Skulls

It's always interesting to find out what influenced the things you like. It's telling how many science fiction films have music that sounds suspiciously similar to Mars from The Planets, and how many have plots that go straight back to 1950s movies about haunted houses and pincer-waving, damsel-abducting monsters from space. And you know what, that brings me to wargaming.

Quite a few of the painting blogs I read are heavily influenced by John Blanche's style, which is ornate, grimy and very medieval. In turn, Blanche's style probably owes a lot to the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch and Pieter Bruegel's Triumph of Death.

Lots to see and do during the end of the world.

Nowt wrong with that. There's a lot of the Blanche style in the picture above: brown earth, bits of complex detail, Renaissance-type clothing and of course hordes of the marching dead. Likewise, GW's original Chaos pictures owed a lot to Bosch's depictions of Hell, which were more than just big red dudes with horns.

A bird eats a man who farts crows, whilst wearing a chamber pot.
I assume that they cut the chamber pot from the original Tzeentch models. Similarly, you used to be able to get a Lord Of Change model which was clearly based on the statue of Pazuzu from The Exorcist, raising one hand in, er, greeting.

And of course there were others. The Imperial Guard are blatantly various sorts of historical soldiers with lasguns; the Brettonians borrow from King Arthur; the Escher gangers look somewhat like Tank Girl. That's a good thing: it's nice to be able to effectively have the people from films you like as characters in the game you're playing.

What bothers me slightly is that it's easy to run out of ideas. It's one thing to have a couple of skulls as trophies, and maybe to incorporate them into your outfit ("Are we the baddies?" as Mitchell and Webb would say) but there comes a point where it just starts to look too much.

This is the Khorgorath from the Age of Sigmar boxed set:

Among other things, why has it got skulls coming out of its kneecap? Okay, skulls are cool, I get it, but why its kneecap? Does it sweat skulls? Did it swallow a lot of heads and now they're working their way out like splinters? I think this is one of those moments where "it's a demon" just doesn't suffice. Look at the Bloodletters of Khorne. They look bloody evil. They're not even amazingly original, or detailed, or dynamic. They just look nasty: vicious and yet comparatively low-key.

Okay, this is a particularly extreme example, but I think this is what happens when you start to run out of visual cues. And that's what I wonder about 40k and quite a lot of other space models. You've got monks, knights in (powered) armour, muscley executioner types, catsuit assassin ladies, space Nazis in long coats and gasmasks, steampunk chaps in top hats and fancy armour - and sooner or later, you start to see the same themes too many times. The Dark Eldar, the Sisters of Battle, the Imperial Guard and, to an extent, the orks and Chaos all have bare-chested men with crude bionic bits and bags over their heads (and so, in the form of the Cephalix, do Warmachine). I suppose these all tap into the same sinister basic image, but isn't there something else that could be done?

That's the problem, really: because the same things that show that a model is definitely a space monk are the things that end up being overused. One person might groan at the sight of Yet More Zombie Nazis, and another might wonder how a game could call itself Weird War if they weren't there. And, as ever, they're your models, and if you want to closely follow another example, go ahead. Almost all Space Wolf armies have a very similar look, but that's not to say that there are some excellent examples of them (and that some are much better than others). Maybe there is nothing new under the sun. Perhaps the difficult thing is to do something new with what you've got.

Sometimes, as they say, less is more. So I'll shut up now.

Saturday 22 October 2016

A Few Bad Men

I've not done a vast amount of painting and converting this week, mainly because the real world has got in the way. When I say "real world", I actually mean "playing Fallout 4 in the real world". Add to that the fact that the Alien Isolation game was going cheap on the PS4, and it all adds up to crawling through a lot of retro-looking tunnels.

Anyhow, I did manage to get some work done on the scientists. For their leader, I removed the weapons and added a bolter made out of odds and ends and the pointing robot arm from a Skitarri soldier.

It's not a 40k army unless someone is pointing at something.

The next soldier was a Privateer Press model. He was doing a wobbly-fingers magic-casting gesture with his left hand, which was raised up alongside his head, like this:

Not painted by me.

Fine if you're a wizard, but a bit odd in the underhive. I removed his arm, replaced the hand with the one I'd taken off the guy above, and sculpted him a new arm in green stuff. The remains of his shoulder got a random bit of 40k "tech" to cover up the mess.

The third conversion was a bit more drastic.I found an old conversion that I did about 15 years ago, giving an Eldar scout (for some reason) a space marine plasma gun. With a new head (from a wood elf) and new arms (Imperial Guard), and quite a lot of green stuff, the model now looks like a mixture of a doctor and some kind of chemical cleanup team. Which is pretty much what I want! Her rather stern expression, coupled with the metal plate on one side of her face, suggests that she means business.

Anyway, I've not painted much, although I made this little cooking station out of a textured base, some off-cuts of MDF and an ogre kingdoms pot (thanks Other James for this bit - I knew it would come in useful somehow!).


Saturday 15 October 2016

Getting the (War)band Together

Imagine that you are in charge of a boy band. There they are, bright-eyed and squeaky clean (except for the rugged one with designer stubble). Soon they will go on stage and sit on their stools. One will stick his finger in his ear and they will sing a ballad as sincere as it is forgettable. But what will they wear?

Obviously, you can't just put them on stage wearing any old thing. It would look weird. But you can't dress them all the same, because they'd look like cabin crew or part of a very unthreatening fascist movement. So you dress them similarly, but differently.

That's a lot like designing a Necromunda gang.

Stick with me here. One way or another I've ended up with quite a few models in long coats with odd bits of tech stuck to them. Some are GW, others Privateer. Some have goggles, others wavy hair. It occurred to me that it would be quite cool to make them into a Necromunda gang.

The goggles and coats suggest House Delaque. But to be honest I'd rather do a technology-based gang. So how about making them scientists (or at least people who dress like scientists) and using the rules for House Van Saar? Ok then, our guys are going to have white coats and lots of gadgets, which will be a change from the grimy, practical look of the Terror Bird Cavalry. There will have to be a few modifications, of course (I don't like that sword, for one thing). To make sure that they're something seperate, I'll avoid using Delaque and Adeptus Mechanicus models as much as possible, and give them a different colour scheme.

Also, why not include a few robots? They could work well as juves, because they start off pretty terribly in terms of stats, but rapidly advance - which could be represented by adding pieces to the models to reflect the skills (well, upgrades) that they've received from their makers.

I've started on the robots. These were built largely out of Mantic Dreadball parts (the Ro-Tec Brutes to be precise) and I added Chaos and Eldar 40k parts. At the moment they're a bit on the crude side, but that's what I want. If I end up playing any games with them, they'll be refitted as appropriate.

I think this idea has potential. I'll have to see what I can do with the human gangers now.

Sunday 9 October 2016

The Last Chancers

Well, I was going to write a lengthy post about 40k, ending in a proposed campaign setting onboard a massive spaceship. But now my camera is up and running (but still rubbish), I thought I'd post some pictures instead.

I have been painting Colonel Schaffer's Last Chancers, a unit of Imperial Guardsmen from the penal divisions. The concept of the unit is that they are a group of low and desperate criminals with a wide range of dubious skills, picked for the most dangerous missions. Unsurprisingly, there are a dozen of these dirty fighters in the unit.

I really like the models. They seem to have been scooped up from half a dozen times and places - including, it would appear, the Russian steppes, a Tiger tank, the American prairie and the Burmese jungle, from their outfits. I didn't paint them with quite as much detail as I would individual characters, but I spent a reasonable time on each one. And this is how they came out.

From left to right, here are: Animal, a loon who has a meltagun and a pair of trousers; Demolition man, who carries meltabombs and the like (as well as having a lasgun that looks remarkably like an AK47), and Grease Monkey, who seems to be a (not very successful) vehicle driver.

Next up we have Shiv (an assassin); Warrior Woman (a close combat fighter) and Hero, who holds up enemy units with his inevitable self-sacrifice. I gave Warrior Woman stripey leggings like Tank Girl, because she looked rather stupid dressed like a Roman cheerleader.

Here we have Brains, the radio operator; Ox, the heavy bolter man; and Scope, a sniper. Personally, I think that Scope is the best sniper I've seen from GW, and much better than the Vindicare model. According to the background, Brains and Ox are good friends. Perhaps they intend to buy a farm with some rabbits.

 Last of all, we have Fingers, who is apparently a skilled thief; the Colonel himself, together with plasma pistol and cigar; and the excitingly-named Rocket Girl, who is a girl with a rocket (actually, a girl hiding behind a rocket).

In painting them, I used a fairly limited selection of colours to tie them together despite their absence of a uniform. Needless to say, they look much better in real life. Not that they're really alive, you understand. Anyhow, it's been a nice change to paint a squad and not to be converting anything. I suppose I'll have to get back to the daily grind of making a Victorian on a jetbike riding a dragon made out of string, or something like that.

Sunday 2 October 2016

Inside the Filling Station

Here is the interior of the filling station at the moment, complete with workbench and power armour frame. There are a couple of posters on the wall, which are hard to make out here: one of a girl on a motorbike and the other a cutaway diagram of a 1950's car. Hopefully it looks enough like the Red Rocket station in Fallout 4.

I think I've finished with this bit of the set for now and will move on to the other areas, especially the rest of the building/shop and the petrol pumps (which probably pump atomic power, somehow, but anyway, that sort of thing).

In other news, I'm currently painting a set of Schaeffer's Last Chancers, an Imperial Guard penal regiment. They're coming along nicely, although I'd forgotten what a pain lead can be to paint. I've not done any conversion work on them, so I'll post pictures once they're finished.