Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 End of Year Report

Since this is turning into an annual thing, I thought I'd try to be a little more official with the title.

I kinda felt like this was a difficult year for me. It's hard to say why really, I just wasn't happy about the way some things turned out I guess. Oh well, never mind. Let's get started.


Old Resolutions
While I did remember and work on a couple of these, I pretty much completely forgot about the whole "read more useful stuff" thing. But I do feel as if I started to make progress on the others nearer to the end of the year.

1. Wake up early
I've kinda of been all over the place, but in the last few months I've started to more reliably sleep at a decent time at night and wake up at a decent time in the morning. So I'm getting there I guess.

2. Excercise
It took a while, but in the last few months I've started to get in a bit of exercise semi-reliably. It's progress, even if it's happening slowly.

3. Eat Better
I'm trying. It's a little hard to tell what's "better" these days, but I've finally started to cut out the pastries a little, so that's something.

4. Read More
I read, like, half a useful book. Kinda dropped the ball on this one.



New Resolutions:
I say "new" but it's more of an iterative process I suppose.

1. Sleep Early
Basically I think I've been going at this from the wrong end. I can only really wake up early if I sleep early, which means forcing myself to put everything down and turn off the lights a little earlier at night. Right now I'm more-or-less waking up with the sun, but I want to try to push it a bit earlier. I don't like waking up when it's still dark, but I'm going to try it and see if it helps me with my daily routine (or lack thereof).

2. Waste less time in the morning
One reason why I feel like I need to wake up early is because I'm a very slow mover in the mornings. I tend to waste time on unimportant stuff until I feel awake enough to tackle the difficult jobs (like getting my sorry bee-hind to work). So maybe if I put more effort into using my morning efficiently, I might not need to worry about waking up too early after all. Let's hope so.

3. Use time more efficiently
Similar to the last one, but this is more about making intelligent decisions on what to spend my time on. Let's just say I played a whole lot of Overwatch this year (seriously, there's a menu that shows you how many hours you've been playing that game, and what it says on my screen scares me a little). Damn, but those special event costumes are sooooooo good!

4. Exercise
I'm starting to pick up a bit of momentum on this right now, so I want to keep trying to nail down a solid routine that's actually useful and that I actually stick to.

5. Follow single projects through to the end
I've touched on this before, but one of the reasons why I feel as if I get so little done is that I tend to leap between a very large number of projects at the same time, and most of them end up sitting half-finished on a shelf forever. At the end of the day this is kind of a massive waste of time since that work doesn't amount to anything, so I want to try to be more disciplined and focus on a smaller number of projects at a time, seeing them through from start to finish.

6. Give more time to more important projects even if they are difficult
I've realised that in my desire to get as much stuff done as possible, I'm tending to push back difficult (but more important or more rewarding) projects to focus on easier ones that I can finish more quickly and have something to show for. For example, this year I painted TWENTY ONE models (compared to about five last year), but they were mostly quite small simple models (drybrushed Ninja and stuff); nothing like the insane twenty-plus piece Casey I painted last year. Meanwhile some challenging conversions that I've been planning for years have just sat around gathering dust. But that's just hobby stuff; there's some more important "projects" that I should probably get back to... like learning how to cook...



Well, here's to hoping 2017 is a better and more productive year for me. I'm almost surprised to find myself feeling strangely optimistic. Maybe I'm just glad 2016 is over. So long 2016!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Slapfight

I originally invested in the Batman Miniatures game because I assumed it would be a nice game to play with friends who are new to tabletop gaming. However, when I read the rulebook I realised it was not very friendly to inexperienced players.

I actually liked a lot of the rules; the whole "using dice as allocated counters, then just picking them up and throwing them" thing was clever and elegant. However, there were probably more rules that I didn't like. I still think the movement rules are needlessly messy, for example. I find the ROF rules strangely annoying. Having to track ammo is annoying: no-one should be walking into a dangerous situation with only three bullets in their gun. Also, they use true line-of-sight rules then tell you to "imagine how the model looks if it was standing up straight on it's base"... then release a bunch of sculpts that have models standing on elevation and stuff.

Another thing is that I don't like rolling dice against a single stat for a small model count game like this. It makes sense in large unit-based games like Warhammer, and there is a bit of interaction between different stats here (you roll dice straight against the opponent's defense, but a higher attack stat allows you to make more attacks for example), but it still feels strange that your chance of a single attack landing on an opponent is purely a function of their skill, and your own skill does not come into play.

There's far too many "hidden stats": there is no "movement" stat on the card, all models have a movement stat of 10cm... except the ones that have special rules that change that. Ranged weapons have not ranged state, they all have unlimited range... except the ones that have special rules that change that. They also don't have a to-wound stat, they all use the model's strength stat... except the ones that have a special rule that gives them a different to-wound value.

I just find the mindset behind the rules strange to me; everything is handled by special rules instead of designing the base rules to be flexible. Why add a special rule to change how fast a model can move (that you need to look up and remember to account for) instead of just have a SPD stat on the model itself? Ditto for weapon range etc. I guess PP's clear, modular, well-designed rules have spoiled me.

Anyway, I decided that to play the game I would need to write a simplified version of the rules. So I did. Or rather, I am in the process of doing so. With two small but useable (I think) armies painted and ready, I decided to finally give the game (or my hybrid of it) a go. I ran Ra's Al Ghul and four ninjas, while my friend (let's call him The Watcher) got Batman and four cops.

It... did not go very well.


Pre-Game:
We were playing a simple "kill the other guy" game. We set up the table in a very basic way. Each of us placed a lamp-post.


Deployment:


Round 1:
I won initiative and ran my dudes, climbing on stuff. He was a bit more cagey, not going as far forwards as he could.


Round 2:
We started taking shots at each other, to little effect. I thought I could get into melee this turn, but was a bit short.
Almost there!
He needed a two, got a one. Totally expected.


Round 3:
Finally we had made it into melee. Batman got the drop on Ra's, and promptly whiffed all his attacks.

"So, we meet again, Batman!"

Ah, the age old battle, cop vs ninja...

"Oh no officer, I'm not a ninja, I was just on my way to Comicon."

Aaaaaaand then this happened....
"Fight, you must not! Through peace, the way is!"
"What's that? This is DC, I'm in the wrong universe? Screw that, I'm not a part of your system!"
Yeah, it was late and we had work the next day, so we decided to stop there.


Post-mortem:
Like I said, it wasn't working. It seems that a simplified version of the base rules wasn't enough as so many models depend on special rules to work, and I hadn't had time to work on the special rules or making custom cards for the models to better fit the simplified version we were playing, and as a result the balance seemed to be off; after several rounds only two attacks actually managed to wound, everything was just bouncing off. Unless the actual game is supposed to be like that? I dunno, the lack of objectives didn't help either as once the models made it into melee there wasn't much motivation to do anything other than just stand there and throw dice.

So now I'm not sure whether to stick with the Batman system and try to introduce enough complexity into our games for it to work, or whether to try and use an alternate system (maybe something model-agnostic like Frostgrave) instead. I understand that Knight Models will be releasing some cards allowing the Batman models to be used with their Marvel/DC game system (which I hear is more casual), so maybe that will be an option at some point.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Noctournal Flying Rodent Man


I was putting this guy off until after I had finished most of the rest of the models for the Batman game. I wasn't looking forwards to painting him as I figured just painting tons of greys would be boring, but it actually wasn't.

He was rather challenging to paint as I couldn't rely as much on my existing paint collection; I had to mix up a bunch of new shades for him. And while I was able to use drybrushing to blend the layers on his cloak, there wasn't enough room for than on his body.

I decided this would be a good time to try two-brush blending, but experiments on a test model were abject failures, so I decided to just rely on plain layering to highlight the body. I thinned my paint a fair amount using water and "Phoenix acrylic retard medium" (something that I found in a local shop). The resulting paint was thin enough that it took many layers to build up a solid colour; this actually worked to my advantage as it allowed me to get a blending effect just by shrinking the area I was covering as I built up the layers.


The cloak was painted with the old Citadel Shadow Grey, shaded with Badab Black wash, and highlighted with a mix of Shadow Grey and Blue Horror. The suit was various mixes of Vallejo Black Grey and Citadel Dawnstone, with a watered down wash of Badab Black on top - I added some acrylic retarder again, which was thick enough that the was wasn't too runny, and the extended drying time helped me apply it and avoid patchiness. I think the boots and gauntlets were simply Vallejo Black Grey (or maybe a lighter mix) edge-highlighted with Dawnstone.

The belt was Citadel Lyanden Darksun highlighted with Citadel Sunburst Yellow, then washed with the same Badab Black mix as the body suit. The tiny, tiny eyes were just plain white - I debated not painting them at all since it actually looked fine just darkly shaded there, but decided to try and see how they looked painted, and went with it. I considered trying to paint the ovals in his gauntlets to look like lit-up screens, but decided it would take away from the rest of the mini and just left them.

Prep work wasn't as bad as some of the other Knights Models' minis I've worked with, but he still suffered from stupid-thin bits that I needed to fix/support. The ears were originally very flimsy and not very symmetrical, so I had to bulk them up a lot with greenstuff. The Batarang was also slightly miscast - enough to look bad, so I had to reshape one side to better match the other. There was a bit of gap filling as well, no big deal really, though the gap on the left arm was big enough that I wasn't able to sculpt the join very well, and it's a bit of a poor spot on the final painted figure.


To put that in context, I've had to do a lot of re-sculpting and weapon replacements on the other Knights Models' minis I've assembled so far. It occurs to me that I didn't show any WIP photos in the old posts, so I thought I'd put them up here.

Filling the huge holes in their crappy bases to try to make them look good:

Repairs and sculpting missing detail:

Replacing flimsy misshapen weapons:

Filling quite large gaps:


Anyway, back to Batman. This might sound silly, but I think this is the happiest I've ever been with one of my paintjobs. I look at this guy and can't believe I painted him because I don't believe I can't paint that well. I think he looks great, and it makes me want to paint more superheros and other smooth organic models. Now if only I could drum up the courage to assemble the damned things in the first place...

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Best Villain Name Ever


To lead my generic ninjas into battle, here's Ra's Al Ghul. While the model is nice enough, I didn't really want to spend too much time on him, so he's a bit of a rush job.


I didn't want to just paint him in blacks and greys, so I decided he would be wearing a dark green suit. Well, that was the plan anyway; clearly I should have used a darker highlight colour. Oh well. I settled on purple for the scarf and tie; a royal colour that looks nice with the green. I also give him slightly darker skin than I usually do, to suggest an Arab ancestry to match his name.

I had a bit of trouble when painting him. I tried to use my usual highlight-plus-drybrush technique for the blends, but the green I was using for the highlights doesn't drybrush very well - low opacity I think - so it didn't really work, and I ended up with these really sharp highlights. It doesn't look very good up close, but it's not bad on the table, and the nice colour scheme is quite pleasing to the eye, so overall I'm OK with him.

I think his came out OK considering how fine the detail is on these minis. I used the simplest way I know of painting eyes: white base, black dot, shade with Ogryn Flesh at the same time as shading the face. Even just that was a struggle that had me yelling profanities at the walls, his eyes are so small.

Funnily enough his head is actually a little disproportionately large when compared to some of the other miniatures in the range, but I guess that's fitting for a guy who's first name is "head".

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Captain Deadpool!


This guy was a gift for a friend. I was experimenting with a different light setup for photography, so the photos are perhaps not quite as good as they might have been (if nothing else they are a bit warmer than they should be).


This guy was an opportunity to practice highlighting muscles and that sort of organic shape. I think he came out quite well; the black didn't quite work the way I wanted it to, but it's not bad, and the red is pretty good I reckon. The belt buckle was a bit of a challenge; the results may not look amazing in the photos, but in real life his belt buckle is so tiny that I think most people would agree that what I managed is pretty good.

As is usual for Knight Models' stuff, assembly was a complete pain. Bad mold lines (you can see that I didn't manage to completely get rid of a few), plenty of gap filling required, including merging the model to the base, and of course the swords were so ridiculously flimsy (I practically could not handle the model without bending them) that I simply had to replace them, which was a bit of a job. Of course, me being me, I only pulled the trigger on that after I had already attached the arms and sculpted over the join. Then of course I snapped an arm off while drilling the hole, meaning I had to repeat the sculpting part... sigh.


The sheaths weren't as bad as the swords, but they were still vulnerable to bending. Plus they looked too small to me; I think they were actually narrower than the original blades. So I put together replacements for them as well. Then I lost the replacements and had to assemble another set... sigh. Well, the second set of replacements actually ended up looking a fair bit better than the first, so that's alright I suppose.

Overall I enjoyed painting him (if not assembling him) and I'm happy with how he turned out. I think he was a good learning experience. I'm starting to enjoy painting Knight Models a bit more; while painting my 40K stuff has mostly been about highlighting armour, and painting my PP stuff has mostly been about picking out all the detail that covers every surface, painting these models has been more about highlighting organic shapes, which is something I haven't really done very much of so far.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Everyone Needs A Good Breakfast

So this just happened. And so:

In case it isn't obvious, that's toast sticking out of his vents, a (grossly oversized) butter knife in his hand, a stick of butter on  a plate, and two spare loaves lashed to his pauldron.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tutorial: Powered Bases And Light-Up Bases

Well, I finally got around to writing up that tutorial I've been promising to all of the two people who were actually interested. So if you'd like to steal my most precious secrets, you can read the whole thing here. Warning: it's very, very long!