Friday, October 31, 2008

Summoning: A Death Guard Icon Bearer

A lone Death Guard icon bearer summons forth plaguebearers from the Warp to reinforce his position.

Model & Conversion work.
The basis for the icon bearer is the plastic chaos space marine icon bearer (2007). The model's right shoulder pad is a metal Death Guard bitz available through Games Workshop direct. The head and part of the chest & lower abdomen are from the plastic zombie (Warhammer Fantasy) range. The aim was to come up with a simple and effective Death Guard miniature that didn't require too much work given the rapid approach of GT2008.
This model was assembled rather quickly using superglue and milliput (green stuff equivalent). All the major component plastic chaos space marine parts were assembled & glued in place first, followed by the zombie head. The only tricky part here was to make certain that there is enough room left over for zombie abdomen to slot in to place.

A good blob of milliput was pressed in to the body cavity at the front -- entirely in the place of a normal chaos marine front armour segment. With a dab of glue on the back, the zombie abdomen was pressed in to the (still pliable) milliput. Using a metal-tipped shaping tool (regularly dipped in a handy pot of water; a paperclip would do in a pinch instead of a specialized tool), the excess milliput around the abdomen was scraped away. The left over milliput was then sculpted in to place to resemble guts pouring forth from inside the model and blended with the zombie part.

The final additions to be glued into place were the mechanicum iron circlet on the top of the backpack, the metal shoulder pad and the bolter (attached to the left leg). I'll post an article on my full Death Guard squads at a later date (I'm currently out of town...).

Evaluation.
Positives: Zombies in power armour! Hardly original, but Death Guard can be very simple to model and offer a wealth of conversion opportunities. This piece is not a clever conversion in the slightest, but it is effective enough when combined together with the paint scheme to make this Death Guard appear as little more than a futuristic zombie. When placed side-by-side with other (metal) Death Guard, or with the plaguebearers that have been summoned to the icon bearer in the picture shown above, the model looks perfectly in place.
Negatives: More working of the power armour (scratches, fungus growth and the like) would have improved this piece. The paint work aimed for a rusted feeling (along with the rest of my GT2008 entry; see the previous article on the dreadnought) and it somewhat makes up for the lack of scuffing whilst simultaneously serving to highlight the red innards.

And Finally.
I have a question for the FtW group on a potential "house rule" they might be using in friendly games: How do you reconcile the different icons available to the forces in Codex: Dameons and Codex: Chaos Space Marines, if & when you mix forces from those two codices together (e.g. in an apocalypse game)? Can daemons be summoned equally to both types of icon? Do daemons summoned to only CSM icons effectively gain "fleet"?; if so, do you alter the points values of any icons? Thanks in advance for your answers to this one: I hope to use them for an upcoming idea I've got for a minidex/sourcebook...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Screamer in the Surf

A screamer that looks like it might be just below the surface of a body of water, ready to emerge? This is the first of a set screamers to be painted up for use in a daemons army.

Aims and Model.
When visiting a swimming pool, or looking at a lake, the ripples on the surface of the water interact in a complex interference pattern. Screamers of Tzeentch possess strong similarities to oceanic creatures like rays and therefore present an opportunity to try out painting an interference pattern on their surface.

The model is a standard screamer of Tzeentch assembled in the usual manner with superglue and a touch of green stuff to disguise the joining of the tail segment to the main body. Looking at the model from afar, it is apparent that any ripples from water would be most prominent on the flatter portions of the "wings" of the screamer where there are no protrusions to break them up. That's not to say that the protrusions should not also have some patterns around them, just that it'll be more obvious on the flatter areas of the sculpt.

Painting.
I was torn between a white and black undercoat here. In the end, I opted for black following the maxim of working darker to lighter in the absence of a good reason. Whilst not all bodies of water are blue by any stretch of the imagination, most people think of lakes and oceans as being blue in colour. The reality is often more murky, in a perhaps very literal sense, as any observation will show. Yet, we still hold the almost childish adage that water is blue! Therefore, the choice for the basecoat colour had precious little alternative!

An inking of deep blue was applied to the mid-blue basecoat and allowed to fully dry before tackling the intricate water-like details. These details were painted on free-hand in a dabbing, almost pointillist style. The colours started out at a dark blue level, working up through lighter shades of blue to white highlights. The shapes that were dabbed on were semi-random, based on empirical observation of swimming pools: boxy, elliptical and circular shapes in the main part. These shapes were criss-crossed and interconnected to suggest the distinctive interference pattern observed on bodies of water. Since the "wings" of the screamer are pointing downward, I figure that the patters should also be bunched up closer together toward the wing tips; more spread out on the horizontal plane. Each lighter shade was applied to only fewer and fewer locations of this interference pattern. The final details included painting the tusks jet black and various surface features in a cream / stone colour.

Evaluation.
Positives: I like the look of this miniature. From a distance, I feel it gives the strong suggestion of water-like ripples on its surface -- that child-like reaction of "water is blue" really pays off.
Negatives: I wasn't certain what to do with the ripple patters that were close to the tusks. In the end, they got highlighted toward lighter colours, which contrasts nicely with, and offsets, the solid black of the tusks. Whether the tusks should have been solid black or not, I'm not too certain but can live with. The surface features in the solid stone colour were not that imaginative either, but again contrast with the deep blue inking of the surrounding recessed areas.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

GT2008 list

This was my entry in the 2008 Grand Tournament (Australia). I was pleased (and a little shocked) to finished in the top ten overall. The points value was 1500 and 6 battles were fought over a long weekend. Additional tournament points were available for army construction, sportsmanship and painting above the usual points obtained from battles. My entry was a mechanized Death Guard list, in slight preference to daemons which, to be fair, had only just become available at the time.

Considerations.
All army lists were judged by GW staffers on a scale of 0 to 5. To get a high score here, it was necessary to offer "concessions". So don't be too surprised by the chaos spawn or the lack of wings on the Daemon Prince. It is intentionally a sub-optimal list. I heard during the tournament that any army fielding a land raider was severely punished on this scale.

Army List.

HQ: Daemon prince of Nurgle with Doombolt.

Elites: Chaos Dreadnought with plasma cannon and close combat weapon.

Troops: 2 indentical units worth of: 1 plague champion with power fist alongside 6 other plague marines kitted out with 1 melta gun, 1 flamer and an icon. These squads were each mounted in a rhino affixed with a havoc launcher.

The third plague marine squad featured a plague champion with combi-plasma & melta bombs alongside 6 other plague marines kitted out with 2 plasma guns and an icon.

Finally for troops, there were 2 squads of 6 lesser daemons (plaguebearer models).

Fast Attack: 1 chaos spawn.

Heavy Support: 2 vindicators each with daemonic possession.


Evaluation and thoughts.
Positives: (1) The need for big artillery and weapons with a blast template is a must in pure Death Guard armies -- they're never going to pump out as many shots as Orks are capable of. (2) The chaos spawn was lots of fun to play with! (3) The army faired middling-to-well against most other armies. (4) I got 4 nominations for best painted army (out of the 6 opponents I played against).

Negatives: (1) Orks completely destroyed this list! (2) Tyranids featured heavily amongst the entries. (3) The daemon prince seriously needed wings. (4) The close combat weapon on the dreadnought would have been better off as a missile launcher.

Postings on individual components and tactics of this army list have been and will be made seperately. As a cohesive whole, the army was highly functional and didn't really lack in any department significantly; despite struggling against some other armies. Images of the army will be posted at a later date once all the miniatures involved gather back together in the same place once more.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Duplicitous Demographers: Plaguebearer Pack and Tactics

The Duplicitous Demographers is the name that I regularly give to a small squad of plaguebearers that I field. What's in the name? Well, plaguebearers in the source materials (e.g. The Lost and the Damned) are well-noted for counting diseases, pestilences, virii, each other and nurglings amongst other things. I see this as a little bit like a census. One name given to a person whose job it is to study the statistics of people and a census is a demographer. The word duplicitous is both an alliteration conjoined with demographer, as well as indicating the fickle (evil?) nature of warp beings & daemons.

The models pictured here are a complete mixture of old Rogue Trader era plaguebearers, 1990's miniatures and the present day plaguebearers; all metal models. They blend remarkably well despite being removed from their molds over a time span of up to 20 years!


Gaming & Tactics.

On the tabletop, I use small squads of plaguebearers like the Duplicitous Demographers to hold objectives. This is their primary, and perhaps sole, duty to fulfil. As such, I don't bother with any upgrades such as noxious touch, or even a musical instrument. i.e. The model with the red plaguesword is simply a normal trooper as pictured here.

Given their purpose, the plan is simple. Run towards the nearest objective and go to ground! Since they're plaguebearers, they are remarkably resilient to incoming fire and will usually stick around for a good long while, hopefully the entire course of the game. If charged directly, they can usually hold their own until reinforcements arrive.

Typically, we can evaluate the worth a unit by comparing the points cost of the unit to the points cost of enemy units they take out of action. This pragmatic approach to evaluate worth is not the right mindset to use when thinking about objective holders. If the purpose of a unit is to hold objectives, then I argue that it is binary evaluation: either they succeed or they don't. In choosing an objective holding squad, plaguebearers are possibly the cheapest per model and most effective at this battlefield role in the game. Death Guard are slightly better due to their power armour, but they lack an invulnerable save and cost more points per model. Death Guard are more mobile and flexible as well and should have other primary roles, but they can certainly take up this role with excellent effect. Hence, I strongly believe that plaguebearers are the best troops choice in the game for the singular role of objective holding.

That really only leaves the question of how many to take in the squad for their objective holding task. It is fluffy to take 7 given that that is Nurgle's associated number. Seven is perhaps just a little bit on the low side though to hang on for the entire game in the face of strong incoming fire barrages (e.g. Tau), and hence by my previous argument is mildly likely to be uneconomic; especially given their hardiness is not that of a marines. I'd favour about 10. If going up to 14 (a multiple of 7 and still fluffy!), I think that I'd want a slightly modified battlefield role for the unit (first wave icon bearer?). In a pure Epidemius list, both smaller & larger units are beneficial and can take up, indeed must take up, mixed roles. I'll finish by noting that their mileage and role in earlier editions varied slightly, but I intend to leave that undiscussed presently.



Sunday, October 26, 2008

Resin Basing

The idea that the bases of miniatures need work as well as the miniature itself has been an evolving idea over the past couple of decades. Many older articles in the trade magazines (e.g. White Dwarf) and various codex portray miniatures on the bases that are covered only with a green paint, or a small amount of sand, or small amounts of scatter. Some different articles (e.g. The Lost and the Damned) hide the bases under a copious layer of scatter so as they're not visible at all!

The modern base can be anything from these small beginnings to very complex affairs containing almost as much detail, if not more detail than the miniature that stands on top of them. If used wisely a base can really set off a miniature in a splendid light. At worst, they can detract from a beautiful paint job or dominate the entire model.

At GenconOz2008, I picked up a number of back-2-base-ix resin bases to try out (pictured is a 60mm base from back-2-base-ix). These are bases that are sold at the same physical size of citadel miniature bases, but come with pre-sculpted scenery on them in a hard resin (similar to Forge World). As with Forge World, they require some small amount of trimming (etc.) and a wash in soapy water before use. Since they're not flat, I tend to pin many of my models to these bases -- but that is no different to any normal base that I make more fancy myself (see the newer bloodletter next to the older one in Bloodletters of Khorne in the 1980's for an example of a back-2-base-ix base with a bloodletter on top). They're also supplied un-painted which means a little more time on the paint job is required. I prefer to try to paint them as a separate entity to the minature that will occupy them and then glue the miniature to the base as a last step.

I like the amount of detail that these bases come with. The only detraction, if I can even call it that, is the thought that "I could do this myself!". Having said that: it saves me the time and effort! Moreover, I can always add small amounts of flock and scatter (or even add a few new lines of sculpting with my own hobby knife) to finish these bases off and make them look more unique. They really are a time-saver and they look as good, if not better, than what I can produce.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Overloaded, struggling gretchin

"Oi, Grot! Fetch me spanna. Get da ammo to. An' da chayne..."
Ork Mekboy Warspanna, Goff Clan.

Aims and Model.
Lurking in the depths of my bits box was this 1980's gretchin sculpt that positively oozes character. Like a number of ork and gretchin models, there is a strong component of comic relief here that is not found in other warhammer 40,000 armies. My personal interpretation of this model is that the gretchin is being bullied around by an ork mekboy. The mekboy is half-way through constructing a kustom shoota and needs a few more parts urgently before the waaaaaaa.

Painting.
The painting here was straight-forward an non-innovative. Following a black undercoat, multiple basecoat colours were applied: dark green on the skin, red on the trousers, brown on the boots & ammo boxes, silver on the large wrench and chainmail coat, and fold on the cylinder that the gretchin is carrying under his chin. Each of these areas was inked with a good amount of stain to really penetrate in the the recesses: green on the skin, chestnut on the trousers, ammo boxes and bronze cylinder, black on the wrench and chainmail. Highlights were applied to each area in progressively lighter shades of the base colour. Final details included picking out the eyes, nail, yellow for the bracelet around the left wrist, and carefully picking out each individual bullet on the gretchin's back.

For the base, PVA glue was used to stick s mall amount of green scatter down and the rest was covered in black ballast. Once dried, the black grains were dusted with a drushbry of red, making for a slightly muddy & rough looking surface.

Evaluation.
Positives: The cylinder below the gretchin's chin sets the model off very nicely and draws attention to the face. This gretchin's paint scheme very much gives the desired appearance of a struggling and overloaded orkoid trying to fulfil orders and I'm happy with it overall.
Negatives: Picking out all the little details was time consuming but necessary. The right ear squashed up next to the wrench was particularly difficult to get looking correct. I did consider painting some orky markings on the spanner, but didn't bother in the end.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bloodletters of Khorne in the 1980's

Way back in the Rogue Trader & Slaves to Darkness days, bloodletters of Khorne were a little bit different.


Comparison.
The depicted bloodletters are all metal models that came in two parts: the body and the head (with arms attached to the head part) with the requisite lolling, poisonous tongue. Since purchasing them, some of the arms have become bent out of place (they have been repeatedly re-assembled, stripped, re-based in both fantasy and W40k bases and re-painted over the years), but the squad is still identifiably a squad of bloodletters. The painted colours of red, black and brass certainly invoke the atmosphere of Khorne's foot soldiers.

Assembly of these pieces was tricky. In the end, I pinned the head sections to the body sections as inevitably they tended to come off during transport or gaming. They remain rather delicate pieces of my collection today. Their last outing was at Grand Tournament 2007, but I don't intend to take them to any further tournaments or local games at this stage (despite the hugely positive response that I know they are liable to invoke, from experience). Apart from their now delicate nature, I believe that the 2008 plastic range of bloodletters is an excellent throw-back to the spirit of these models and their depiction in Slaves to Darkness.

What are the differences between the old and the new? The first thing that I noticed was their relative sizes: the old bloodletters are significantly smaller than their 2008 plastic counterparts. This, however, is very much inline with many other comparisons of older Games Workshop miniatures to newer ones. The newer ones tend to be more "heroically proportioned" whereas the older ones were more realistically proportioned.


The older models exhibit a metal band around their head which is not seen in the newer models -- at first glance a missed opportunity to re-connect with Slaves to Darkness perhaps. Then again, if interpreted as collars of Khorne, then these circlets are out of place on the bloodletters and their omission from the modern model is a good thing. The hellblades are also much smaller and less serrated on the older models. I prefer the new model's hellblades in all honesty. What has been retained is the lean and spindly quintessential nature of the bloodletters.

I've over-looked the 1990's / 2001-ish(?) version of bloodletters in this brief discourse -- the ones that have a passing resemblance to beastmen. My like for that range is much lower than my like for the Rogue Trader era and the modern era bloodletters. I do strongly think that the 1990's miniature still has its place as a herald, or champion within a squad of bloodletters; much in the same way that my earlier post on a Nurgle herald used an older, slightly different model.


Given their differences, I don't believe the old and new bloodletters mix very well. I would be willing to make a concession and mix a single 1990's version in together with the newer models. But the Rogue Trader 1980's models simply look too out-of-date and ill placed next to the plastic 2008 range. They'd be better off fielded on their own, in their own unit (if at all), to fit in with a whole army.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Footslogging Herald of Nurgle

Another model from the early 1990's(?) provides the basis for either a Herald of Nurgle on foot, or a regular plaguebearer. If memory serves, this model was originally sold as a "Nurgle Champion" for use in Warhammer as part of a full command set of plaguebearers.

The horns growing out of the side of the head are reminiscant of a Great Unclean One's. Coupled with further horns extending from the tip of the shoulders and a plaguesword in red with white flame detail, this model makes for an ideal Herald of Nurgle on the tabletop. Not all Heralds of Nurgle take to the field on a palanquin, afterall.

If used as a troops choice, and if the points cost can be spared, then this will be the model with the noxious touch ability due to its readily identifyable appearance. The red sword is easily picked out from the swathe of blue plagueswords.

The painting prescription is the same here as for the majority of my plaguebearers. I'll refer the reader to the previous posting entitled "Plaguebearer" for more details of that process. The only real difference in the paint job being the red sword, as opposed to my preferred unnatural-looking blue plagueswords.

Evaluation.
Whether the noxious touch ability is worthwhile points-wise remains an open question and depends critically on the purpose that one has in mind for the squad / herald. The ability is probably not terribly useful, or economic, for small squads whose main purpose is objective holding.

Positives: Stands out from the crowd and makes a good choice for a Herald of Nurgle, or troops member with noxious touch ability. The red plaguesword is readily picked out from the rest of the troops enabling quick identification which is vital in games of Apocalypse and various other scenarios. I'm very pleased with the final appearance of this miniature.

Negatives: The exposed spine is not picked out well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Burnt-out Horror

An experiment with a little bit of a different painting technique produced this burnt-out looking horror of Tzeentch.

Aims & Model.
The aim of the model was to produce something that wasn't a standard pink or blue horror of Tzeentch and could potentially be used as a Herald of Tzeentch, or a horror in a troops squad with the bolt of Tzeentch power.

The concept is simple: I want a horror that looks burnt. There can be multiple narrative justifications for this. Perhaps a spell has backfired in its face on the whim of Tzeentch? Perhaps it is made out of flame? Perhaps it materialized from the Warp and fashioned itself out of combustible materials?

Painting.
This model represents one of those times where I think it is very important to use a white undercoat. Usually when painting miniatures and canvas, we want to work from darker colours up to lighter colours. This is one of those instances where the inverse is true. (I'd also advocate using a white undercoat where the desire is to bring out strong & bright colours).

To get that burnt look, I stated with a layer of white. I tried to get the white in to all of the recessed areas. In the final model, they are going to be the "hottest" areas that the eye can pick out. Then, I layered progressively darker colours on top of this, taking care to paint less and less in the the recesses and less surface area with every layer out. The colours were approximately ordered yellow, orange, red then black with some intermediate blending.

The final pure black layer was drybrushed on to the surface. These are the "coldest" parts of the horror.

For some reason (blue colours being thermodynamically hotter than white), I decided that the mouth & tongue should be shades of blue. That done, the only remaining details were to dot the eyeballs and make certain the claws were black.

Evaluation.
Positives: A good idea and a neat experiment. This horror certainly stands out from the pink and blue crowd.
Negatives: This model didn't go well! To explain, I'm unhappy with several aspects of the painting execution: (1) the amount of white showing through on the front of the miniature; (2) the blue mouth; (3) the blue tongue. However, all of these facets are correctable with a little bit of additional work. And of course the model needs to be appropriately based yet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Advantages of a Death Guard Marine

Question: how much better is a plague marine in comparison to a normal marine? How can this be evaluated? Are they worth the extra points?

Statistic of Merit.
I'll define the statistic of merit as being the "number of standard shots required to kill", where a standard shot is one bolter round fired by a space marine. I choose this as being the standard shot as it is the type of round most commonly encountered in the game. Perhaps I'll look in to other rounds & alien races at a later date (e.g. las-guns fired by Imperial Guard; etc.).

Removing the fancy mathematical language, I like to think of this statistic as a measurement of the "hardiness" of a model, or how long it'll last on average.

Baseline.
Let's start by considering a standard space marine. He's got 1 wound, a toughness of 4 and a save of 3+ from his power armour. How many standard shots does it take to remove him?

Well, an opposing space marine firing a bolt round will hit on 3+, or 66.7% of the time. Therefore, he needs to shoot 1.5 times to hit his target once.

A bolt round (Strength 4) will wound our unfortunate space marine 50% of the time. So our standard shooter will need to fire 3 times at the space marine to cause a wound.

But, with a 3+ save, our space marine is only going to be removed from play a third of the time. So, our standard shooter will require an average of 9 shots to accomplish this task. Or put another way, when declaring fire with a marine on another marine, we have a 1-in-9 chance of a kill shot.

Plague Marine.
Our Death Guard plague marine has an incredible (for troops) toughness of 5, a 3+ armour save from his power armour and the "feel no pain" special rule.

As with our baseline example, it'll take 1.5 shots to hit the plague marine. No changes there.

Wounding the plague marine is harder though. It'll require 4.5 shots on average to land a wound compared to 3 against the baseline marine.

Given the power armour, we're now looking at an average of 13.5 shots to cause a (preliminary) un-saved wound. But with the feel no pain special rule, it'll take an average of 27 standard shots to remove the plague marine from the game. That is rather impressive to say the least.

The ratio of 27 to 9 standard shots means that our plague marine is 3 times hardier than an average marine! Without even looking up the numbers, I know that the points value of a plague marine is certainly not 3 times that of an ordinary marine.

But -- that is not the end of the story. A plague marine is 23 points compared to 16 (or 15) points for a standard marine. So, how many extra standard shots does a difference of 8 or 7 points make? Or put another way: how does an imaginary 23 point standard marine stack up? Let's take the worst case scenario that a standard marine is 15 points (a typical Chaos Space Marine). Those 15 points generate 1 standard shot, so 23 points generates 1.53 standard shots. Is this enough to remove the plague marine's advantage? To figure this out, I divide the hardiness derived above, 27, by the points-weighted number of shots, 1.53. This comes out as a points weighted average of 17.6 shots being required to kill a plague marine, shot by our imaginary 23 point standard space marine. This is still about double the hardiness of our standard marine.

So to answer the question posed at the beginning, they are most certainly worth the extra points.

Close Combat Hardiness.
I'm also going to define a close combat hardiness. This works exactly as above, but instead of firing shots, I'm going to consider a space marine striking an opponent in close combat. Here, the question is slightly modified: "How many attacks must a space marine make to remove a given model?"

Against another marine, 2 attacks are required to generate 1 hit. Only 50% of those hits will cause a wound, so 4 attacks are needed to give 1 wound. Two-thirds of those wounds will be saved, so 12 attacks are necessary to remove a space marine.

In comparison, our Death Guard marine is going to be wounded less often due to his higher toughness. Again, 2 attacks will lead to an average of 1 hit. However, this time one third of them are going to wound. That implies 6 attacks per wound. Two thirds of wounds will be saved, so 18 attacks will generate 1 un-saved wound on average. With feel no pain, this rises to 36 standard attacks from a space marine being required to remove the plague marine. You'll notice that this is a factor of 3 greater once more. Don't leave home without the power fist or melta gun.

Caveats.
Of course, there are problems with a pure Death Guard army list that are not folded in to our statistic of merit. Namely, since they're more expensive per model, they don't pump out as many shots as other marine armies (less models on the tabletop). The loss of one plague marine can also be rather significant. The loss of an entire squad from a vindicator shot or plasma rapid fire is a terrible blow. Remember that the Death Guard are an highly elite army and we must construct army lists & manoeuvre accordingly. The statistic of merit outlined here is of little consequence if no further thought is applied.

Finally, I think that this computation must be repeated for an imaginary 23 point ork ... I've got a feeling they're going to turn out rather well under this analysis. But, I'm not certain how to fold in the different weaponry & associated ranges just yet. I wonder how the designers go about assigning points values?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Plaguebearer

Marauder and citadel have created a number of Nurgle plaguebearer miniatures over time and I'm fortunate enough to own a small number of the earlier sculpts of them. They make regular appearances in both Death Guard and pure daemon armies that I run. This particular piece has been to two Grand Tournaments (2007 Australian; 2008 Australian).

Aims & Model.
The old plaguebearer sculpts work just as well today as they did in their own hay day. Mixing them in with modern models makes for excellent variety without looking like they're out of place (unlike genestealers -- see my earlier posting on Space Hulk). The aim is for "classic" plaguebearers for the most part -- i.e. primarily green with weeping red wounds and necrotic features dotted about the skin. As with the majority of my plaguebearers and other miniatures, I'm keen to make them slightly different to what is considered to be the purely "classic" appearance. The difference here? Blue plagueswords. Most plaguebearers I see on the tabletop tend to be wielding rusted, dull, old blades that don't look like they'd cut open a can of tomatoes. I guess that's not the point: it's the fact that the sword is dripping with venom and every toxin imaginable that's important. Sure, rusty old blades can cause infected wounds; tetanus especially springs to mind. However, what self-respecting Space Marine battle-brother is going to look at that blade and not think "my super genetically-enhanced metabolism can handle it, on the highly unlikely off-chance it should cut through my ceramite power armour". Conversely, a blue blade speaks of something other-worldly. A toxin that Space Marines, Tau and others have not encountered. A blade that might be very sharp, deadly and give pause for thought. Something of the Warp.

Painting.
After the black undercoat, a basecoat of mixed (sombre) green was applied, slightly mottled in places. An ink wash of green over the entire model was next and then left to dry. Being a plaguebearer, this model was then drybrushed with lighter greens and an unlikely dull cream colour on some parts (the belly primarily, and some taut looking skin on the back). I think this approach is better than a purely green drybrushing approach.

The exposed flesh and sores were tackled next by applying a pink basecoat and following up with red or chestnut inks to create variation. When dry, the sores were variously highlighted in pinks and reds. The plaguesword was basecoated in an electric blue colour and inked dark blue. No further drybrushing was necessary here for the appearance. But given the raised surface of the blade on this particular miniature (not present on non-Marauder versions), the blade was highlighted with pure white.

Details were added as the last step. Pure white was used for the teeth, claws, nails, eye and parts of the horns (the pure white was blended to a cream colour on the horns). Various infected pustules and skin areas around open sores were picked out in shades of sickly yellow and orange. Some sores and wounds were made to look weeping with the addition of a blood red run painted over the green, necrotic looking flesh.

A coating of glossy varnish was applied to the entire miniature as the last step. This has a double purpose. Not only does it protect the paint job, but it also gives the miniature a slightly slimy and translucent appearance that looks perfectly in place on many Nurgle models.

Evaluation.
Positives: I love this miniature and the way it has turned out. At Grand Tournament 2008, a good number of people stopped by and took a picture of it. I was well pleased! I intend to post images of whole plaguebearer squads in the near future.
Negatives: Not many. If I were being very critical, I'd worry that the spine is not looking quite right, but it appears okay realistically. Some of the sickly yellow looks out of place around the open sores; must be a weird contagion. A more sparing use of vanish would also have helped accentuate the slime aspect. Finally, I'm also tempted to re-base it, but that's about it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Space Hulk Genestealers

Although my main W40k interest certainly lies in the various forces of chaos, I remember fondly the days of Space Hulk. My wife and I played a few games of Space Hulk a couple of months ago (which I lost pitifully, for the record), at which point I dusted off the old genestealer models and re-evaluated them.
Comparison.
The old genestealer model is pictured here side by side with the newer version; both unpainted. Ignoring the different plastic technologies, it is readily clear that the newer version is much more dynamic and can be posed in a varitey of ways. The sculpts are also subtly different: the new version's exoskeleton appears stronger with fewer weak-spots compared to the older counterpart that (for example) has exposed flesh in the centre of the back.

The new model's rending claws are also better looking, but the more human, rear pair of hands are broadly similar. I might go as far as to say that the older genestealer's human-like hands are preferable given their dynamic look; the newer one can appear like it is about to slip on a pair of mitten gloves before venturing out in to the dank, chilly service tunnels of the Space Hulk.

The odd older model genestealer can provide variety within a brood of genestealers on the tabletop, but I don't think it looks as good as mixing in a Rogue Trader era plaguebearer with modern counterparts: older genestealers simply look out of place and ... less evolved. Moreover, I think making any biomorphs look consistent between the older and newer models would be very tough to do. But how about an entire brood of older models?



Pictured here are two broods, a ten strong brood in classic Space Hulk colours (Hive Fleet Behemoth vanguards?) and a five strong brood (non-viable in the current codex since they're below the minimum brood size) in green exoskeletons and purple flesh. These models are over 15 years old now and my painting style has evolved a long way since they were painted. A painting scheme will not be provided for them because of that reason, but perhaps their look might inspire a new paint scheme?
Looking back, they are certainly dated and not as well painted as my newer miniatures, but I wouldn't be too ashamed to field them on a tabletop despite the uniformity of their pose (apart from one model which used a hybrid's arm set, if you look closely).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

An Orange Daemonette of Slaanesh

This model is the first of a set of daemonettes of Slaanesh from the new (2008) plastic range.


Aims & Model.
The model is a throw-back to the Rogue Trader era daemonettes, much like the bloodletters of Khorne, but in plastic form. I'm unashamedly a fan of the new plastic range; including the new bloodletters. I suspect that many folks of my generation share this view (that's not to say I didn't like the previous, circa 2002, incarnation of daemonettes -- I do). The only drawback here is the fiddly nature of the delicate arms of the daemonettes. Attaching the arms and keeping them in place whilst the glue sets is occasionally tricky - particularly for daemonettes with the larger claws which may require pinning in place as gravity tends to win if they're not held in position for at least a little time.

My general aim for the daemonettes is to avoid (what appears to be) the new in-vogue painting style! I simply don't like the purple with greystone / white over-layer that is prevalent. So, I want different colours for the skin, harking back to the traditional pastels seen in Slaves to Darkness. I'll explore other skin tones in future posts, but for this one I've elected to try an orange theme and simply see how it works out.

Painting.
On top of the black undercoat, an even application of cream / bleached bone was applied. Once dry, a strong layer of orange & chestnut ink was applied over the cream base coat. At this stage, the final form of the daemonette can start to be seen. A light drybrush of orange & cream was then applied to the skin to give the final look to the tone. More drybrusing was applied to the (bald) scalp of the miniature to draw attention to the head & (eventually) eyes.

The claws and vestments were painted next in parallel. For the claws, a base coat of brown was inked over with chestnut and highlighted by a lighter brown tone. Fine detail on the claws was painted with off-white to pure white. The lower part of the vestment was drybrushed with metallic silver before any other parts of it were painted to prevent overspill (as usual, the water pot needs to be changed after using metallic paint to prevent contamination). The corset & leg garment is basecoated in blue, inked & stained in deep blue, and highlighted with a lighter blue.

Final details then included going around the edges of the corset in bronze / gold; painting the necklace blue to match the corset highlight colour; creating eyes as pupil-less white orbs; painting claws on the feet & tail spikes in pure white; and lastly applying a Slaaneshi tattoo design in black to the upper right thigh and left-hand side of the face.

Although unfinished, the base has got part of an Imperial Dark Angel wing embedded on it. I plan to add an urban wasteland finish to this later.

Evaluation.
Positives: I'm much happier with this painting scheme than the ones that are primarily suggested in the codex (etc.). The gold & blue on the corset particularly make the daemon stand out from the crowd -- it is certainly a colour combination I'll come back & use once again. I'm also fond of the head -- I get the feeling this daemonette is transfixing distant prey. Making the head slightly lighter in tone than the body seems to have worked well.
Negatives: The claws don't quite look right. It could be a result of highlighting only the sharp pointy bits with pure white. Still, I'm not certain. The tattoo designs also took a long time to paint on.

Deathguard Dreadnought

The price of this Forge World sculpt may well put off many, but it is an outstanding miniature and one that is bound to get noticed during play. This fact, in my view, makes the cost more than worthwhile. This particular piece formed part of my Grand Tournament (Australia, 2008) Death Guard army (I might post that list in a future posting -- I was very pleased to come 8th overall in that tournament).


Gaming & Tactics.
In almost every game (Grand Tournament and other), it is a fire-magnet and typically the first piece that gets heavily target ted & destroyed! It is rare that the dreadnought makes back its points value in kills, but when it does, it works spectacularly well, especially against elites (e.g. terminators) and medium to lightly armoured vehicles (e.g. troop transports; vindicators). Due to the crazed special rule, I'd council deploying the dreadnought on a flank and reasonably isolated from other components of your army (which goes to explain why it gets blown up rather often without support). The plasma cannon set-up is very flexible: it is excellent against pesky troops with a good armour save (terminators; space marines & equivalents) and the previously mentioned medium-to-lightly armoured tanks -- thus it can be a real threat if ignored for too long. Moreover, the plasma cannon enables multiple kills that a las-cannon set-up will not (i.e. the las-cannon set-up must be treated as a pure tank-hunter dreadnought). This helps in a pure death guard army where there are very few shooters compared to other armies.

Aims & Model.
For such an expensive piece, I wanted to spend a significant amount of time getting it right and themeing it. My Grand Tournament 2008 army list was a Death Guard list. With typical Death Guard painting, it is not uncommon to see oozing, pus, greens, browns and so on. However, for vehicles, we are left with a number of choices such variously described with adjectives like old, decrepit, decaying, rusting and so forth. My aim here was for the latter: rusting.

That raised the first problem: the plasma cannon is not what we have come to expect for Death Guard armies -- it is far too pristine. I did several different conversions on it. Firstly (and most simply), I made a few incisions with a modelling knife to make it look more decrepit and battle-worn. Secondly, I used milliput / green-stuff to create more of a Nurglesque feeling on the surface of the armour to match the other parts. Finally and most significantly, I added a hook (from chaos tanks) to the front of the cannon and two protruding horns to the upper part of the shoulder. For the horns, I drilled small, but deep holes in to the shoulder and glued a plastic horn in to them. Around the edge of the hole, I then used millitput to create a "bursting through" appearance to match other parts of the model where forge world has already sculpted horns bursting through the plated surface of the dreadnought.

Painting.
As usual, I undercoated this model black. (NB: make certain you've washed your forge world model prior to painting! -- it really helps). Then, I dry-brush the metallic parts in silver. Once you've used metallic paints, you should always ditch your water pot so as not to contaminate your other colours. This is not always true for Nurglesque vehicles however as a little bit of contamination sometimes looks reasonable.
The base coat was an intentional mottled mixture of brown and dark greens. By this, I mean take a large brush and charge it up with brown and dab randomly over the model. Then clean the brush and repeat with dark green. Then, repeat with other colours that complement those! I discovered this technique almost by accident, but I think it really makes all Nurglesque vehicles look great and highly thematic. On top of this, a deep chestnut (with some added black) ink wash was added.

From there, I decided to tackle the sculpted recessed areas (the eyeballs on the right front poking through the armour and the holes / pitted areas at various locations on the armour where fungi(?) can be seen growing. These were given a mid-green coat followed by a deep green wash, then finalized with green highlighting and drybrushing.
The main armour parts were mostly drybrushed progressively lighter to good effect. I paid particular attention to the parts where the horns protruded and the armour appears cracked open -- the rim of these bits were highlighted in cream / off-white to accentuate the appearance.

The final stages took me a long time to complete, but they're really worth while. Firstly, the horns were painted in natural off-white colours. The boils & pus were highlighted in a yellow-orange blend. The Nurgle symbol on the front was painted in a cream colour and highlighted white. The plasma in the plasma cannon was made blue (fitting in with other plasma troops in the army) and highlighted progressively lighter blue and with a small line of white. Finally the eyes were painted yellow and a thin brush used to paint the black slit down the middle of them. Various other minutiae can be seen in the photographs ranging from a red blood-like substance leaking from the plasma cannon arm. Paying particular attention to these small bits and pieces makes the final job look above the norm.


Evaluation.
Positives: The additions of the horns bursting through the armour made the plasma cannon arm feel much more chaotic and at home with the rest of the forge world sculpt. I wouldn't have wanted to field this miniature without such modification, especially in the Grand Tournament. The mottled base coat helps at all stages to make the paint job especially Nurglesque. Paying attention to the details is a must for such an exquisitely sculpted miniature and really helps it to shine.
Negatives: If you're going to use a dreadnought in a similar fashion to myself, don't get upset when it becomes the first casualty of the game (despite the hours you've put in to it!). It really is a complement that other gamers see it both as a gorgeous model (i.e. it gets noticed) and a gaming threat (i.e. it gets doubly noticed). I wasn't too happy with some of the Nurglesque additions on the plasma cannon arm (the random green stuff additions rather than the protuding horns).

The First Tzeentch Horror

Below are three shots of one of a set of Tzeentch Horrors that are being painted up for use in a fully Chaos Daemons army that has been at the back of my mind for some time.

Aims & Model.
The aim here was to create a "traditional" looking horror in keeping with paint schemes illustrated in the old Lost and the Damned Realms of Chaos source book. Whilst the sculpt is very different from the early Tzeentchian horrors, the miniature nonetheless lends itself well to this idea given the appearance of the inner horror emerging from inside the mouth of the outer horror. My first instinct was the one that I went with here -- the inner horror was to be blue, with the outer horror pink.

Painting.
The miniature was painted in two stages, notwithstanding the black undercoat / primer. In the first stage, the blue, inner horror was completed. This was achieved using a mid-blue coat, followed by deep blue inking and dry-brushing in a noticeably lighter tone of the blue coat. The black undercoat is very forgiving here as some recessed areas were not hit evenly with the blue coat. For the outer, pink horror, a base coat of pink was applied followed by an equal parts mix of orange & chestnut ink. At this point, the stretching of the outer skin due to the inner blue horror appeared more obvious, so I decided a multi-stage approach to highlighting was required to accentuate this feature. Firstly, highlighting in pink (the same pink as the original coat) was made, taking care not to cover the recessed areas. This pink was lightened in tone by mixing with white and another layer of highlights applied. The final highlighting layer was made in nearly pure white, picking out only the parts of the outer horror's skin that appeared to be especially stretched (e.g. around the mouth and where the shoulder & elbow of the inner blue horror appear to be pushing against the outer horror -- see the lower photo).

With that done, the final highlights were painted on. This included the tongues (painted white and then a layer of bright red applied), teeth & claws (pure white) and eyes (white dot on a black background -- a very steady hand needed here, if you're short-sighted like me, then take your glasses off / remove contact lenses for a natural zoom!).

Basing is on the usual W40k base supplied with the miniature, covered in two shades of green sawdust with small grey rock bits added. Nothing too clever here.

Evaluation.
Positives: I really like the blue-in-pink concept of this miniature that agrees very well with the traditional fluff surrounding the horrors. I am also pleased with the chestnut + orange ink on the outer pink horror's skin which I wasn't too certain about when I applied it. Pink isn't the easiest colour to work with, but it turned out very well. Painting the inner blue horror first allowed any overspill mistakes to easily be corrected when painting the pink (second) stage. I was also thrilled by the reaction of my sister-in-law (an excellent painter herself; oil-on-canvas that is) who described this as "completely mingin'".

Negatives: Looking at the miniature again, the support strut for the front leg probably should have been removed, but it was left in place to give additional support during gaming & transport and simply painted black. I was bothered by this at first, but have grown to not mind it.

The Beginning

The Warpstone Flux blog has been created as a means to archive and chronicle personal experiences with painting and gaming, with a particular (but perhaps non-exclusive) emphasis on Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 setting. Constructive criticisms and comments are most welcome. However, I reserve the right to moderate comments since there are young people reading this - please be polite :)

I will also point out that this blog is in no way official or endorsed by Games Workshop Limited. Nor is it official or endorsed by any other company that may be mentioned. All photographs and paintings that are posted are originals by the author unless indicated otherwise. The miniatures subject matters & sculpts used are copyrighted by Games Workshop Limited and other companies.

Here's the full general disclaimer:

This web site is completely unofficial and in no way endorsed by Games Workshop Limited.

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