Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Test warriors complete

When I started painting heaps of models for Games Workshop in one of their hobby centers, my manager introduced me to the amazing technique he called "The Zen of the Tank Brush." So I got the main things I'd need for this project:

The idea of the "Zen of the Tank Brush" is to do an overbrush of the entire model with the tank brush. An overbrush is very similar to a drybrush - in fact most people who think they are drybrushing are actually overbrushing. The difference is in the amount of paint on the brush. For both techniques you need a dry brush - moisture on the brush will lead to paint going down into the crevices of the model, which you definitely don't want here. For overbrushing you put a little of the paint on and remove enough that there are no glops. However, if you drag the brush across a surface color still shows up immediately. This lays enough paint onto the model that you've got a smooth basecoat without going too far into the recesses. So you just drag the tank brush over the entire model a couple of times and you've got a partially shadowed basecoat! It takes a little practice - too much paint and you get a messily block painted model, and too little and you get the powdery appearance of a drybrush. The beauty of it is that with a tank brush you can effectively overbrush a large number of models in a few minutes. That leaves you free to complete the details if you're not too picky about the highlighting, and if you are just do a lighter version a second time.

I tank brushed the primed model with Boltgun Metal, but I think I actually didn't have enough paint on the brush, because the model came out a little powdery. So for comparison I grabbed another one of my spearmen which had a more solid coat of paint on him. This also gave me the opportunity to test some other ideas side by side. My second step was using the GW black wash over both models. After that dried, I used the tank brush to drybrush on some more Boltgun Metal, followed by another light drybrush of Chainmail just to see if it mattered. I saw a small difference, but nothing big. Next I grabbed a small drybrush and hit the chest tree, the wings on the helmet, and edges of the plates with Mithril Silver. This gave the models a very nice highlight. I also liked the effect of the more solidly painted model - the first model had a definite powdery appearance. I also will pretty much have to use other models for my actual army, as it became blindingly obvious that I hadn't removed the mold lines from these guys.

I next decided to see how the models would look with and without washes over their cloth. I experimented with another metal ranger I had lying about, and found that the wash really worked well as a glaze to pull the highlights together. I played around with the warriors as well, first putting a basecoat coat of Fenris Grey, a Foundation paint, onto their cloth. Instead of layering up, I layered down, enhancing the shadows of the cloth. The next layer was a 50/50 mix of Shadow Grey and black (using two drops each from my Vallejo bottles), and the bottom layer was the same mix with another three drops of black added. I finally put a black wash over the first model's cloth while leaving the second model unwashed.

Next I did the shields. I've almost always seen these done in metallics to match the armor, but I wanted to actually have them be white as it says in the books. OK, the books say that only the Guard of the Citadel (which GW split up into the Guards of the Fountain Court and the Citadel Guards) bear the arms of Elendil, but heck with it - they're on the shields, so I'm painting them white. I covered the entire shield in black to cover the drybrushing up, then used the side of my brush to barely hit the detail on the tree with Astronomicon Grey, another Foundation Paint. Well, the first model had much lower detail than the second model and I ended up smearing paint all over it. I next put a layer of white on, then went back and touched up the black around the tree and between the branches when I could manage it.

My next task was to experiment with faces. For the first model, I just slapped on some Tallarn Flesh (Foundation paint), then used the Ogryn Flesh wash. The other one I did a three layer process of Dark Flesh, Tanned Flesh, and Dwarf Flesh. This was a huge pain in the rear inside that tiny helmet space and ended up looking sloppy and unhighlighted. Well, easy looks better, so I'm going with that!

Finally I tidied up the details and based the models, and here they are! The model on the left is the original one with the drybrushed base coat and the washes, the one on the right is the unwashed cloth and face.

By the way, pictures of my step-by-step work are located at my Photobucket account.

Well, with the result of this test, I think I'm going to go with a heavier basecoat of Boltgun and make liberal use of the washes. I'll put building more spearmen into the "like to do" priority list, along with converting some non-spearmen. After all, if I don't need the spearmen, why build them now?

Vital contruction complete (mostly)

OK, I've got the first stage of construction done.

I am still waiting on a few models to arrive via the mail, and I'll get them cleaned up before I start painting the rest of their batch. Or maybe I'll just get this one batch done and do the others when they get here. I'll figure it out. One way or another, I'm test painting my spearman first.

One thing that I really don't like doing, but am still zealous about, is cleaning the models. Gah, I hate mold lines. However, they do really look tacky on the models after they've been painted, and the methods I'll be using will actually accentuate any mold lines, so I'm being super careful. The most obnoxious - I had one of the Citadel Guard with mold lines over the wing detail on his helmet. Removing them while keeping the detail was a challenge. The next most obnoxious was a mold line down the middle of the face of one stance of the plastic rangers. Getting rid of it while keeping the facial detail was another pain.

Ah, well, I'll get the test model painted and then I'll review how I've done.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pics of what I've got so far

I had a hard time sleeping last night, so one of the things I decided to do was organize my paint station and get my models ready. After cleaning it up and tracking down the various paint pots I had lying around the house, here it is, ready to go.

It was not NEARLY this clean last night. It had probably eight different half started projects on and around it, such as the Assault on Black Reach terminators and dreadnought, a Nazgul on Fellbeast, some stuff for a 40K army my wife started years ago, Lumpin Croops Fighting Cocks for Fantasy, Numenoreans, Dwarves for LOTR, and stuff for my Mordheim warband. That's just what I remember. Well, I cleared all of that off, put them into boxes, and stored them away so I can focus solely on this project. Here are the minis I'm starting with.

An observant reader (not that I think I actually have any) will note that I've got 6 Citadel Guards, an extra spearman, two Dunedain with spears, extra heroes, and not enough warriors with shields - only 14 warriors with shields, in fact. Well, first on the warriors. I'm making a couple of transactions via Bartertown in order to get more warriors with shields. I'm getting a bunch of other minis, too - it's a nice way to dispose of excess models that I've got hanging around for models that I don't have. Having worked for Games Workshop (I managed one of their hobby centers for about two years), I have a heap of unneeded plastic and pewter.

Anyway, I'll be using the extra spearman as my painting dummy to see how the paint scheme plays out. The extra Citadel Guard will be easy - painting 6 models takes almost the same amount of time as 5 models, and I may replace a regular spear warrior with a Guard. The Dunedain I might use as Rangers of Gondor with spears - I'll need to see how that works out. I'll put them in the "like to do" priority list. I'll also put additional plastic Rangers (beyond the eight spear carriers) into the "like to do" category, since I already have fully painted metal Rangers of Gondor.

As for the extra Gandalf, I'm not sure if I want to use the old Fellowship/Old Friends Meet Again Gandalf, or the Rivendell/Scale Creep Gandalf. I'll definitely put the Rivendell Gandalf in the lowest priority "might do" slot. As you can see, the old Gandalf is nearly completed - just flesh left to do, and maybe some touching up of the details.

Ecthelion is another issue. I really want to use a converted model to represent the King of Men stat line, but I also know that as soon as I am back to teaching I'll be very short on time. So I'll paint up the Captain of Minas Tirith to the same basic standard as the rest of the warriors. If I manage to finish up everything on my "must do" list, then converting and painting Ecthelion will be my next priority. I'm also contemplating what kind of head to use - I ordered some cool replacement heads from Ebob Miniatures that I may want to use on him after filing down the swan head. Another option would be carving up a Numenorean for the head swap - I think it would look kind of chintzy to just slap a shield on Boromir and call it a conversion.

So my next order of business is assembling the models I currently have that I need. So I'll get the Rangers opened and assembled and the sword carrying warriors assembled. Next I'll base the models, and after that I'll test paint the extra spearman and prime the unpainted models black. I'll then assess how the paint scheme works and change anything I need. Next would be the same process for the rangers. By that point I should have received all of my remaining models and I'll paint the main body of troops. Following that, I finish Gandalf and start the Citadel Guard. Once they are done, I can start on my "like to do" priorities, such as converting Ecthelion and more sword armed warriors from spearmen and giving some rangers spears. Once I've wrapped up that painting, it will be on to more fanciful stuff that I'm unlikely to use, like Knights of Minas Tirith, mounted Ecthelion, and Scale Creep Gandalf.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Paint plan - first stage

Well, I'll be budgeting my time in a while, after I've taken a full accounting of my models and what I want to do with them. I'll have "must do" priorities, "like to do" priorities, and "might do" priorities. I'll start off with my basic painting ideas. I want my main palette to resemble the movie and book, but one somewhat sad aspect of the books is that the given palette is pretty much black and white and grey. Bleh. Well, I think I'll play with it a little bit with the grey, using a foundation paint with tinges of blue in it, which I have already used for Gandalf's hat. So here is my basic plan:


Armor and blades
Base - Boltgun metal overbrush
Shade - Black wash
Mid - Boltgun metal drybrush
Highlight - Mithril Silver light drybrush

Shield emblem
Base - Deneb Stone
Highlight - Bleached Bone

Base - Fenris Grey
Mid Shade - Black/Shadow Grey mix
Low Shade - Black wash

I need to make up my mind on going with a simple base, wash, and highlight or a layered highlight. The facial areas inside of those helmets are tight.

Citadel Guard

I need to reread the books, but these guys are all in black IIRC. I'm thinking I'll take a little creative license and do the cloaks black but their tunics bone, kind of like the painted Guards of the Fountain Court. I think I'll give them a yellow trim if I do that, otherwise a dark red trim. I'll need to play around with them a bit.


Cloth and wood
Base - Black
Mid tone - Scorched Brown overbrush
Highlight - Bestial Brown drybrush

Tabard and cloaks
Base - Catachan Green
Mid - Catachan Green/Dark Angel Green
Highlight - DA Green

I want to use this guy as part of my Numenorean army as well, but that is going to have a similar paint scheme, with heroes being dark red. However, I might stick with the same basic color palette of blue/grey and bone.

I'll have to see how my test models turn out before I commit to the specialty models. My priorities are now:

1) Gather all of the models and pieces needed in one place
2) Finish main (pre conversion) assembly
3) Paint test pieces
4) Reassess paint scheme
5) Do required conversions
6) Set paint schedule

I'll get the first two done tomorrow, and I'll try to paint my test pieces by New Years. Hopefully I'll have all of these steps completed by January 5th so I can get my time spaced out well instead of being cramped.

First game - a win!

Well, I just played my first game with Mithrandir's Errand, and it worked pretty well. My list was as follows:

Gandalf the Grey

King of Men with heavy armor and shield

5 Citadel Guard with spears
21 Warriors of Minas Tirith with shields
3 Warriors of Minas Tirith with shields and spears
8 Rangers of Gondor with spears
6 Rangers of Gondor

The list used a bunch of proxies since I haven't even assembled some of the models. I played a fellow named David who used a Dwarven horde list consisting of:

Balin (no magic axe)

8 Iron Guard
8 Khazad Guard
16 Dwarf Warriors with shields
17 Dwarf Warriors with dwarf bows
2 Dwarf Rangers with 2H axes

Great, outnumbered by Dwarves. I hate that. To boot we got a "kill 'em all" scenario, Clash of Piquets. However, the game ended up going my way. First off, we both put our archers out, though mine were behind a line of my warriors. I was able to start shooting immediately, and though I hit a lot I did little damage. However, he was only able to volley with his 18" bows.

We both got our forces on pretty quick, and I had my main line of warriors backed by spear toting rangers laying into his troops as they approached. He ended up feeding about a quarter of his force into my flank, and I was able to redeploy quickly enough to overwhelm them. He never really got his archers into the fight, and I managed to get him down 19 models by the time we called time. I had lost 10 models, so I was much farther away from breaking and had lost fewer victory points. However you slice it, I won the game, though it probably would have qualified as a minor victory. Filling D6 Iron Guard full of arrows is really fun.

So some of my observations:

1) Gandalf is the bomb! No, really, I mean the bomb! Having a free point of will each turn meant never having to say "Oh, I don't think I'll blast his troops this turn." Plus, with Blinding Light, I discouraged David from bringing his archers in closer than volley fire range for him, which was a major factor in the win. Plus, with F5 and S5 using Glamdring, he was a very potent force in fights, particularly when supported with a spear. Sadly, I could never seem to roll above a 2 with him to wound - except one turn where I rolled three 6s and a 5, and that was against one trapped dwarf.

2) I was wondering how effective bow armed troops would be with spears, and I was not disappointed. The biggest problem with archers is they have low Defense because they can't use a shield, so you don't want to throw them into combat. They end up hanging out on a hill or something away from your main line, and you have to decide when to actually commit them to combat. Well, arm them with spears, and you don't have to worry about it! They travel behind your well armored front line and when the line hits combat they help out with being picked on when you lose combat! This worked great, and I'm going to be incorporating it into my Numenoreans as well. If I can find myself a couple more Warriors of Minas Tirith, I may end up completely losing the shield and spear models in favor of giving the spears to Rangers. Hmmm, perhaps a conversion?

3) The Citadel Guard actually came in very handy. When I was fighting S3 troops, I'd use the Citadel Guard to support the people fighting so their D5 wouldn't get them picked on. When I was fighting S4 troops, I threw the Guard into the combat to use their F4 to help win the fights, since D5 is identical to D6 when it comes to getting thumped by a S4 model. Similarly, throwing a ranger into a combat when the odds were heavily in my favor was another big help to avoid losing on the tied rolls. Having so much F4 while maintaining a front line of D6 is awesome.

4) I like using the King of Men stat line instead of the Captain of Men. The F5 alone is awesome, and having extra Courage and Will is worth the price. I think I'll be changing my list to reflect this.

Starting off - Mithrandir's Errand

OK, I am getting ready for the Gathering in the Desert, a independent Lord of the Rings Grand Tournament in Arizona. With only 54 days left until the event and none of my proposed armies being fully painted, I'm going to go with the easiest to paint. My preliminary list will be:

Gandalf the Grey

Captain of Minas Tirith with shield
6 Citadel Guard with spears
21 Warriors of Minas Tirith with shields
3 Warriors of Minas Tirith with shields and spears
14 Rangers of Gondor with spears

A lot of this is dictated by what models I have available, not to mention the whole problem of painting quickly. I'd prefer to have more regular warriors and fewer spears, but I just don't have the models. If I manage to get most of this done, I may add in some mounted models, particularly a captain, since I'll have the foot models already. I may also do something like take a King of Men to represent a mightier hero of Gondor.

The back story will represent Gandalf seeking to intercept a force of orcs traveling from Dol Guldur to Mordor in order to find some proof of the Necromancer being Sauron returned. We'll see how it pans out. I'll post my painting plan later today. Hopefully. *8)