Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Building for Must Do done

OK, I've gotten the last couple of Warriors built, plus they and the Guards of the Fountain Court are based. So at this point I've got everything on my "Must Do" list constructed, cleaned, and sanded. Next up is priming and basing. After that, I'll probably just bring the Warriors up to the standard the other Warriors are currently at, and then shade them all together. I also need to get cracking on making the rangers I have now appropriate with shading and highlighting. The last step in this list will be to paint up the Guards to fully done.

I'm hoping I can get all of that done by the end of the weekend. Don't know, though. I've also got the plastic rangers and Ecthelion to do after this, so I need to get cracking.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New priorities

Well, while watching some more Firefly on DVD, I finished these fellows.



In the Army, there was a saying: "No plan survives contact with the enemy." As it is here. I've got an opportunity when I finally got these models, and now that they are converted and built, there really isn't any reason to not move them ahead of finishing the Citadel Guard. So these six boys are moving onto my "Must Do" list, and I'll be getting them based, primed, and painted before the Citadel Guard.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cutting in line

One of the things that my wife likes to do with me is to snuggle together and watch DVDs in the evening. It's nice together time, and it's fun to watch TV on our time. However, this does distract me from working on the important stuff, like models. I'm kidding, of course. Particularly since my wife just saw that.

I've noticed that it's pretty much impossible for me to paint and watch TV at the same time. The light sucks, there isn't a good way to brace my hands, and I just am not focused. However, I have found that I can build stuff and clean mold lines and the like while watching TV. Well, I got a wild hair up my butt this evening and these guys decided to cut in the priority line:



The biggest pain in the rear was freeing the shields from their former hosts. I managed to ruin one shield in the process as well as stab myself in the thumb with an exacto knife. So if you see red on one of the models, yes, that is my blood. I give to this hobby.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Status report on the Errand

OK, so it's time for me to evaluate where I am compared to where I need to be. The Gathering is now less than four weeks away, and I still have work to do. Not surprising. If anything, it's surprising just how far I've actually gotten towards my goal. So here it is:

MUST DO

This level includes construction, basing, and painting through at least three levels of color on the models (shade, mid, highlight).

Gandalf
6 Rangers
8 Rangers with Spears
6 Citadel Guard (2 bare, all need highlighting)
2 Warriors with shield and spear
22 Warriors with shield (incl captain) (4 bare, half need highlighting)

LIKE TO DO

This level includes conversions and construction, basing, and painting with at least four levels of color, preferably five.

Ecthelion conversion
5 Guards of the Fountain Court with shields
2 Rangers with spears
6 plastic Rangers
2 plastic Rangers with spears conversion
1 Warrior with shield (probably just include him in earlier batch)
Touch up models to a higher standard of highlighting and shading

MIGHT DO

This level includes construction and painting to at least three levels of color, with the character models painted to display quality (entries into Red Dragon).

Mounted Ecthelion conversion
Rivendell Gandalf
Warriors with spear converted to using swords
6 Knights of Minas Tirith
New display board

As things stand, I can definitely see getting through the plastic rangers, with touch-ups being done as much as possible. I may jump the conversion of the mounted Ecthelion forward in order to get something interesting into the painting competition, but no further than ahead of improving highlighting on the entire army.

However, I do have other things going on in my life which could distract me, particularly grading papers, which I am woefully behind on. On the other hand, I've played through Mass Effect twice, so that doesn't have the time-sapping draw it once had. We'll see how things go next week.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Considering minor changes to the Errand

Hmmm... I had a brief conversation on AAZ about Guards of the Fountain Court, and I am sorely tempted to include them. The biggest issue will be that if I do I will have to give up a model, dropping to 44 from 45, which in turn drops my break point from 23 to 22. What I would be gaining in return would be F4 models with D7, countering any S4 nastiness I might encounter. Which is the point of my Citadel Guard - the compromise being that with the CG, I'm going to get thumped on 5-6 anyway against S4 but I'm getting a better chance at winning than if I had my F3 warriors instead. So with that in mind, here are some alternate lists.

Option 1

Gandalf the Grey

King of Men with heavy armor and shield (D7)

23 Warriors of Minas Tirith with shield
5 Rangers of Gondor
9 Rangers of Gondor with spears
5 Guards of the Fountain Court with shields

Total Models - 44
Total Spears - 14

Option 2

Gandalf the Grey

King of Men with armor and shield (D6)

22 Warriors of Minas Tirith with shield
3 Rangers of Gondor
11 Rangers of Gondor with spears
6 Guards of the Fountain Court with shields

Total Models - 44
Total Spears - 17

Option 3

Gandalf the Grey

King of Men with armor and shield (D6)

24 Warriors of Minas Tirith with shield
8 Rangers of Gondor
6 Rangers of Gondor with spears
5 Guards of the Fountain Court with shields

Total Models - 45
Total Spears - 11

So I can have one of higher model count, more spears, D7 Guards, or D7 combat hero. Tough call. I'll put the Guards of the Fountain Court on my "like to do" list after converting Ecthelion and give them a try in some games.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A long and trying ordeal comes to a happy end

Back in 2008, I ordered some LOTR blisters and a book for Flames of War (I've only played FoW a couple times, but I do enjoy reading the books, and this was a new update with a buy one get one free deal) from The War Store on Black Friday. This was a good deal - over 30% discount on the blisters and the book, plus a free book. Mostly these were for my Gondor army - I got a ton of Gondor minis from my victory at the Vegas GT, and these purchases would fill out the army. I got a blister of Guards of the Fountain Court since I don't have them, a blister of Foot Knights of Dol Amroth to cover dismounts for the blisters of mounted Knights I got. I also picked a blister of Arathorn and Halbarad because it was cheap and I'd always wanted Halbarad without the banner.

Well, three weeks after I ordered the stuff I was wondering where the package was. I checked the UPS log, and it was delivered a few days earlier! Uh, no package for me. I filed a claim and after the holidays they verified my claim and The War Store reshipped it. Almost two weeks later, I'm still wondering where my models are. UPS: delivered three days ago! Now I know something is wrong. I go back and check my invoice - uh oh. I transposed the numbers on my address, and it was sent to another condo! I went over, and the lady there said she hadn't seen anything but would ask her boyfriend. I check back two days later, no one's home. I'm getting discouraged.

I check again tonight. The lady there immediately starts apologizing profusely - her boys had apparently opened the boxes and rifled through them. But I did manage to recover not only the first box but the replacement as well. Score! I need to contact The War Store to see if I need to send the stuff back, but I'm guessing that since UPS paid the claim and didn't catch the error either it will just go under the rug. At least I finally have my order!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tournament Report - GW Alamo

As I said earlier, there are a couple of problems with running a tournament in a GW store. First off, you can’t have people playing in the store when the store is closed. There isn’t a lot of flexibility in terms of hours, so the tournament ends when the store closes, period. Next, GW stores are chronically understaffed for the purposes of running events. The staff on hand have lots of other jobs to do, such as making sales, doing demos, and talking to customers. On this particular day, there was also an Academy being taught (their new hobbyist training program), plus as assessment center for new potential hires. Whee.

So as a result they didn’t have any staff member available to run the tournament. This is more common than you’d really like to know. The standard answer for GW is “get a hobby champion to run it!” aka find a customer who will run the event for you for free just because they love you so much. Well, to seriously run a tournament, you need to be prepared, you need to be focused, and you need to be neutral. You rarely get all of these things in a “hobby champion”. In this case, they found a guy who would run the event if he could play in it. Pretty much all three requirements out the window.

To be fair to the guy and the staff, the scenarios were already printed out and two of the players (myself and my carpool buddy, David) were very knowledgeable on the rules. The staff apparently did help out enough to judge painting (though I’m not sure when they did it – not that it would have been too hard with three bare armies and three painted armies), but for everything else we were on our own. I ended up keeping track of time myself.

Round 1 – To The Death (sort of)

I’ll give the staff credit – they did plan out some scenarios that were fairly quick, particularly when you had some inexperienced players in the tournament. Round 1 was a To the Death kind of scenario that required a forward deployment from the corners. There was an objective in the middle that gave the possessor 5 extra battle points if they controlled it at the end by having twice as many models as their opponent there. One other fun part of it was that all of the tables were split 6x4s, so the tables were actually 3x4s that we were playing on. This concentrated forces to an extreme degree.

I played a new player named Matt who was putting together his list while I was gluing my static grass on. Due to an extreme shortage of models, he ran with three fully tricked out Nazgul – the Witch King, Khamul, and a generic wraith. To this he added 18 Easterlings for a total model count of 21. I outnumbered him over 2 to 1.

The table was narrow, and I had a barrier and a hill that further concentrated forces. The battle would be fought in the open center. Matt deployed along the front edge of his deployment zone, and I deployed near the back edge in a shield wall/archery formation with Gandalf in the center and cavalry on the flanks.



There isn’t a lot to write about. I actually gave the fellow suggestions on how to more effectively use what he had throughout the game, but it didn’t do much good. I gunned down about a third of his force as he walked in between the archery and Gandalf. When he started to close, I surrounded his entire force and demolished the troops then set about playing piƱata with the wraiths. I finally managed to kill Khamul, but I couldn’t manage to finish off the other two Nazgul. Time was called with me having lost six models to his nineteen and me in possession of the objective.



Result – Major Victory plus bonus points (one note – due to an error in result sheets and an odd ruling by the judge/player, we counted Major Victories as Victories and Minor Victories as Draws. Go figure.)

My game ended up running the longest – David’s 73 goblin horde annihilated an all troll Mordor army, and the other game saw both forces broken, which resulted in a draw.

Round 2 – Storm the Camp (sort of)

This scenario was kind of like Storm the Camp, but you couldn’t win unless you also destroyed the opponent’s objective and you had to outnumber your opponent’s army by 2 to 1 in their deployment zone. I was matched up against David. Great. Can someone tell me how in the name of all that is holy I can outnumber (or even outmaneuver) a 73 model goblin horde list on a 3x4 table? To make matters even better, one of those models was a shade.

The terrain was fairly balanced with a hill on one side with lots of monument/ruins, and trees scattered about the field. We actually played on one of the new GW plastic gaming tables, and it was nice. I don’t know if it was $300 worth of nice, but it was nice. Apparently the things weigh 30 lbs with their carrying case.



I decided to try to hold a line between two groves of trees and send Eomer to do his worst to the goblin archers that I knew would be setting up on the other side. Silly me, David deploys and puts his objective inside a forest. Well, crap. There goes that idea. In the mean time, the goblins stretch from one end of the table to the other.



David rushes his goblins forward into fairly accurate bowfire. He takes one Rider down to volley fire, and I decide to try to run them up a flank anyway, but use the side with all the cover. I also try to send some foot models up the other flank. David ignores them other than shooting them when he gets a chance.

He slams into my force about a foot from my objective. The shade is just brutal. I manage to blast him back with Gandalf, but I don’t wound. I am managing to kill a few goblins, but he’s giving back at least as good due to the -1 I am rolling and the multiple attacks he’s getting from all of the spear goblins. He also shoots down a horse and Rider with volley fire. Damn! I finally just decide to play for the draw and send my flankers into his main force. Eomer starts doing bad things, but the other riders get killed once I start losing priority. I do manage to kill a shaman though, which makes me feel happy.



The game ends when my force hits a quarter of starting models but David still hasn’t destroyed the objective. He did get 5 bonus victory points for breaking my force. Really this should have been a Major Win for David.

Result – Draw, no bonus points

Round 3 – Contest of Champions (modified)

At this point, two of the other players have left and I’m put up against Nate (I think that was his name) with a quality Dwarf list. He has some 25 Iron Guard and Khazad Guard, a few warriors, 13 Rangers with dwarf longbows, a ballista, and a Dwarven Captain. Oh, and Malbeth the Seer thrown in for pure cheese factor. 42 models total.

This Contest of Champions scenario gives a major victory if your champion kills twice what your opponent does, a minor if you kill more but less than double, and a draw for a draw. You also get bonus points for breaking your opponent. I decide to go with Gandalf as my champion, because with the archery Nate’s got, he’ll gun Eomer off his horse in no time. I figure I’m better off with S5 blasts and Glamdring.

With only two games going, we all agree to go to full 4x4 tables. Ah, breathing room! We arrange the terrain – I try to limit the lines of sight for his ballista, but there isn’t a lot I can do. I deploy first into the standard castle type formation, hiding my cavalry behind a barricade. Nate puts his rangers on a hill in his center with the ballista on a lower spur. His main force is clustered around Malbeth with a few flankers to one side.





The game starts typically, with Gandalf firing off Blinding Light and volley firing for all. I now learn that my opponent must be very unwelcome in Vegas when he hits the legal gambling age, because he is insanely lucky. Despite Blinding Light, his ballista hits 3 of 6 rounds it can fire, including one direct hit on his target. He also gets enough volley hits to put a round on Gandalf each time, and manages to get three wounds in four rounds! To make matters worse, I fail two of my 75% chance Fate rolls!!!

OK, now I’m scared. I’ve got one wound and no fate left on Gandalf, it’s time to get him some kills. I abandon the volley firing and rush my force forward. Gandalf does manage to get some sweet Sorcerous Blasts off, taking a Fate off of Malbeth and killing two dwarves. Cool, things are starting to look up.

The lines clash and I send Eomer with several Riders into one Iron Guard, then slingshot them around to his rear via a Heroic Combat. The cavalry slams into Malbeth’s bodyguard and starts butchering them. I also Immobilize Nate’s captain to prevent him from getting any kills this round and throw Gandalf, spear supported with two other friends, into a fight with a lone Iron Guard. Cool, 4 to 2 attacks with the upper hand in Fight. No problem. I roll a 2 and three 1s. Iron Guard rolls a 5 and puts an axe into Gandalf’s head. Well, that just sucks.

OK, now I need to kill off his captain without my greatest anti-hero weapon before he can get two kills. I do make myself feel a little better the next turn when Eomer turns Malbeth into a quivering pile of hamburger. Long story short, I start losing ordinary troops to his captain, manage to pile Eomer into his captain through a Heroic Combat (blowing the last point of Might I have on the table in the process), but can’t kill him. He wins priority the next turn, and scores his third kill with the captain. Time is called, and both of our forces are broken.



Result – Draw Really, this should have been a Minor Victory for Nate.

We wrap up the tournament, and the hobby champion ends up winning the tournament (his last game was against David: Treebeard vs. Goblin Captain. You make the call), while David won Best General. I won Best Sportsman, and they didn’t announce Best Painted, apparently because they didn’t want any one person to win more than one award. OK, fair enough. I’m pretty confident I had the best painted army out there, though there was a case to be made for the hobby champion’s Minas Tirith/Grey Company/Treebeard list. However, I did manage to pull a box of Warriors of Minas Tirith out of the deal! Sweet! I now don’t have to do conversions to get my ideal force, though I will certainly do so if I have enough time.



I’m not really sure what lessons to take from this tournament. The force was a compromise, with deliberately lower numbers than I’d ordinarily have taken. With no model painting considerations, I would have mounted Ecthelion and given him a lance and three Knights of Minas Tirith with shields, dropping one warrior and adding some spears for 47 models. I don’t know how much of a difference it would have made, but the slightly higher numbers and higher defense would have been nice. I also might have been able to kill more Dwarves and maybe even the Captain with a lance armed Ecthelion. Clearly the way to kill Gandalf seems to be with volley fire (that was unbelievable) – I need to avoid getting into any kind of volley fire match-up. I need to advance full bore to direct fire range unless they don’t have any archers.

Well, next step I think is going to be getting the models I’ve painted so far up to the standard of the others – shading and highlighting plus light detailing. After that, I’ll finish the “must do” models and take a look at my next step. It will probably be converting Ecthelion followed by detailing the Citadel Guard.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sense of urgency restored

Well, I found out on Thursday evening that there would be another tournament this weekend, but I put off doing almost anything about it until this morning. That's right, this morning, specifically around 5:30 am. At that time, my army looked like this:



To back up a bit, the tournament was being held at Games Workshop in Alamo, CA. Well, this is a good venue, but there are always limitations to playing in a GW store, which I am personally familiar with from having managed one and running many tournaments there. In particular, store hours is a big issue. In this case, the store was open from 12 noon to 6 pm. Also odd was the points level: 650. Upon prompting the manager, it turns out the rounds would be 1:45 long. Ooooo-kaaaaay. Grand Tournaments run 2:30 for 600 points, why would this be shorter rounds and more points? I made a quick decision that I wasn't going to paint any more models than I had planned on for the 500 point tournament, so I needed to crap some painted models. I decided on the following list:

Gandalf the Grey

Damrod

17 Warriors of Minas Tirith with shields
4 Warriors of Minas Tirith with shields and spears
4 Citadel Guard with spears
4 Rangers of Gondor
7 Rangers of Gondor with spears

Eomer with horse and shield

5 Riders of Rohan (1 with bow, 1 with throwing weapon)

This made things easier because all of my Rohan are painted. Plus I didn't want to bulk out the army heavily so I could play it faster. And I already had my hands full painting the above models.

So back to 5:30 am. I knew my ride would be arriving around 10:30, so I had a total of 5 hours to crank out as much of this army as humanly possible. Oh, and get dressed and showered. Preferably not in that order. I figured I could get a passably painted army done in that time. Time to work on the Zen of the Tank Brush!

First step was an overbrush of Boltgun Metal on all of the armor. I love Boltgun Metal. It comes out nice and dark in a drybrush, but it's bright enough when block painted to look like steel. Twenty minutes later, my warriors looked like this:



This was a nice overbrush, achieved by putting a small amount on the tank brush then dragging it in circles on the palette until it could be seen through. By the way, I have found that a tile palette is a very, very useful tool. For a while I used a plastic one, but it was hard to clean and of limited use. But here's a look at what my palette looked like after loads of overbrushing.



One shortcut that I also decided upon was to just drybrush the shields metallic instead of going white. I can touch them up later if I really want to. Note the difference between the drybrushed shield and emblem and the overbrushed armor:



Next, I overbrushed the armor of the Citadel Guard with a smaller brush. This took me about five minutes.



By the way, I did take pictures with a couple different light arrangements. You can see all the pictures if you really want to at my Photobucket account.

A couple minutes later, I had the Guards armor washed with Badab Black, and by 6:40 I had all of my models washed black, including some on the rangers for emphasis of the textures.





Next, I did the overbrush of the two extra rangers, and tried to do a tank brush overbrush on them without using the tankbrush. This didn't work so well. Instead it left big swaths of Bestial Brown over the model. Hopefully I can shade that out later. After that, I block painted Boltgun Metal onto everyone's weapons. Here was the status as of around 7:20:




At this point, I took a break to shower, get breakfast, and type up my list. This also let the washes thoroughly dry.

I was back at the grind around 8:00. I did a heavy drybrush of Chainmail over the entire warriors armor, and this came out very nicely. Unlike the overbrushes, I removed some of the paint via a paper towel this time. I liked it so much I just decided to do the exact same thing with the Citadel Guard. Here is a shot of two of them, the left after the Chainmail drybrush and the right with washed Boltgun overbrush.



I also gave the shields of all the warriors a nice drybrush of the Chainmail to highlight their trees. Here was my army around 8:30:



I next threw a light drybrush of Mithril Silver onto the symbol detail, particularly the trees and gull wings on the helmets. I also did some onto the upper shoulders and raised arms. This is as of 8:45:



At this point, the messiest parts are done. In order to really make these guys look done, I needed to get their bases looking good. A couple of things about basing: First, you need to choose a base that complements the model but doesn't distract. With a pretty light model, I prefer a darker base. With a dark model, I'll go for a lighter base. In this case, I'm doing Scorched Brown bascoat, Graveyard Earth midtone, and Bleached Bone highlight. This step was the biggest pain. I'd already done the basecoats, but I have a really hard time doing good mids and highlights. The best ones are controlled overbrushes which leaves plenty of paint up higher and the darker color beneath showing. I always either seem to smear tons of paint over the bae or dust the base so lightly it's almost invisible. I finally managed to get something decent around 9:15:



Next step, skin. I'm starting to feel the crunch now, and I'm also sitting around in my bathrobe still. I just decide to get some Tallarn Flesh on now, and if I can shade it later then great. I whip out one of my kolinsky sable brushes and apply the flesh to my models. Around 9:30 I had this:



Now I took a brief break to pack up everything I needed (other than the models I was working on) and get some clothes on.

One note about my brushes. You may have noticed from my painting station that I have two sets of brushes in it. On the right on standard GW brushes, and on the left are some brown handled brushes. These are Vallejo brand kolinsky sable brushes. A couple of years ago I wouldn't really have been good enough to use these guys. They are incredibly precise – in fact sometimes it's hard to get everything you want covered if you're not very careful about it. For this reason I use my GW brushes when I want good general coverage, since they tend to slide down into crevices and flow around the model, while I use the kolinsky brushes for all of my detail work.

I sit back down around 9:45 and get to work on the cloth of the warriors. About ten minutes later, I had:



I decided against shadowing or washing – I just didn't have enough time to do a good job. Much more important was covering appropriate areas with black paint, such as the Citadel Guards' cloaks and the warriors shields. This took some time – I used the GW Large Brush for the cloaks (coverage), and the Vallejo #1 brush for the shields (control). With minutes until 10:30, I grabbed the Iyanden Yellow from my paint rack and put it onto the trims of the Citadel Guards. At almost 10:30 exactly, I had this:



I packed up and went to the tournament. I brought along some washes and my static grass in order to get some more work done with the models. Once we got there, I did manage to get static grass onto all of the models, and here they are, along with their Rohan buddies, on the first table:



Whew! From black models to gaming quality in 5 hours. I was quite pleased with myself. Over the next few days, I'll improve them, adding shading and highlights, plus making the details better. I'll write a report on the tournament itself in a little while.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Well, there goes that sense of urgency

I got an email last night that said the Cotati tournament was cancelled due to the organizer's illness. It's only pnumonia, come on!

Just kidding. Really.

So I played Mass Effect instead. Fun, but no work on minis. I need to reprioritze, which means more grading and less fun. I'll get something done this weekend.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Step Two - done



All right, I am still on track for Saturday. I got the warriors and guards primed, then found I had to touch up the primer job on the rangers. Sad reality when dealing with the Zen of the Tank Brush is that you HAVE to have a smooth coat of black primer. The main point is to use the primer as shadows, and if your shadows are grey or silver the effect just isn't quite the same. So after touching up the primer coats I played 45 minutes of Mass Effect. Mmmm, video RPGs... so addicting.

When my timer went off I shut the game down and brought in the primed models. I touched up their primer coats as well, then set to work on the rangers. I tank brushed them, then painted the bases of the warriors while my wife and I watched a DVD. Finally I block painted the rangers' cloaks with Orkhide Shade, and now I'm uploading.

Interesting thing - it took me almost as long to paint the cloaks as it did the rest of the rangers. That's the beauty of the Zen of the Tank Brush, and since Rangers of Gondor were the first models I learned the tank brush technique on, I feel it is appropriate to do a bit of a step by step comparison with them.

The first stage you need to have a bit of a wet brush. I put a drop of Scorched Brown paint on my tile palette and smeared a bit around with the tank brush until it was smearing and I could see the tile through it. I then dragged the brush over the models, which were left with a solid basecoat of paint while leaving the low areas shaded black. Here is the result. This step took me about 15 minutes, or just over two minutes per model. If I wasn't as fussy, I could have done it in half the time.



After that, I did a heavy drybrush/light overbrush using Beastial Brown. There was still quite a bit on there, but as you can see from the pictures the effect ended up being pretty subtle. This step took me almost exactly 5 minutes for all of them - I was making ravioli in the kitchen and the timer went off just as I finished this step.



So in about 20 minutes you've got 7 models that just needs a little detail and you can have very playable figures! This is an awesome technique for speed painting. My next step is to do a little line highlighting with the Beastial Brown to accentuate portions of the model plus the detail work (and of course the highlighting of the cloaks). I may also play around with brown washes in order to blend any highlighting I do in better, but I'll wait until after Saturday to do that.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Step One - done



Well, I'm on track - all of the models are built, cleaned, and sanded. Rangers are base painted, so tomorrow I'm going to take step 2!

A small errand

Well, I had almost forgotten about another tournament I'd wanted to go to, an event being put on by the Powers of the North in Cotati, CA. A friend of mine is running it, and my parents live about a half hour from there, so I figured it would be a good trip. Well, it's next weekend, and I really, REALLY want to have a fully painted army for it.

Fortunately for me, this is only a 500 point tournament. So less to paint, right? Well, kind of. The tournament gives a bonus to people with fully painted armies, but there won't be the tough standards one would expect at a GT. So that will be easier. However, I had a much bigger problem.

For the army to be Legions legal, I have to have both a hero from every list and no more than 1/3 of the warriors armed with bows in the army. Well, six of my painted models are rangers, with bows. So I can't reduce the numbers in my army too much or I start losing them. Plus dropping lots of numbers is anathema to me. The easiest way to go would be to just drop the King of Men and lead it with Gandalf. Unfortunately, Gandalf isn't the any of the Minas Tirith lists. And there is NO way I'm dropping Mithrandir. Besides, then I'd have even MORE to paint.

So the solution I came up with was this: Drop the King of Men, then use the Rangers of Ithilien list, from which I can take Damrod, the 20 point hero of goodness. Yep, he only has 1 wound and 1 of M/W/F, but he counts as a hero, and he even has a bow! So here is the list I developed.

Gandalf

Damrod

6 Rangers
6 Rangers with spears
17 Warriors of Minas Tirith (I got three more in the mail last week)
4 Warriors of Minas Tirith with spears (hey, they're already painted, so why not?)
4 Citadel Guard

Total: 500 points
Models: 39
Might: 4



So that's my list. This does mean that I have some really, REALLY quick painting to do, as seen below.


22 models to paint, 4 of which need to be built, and 11 of which need to be checked for mold lines again. I was going to prime the warriors last week when I primed the rangers, but unfortunately I found fat mold lines on almost all of them. I thought I'd gotten all of them... Grrr. So it's time for a real quick plan.

Tonight: Remove mold lines, build, sand, and possibly put the base coat of brown on the primed bases.
Tomorrow: Prime the models that haven't been done already, then do basecoats for the rangers (including Damrod). After primed models have dried, basecoat of their bases.
Tuesday: Overbrush of warriors and guards then wash. While wash dries, do first layer of highlights for rangers.
Wednesday: Drybrush highlight of warriors and guards, followed by basecoat of cloth.
Thursday: Shadow warriors' and guards cloth, then detail rangers. Drybrush bases and flock the rangers.
Friday: Detail warriors and guards, then flock their bases.
Saturday: Go forth and kick butt!

Alas, I did something very foolish last weekend. I went to get a book that we'd ordered, and while walking through the mall to pick it up, I passed a video game store. I ended up picking up an RPG for the Xbox 360, Mass Effect. That's one of the reasons I haven't gotten more painting done, I've been playing silly video games. It definitely takes time away from my silly miniature games! I'll have to try not to play this next week, and hopefully actually get some tests corrected for my classes.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rumors seem to prove untrue

Well, it appears the fear mongering, along with GW's silence, have created an impression that is not quite true. According to the GW Community blog:

Planning for the 2009 GW Touranment Circuit is wrapping up (yes there are still some events we’re looking to add), Games Day planning is wrapping up (new dates, new information a-plenty), and our own Grand Tournament planning begins (whew!). [emphasis added]

So a lesson for community relations - be as open as possible to prevent undue speculation. Sadly, GW's record on cooperation with its community hasn't been good, and its customers tend to see the worst in things as a result. They've made progress from their past, but it takes a long time to repair damage.

While on the subject, I just want to add a little personal note: my favorite part of this hobby is probably the community. I love running tournaments, I love meeting new players and experienced players, and there really isn't anything quite like being a part of a group of people who all enjoy the same geeky stuff that I do. It was without question my favorite part of working for GW, and I did relish the leadership position I held in that community. My level of visibility has dropped since I left GW, but I stilll love being a part of the hobby community.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Let's call it a draw

The Errand had another battle against the mighty forces of the Goblins of Wyn. This time we decided to try out one of the other scenarios, specifically Storm the Camp. I’ve developed some prototype rules for breaking ties to avoid the inevitable unhappiness with the victory point system. In this case, the tie breaker was if the game ended without a camp being captured then whoever had more models in the other’s camp won a minor victory.

Wyn’s force was exactly the same as last time, which was not a fun prospect – where I had the advantage in Contest of Champions, Wyn had a major advantage in Storm the Camp with 14 models on me, including a flyer. The table was also really full, as shown in the below picture. This reduced the effectiveness of my archery. I had swapped out one of my warriors with shield and spear for another Citadel Guard with spear.



I set up first, planning on using Ecthelion and a small contingent to block my right flank while sending Gandalf up to break through with my main contingent on the left. I knew I had to act quickly before I was overwhelmed. Wyn then set his force up with the drum in the middle, a shaman on each flank, with Durburz on my left and his captain on my right.


Rather than engaging in the typical archery duel, we both ended up rushing at each other. I think he realized that he needed his archers up front more than he needed to volley fire at me. We ended up funneling around the hill in the center – I delayed with Ecthelion’s force while rushing forward with Gandalf as planned. I didn’t want a gaping hole in my lines, so I tried to get a few guys up on the hill, but proceeded to roll 1s for almost all of them. Typically, Gandalf got Blinding Light and Terrifying Aura going, and Wyn started up Fury, though one of his shamans blew all of his Will to do it. As the forces closed, I threw a perfectly lined up Sorcerous Blast into a goblin warrior – with a good roll he would have slammed into Durburz, a shaman, and three other goblins! I rolled a 1 for distance. Sigh.


I smashed into Wyn’s right flank very early, turn four I think. Gandalf blasted a goblin into six other goblins, then jumped onto a lone goblin with a warrior. I then tied up the rest of his flank and started sending people around to try to turn it. I launched a Heroic Combat to get Gandalf past most of the goblins. Durburz and a bunch of Wyn’s goblins also came barreling into my line, but I managed to pile a Citadel Guard in with the Warrior on the Goblin King and supported them both with spears. The fight happened, we tied with 6s, and I won the roll off for tied Fight values (good thing I got in the Citadel Guard!). I then piled three wounds onto Durburz, which he saved on with Fury, but then rolled snake eyes for his Fate! All of his Might went into keeping the bugger alive. In the mean time, I was rolling 6s like a madman and the F2 goblins were getting the worst of it. I was also winning all of the priority rolls, and Wyn couldn’t compete with Durburz having blown all of his Might to survive.


On the other side of the table, things weren’t developing quickly. Wyn took cover behind some ruins and threw a couple of arrows my way to little effect. He then threw his captain and some troops into my line, but they just bounced off.


I then threw Gandalf into another Heroic Combat to get him and another warrior behind the goblin lines, and with priority I isolated Durburz and tied up Wyn’s goblins. Durburz fell to the spears of the Citadel Guard, and I blasted a gaping hole in the goblin lines with another insane round of 6s. Things were looking a little grim for Wyn.


He did manage to tie up my troops on the hill and send some goblins off on a dash for freedom.


Time was running out, and I won priority yet again. I bottled up the goblin breakout and sent a contingent running for their camp with Gandalf in the lead. Wyn started pulling troops back in an attempt to make it to the camp in the same turn as mine. Ecthelion and his troops held firm against the goblins pushing against their line as the rangers supporting them fell back to secure the camp and the Citadel Guard stepped forward in support. Another bloody round of combat found the Errand down four models to Wyn’s sixteen.


We checked the time and found we had only a couple of minutes left, not nearly enough for the two turns we’d need to finish the game properly. We both felt that I was on my way to a victory, but according to the agreed upon tiebreaker, we had a tie, since neither of us was in the other’s camp. This is one problem in that a well-constructed force can play for a draw simply through delay if they were so inclined, but I guess that’s a problem you’ll face with almost any scenario.

Again, I’m not sure what I could or should have done differently, but we both agreed that Wyn shouldn’t have thrown as much force against Gandalf’s contingent as he did. Rather than trying to kill them, he should have used shields to stop my movement while he rushed through the light defense in the center or spread my right flank so thin I couldn’t stop something from oozing through. By allowing such a large chunk of his force to be bottled up between the hill and the forest, he surrendered his numeric advantage, which left my superior Fight and Defense dictating the battle. Of course, I did roll like a madman for tons of fights, and winning Priority the last four turns made Wyn’s job nearly impossible. All in all, a very fun game which made us both think hard, and it wasn’t a blowout by any stretch of the imagination.

One kind of funny thing – while I know many people wouldn’t play with unpainted models, I’m more interested in getting some games in than having a fully painted army. But with that, I was working on the force during the game! I’d been working on shadowing the warriors’ cloth before the game. Once my first warrior died, I started shadowing, swapping out the painted warrior for one I still needed to do. I went through my entire force this way, so now all I need to do for the warriors is shade their cloth and detail them.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Metallics and photography

OK, I did a little bit of this yesterday, but I managed to finish the armor on my warriors today despite being groggy and having family obligations. I actually started this yesterday, but had to wait until the wash dried. I ended up finishing Gandalf while I waited.

By the way, all of these pictures in the blog can be clicked to call up a full size photo.

This first shot is of the warriors after washing them with the GW black wash. It gives the armor a nice used look while creating shadows in the detail. I've included the test models on either side as comparison.



This is a different group of the same batch with a tankdrush applied drybrush of Chainmail. This removed the dingy tone from the armor without overwhelming the wear and shadowing.



This is the first group of five (I realized I'd photographed the wrong group in time to fix the mistake here) with a highlight of Mithril Silver applied lightly to the detail and the high points.



It's tough to see a heck of a lot of difference in the photos, but in real life the difference is dramatic. A lot of people seem to think that metallics just highlight themselves, but this really isn't the case. I definitely have found that using washes to bring out the shadows and drybrushing brings the detail of the model out really well and adds a lot of depth. Having seen far, far too many of these models with nothing but a quick block paint of Mithril Silver, I can personally attest that the extra work done here was worth it.

I think one of the reasons the difference doesn't come out too well in the photos is that I'm just using my quick and dirty photo setup. It's essentially the two lights that I use for painting just pointed directly at the models from about a 45 degree angle in front of and above. This gives a sharp reflection off of the metallic paint which the more diffuse light we normally see doesn't have. I also just have the camera set to Auto in Macro mode with the flash turned off. If I really took the time to reflect the light and set the shutter speed they would come out a lot better. Ah, well, I just don't care that much right now. I'll probably try to do a better setup for my pictures of the finished army.

I also use daylight spectrum bulbs in order to see my colors in the most accurate light possible, though I wonder sometimes if this is really necessary considering that paint judging is rarely done in such light. I remember the light in Vegas was so bad we had to ask the staff to turn the lights up in order to see the detail on the models. I was wishing I'd brought my little camera and tripod to Vegas - there were some gorgeous armies there.

Speaking of Vegas - I was shocked to realize that apparently GW decided running GTs was too much of a hassle, including Vegas! I haven't heard any official word on this, but the circuit that has been published is all Indy tournaments. It's great in my mind that they're encouraging high quality events, but with no official event, even in Baltimore, it kind of leaves me feeling left out. Vegas in particular was a huge hit with a waiting list for almost all the systems.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Gandalf is done

Here he is, my early scale Gandalf in all of his glory. Oh, I do need to finish his base now that I think about it.





This is a try to get a shot of his face - a side effect of having such a cool hat is that you can hardly see the model's face and it's almost impossible to take a picture of it. This was the best shot I could get.



I had most of the model done already and just had to get the flesh done. I did the layered method on this one. I put on Dark Flesh, then Tanned Flesh, next Dwarf Flesh, and finally a light highlight of 50/50 Dwarf and Elf Flesh. One thing that I've found is that hands in particular look really flat without some flat painting to give it a little extra pop. On the back of your hand you can see the bones creating a little ridge. Well, that's pretty much invisible in real life, but on a mini a light highlight there really brings the hand to life.

I also tried a blue wash on Glamdring, and I'm not sure how it turned out. I may give another highlight of Mithril Silver over the edges to return the metallic edge to it.

Another win with the Errand

I took another victory with Mithrandir's Errand, this time against a goblin horde force commanded by Wyn Robertson. For those who don't know him, Wyn is an extremely canny player who regularly wins local tournaments and fought me for the best overall at GT Vegas 2008. We played an unfavorable scenario (for him) this time, which was Contest of Champions.

I used the same Errand as last time. I don't remember the exact composition of Wyn's force, but at 600 points it had 59 models including Durburz, a Goblin Drum, a Bat Swarm, a captain with shield, two shamans, and 6 prowlers. I was outnumbered by 14 models, or over 30%. Yow. Gandalf was my champion and Durburz was his.

The terrain was pretty normal with lots of hills, a ruin, and one river blocking a quarter of the table. However, the center of the table was clear as required by the layout of the scenario.

The game started off with the predictable volley fire from the goblins, but I eschewed volleying in order to get closer. Gandalf turned on his Blinding Light and Terrifying Aura, while both shamans got Fury going. Only one of my warriors fell to the goblin archery. As I got to within 24 inches of Wyn's goblins, he kept most of his gribblies behind terrain, but I started to plink off one every so often, though I was disgusted at how my vaunted Rangers of Gondor were statistically matching goblins for archery. However, as more and more of his goblins became visible and the forces closed, I jumped Gandalf out and started throwing Sorcerous Blasts at his goblins.

At one point, I saw a terrific opportunity to blast Durburz back into a shaman and four other goblins, and ran him up to hop up a 1" climb to blast. I roll a 1. Grrr. I burn a Might, after all, I've got 3. I then rolled three dice of Will (burning two from my store), and managed to only roll a 4. At this point, I'm pot-stuck as my poker playing friends would say, and I threw in a second point of might to make it happen. Wyn rolls one die to resist and throws a 6. Well crap. Just don't blast heroes is the lesson here.

An hour and a half of maneuvering around each other finally saw Gandalf blast a goblin out of existence which put Wyn behind the 8-ball. The goblins were getting the short end of the stick in the archery game with about seven of them dead to still only one of mine. Wyn started to move in closer, and I pulled together a shieldwall across the center with a corner near the hill that Gandalf had to use Might to climb. Gandalf headed away from Durburz towards my left flank while Ecthelion went to deal with the goblin king.

Wyn finally managed to hit my line with about 45 minutes left. Gandalf jumped in and blasted some goblins who were stuck behind the lines then charged a lone goblin. Glamdring cleaved it, bringing Gandalf's tally to three, while Durburz still hadn't hit the line. Along the line the goblins threw themselves onto the shieldwall only to be repulsed with serious losses.

Durburz finally hits my line, but it's looking tough. Wyn very cannily isolates Ecthelion from Durburz, but I manage to peel off all but one enemy while putting spear support on both of the warriors Durburz charged. Alas, I forget to call my Heroic Combat until later. Before that, Gandalf butchers another goblin (two wounds, though he managed to roll 6-5 for Fury: whew!) and Wyn's line is collapsing and I'm turning his right flank. We play through until we get close to Ecthelion and Durburz, and I ask for a mulligan Heroic Move. Wyn gives it to me and while I win the combat I fail to kill the gobbo. Oh, well. Durburz then butchers the two warriors opposing him, we check the time, and have one minute of play left. Wyn asks for a mulligan Heroic Move for Durburz and just for sport we do it. He manages to kill another warrior, but that still leaves the tally at 4-3 in favor of Gandalf.

This scenario played Wyn's instincts against him. Wyn is a very deliberate player who knows how to place his specific models. He also regularly plays Wood Elves, whose archery is vicious. He's used to hanging back and drawing his opponents to him through withering bowfire, and the goblin archery was more annoying than deadly. My rangers and Gandalf on the other hand were seriously scary and once I'd killed a goblin with a blast the pressure was really on Wyn to even the score. Here his deliberation helped me as I whittled down his forces at range.

In this case, he should have rushed his entire force (minus the drum, of course) straight at mine. He'd suffer some minor pricks from my archery, but he needed to get Durburz into the thick of it, and his greater numbers would have put me into a seriously tight place. On the other hand I pretty much played it how I should have, forcing him to come to me and scoring kills at range with Gandalf.

I'm looking forward to playing Wyn some more in the next few months, and I think we'll deliberately choose some different scenarios.