Monday, July 20, 2009

Pulled a win in Contest of Champions

I played a warmup game with Wyn today - the Errand vs. a Dwarven horde list with Balin (no axe), a Dwarf Captain with shield, and 46 other dwarves, including a few Iron Guard and a scattering of Khazad Guard. The scenario was Contest of Champions, Gandalf vs. Balin. The board was the old pre-molded Fellowship of the Ring demo board that GW gave to stores carrying the very first game - no cover, but a few rocky patches.

Things started rough - I killed two dwarves with archery, but Wyn in turn gunned down Ecthelion on TURN 1!!! Remember, always put heroes a couple ranks back, always put heroes a couple ranks back... I caught up quickly once Gandalf was within Blast range, racking up two kills with the wizard in short order. As the lines closed, I also managed to kill a couple more dwarves with archery, picking on the D6 archers. I found the numbers starting to equal out, and more of my troops were in the fight than his due to spear support. The turn the lines hit, I decided to use Gandalf to Immobilize Balin - I threw 1 die and got lucky with a 6! Wyn chose not to resist it and Balin took a little break.

The game fell into the lines crashing into each other, with both sides suffering occasional casualties, but nothing amazing. Balin shook off the Immobilize and won a Heroic Fight to kill off one of my Rangers and Gandalf with lots of support was shoved back by a shielding dwarf. We were running out of time, so we decided to just skip everyone else and fight out the champions' combats. Wyn played for the win, with Balin calling a heroic combat with his last point of might against two spear supported rangers and Gandalf blowing his last point of might to bump the die roll of a Blast up to a wound, thus scoring his third kill. Alas, Balin had an attack of the rubber axe syndrome, getting defeated by the rangers, and Galdalf failed to slice up his opponent, so the game ended 3-1 in Gandalf's favor.

Main lesson here: Never, EVER put your hero in the front rank of an advance! Being able to be picked out by bowfire SUCKS. Also: Gandalf is the bomb. Boom.

Highlights on Ecthelion

I finished highlighting Ecthelion, taking a different tack from what I'd done with the Warriors. With the Warriors, I had done some pretty subtle stuff, then washed them, and found that I couldn't actually see the results as much different from a single basecoat and a wash. Too much work for not enough return.

So here was Ecthelion before the new work. I had done a similar technique to the Warriors with the cloak, but you can see the rushed single highlight on the black tabard. This picture was taken using my daylight bulbs.

The first thing I did was go over the top of the cloak's ridges with a straight Blood Red. The cloak was built up from several layers of thinned down Scab Red and Red Gore, then I washed it with a light black wash. The Blood Red highlight really popped out the cloak. The pictures below, taken with my halogen lights, don't show this really well - it has kind of pixelized the paint job.

Next I laid two stark highlights onto the tabard. The first highlight I think was Adeptus Battlegrey, so the second and third highlights were Codex Grey and Fortress Grey respectively. You can see this results in a very stark highlight, almost making the black look striped.

While this did make the model pop, it was TOO over the top to fit in with the rest of my force. So I decided to give the black a heavy wash of Badab Black. When I first put it on, I didn't really see any difference. But when I came back and looked at it this morning, it had dried and smoothed out the stark highlight very nicely. So I think I'm going to stick with this method for the Guards of the Fountain Court's cloaks as well.

The main thing that this experience is showing me is how much I already miss my daylight bulbs. I need to figure out some way to jury rig my lights for the dining room table area I have to use now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

All of the warriors cloth highlighted

So there is the cloth of all the warriors highlighted with one more level. This layer really makes the models pop, and brings the number of layers to five. This one is less subtle than the others, but it just works better. Now I can make out fingers, folds in the cloth, and the fact that there IS cloth in some less obvious places.

The lighting is a little different - earlier I had daylight bulbs in two task lamps which attached to my painting table with C-clamps, but now that room is the nursery and the table has been folded up and stored. So now I'm at the kitchen table and back to my halogen desk lamps. They have a different color light, so that's why the pics look different.

Next up: highlighting the cloth of Ecthelion, then I think I'll do the Guards of the Fountain Court. If I've got enough time after doing them, I'll base and prime five more rangers to replace the metals.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bright is beautiful

I keep coming back to the basics that I learned back in the day, and they hold up over time. In this case, don't be afraid of big, bold highlights.

With this army, I really wanted a realistic, subtle look. I wanted the cloth to clearly be black, but highlight it with a tint of blue to match Gandalf. Plus all of that grey and silver would be really boring.

Sadly, I went too subtle, and you couldn't see the highlights outside of highly exposed web photos. So I went back and put a bold highlight that finally accomplished what I wanted.

On the right is a model that I haven't touched since the Gathering. This was one of the ones with the most obvious, bright highlights. Yeah, I'm not sure that either of those terms apply there. The middle one is a model that I've black lined, which did help a little, but didn't make up for the dark highlights. The left is one I just finished highlighting the cloth with Shadow Grey. MUCH better. Don't let the chunkiness of the highlights fool you - when they aren't in the bright light and up close, those highlights really make the model work.

This back picture is a much clearer one of how well the highlights work. Notice the blacklining I put in place around the hair, armor plates, and between the armor and cloth. Combined with the bright highlights, that really works.

And here are all of the warriors of this pose highlighted with the new cloth highlights and blacklining. I currently have the lights off in my work area and am looking at the models with ambient light, and the difference is striking. The unhighlighted models are flat and dark, while the highlighted models, while still kind of dark, are much more dynamic.

Oh, and I figured out why my new camera wasn't taking bright pictures. Since I don't have a manual shutter speed setting, it was taking an overall view of how much light was coming in. With the background being white, that told the camera it needed to have a much faster shutter speed! Now I feel dumb.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Let's get cracking - Update paint plan

Time is started to get tight, and I need to get my plan on paper if I'm ever going to get this done. Ur, well, on screen, blog, disk, whatever. I need to write it down.

The two weakest areas are highlighting and details. The basics on all of the models are strong, but that isn't going to get me into the top 5 painters. The weakest models are the rangers, and the slight mix of the two styles isn't helping anything. So here is my general plan:

- Shadow and black line models
- Add two layers of highlights, ending with a 50/50 mix of Snot Green/Dark Angel Green in the green areas, still need to figure out colors in the browns
- Highlight skin, including fingers

- Black line details
- Highlight details (belts, hair, etc)
- Add top cloth highlight in Shadow Grey - if not light enough, add another in 50/50 Shadow/Space Wolf Grey
- Try to highlight obvious parts of face (chin, cheeks)

Guards of the Fountain Court
- Add two levels of highlight to cloth, ending in Fortress Grey, then wash with black
- Highlight details
- Add designs to tabard
- Add trim and design to cloak
- Add gold trim to helmet

- Add two levels of highlight to cloak, ending in Blood Red
- Add two levels of highlight to cloth, ending in Fortress Grey, then wash with black
- Highlight face
- Paint then highlight details like scabbard, belt, horn, helmet

If I get this stuff done before the event, I'll paint up five new plastic rangers to replace the metal ones with the slightly different painting style. I'll see how far I get on the warriors tomorrow - I'd like to have all of this done by next Wednesday.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Updating the Errand

I recently got a new digital camera (primarily to take pictures of the baby with!), but I decided to see how it works for photographing minis. Not bad, but I do kind of miss the manual settings I could use on my old one. Of course, I don't miss the old camera's far left hand tripod hole (ALWAYS drooping on the tripod!), and I really like the macro settings on the new one - The pics of Gandalf and Ecthelion were taken from a couple inches away, something I couldn't do with the old camera.

Without the manual shutter settings, it does mean it's harder to make out contrasts and the like. However, I am also noticing that the pics look more like the models do in real life and on the table, where my earlier pics were so bright and clear that they sometimes looked better painted than they really were. So for my purposes today, the new camera works better. Also remember that each picture can be clicked on for a larger view.

So this is the overall army. My general painting style tends to be subtle, and on the whole I think this looks pretty good on the table. The earthier tones holds it all together, and there is a lot of black and brown. The individual groups definitely tie together - green for the rangers, a blue/grey for the warriors, white for the Guards, and red for Ecthelion.

Where this starts to fall apart is in the details. OK, that and I didn't put enough time into painting last time. I'm afraid I'm going to need to step the highlighting up - believe it or not that is three layers and a wash on the cloth, but the low steps in color make it all wash together, resulting in a less highlighted effect. I also need to highlight the details like the belts, hair, and possibly even the armor and hair. Some blacklining of details wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

Back shot of the warriors - the cloth is a little clearer, but you can see the unhighlighted belts and hair.

Here are the rangers. There's a little inconsistency here - I painted the metal rangers on the left some four years ago while working for GW. I don't remember the exact colors, and the foundations weren't available yet. But you can see there is better highlighting, the skin is better, and there is a broader range of colors within the palette. The browns all wash together on the newer models instead of having a more noticable line. I was really, really rushed on these guys.

It's a little more obvious how rushed I was on the back. The old models have nice highlighting on the cloaks, while the new ones were just block painted and washed. I also didn't use any highlights on the quivers.

These guys look pretty sharp from the front. That white was a pain, but the blacklining works nicely. I think I'm going to use a Micron pen to add a design on the tabard edge, and possibly put a decorative yellow and black edge on the cloak as well. Some gold details on the helmets might also work nicely.

The cloaks are another story. Single grey highlights that look slapped on. I'm not sure if I should go down from these highlights, adding a midpoint between them and the shadows, or go even higher.

Without question, Gandalf is the best model in the army. I put a lot of time and care into painting him, particularly his hands and folds of the robe. I even highlighted the belt and swordblade.

I do have a little chip on the end of the hat, but I'm a bit afraid of fixing it and causing more damage by not getting the same effect as before.

In contrast to Gandalf, Ecthelion screams "rush job". While I put some time into the cloak, it still comes off too subtle and dark. The rest of him is single, sloppy highlights, drybrushing, unpainted details, and general blah. I've got a lot of work to do here.

So I'm mostly wondering how much I should play up the highlights - I've always gone more subtle with my LOTR models, but I am starting to think I need to really spice it up with brighter highlights. Any thoughts? Tim K, I'd particularly appreciate your insights on this, since you scored this army at the Gathering.

Thanks a ton to everyone who has bothered to read this!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First projects planned

I managed to pare down what I really, really wanted to get done over the next year. I'm having a very hard time making massive cuts in what I have, but I was at least able to decide what I want to work on the most.

First up will be getting the Errand up to a competitive GT standard. I'm budgeting the rest of July (pretty much up until the dice start rolling at the Necro) for this one. Expect pics and such soon for this.

Second, I'm going to get started on my army for next year, which I think will be back to the Evil side for me. In totaling up my models, I have more Mordor models than anything else (possible exception of Empire for Fantasy), yet I don't have a painted army for it. So that is going to change. I'll run a Barad-Dur list with lots and lots of Orcs. More on that later.

I'll probably finish my Trafalgar minis next - I've got one more to build, then a total of five to paint.

After that, I'm going to get some Legends of the Old West done! I tried to start a gaming group up around this system right after I left GW, but some people moved, school started, and I never got terrain built. I'm going to start simple - get my Lawmen finished, then do some Outlaws and Hired Guns. Total models - 22. It will be nice to have something smaller to work on.

Following LotOW, I am going to get really historical. Many, many years ago, I decided to get some Revolutionary War models. This was what actually started me into model painting. Alas, these lovely 15mm models have been sitting in a box since I discovered 40K back in December of 2001. I've got enough models there to do the Battle of Cowpens, and its time they all got some paint on them.

Then it will be back to Lord of the Rings, but in a smaller scale - Battle of Five Armies! I was hired at GW back when Bo5A was released, and I got the special deal of the boxed set plus all of the expansion models for something like $80. It's a beautiful set, and I'd love to get some games in with it.

Somewhere within all of that, I'd like to get some more terrain built and painted, plus paint up Gandalf the White (just to torment people), and Saruman the White. I'll need to plan out how I'm going to do all of this time wise, but I figure that will keep me busy when the baby isn't doing so.

Deciding what to get rid of was tough. I managed to come up with over 200 models to sell (out of 2650 counted so far), including my entire planned Dwarf army for Fantasy. I'll be putting it up on eBay, and probably do some "mystery bag" type stuff for $1 or so. I can't imagine what I'll have to ditch next - it might be my Flames of War stuff, which I've played about three times.

Sigh. Next up is getting my Errand out and photographing it so I can get some feedback on what to improve.