Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tablescapes Display Board Paint Test and Tutorial

Secret Weapon Miniatures' Tablescapes finally arrived and before batch painting all the display board tiles I thought I would paint a test tile first. Normally most of my terrain painting and weathering is limited to the bases so I wanted to test whether the jump to a 12"x12" format worked well, or if there was a need to do something different to make it tick. I was especially worried about avoiding the monotony of colours and textures. A separate worry was the amount of time I would need to dedicate to each tile, as there are 35 more to paint and I am definetely not the faster of painters.

The tile is from the Forgotten City theme, which essentially are broken tiles and boulders with some soil. I wanted the floor to be grey, the soilto be yellow-ish and link both areas with browns; essentially take advantage of those many cracks to fill them with dirt.

I also added a few flowers and bushes here and there to help break the monotony. Keep in mind this tile is part of  a display board and usually will be covered in miniatures - and perhaps a small terrain element - so there will be a lot less open space than in the pictures.

Fire Dragons about to be in a world o'hurt


Let me preface  by saying that an airbrush and weathering pigments are required to achieve a similar look to the pictures. It's not to say you need those to paint the tiles - in fact you can just use a large brush like in GW's tutorial - but they will make your like easier and make the tiles look better.

With that out of the way, I started priming the tile in grey. The primer color is an important decision as it will have a great influence on the look of the finished tile. In this case grey is the most neutral color, as it is neither too dark or clear, and it is similar to the color most of the tile will be covered with. Once the primer was dry, I airbrused dark grey in the spaces between tales, and also around the outline of the soil parts. The purpose is dual: darken the cracks and spaces that are naturally dark, and also provide some color graduation once the final colors are applied. Indeed, the grey will look clearer in the center of the tiles and darker around the edges where the dark grey is; this is why I deliberately allowed some dark grey outside of the cracks.

Next step is applying the base colors, grey and dust yellow. The important thing to keep in mind is to not spray the color all over the place, but paint each tile individually. By doing this we will achieve a better color graduation in each tile (as you are spraying at center) and also keep the edges more or less dark.

Adding more depth to the tile

For the grey tiles, I painted the edges with a lighter grey. I used an old Citadel large dry brush, which is flat and  about 1.5cm wide. I did not really drybrush anything, just applied gently a bit of paint through the edges. 

For the soil part, I applied some darker brown on the recesses and depressions of the areas; this will help define the volumes as the soil is indeed not sculpted flat, but has some nice variation. 

In the space between tiles and along all the many cracks this tile has, I applied a dark brown wash. Again, this is a gently application of color with a brush directy on the cracks/lines and not covering the tile in it. I used Mig Productions' Dark Wash, which is a very interesting product that behaves differently from Citadel's washes. This particular wash has a very strong capillary motion, meaning if you apply a little bit tin the intersection of 4 tiles (i.e. in the cross in between), the wash will flow its way through the four directions as a result of this motion. The idea is therefore to make small applications in selected areas, then use a fine brush to extend the wash if needed.

One small downside of this type of washes is that they are slow to dry, so take it easy and let it rest :)

Once the wash was completely dry -don't try anything whislt is still wet or it will ruin your work - I painted again the areas in which the wash had overspilled.

Pigments and bushes

Now it's time to dust out your pigments (you got it?) and again make gentle, controlled applications. In this case I applied a brown/red dust color in the cracks and between the tiles, and also in some interesting spots in the soil parts. It is difficult to explain with words but suffice to say there are interesting textures in these tiles where it becomes apparent a pigment might look interesting. Just give it a try and you'll see what I  mean :)

I also added some green pigment around the raised tiles, simulating the effect of water/humidity.

How were the pigments applied? for the most part I used an old brush and picked up very small amounts of pigment every time. The pigment was deposited in a crack or depression, and was extended with the brush or even with the thumb.
Note the subtle grey around the tiles and small color variations in the tiles that break the monotony
Once I was happy with the result I applied a coat of satin varnish. Because most of the pigments were in the cracks that was OK but in other situations you might need to apply a pigment fixer or the spray will take a away the pigments.

Now for the final touch - adding some flowers and bushes. I used Army Painter's Meadow Flowers, which you can see in the picture below. For about 4€ you get this strip with white and yellow flowers. Simply use the tweezers to get a small amount and glue it in place.

I also added a few bushes from Citadel's Mordheim bushes set.

Colors and pigments used

Please just take this as a reference of the colors that I used. You can make your own selection and most probably use whatever you already have.

  • Primer: Vallejo Surface Primer Grey.
  • Tiles: Vallejo Model Air Dark Sea Grey, Medium Grey and Citadel Administratum Grey.
  • Soil: Vallejo Model Air Brown and Burnt Umber.
  • Wash: Mig Productions Dark Wash.
  • Pigments: Secret Weapon Miniatures Terracota Earth, Dark Earth and Sewage Muck.
  • Vallejo Satin Varnish.
  • Citadel Mordheim bushes and Army Painter Meadow Flowers.
  • Plus an undetermined number of Moritz 25cl beers.

Hope you liked the tutorial and feel free to post any questions or comments!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tablescapes Display Board unboxing

The much anticipated Tablescapes kickstarter finally arrived home and boy, the wait was well worth it! I ordered a full set of Urban tiles, with a mix of clean and damaged streets, and a smaller display board with a temple ruins theme. Today I'm going to show the unboxing of the display board.

The concept

The Tablescapes system was funded more than a year and half ago, and it's been fighting his way through a myriad of technical and logistical problems. The idea is to make a modular game system designed around 12"x 12" tiles that can be combined in any way, so you could refresh your gaming table every night if you wanted to. I'm personally considering to assemble them fixed in a board but we'll see. A side product of this project are the display boards, which are essentially 4 12"x 12" tiles plus a frame.


The product comes neatly packaged in a 4C Gift Box with a handle, so not only you can keep it stored there, but you can also take it with you comfortably to the game venue.

The 4 tiles of this board, which can be combined in any position

Inside the box we found 2 bags, one with the tiles and the other with the frame parts. Each tile has been individually sealed within a plastic bag, then put all together inside another plastic bag! While I normally despise excessive packaging, I think this product warrants it as you will want to store the tiles in the plastic bags for transportation.
Frame parts in the left, four gorgeous tiles in the right

Each tile is neatly packaged

The frame has 8 parts, plus the neat detail of  a plaque for the army name.

The assembly is easy, using some compression clips on the edges of the tiles. Once it's assembled, the whole thing is pretty sturdy and can be moved around safely.
Notice the rings at the bottom make the tile very solid

What about the detail?

The level of detail is surprisingly good for a plastic, CAD model. There are different heights, the stones are full of small cracks and there is more than enough variety to make it look interesting. To be clear, it is not comparable to the level of detail you would get from a manually crafted terrain, and for instance Secret Weapon Miniatures' bases are much more detailed. Is this disappointing? I think not; a full table with that level of detail would have been much more costly to produce, and I very much prefer a balanced level of quality and cost. Don't get me wrong: the tiles look great, and will look much better once fully painted and weathered.

Details are clear and convincing

At this point I couldn't help myself to just put an army on top, so I unpacked part of my Ulthwé Eldar army whose bases have a temple theme. I think it looks great!
Looks like they like it there

So what next?

I'll start painting a single tile of this set first to test the colors. An airbrush and weathering powders are absolute must have to paint these. I'm also tempted to add a few details of my own - the ubiquotous skull here and there, a few large boulders, some helmets perhaps. I'll be posting results tuned. Stay tuned and for those still awaiting their tablescape -  don't despair, will get to you soon!

Take care!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Let GW know how you'd like them to change

Mr. Kirby fighting his way through customers (allegorical)
We all fellow gamers have our own opinion on GW and what they should be doing instead, and I think most of us agree to a large extent - not necessarily all of this, but at least the spirit of it. If you do want to let GW know you'd like them to change in this direction, please sign this petition.

Link to change.org petition

In summary these are the 5 points:

  1. Realize gamers do game (huh!) and so keep it in mind when designing rules, etc.
  2. Let FGLS manage more SKUs so we can better support them and have a place to play, interact etc.
  3. Prices.
  4. Remember old times when the GW had lots of content, tactics, articles...

And this is the petition itself:

Refocus your business model on the sale of a game and support of a gaming community vice the pure sale of collectible miniatures. 

As competition from outside organizations grow and GW revenues and profits fall, your company seemingly continues to pursue a business model not in alignment with your customer base's desires and expectations.

Your business model states "We make the best fantasy miniatures in the world and sell  them globally at a profit and we intend to do this forever". Realize that you produce a game, and that the models are playing pieces in that game, not the end product themselves. Without the game, there is no need to purchase Games Workshop models. They are not collectible in the same sense as scale military tanks and aircraft, nor are they as utilitarian as historical wargames miniatures, applicable to multiple game systems and supported by real world events. GW models are only useable in the context of GW games, the primary of these being Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy Battles. 

I and many others collect your models to play the game. Only a fraction of the community do so purely for the experience of owning, building and painting Citadel miniatures. This is why when armies are timely updated and released, model sales for those armies jump. It is not because of marketing through White Dwarf and Online Stores. It is because people want to play with the newest "Toy". Collectors continue with these factions to keep playing the game, not just own miniatures.

Your fanbase and the dedicated gaming and hobby community ask that you adopt the following policies

1- Support gamers, conventions, and tournaments, primarily through well-developed rules and encouraging competitive play. Despite GW's desire for Warhammer to be a "Beer and Pretzels" game that is simply a reason to buy and collect GW miniatures, gamers want a system that can be used for competitive play as well. Just because this is supported does not mean that fun, narrative driven relaxed play is not possible. Appeal to both sides of the gaming community, not just the one you want to more. You cannot interface directly with the small group playing a campaign in their basement. You can with the 100+ players at a tournament. Doing so will improve your corporate image, impassion your playerbase and ultimately encourage the playing or your game which directly correlates to the sale of your miniatures. This means releasing fairly balanced, well play tested rule sets, and timely FAQs which address the issues players are encountering. The relaxed narrative players will appreciate these clearer and improved rules just as much as the cut-throat tournament gamer. And if you wish to encourage a relaxed form of play alongside this while still reaching out to players, the old global campaigns and campaign supplements can foster this and provide gaming groups with a fun alternative to tournaments and competitions.

2- Reduce the number of "Direct exclusive models" and support the FLGS. Game Stores are where your community exists. It is not in their home, alone, painting. Most of the hobby may occur there, but it with the objective in mind that on the weekend they will travel down to their local friendly game store and set up across the table from someone and play a game. That is why they put all the hours into building and painting their army. Sure it may be fun to build and paint it, but it is a means to an end, not the end itself. Since the objective of collecting is to play a game, game store owners are going to promote games they can sell in their store. If majority of your product is exclusively available from your webstore, game store owners will not push your product as they lose potential sales. Without that push or those sales, their gaming community abandons GW games, and without the game they abandon GW/Citadel models. 

3- Competitively price your products. You have some room to charge a slight premium because of the quality of your miniatures. But since the ultimate objective is to play a game at the end of the week, players are going to financially invest in what they can better afford to accomplish this objective. All wargaming is a luxury market. If a player can get the same amount of game time for less with another game and have just as much, if not more fun, then that is where they will invest their dollars. This is a big factor as to why so much competition now exists whereas very little did before. A potential aide to this point would be to allow sales of bits, aftermarket 3rd party add-ons, and discount online retailers. This all encourages throughput of your products, and for players to gather larger or more forces for their games. Sales for GW have only become worse with the policies that eliminate these possibilities.

4- Change your website to be hobby and gaming driven with a webstore option attached for support. This used to be the way it was. Your website should not just be an online marketplace. Your site should be the one stop shop for painting, tactics, gaming communities, upcoming tournaments, etc. etc. The webstore should then be a feature that a player can access after reading a tactica article or a painting guide. It is in game performance that drive sales of models the most, so discussing the performance and ways to use particularly models in game can only benefit you by swaying consumers to purchase it. Beautiful photos and well painted models help, but a vast majority of your playerbase knows is cannot paint as well as your webstore and White Dwarf images, so they fail to be lured in by that trap.

5- Conduct market research and increase player involvement. With the advent of social media this is easier than ever. Rather than just having youtube videos for new releases, have discussions of in progress design concepts to allow hype to be generated and discussion to occur, then systematically feed this back into your development process. Release trial rules again and gather important commentary from the players to fine tune them. Furthermore understand your consumer base and what they need and want to continue collecting, converting, painting Citadel miniatures and playing GW games rather than just assuming another huge kit or wacky limited edition gaming aide is what they need to be fed. With a generation thriving off constant connectivity and insight into early product development in virtually every market, particularly the growing tech and video games industries which manage to steal potential hobbyists daily, a policy of secrecy and blind assumption only will accomplish an alienation of the consumer.
In short, rededicate your company to supporting the selling of a game. This is your main product. Your models are the key playing pieces of this game, and will make you the most money. Without the game though, they are worth nothing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cheap plastic bases for all

Hi guys, this is quick post to share an interesting kickstarter. Micro Art Studio is a small Polish company that does very nice resin bases, like the ones I use on my Eldar army. They have partnered with CMON (who to be fair don't have a great reputation in Kickstarters) but the deal is, with the current stretch goals, you can get 34 very nice bases for just $22 + postage.

There are 4 themes - Chaos/rocks and fire, Eldar/mystic stuff, Wood and Steampunk/trash. I've been using the regular resin Mystic bases and I have to say I'm delighted with them - see below pictures. With cheap, matching plastic bases I can afford to base even the regular Guardians, and I'll have a few spares for the Wraithguard I have yet to build.

Now these are plastic bases not resin, which I very much prefer as there is no risk when sanding, and if you are adding plastic minis you don't even have to bother pinning them!

These bases are really attachments that fit onto round lip empty bases, so should work in the beveled bases used in 40K. Like this:

Here's a link to the kickstarter:

Until the next time!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Eldar Wraith Guard preview

Here's a little preview of the Wraith Guard and Spiritseer I recently finished. I treated myself to the Eldar Ghost Warriors Box so I still have a lot to finish. The first squad uses D-Scytes, yes the lovely AP2 flamers of doom. I plan on building another squad with Wraithcannons, and the third one probably with axe/shield. 

As for the first squad, it is painted like the rest of my growing Ulthwé Eldar army in black with heavy blue accents. Because the miniatures are all black and bone, the blue accent is what really makes them pop. In my mind, the blue represents glowing energy, a physical representation of their power that can barely be contained in the carcasses that the wraithbone really is, and so I use it in every area that is not a flat piece.

I'm only showing half of the squad because I'm waiting for my FGLS to re-stock on the bases, but I have the 5 WraithGuard fully painted to this standard.

If anything I might add some decals but think they will probably be better without. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Space Wolf Bust showcase

Today I have a very Wolfy treat! This is not part of the new releases but I'm glad I finished it in time for the Wolfmania. Let me introduce you Thorunn Frozenfang, a magnificient bust by the talented Freeman. This is in my mind what a Space Wolf should look like, and even though the current plastic range is pretty good, it still has some cartoonish edge to it. This bust is a lot more to my liking.

This is my first bust and I think came out decently. It is a different beast to paint the face of a 28mm miniature than this, and thus I dared not go for extrme lights and contrasts, and tried to make him look reallistic. This is why for example there are not strong highlights on the shoulderpads - it is a larger scale that requires less tricks to make it pop. It was nonetheless a very enjoyable experience and a nice complement to my Space Wolves army.

The plan for now is to display him proudly in my desk (perhaps move it next to the TV if my wife is candid enough) and revisit the paintjob in the future if I improve my skills; things like adding more depth to the face or increase the weathering. I mean, the face for example has lots of different layers and glazes, and I added different pigments to the armour but the difference in scale somewhat seems to make this less visible. Anyhow I hope you like it and if you are a Space Wolf fan, might consider as well to treat yourself to a copy of Thorunn. For Russ and the Almighty, greetings and thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why I didn't purchase Storm Claw

GW's last big seller is probably the Storm Claw box - what's not to love having a huge discount on a several kits plus a soft cover version of the rulebook? Despite how attractive this might sound, and being an avid Space Wolves collector, I finally cancelled the order I had placed in my FGLS. They didn't complain at all by the way because they knew it would be gone very fast.

The problem that I see with Storm Claw is that despite the significant price discount, I'm still a SW player and I don't need the Orks. Even when the hobbyist in me thinks it would have been fun to build the Gretchins and Nobz, it is not what I really want to do.

You see, as many people who have been in this hobby for some years, I went from having little money and a lot of time to have little time and enough money to be able to afford this box without compromising my supper. So if I want to get the Space Wolves kits and that beautiful Krom Dragongaze mini, I need to sell or trade the Orks, because I just don't have enough time to spend on them.

As most 40k guys out there, I have a pretty long list of projects both started and in my wish-list, and I know the Orks would have gone straight to the bottom of the list. First I considered buying this box and actually pre-ordered it with the intent of getting rid of the Orks, but then realized that a) I already have enough GHs and Wolf Guard and b) I don't feel like spending time trying to sell the parts that I don't want.

Think it this way - I'm getting the box for the savings and the special miniature, but in order to get those I have to spend time selling, packing and shipping what I don't need. How much do you value your time? If I need to spend a few hours in taking pictures, selling stuff on Ebay, checking the payment has been received, acquiring the packaging, packing and going to the post, I might as well pay the price difference and save myself all the hassle.

I also don't want to entice GW to keep selling limited editions in this way, because as a customer I feel forced to get stuff I don't want to get in order to get them. If it happens that you want the LE mini and the other kits, then surely it's a great deal, but I suspect this is not the primary intent of this offers. Alas no Krom Dragongaze for me unless a find a good deal in Ebay, which won't probably happen.

What do you think about StormClaw? have you purchased it?
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