Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On the painting table: Dark Angels Dark Shroud / Vengeance

I'm making good progress in the Ravenwing army project. That's an optimistic view of course as at the moment I only have about 8 bikes and some 20 tacticals, but at least I'm getting there. In the meantime I'll indulge myself to some Doublewing games, which is not an army I particularly like but is the only that I can field at the moment.

This Land Speeder is merely minutes away from being added to the completed list. It is aesthetically, uh, disruptive so to say, with an stange atrium at the front, 4 engines protruding from the sides and a chapel glass next to the pilot. What were the designers thinking about? well I've long given up trying to make complete sense of 40k, that's why it is the grim dark future and bla bla.

So preferences aside, I like this model both from a gamer and painter standpoint. In the tabletop will help me grant a 2+ cover to the command squad, which is the lynchpin of the army, and a 3+ to the other biker squads during that crucial T1. T2/3 is the dakka festival of course, but a biker army has a limited headcount and I need as many bikes alive as I can. Enter the Darkshroud. After that T2, if it's still up and running will just try to hit side armour with the assault cannon, or go after small infantry units. I feel in the event it makes it past T2, a Heavy Bolter would make it nigh useless so I'm happy to pay the 20 points for the AC. If it dies, well it dies.

Very easy to swap configurations
The other variant included in the kit is the Land Speeder Vengeance which I feel is a big missed opportunity. A large plasma blast is cute but in a 2HP model? without twin-linked? and a 24" range? I can't even hide this thing behind a Land Raider, or move it back to cover after shooting a la Tau. It doesn't need much really, just make it twin-linked, as the weapon suggests, or give it 3HP, or at the very least give it some more range than just 24"! as it is now however, it's the first thing that would go down in a game, and without requiring massive firepower. For the time being, the plasma guns won't leave the foam tray.

In any case, I felt it was worth 5 minutes of my time and 2 magnets to make sure I can swap both configurations! sooner or later GW will fix the Vengeance, praise the Emperor...

The painter view

This type of models are extremele rewarding for the hobbyist. You could be tempted to just give it a black basecoat, paint some highlights and call it a day. Certainly I have done as much in the past with things like the Death Company. This time I went for something different though. I painted clear highlights in some areas with the airbrush, then highlighter with very dilluted grey and white tones. The other element that stands out of course is the OSL with Hawk Turquoise. This is one of my favourites tones from the GW line and certainly I can see it in many power weapons around. In this case I have tried to project the light from plasma guns, gunner controls and glass to the elements around it. Notice the right side of the driver and front of the gunner have some light reflections over their black armours.

If you have an airbrush this isn't very complicated to do. If a dull economist like myself can do this, well imagine people with actual artistic talent lol!

The technique goes around applying a light tone, like a soft grey, on the areas you want to apply the reflection. Take the gunner for example; we want his chest and helmet to reflect the light from the controls in front of him, so we'll just lightly spray the grey from the same direction in which the light comes. This will shade the black and when we apply the turquoise, it will naturally be lighter in these areas we have previously sprayed in grey. The magic of the airbrush is both making this fast and easy, but especially creating the color graduation with little effort.

Then it's just a matter of creating more contrast by applying dilluted black to the recesses (all of them), and highlight again with grey/whites. Hope you liked it!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Ghosts' project and digressions on painting faces

Now that I made up my mind to paint some Tanith Ghosts for my increasing IG army (the Emperor never stops recruiting!) it's time to consider the faces. Painting faces can be one of the most dauting tasks when putting together a new unit or army. It's one of the focal areas, where the eyes tend to go, and therefore it's important to get it right. I'm still in the process of learning (I don't think you can ever stop learning) but I think I can paint pretty decent faces. Considering the Ghosts are rather monochromatic - dull black matte fatigues, dull camo cloak and no color accents at all - I need to make the rest of elements particulary good, and faces are amongst the most important here.
Getting started with simple faces

This is my version of Azrael, Grand Master of the Dark Angels. Still a work in progress but what matters is his face is finished ^^I think he would look better without the bionic eye but nevermind. The process was something like:
  • Black basecoat
  • Tallarn flesh basecoat, leaving a very thin black line around the hair.
  • Layered 50/50 dwarf and elf flesh for a middle tone.
  • Added some elf flesh to the mix and layered, almost glazed, a few prominent areas like the nose tip, chin, etcetera
  • Washed with Ogryn flesh.
  • Painted the eyes:
    • Painted the eyes area black.
    • Filled that space with pure white, leaving a small line surrounding the eye.
    • Painted the iris with a small dot.
  • Back to the face, went over it again with the original dilluted mix, leaving the dark
  • Added red glazes to the brow and cheeks.
  • Added purple glazes to the area below the cheeks.
  • Had a beer.
It isn't as slow as it can seem, when painting the Ghosts I'll just line a squad of them and go over the steps - everybody black basecoated, then everybody tallarn basecoated, etc. Only one beer at the end though :)

Adding camo

Now that I think about it, these scouts were the first time I attempted to add camo to the faces. Not unusual considering I mainly have a ton of power armoured dudes, and most of my IG are Kriegs with rebreathers.

Essentially I painted the faces as usual, then added some dilluted green stipes. I doesn't look that bad but I need to improve it. Am I going to use it in the Ghosts? well many of the faces I have now have beards or other facial hair so probably not. That said, I might use it to reinforce certain characters, like scouts or snipers.

Adding tattoos

While I'm not a big fan of blue moon tattoos in a face, it will help to make the Ghosts more recognizable and will give it a much needed contrast to an otherwise dull black/green minis. I haven't yet made my mind on how exactly I'll do this, but it needs to work for both the faces and the arms. 

Oh and just before my trip to the States last week I managed to finish those Knights below. Pretty happy how they turned out and given they are fully magnetized, I can swap the mauls for bolters and plasma cannons for a completely awesome standard Deathwing squad. Hope you like them!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Is Games Workshop a book case study on horrible customer care?

I do not consider myself to have any prejudice or bad feeling about GW, after all I have been their customer for 15+ years now. Their staff over the years has always been friendly, if not a little too insistent - like one time I went for a couple of paints and the guy was trying to sell me the Dark Vengeance box. Easy boy...

But more often than not we come across from actions that pisses me off as a customer, even when I have not been involved, and puts me on thw wrong foot as someone who makes his living out of (hopefully good) marketing. The story comes from Faeit 212, and in short goes like this:

  • A long time Tau player is rightfully excited by the new codex and pre-orders $300 worth of greater good plastic.
  • The day of the release he goes to the GW store, only to be told by the store manager that his order had not arrive. At this point, is worth mentioning the products were on the shelves and the manager just told him "those" are not yours.
  • He goes back home, calls GW customer service who pretty much tell him to wait.
  • Some days later he calls the store, they tell him they have a riptide so he asks them to save it (let's remember he has already forked out $300) and inmediatly drives to the store, only to find the riptide has been sold.
  • At the moment he is awaiting a call from customer service to notify him his order has arrived.

Now you just need some common sense to realize all the terrible mistakes GW is doing; I hope this is just this manager/store but it could well be a country or general GW, which would be absolutely devastating.

  1. First of all, someone who pre-orders $300 is a customer you are desperate to retain. You as a company want him happy with the hobby for many more years. The temptation of selling boxes to people who just walk in the store is absolutely dumb: if they were curious people who saw the models in the storefront, sell them something else or tell them to come in a few days. If they are Tau players who know their stuff, rest assured they will get it from this store, GW direct or someone else. It doesn't matter, at all.
  2. This is pretenciously assuming you have an overwhelming degree of power over your customers, as no matter what you do to them, they will buy anyway. Let's not mistake engaged players for fools. No one likes to be treated like an idiot, and when they are, they will respond accordingly. This could result in a) not buying anymore from you but more likely b) getting the stuff alternatively. This includes second hand, ebay, proxies or even darker options like clones or chinese copies. Unfortunately, these exist.
  3. Last but not least, you are telling a customer that you don't have his order when the shelves are full of products. Apart of disgracing yourself and your company with a lot of bullshit, this is an illegal practice, at least where I live. A customer purchases under the promise of having access to his order on a certain date, and the products are threre. The store can't retain that stock.
We could go on for a while but I think the concept is clear now. So what should GW be doing instead?
  1. Apologise to all customers who are receiving their stuff late and do all you can to honor your promise. This means shifting stock/production, prioritizing pre-orders to store sales, etc.
  2. Start running some bog-standard CRM practices. It is extremely easy for GW to give away a model or two to customers who make these purchases, to give them the digital codex for free when they purchase the book, or to print a few tchotchkes for them (i.e. t-shirts, keychains, pens... stuff that costs you $0.30-$1.5). It's all about making the customers feel you care for them (which you should actually be doing).
  3. Clarify to their store owners what are they there for. Not to make money, not to treat people like idiots, no to spend their afternoon in a toy store, but to acquire new customers, teach them how to play, how great this hobby can be; to run competitions and events with long standing customers, to hear what they say and pass the word up to the HQs. To be ambassadors of the hobby, in a nut-shell.  Sales will naturally flow, and make these stores a shitload more profitable than they are today. Without any doubt.

Please feel free to write your thoughts / comments below. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Gaunt's Ghosts project

It often happens to me that I’ve read a BL novel, watched an action movie or browsed a comic and I want to produce a unit or army to play it in the 40k world. After devouring several Gaunt’s Ghosts novels I knew I was in one of those “have to field this” moments and started to figure out how to do it. In the end it’s just Guardsmen right?

How to play it

Well let’s recap what make the Tanith First-and-Only stand out from other units, from a military standpoint: the Ghosts are an elite light infantry unit that excel at scout and stealth operations. So basically are a foot unit with camo-cloaks.

In terms of weapons, they favor  flamers as the default special weapon although they also sport a sniper in each platoon (which based in the size and number, I’d say resembles a standard squad). Heavy weapons are less common but there is always an autocannon (“Try again” Bragg) or missile launchers, that they call “tread-fethers”, at hand. M’kay. That is a bit confusing to start with, as foot IG doesn’t like to move from behind the Aegis/home ruins and definitely do not scout up the field. On the other hand, Vets usually ride in Chimeras or even Vendettas and sport meltas or plasmas. Hmm.

The camo cloaks are expensive for what they do but even with that, their survivability and usefulness would be close to nothing. A possibility is using Al-Raheim (let’s call him Corbec if you know what I mean) and outflank 30 or 40 of them, with assorted power axes and melta bombs. I haven’t played against outflanking IG blobs in 6th but in late 5th they were nasty. Admittedly because the meta was so meched up that finding 150+ foot guardsmen was a surprising prospect. An ATSKNF character to lead them would be useful but a) I haven’t seen a single power armour dude in 7 books so far, which is refreshing and b) I’m not even sure I can find a way to do it. So let's leave it as a 30-40 men platoon with Al-Raheim; depending on points I’ll add a Lord Comissar Hark or Gaunt.

In 6th, and specifically in a tournament context that is where I play the most, perhaps (note the italics) I could use them as sort of distraction unit, proving I don’t sink too many points there. Just show up in a flank near an objective and capture/contest it. Even better if use them with my usual drop pod wolves as there will be lots of units for my opponent to clean off his DZ. I don’t mind not using an über optimized list, as long as it’s not an auto-lose list, which admittedly this could very well be. Tell you what, I’ll run this in a couple of casual matches and see what it does. At least, it doesn’t care much about Flyers.

How to model it

There are 6 metal models still available in the GW site, but don't look that great. I believe more were released in the past but I'm not willing to spend eons on ebay to purchase them at a reasonable price. Well Cadians are relatively affordable aren’t they? But they look too formal, a well drilled unit out of the Eye of Terror’s West Point. The Ghosts are meant to be, well, way less formal. They all wear black matte fatigues and cloaks, but then some wear caps, some helmets, most go without any head gear. Then you have the Tanith-bred with long black hair and tattoos while the Verghastites are mostly slum gangers, although there are also PDP militia and refined career officers… and there are also female troopers. Cadians definitely don’t work. The Catachans, well I could use some parts here and there but not as the base. So after looking for a while at independent companies, I’ve found out a very nice unit from Victoria miniatures that looks like the real thing. The inspiration is obvious and the level of detail seems nice. For $45 I’m willing to give it a try. 

Camo cloaks, check.
Assorted heads, check.
Knives, different poses, accessories, check, check, check.

I also have some Kromlech bits that I purchased for my SW (like feral faces) and a few Krieg knives and weapons. After the first 10 are completed, I can start adding special characters like the sniper Larkin, female sergeant Criid or sergeant Domor with his augmented bionics. All in all sounds like a plan!

P.S. if it the outflanking blob doesn’t work, I’ll just use them as vets in a chimera. Or leave them to decorate the shelf where the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels are J

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Alternative Primarch models

Am I the only one finding the pace of Primarch releases from Forge World to be unnerving? the Angron model looks great and captures all the ferocity of the World Eaters Primarch, but costs a hefty £50 and so far he is the only one of his brethren to have a model.

Many, many years ago GW released a Leman Russ model (!!) and that was up to date the only Primarch model. Now after Angron I'm pretty sure we'll see more Primarchs coming down the line as more Horus Heresy books are released from FW. But consider this - can we expect to see the 18-21 (depending on how you count them) Primarchs to be produced? unless the warp claims (Emperor protects!) the current GW management, no. All right. Let's lower the expectations. Can we expect the main ones, say pick your top 5-7, anytime soon? again, most likely not. Whew. What about 2 or 3 more Primarchs, and not necessarily the most popular ones? well that is more reasonable. Don't ask me why there are no Sanguinius, Perturabo or Russ models out there,  because they would be top sellers. Or why the price is more akin to silver than resin. Just imagine a line of Primarchs like these below. I'd be buying GW shares like crazy if I knew that was going to happen.

Fortunately, there are a few models outside of GW/FW that look pretty good. Scibor has some nice models for the Lion and Sanguinius. Hitech miniatures has some of my favourite unofficial Primarch models, like this Perturabo ("Proturbo" lol). The look of it seems definetely inspired by this Black Library cover:

Mortarion, with his trademark scythe:

Or the Lion, with his trademark Lion's helm and Caliban sword FTW:

Do you guys know any other good Primarch models out there?

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