Saturday, 8 May 2021

The Good Bad Idea: Some speed-painted orks

 The other day I had one of those ideas that comes to you as though in a dream: an idea for how to bulk up my year's painting total, provide a team for anyone who wants to play Stargrave with me but doesn't have models, and test some techniques in the process. It preyed on me all of Monday night, and on Tuesday I got to work. By Saturday morning I had this: 

If you are a British gamer, I think you have some Space Marines. You may never have played Warhammer 40,000 in your life, but you'll have some. I think they grow in cardboard boxes or someone puts them through the letterbox. Only marginally rarer are the multi-part plastic Orks from ... Assault on Black Reach, I think? Anyway, I have a few, plus some other Ork kits, in a big tackle box, and I'm never going to use them because they don't blend well with my Ork army, which is in an older style. So I put some together, with some spare parts from the bits box (mostly Ramshackle Games stuff). This was actually a pretty long process -- about two to three hours. I mounted them on plastic bases from Renedra and textured their bases with acrylic modelling paste from Hobbycraft. 

I primed them with Halford's matt black spray paint and then gave them a zenithal spray with Halford's grey primer. This is a quick and dirty way of creating some shadow and contrast: very important for speed painting. 

Now the actual painting process began. I mainly used cheap craft paints in dark red, brown, ochre, silver, black, yellow, and white. I did use a few actual miniatures paints, which were: 

  • Citadel Mephiston Red. My go to mid-red base colour. 
  • Citadel Evil Sunz Scarlet. My orky bright red. Remember when Citadel reds were just trash?
  • Citadel Warboss Green. This has been in my paint box ever since that lying swine in GW said it was a good match for old Goblin Green, which it is not. 
  • Citadel Ushabti Bone. A pleasing colour for teeth.
  • Your friend and mine, Agarax Earthshade. I actually intended to use Army Painter Strong Tone, but it turns out I haven't got any. 
I flicked brown, black, and white paint at the models with a toothbrush. This might seem like a mad thing to do, but it's really just there to help create a feel of texture and weathering that should show through the coats of paint. It'll save a lot of time, especially on the metallics. This process took about 10 minutes. 

Next I blocked in the base colours using thin layers. I didn't both to make the coverage very even on anything but the skin, and I really just jabbed the silver paint (mixed with a little black) onto the metallics. As you can see, they look rusty and nasty, which is what you want for orks. I did this in a series of steps, each about 10-15 minutes, but the whole process took about an hour and fifty minutes. Counting flecks, that's two hours. 

Here's the whole crew with their base colours hastily applied.

I did a tiny highlight of the skin with a mixture of green and yellow, and then I hit the whole model with that Agarax Earthshade wash -- including the green areas. It looks OK! This took about 15 minutes.

Then I went back and touched up and re-highlighted the skin with that green-yellow mixture. I also dotted in the eyes with ochre and then a little splotch of yellow in the centre. This took about another 15 minutes. 

Finally, I took each model and spent a few minutes doing the individual details -- picking out pouches, straps, fur trim, goggles and so on. I didn't want them to be perfect, and I could have skipped it, but it didn't take that long and I think it helps, particularly on fiddly areas like the captain's goggles. I rehighlighted some of the metals as well and just touched up a missed patch here and there. This was actually one of the longest phases, taking nearly an hour. 

When you add up all of that time, the process took just under three and a half hours. Adding in priming and some other things I'm probably forgetting, I'm happy to round up to four hours, or an average of 24 minutes per model. I think that they're pretty good-looking for that level of investment, and I 

The crew assembled

Captain (Cyborg) and First Mate (Veteran)

Two Sentries and a Commando, or a Trooper, I forget.

Gunner and Burner

Two Recruits

A Runner

Monday, 3 May 2021

Some solo Stargrave

 It's been nearly a year since I updated this blog! Honestly, most of my gaming content is on Twitter or Facebook these days. Still, if I want to tell a story with pictures, this is the place to do it. 

Picture, if you will: Captain Horatius Mortsafe and the brave crew of the Simple Misunderstanding, reluctant to do the law's work but equally reluctant to get thrown into a black hole by the pirate syndicate to whom they owe an alarming amount of money, take a contract to hunt down galactic malefactor Chrysophon Marrs. Weeks of fruitless searching, and then: a lead! The elusive Marrs is getting ready to take ship from a small spaceport on a backwater world. Mortsafe, his first mate Berenice, and their band of space scoundrels are in hot pursuit!

The small spaceport!

But who do our heroes find waiting for them as they arrive at the launch pad? 




Snipers! Actually, that's quite scary.

And all sorts of general-purpose scum.
Meanwhile, Marrs herself rushes among the different areas of the spaceport, getting her ship ready to make a getaway. The battle commences!

Berenice and her team take up firing positions.



Berenice gives Yoyo some encouragement to improve his marksmanship.


Louise, Perry, Berenice, Clara, and Aron lie in wait for the gang members.

Yoyo hoses down the advancing enemy sentries with bullets, stunning both of them.

Yoyo chortles in self-satisfaction, an unlikeable quality.

Gangsters advancing through the smoke are met with a hail of short-range fire and grenades.

Despite not having even been shot at, Mortsafe activates his Energy Shield, the absolute wiener.

Not bulling ahead like a doofus seems to be working out for the sniper, who is causing all kinds of problems for the crew. 

The enemy sentry on the flank hangs tough, firing back bravely. 

The crew pour fire onto Chrysophon Marrs, whom Berenice has helpfully pointed out. 

The enemy Burner charges through the smoke and straight into a walloping.

Return fire pins the sniper long enough for Captain Mortsafe to climb the ladder to her nest and lock her in combat. When she tries to shank him, he demonstrates that you can in fact hide a cutlass in an overcoat and hacks her down. 

While Brains retrieves the loot, Perry goes for a little climb on the getaway ship.

Now, I will confess that I played the scenario three times because I kept getting walloped in the early rounds, but once I got the hang of it it went pretty well. And I think the crew is looking good, which is nice!

So yeah -- don't expect regular blog updates, but when I have a story to tell, I might try to do one now and again. 

Monday, 18 May 2020

Inquisitor on the cheap: fun with 54mm models

A few months ago, I was chatting with Curtis of Ramshackle Games. I had just been notified that a lot of my classes had been cancelled (I am fine; please don't worry) and I was feeling a bit down. We got chatting about playing games with larger-scale figures for that proper "toy soldier" feel; we also discussed the old GW game Inquisitor, which used 54mm scale models and consequently always felt a bit inaccessible because of the high price point. He mentioned the cheap toy soldiers produced by Russian firm Tehnolog. Browsing eBay, I discovered that I could get a random assortment of 50 models for under £30. 

I have always had a bargain problem. The mental conversation goes something like this: 
Me: Wow, James, 50 models for £30. That's 60p a model. What a bargain!
Also me: It's not a bargain if I don't want 50 models in the first place. 
Me again: But think of the savings!
So that's how I wound up ordering 50 random 54mm models off eBay. It was a nice little treat to get myself in an uncertain time, and as I made the transition to working from home I had the fun of anticipating when my armyman playtoys would arrive. And arrive they did!

As you can see, I got a pretty good mix. There are elves, dwarves, knights, Vikings, samurai, orcs, undead, futuristic soldier types, historical soldier types ... all sorts. A pretty promising start for some future-fantasy conversions. I decided my party would be the crew of a Rogue Trader. These are the flamboyant space pirate crews who act as deniable agents of Imperial interest but often include lots of shady characters. Unlike most groups in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, Rogue Trader crews are highly diverse, and could include robots, aliens, mutants ... whatever! It seemed like a good start for an adventuring party. 

I began with my Rogue Trader himself. I loved the authoritative pose of the Cossack officer figure, but I wasn't wild about the hat. I decided to cut the fancy tricorn-hatted head off one of the figures representing soldiers of the Preobrazhensky regiment. 

I added a few flourishes and we were off. One of the things I learned here was that scale is very much an illusion. The plume and ornament here are from GW models -- nominally 28mm -- but they look fine on the 54mm character. In the heroic sculpting style of GW minis, items that the viewer should focus on, such as weapons, can be very exaggerated in size, meaning that they look much larger when you put them on more realistically scaled models. 

I also gave him some Imperial bling for the back of his cloak. 

As soon as I saw this Joan of Arc type model, I knew she would be a great Sister of Battle. She even has the distinctive bob haircut that you see on a lot of those models. I didn't like the weapon she was carrying, so I cut it off, together with the whole forearm. The replacement right arm is from an old Chaos Warrior, and the sword is a Reaper accessory. I thought the hooded, winged figure looked suitably spiritual.  

And here they are, my Rogue Trader crew! From left to right: 
  • Ron Jambo is an Imperial guard veteran who became a mercenary after his unit was betrayed and left to die on a remote death world. The only conversion I did to this model was to cut off the feathers tucked into his headband, which I felt were a bit much. You can't see it, but he has an Imperial Aquila tattoo on his left shoulder. 
  • Sister Eleutheria is a Battle Sister of the Order of the Sacred Rose (I picked them because I liked their colour scheme: white armour and black robes with scarlet linings). But she's also Captain Mortsafe's cousin, and the family pulled some strings to get her assigned to this mission. Her power sword provides some close-up punch. 
  • Lord-Captain Anaximander Mortsafe is a dandy space pirate with a fancy hat. He is more of an investigator than a fighter, but he can handle himself if he has to, fighting with exotic alien sword and dagger. The reliquary at his neck also houses a force field generator. He is accompanied by his loyal servo-skull, Skully
  • Combat Automaton 80-N35 is an experimental device created by Mortsafe's chief engineer Volund (whose model I plan to get started on any day now). 80-N35 lays down heavy firepower with his shoulder-mounted plasma gun. 
  • Major Kuznetsov commands the detachment of Mortsafe household troops stationed aboard the Lord-Captain's vessel. He's a disciplined and determined officer, often driven to frustration by his employer's reckless curiosity. He bears a hot-shot laspistol as his sidearm. I decided this was a lasweapon despite its bolty barrel because the question of what the magazine was doing right behind the muzzle was driving me nuts. I decided that it was clearly just a battery pack and could therefore attach to the weapon anywhere. 
And that's the crew! Next I need to work on some opposition for them. I'm thinking a Chaos cult -- and, unusually for me, I'm thinking Khorne rather than Nurgle! Time for a little change-up. I'm going to make them as filthy and gore-splattered as these guys are clean and colourful. 

I also sent off selections of models to a couple of other people who created their own warbands. One of those was game designer and publisher Grant Howitt, who has just posted photos of his cool Inquisition party. Check them out here!

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Warband in a week!

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that he'd booked a space in a Frostgrave tournament in London but wasn't going to be able to make it. He asked me if I'd like to take his place, and I said I would. 

Later that night, as I was cycling somewhere, I thought to myself "you know, I'm not completely happy with how my current warband looks; I could maybe put together a new one ... 

Oh, did I mention the tournament was a week away? 

Anyway, I took a quick trip to the lead mountain and the two big file drawers known only as Sprue Hell, and then I did some clipping and sticking while watching TV with my wife. The result was this 650gc warband (not pictured: warhound). Their base textures are circles of textured wallpaper. 

Before I started, I decided that I would run a Necromancer, the wizard type I know best. I decided that I would have a very simple colour scheme, partly based on what I'd done with my last warband: I would use black and neutral colours, with just one accent colour. Lower-ranking characters would be mostly or half black, while the higher-ranking ones would have more red.

I primed the models in black except for the zombie: I was unfamiliar with the kind of plastic it was made of and haven't always had success using Citadel black primer on new materials. I knew that the base red colour I was using, Citadel's Mephiston Red, would cover reasonably well over the black primer. If you're going to prime black, you have to know this in advance, because bright colours over black can be a real challenge.

These work-in-progress shots show how I handled the basic painting. I used the Mephiston Red on some parts of the clothing and then lightly drybrushed black areas with a mixture of brown and grey to bring out the texture. I picked a small number of neutral colours: Citadel Xandri Dust, Rhinox Hide, Mechanicum Standard Grey, Leadbelcher, and Retributor Armour. I also decided to paint the faces in slightly varied tones, including Vallejo Base Flesh and Citadel Bugman's Glow, Cadian Fleshtone, and Rhinox Hide. Once I had the base colours on, I gave the whole thing a wash of Agrax Earthshade (except here and there where I washed the faces with Reikland Fleshshade). 

The zombie had a slightly different skin tone -- Citadel Death Guard Green. I also added some rust with Vallejo Leather Brown, my go-to rust colour.

Once the base colours were on, I re-highlighted the red and the faces with the original colour, then went up one shade on the red, adding a very faint highlight of Evil Sunz Scarlet. Lastly, I painted the bases and added some Army Painter snow flock to give them that Frostgrave look.

The wizard!

His apprentice!


Treasure Hunters


Thug and Archer

Zombie and Warhound (a reused model I'd already painted).
In addition to my warband, I had to create some slimes, both small and large.  These were made from hot glue and given a quick paintjob that began with Coat d'Arms Goblin Green and worked up to Vallejo Yellow-green. I think they look pretty nice for being basically free.

This Slime Lord is a Melty Man from ThunderChild Miniatures.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how my warband came out. I managed to get the entire thing done in a week. I think it demonstrates that the tricks to speed painting like this include: 
  • Choosing a very simple but bold colour scheme that creates an appropriately thematic effect en masse. 
  • Painting over black. Your mileage may vary, but while light undercoats give you better bright colours, I find the black undercoat more forgiving for speed painting (unless I'm pre-shading over a grey undercoat which is a whole different story). 
  • Concentrating on the bits people look at: faces and bases. 
  • Working in manageable batches. I did these in sub-groups of 5 or 6, large enough to be efficient but small enough that I could see measurable progress quickly. 
  • Having a regular painting night. Every other Wednesday, I get together with a friend to paint (or sometimes play games) and it really helped my productivity. 
It was a rush, but I pulled it off and I'm pleased with the results: 13 models from bare plastic or metal (and three of them I "sculpted" in the first place) to ready for play within a week. 

Overall, then, I think the warband went well. However, I got walloped in the tournament. C'est la vie! Anyway, here are some photos: 

That's my Wizard Eye marker.