Sunday, 18 March 2018

Building an Army

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted anything.  It doesn't mean that I have been idle, simply that I have been too distracted and busy to post here.

Today, I am going to talk about the process of building a new army, and how it differs from some of the other types of Hobbying that we do, and maybe think about some of the mistakes that I have made in the past, and some that others make, and how I have tired to avoid them.

So, my first question is, what do I mean when I talk about building an army.  Usually, when we talk about building an army in this hobby, we are talking about building a force for whatever game we are planning to play.  That is not what I am talking about today.  I play a lot of skirmish games, with about a dozen models a side.  That, to me, is not an army.  That is a force, or a crew, or a side.  Even some of the more middle sized skirmish games, things with 60 or so models a side, i wouldn't really put in here.  When I talk about building an army, I'm talking about games with 100's of models on the table.  Things of the scale of the old WFB, or Black Powder.  Games where we are talking about big forces on big tables fighting big battles.  I firmly believe that these are different enough to the other games that they deserve to be talked about separately.

This is the sort of scale that would probably be as small as I would call an "Army" (With thanks to Adam and his 15mm ADLG 100 Years War armies)

So, now we know what I mean by an Army, lets start talking about how I go about building one, and look at what I have done so far.

What to build

Choose something that you are going to enjoy for a long time.  Building an army is likely going to be a longish term project.  You are looking at painting 100's of models for this, so you need to make sure that it is something that is going to hold your interest in the longer term.  There is no point in picking something that you are not going to want to touch again in a fortnights time.  That way lies wasted money and energy, and unfinished projects.  It may be obvious, but it probably bears stating explicitly right at the beginning.
(I have chosen to build a War of the Roses force.  I like my medieval history, and it's a period that has interested me recently, with a number of books and TV dramas firing up my enthusiasm.)

Once you know what period you are going to play , you need to pick a scale.  Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it can be more difficult.  Often, your choice will not just be based on what you want to play, but also on factors that you can't control.  You may need to work around not just what you want to play, but also what models are available for your period, what the rules you want to use expect, and sometimes how much time you have.
This is also a time where it can sometimes help to follow the crowd.  It's often worth finding out what other people are doing in the period you want to play.  This is not a skirmish force, this is an army.  Unless you have unlimited time, patience and resources, you may well not want to build multiple forces for this.  When I am playing smaller games, I don't mind if I end up having to build both forces for the table.  Its a small number of models.  When I am building an army, well, that's a much bigger deal if I have to build 2 armies in order to get a game.  If everyone else is playing in 6mm, it makes it much harder to get a game with you 54mm force, and you might want to think about whether you want to at least move a little closer to a common standard.  You may decide to go it alone, but you should at least consider it.
(In this case, I have chosen 28mm.  The models are available, and are beautiful.  The group I play with have all recently started 28mm Medieval armies from about the same period, and the main rulesets I play to use (Swordpoint and Dragon/Lion Rampant) are all written with 28mm in mind)

It's also worth thinking about basing at this point.  Write a list of all of the games you may either now, or in the future, want to play with your army, or models from it.  Then write down their basing requirements.  Base your units on the base that will allow you to play the most systems, or failing that, base them individually, and have a plan for how you will group them for each game.
(I have gone with a mix of 20mm square single basing, and 40mm 3/4 man bases.  The 20mm ones can be grouped into 40mm bases for swordpoint.  The 40mm ones let me put three models on them for open order bases.  In either case, I have enough 20mm bases that I have enough single figures to build the force I plan to take for Lion/Dragon Rampant.  If saga ever releases a medieval period book, then by 20mm bases will be legal for that as well)

How Accurate is Accurate Enough

This is a question that mainly, but not exclusively, applies to Historical games.   After painting a group of Knights, and showing them to my painting group, I got asked "Do you want me to critique these with my gaming hat, or my historical hat on"  And I think that is a perfectly valid question.  Only you know what level of historical (or fluff) accuracy works for you (and to a lesser extent your group).  You should try to make sure that once you know where that line is, you stay on the correct side of it for you.  Part of this is doing your research, and part of it is knowing what compromises you will and won't make.
Interestingly, this also applies to adding fantasy "bits" to your forces.  For example, my Saga Vikings are going to have Werewolves as Beserkers, and my Napoleonic Skirmish force may well have a Jonathon Strange figure fighting with them (Counts as a Cannon!!!!)

(I have decided that my force is going to be based around the forces that were at the 1st Battle of St. Albans.  I will have models representing all of the commanders that were there, and try to represent the troop types as well.  I am happy that I will probably have a different ratio of Billmen to Bowman than was represented at the battle, and I am also happy that I may include some units that strictly speaking weren't there.  I will however try to avoid too many of these.  I'm also aware that I may have some Blackadder themed models built for this.)

Have a plan

This is something that I think really helps when building an army.  Knowing what you want in your force can really help to make it a reality.  Building an army is a big undertaking (I know, I keep saying it), and it is easy to get distracted from the point.  There are loads of really lovely models out there, and it is natural to want to buy them, paint them, and make them yours.  Unfortunately, that can often mean that you have an army that has lots of really fun things in it, but is lacking in the stuff that actually does the work, the core of the force.  This means that you can end up doing lots of work, and still not having an army you can use.
It's also worth having some way of tracking your progress against the plan.  I have a spreadsheet, that has my army list on it, and a little square for every model I need to paint for that list.  When I finish a model, I change the colour of the square.  It means that I can see at a glance exactly what is painted, and what I need to paint.  It also stops me getting excitable, painting all 24 Men at Arms (exciting knight types), and then realising that I still have a HUNDRED. IDENTICAL. ARCHERS. TO. PAINT.
Who knew, a Medieval English army needed more than a few Longbowmen

(I have a plan.  The aim is to build a 1,250 point swordpoint force that I can pick models from to then use for Lion Rampant as well.  I have written a 500 point list, and listed everything that I need for it.  I've worked out how many of what figure I need, and bought appropriately.  There is a spreadsheet, which tracks exactly what I need, how many of them are bought, built, painted etc.  I can see my progress at a glance, and see easily what I need to buy next)

Work Small and Lay Down a Marker

My current 500 point force which will be my first step has about 100 figures in it.  If I built and readied 100 figures all at once, I would never get them finished.  The mass of Grey plastic on the shelf would become overwhelming, and the sheer scale would intimidate me into never starting.  I know, it's happened before.
Batch working gets stuff done.  Doing all of the red on those HUNDRED. IDENTICAL. ARCHERS. all at once is the quickest way to get them painted.  Don't be fooled, it IS quicker.  Mind numbing, but quicker.
The way I have gotten around this is partial batching.  I have almost built all of the archers.  I put the arms on, and then I stopped.  This means that most of the build is complete.
When I am ready to work on my next models, I pick 4 of them out, and I put their heads, and any other bits onto the part assembled models.  Then I paint them (more on this in a moment), complete them, and then move onto the next 4 models.  This way, I have managed to get some of the benefits of batch assembly, without having that awful line of assembled grey plastic models staring at me.
When it comes to deciding what to build, I am a firm believer in laying down a marker.  Making a statement.  In an old white dwarf, Nigel Stillman said that the first model you paint should be a leader or standard bearer.  He's right.  Generic infantryman Bob painted up standing there could be anyone.  He could be a lone sellsword, or a man running away, part of a ragtag skirmish force.  Anyone.  But if I put a standard there, it is something else.  A standard says "THIS is a unit.  This is part of an ARMY".  He may be alone, but as long as there is a standard, there is a unit.  That's why I start with command figures and standards for all of my units, before I start adding the infantrymen.
See, my raised hand means I am either leading my troops, or, as my wife suggested, waving to my mum
(I've been less good at this one.  My Men at Arms have a command stand, but my archers and Billmen don't yet (but that's going to change very soon))


Here is where I might need a soapbox when I am finished.  Remember YOU ARE NOT PAINTING A MODEL YOU ARE PAINTING AN ARMY.

Look at that statement again.  You are painting an army.  Therefore, everything that you do with your brush should be aiming to make your ARMY look better.
I have the luck to know some painters who just make me want to hang up my brushes.  People whose work I look at, and I just go wow.  They are the best FIGURE painters I know.  I can't hold a candle to them, and that's ok.
I will probably annoy them now, but very few of them have good looking ARMIES.  There individual models are amazing, but they spend so long on figures, that they despair of ever having a unit finished, much less an army.
Now this is a blessing, and a curse.  When they do finally finish an army, it will be a work of true art, that will blow anything I paint away.  But currently, I shall hold onto my moral high ground.
Who you calling "Neat"

These are some of my archers.  Washes, drybrushes, and not much else in the way of detailing.  Individually, they are, at best, neat.  But when ranked up with their fellows, and looked at from gaming distances, they look good.

Better than the sum of our parts
Character models can, and should, have more detail lavished on them.  These are the models that people are going to pick up and look at closely.  Archer 41 from that unit of 50, probably not so much.

In Summary

In summary, building an ARMY is a different process from building a smaller skirmish force, and needs to be approached in a different way.  But at the end of that process, you should end up with a unique and beautiful thing that can be used for lots of games for years to come.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A New Home for Saga (Part 2)

So, in the second part of this tutorial/build guide, I finish building the thatched house for my Anglo-Saxons.

Step 6

The next step was to add the thatch to the cottage.  This was done using a fake fur, which was cut to the same size as the cereal card roof before it was attached.

Step 7

Once the fur was glued on and stuck, I then proceeded to add the planking to the front and back walls.  At this stage, I realised that I had made a mistake, and that the door was going to be more difficult to produce than I needed to have made it.  Nevertheless I pressed on

Step 8

Once the planking was on, the next step was to try and make the thatch look less like teddybear fur.  This was done by painting it with watered down 50:50 PVA glue, working all of the strokes from the top to the bottom so the fur laid flat.  Once this was dry, it was given a neaten up with a craft knife and scissors.

Step 9

A door was added.  A little more planning and this wouldn't have been as tricky as it was, but it's done now.  If you plan ahead, you could skip this step.
Step 10

Painting the wood.  This can be done in any way that you wish.  I went for Rhinox Hide, washed with Nuln Oil and then drybrushed Tyrant Skull, but there are probably better ways of painting wood out there.

Step 11

The thatch was given a watered down coat of brown.  At this stage it was then drybrushed with Terminatus Stone so that we got a good colour.  It was also stuck to the base, which in this case was an old CD.

Step 12

Finally, the house was based to match the rest of my models and terrain for SAGA

Sunday, 10 September 2017

A new home for SAGA (pt 1)

So, I have recently become rather excited by SAGA.  I tried it out at the Oxford Outriders, when I went up there for family reasons and found myself at a loose end.  A more friendly bunch of people you couldn't hope to find in a games club, and I was made very welcome playing SAGA.
Obviously, being me, I then decided that nothing would do but that I had to own this rather fun game myself.  A quick trip to Entoyment and I found myself with a copy of Crescent and Cross, and the start of a 4 point Milties Christi Warband.  Which was fine, except that locally, almost everyone else plays Dark Ages.  Cue a return trip, to acquire the appropriate supplement, and a force of Anglo-Saxons.  These are approaching 6 points now, and I am working on the extra bits (Priests, banners) for them.
And some terrain.  I've been looking online for ideas for building Anglo-Saxon buildings, and found that they are mostly wood (Good, I can make wooden buildings), mostly thatched (I can make thatched buildings too, still good), and either sit low to the ground and are dug down or are single story.  This should be achievable.

So, I decided to try a step by step terrain walk through.  It may be rubbish.  It may never get finished, but let's give it a go.

Step 1.
Having sketched up some plans on graph paper, and then transferred them to foam core (and I am indebted to this blog whose plans inspired me) I cut the shapes out with a knife.  Nothing too exciting so far.

Step 2
Having cut out all of the shapes, I then proceeded to glue them up.  Learning from cereal card roofs before, I put the third upright to support the middle of the roof in place.  Simple PVA glue was used at this point.
Step 3

The next step was to cut out the roof underside.  This is about 15mm longer than the sides of the house, and has a little decorative bit added.  It was size by directly measuring it against the building.

Step 4

Fake fur, the saviour of model thatchers everywhere, was cut out to the same size.  At this stage, it was simply cut out and not stuck to the card (I find this easier, but you could as easily stick the fur to the card now.

Step 5
The card roof was then glued into place on the Building

Once this was dry, the fake fur was glued onto the card roof.

That's as far as I have made it so far.  Next steps will be the planking, and tidying the fake fur.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Back to the Beginning

I'm not normally a nostalgic person.  But, to make sense of this, a little history is in order.

25 or so years ago, I wanted to play warhammer 40k.  I'd heard of it from other people, and I was already playing a LOT of dungeons and dragons.  But I wanted to play 40k.  On holiday in Derbyshire, we had gone to Nottingham for the day, and I had finally got the Rogue Trader rulebook.  This was not long after the Compedium and Compilation had come out, but I knew nothing about them.  I just knew that I had now got the 40K rules.  I wanted to play Squats.  With Melta Guns.  Exclusively.  I was 13 or 14, these things happened.
When I got to school, I was soundly mocked for my goals.  There were army lists, and none of them had a force of just Squats with guns.  The rulebook sat on the shelf, and I was deflated.
Eventually, a birthday came around (or some other reason to have some cash), and my long suffering father took me on the underground to Tottenham Court Road, where I got to buy some of these toy soldiers.  Harlequins and Eldar Guardians as they were.  These were duly brought home, and painted (very very badly.  No survivng examples exist).  Finally, someone lent me the Yellow book, and I saw the original Eldar Craftworld army list.  I was hooked.  I wanted these.  These were what I was destined to play.... I never got that army.  I did get the red book, and the harlequin army list, and 3000 points of Harlequins (the contents of the box I had) regularly got cheesed (creamed, but goes on for longer to steal Pratchett's joke) by 3000pts of craftworld Eldar, playing lengthwise along the table.
I played these for several years, until, eventually, 2nd edition happened.  The eldar were shelved, and an Ork army was made from the contents of 2 starter boxes and A LOT of imagination.  These were awful too.  3rd edition saw me stop playing.  Forever, or so I thought.
Age has led to many other tabletop games, including lots of Fantasy Battle, and now some small amount of Age of Sigmar.  I moved away from GW games.  I had a few Eldar models that I had picked up, and even a couple of squads of Harlequins painted for old times sake.

Then I got a demo of 8th.  It wasn't bad.  In fact, it was fun, and seemed to have fixed a lot of the problems with 40K that had kept me away.  A bright idea goes off in the head, and I wonder if I could make a very small Harlequin army with what I had, but hadn't painted.....A quick trip to the big pile of boxes yielded, in addition to my 2 squads of Harlequins, a Void Weaver, A Shadow Seer, and 2 bikes (painted)
1 Box Dire Avengers
1 Box Fire Dragons
1 Box Shining Spears
1 Death Jester
1 Box Old Finecast Harlequins
1 Shadow Seer
1 Painted set of Striking Scorpions.....

Which feels like, with me wanting a new project, the start of a mixed Eldar/Harlequin Force.

I've started with the Dire Avengers.  Troop Choice - Check.  Small Model Count - Check.  Not enough models in the box to make a unit of 5 plus an Exarch - Oh, very very yes (Damn you GW).
So far, I've discovered how unforgiving Eldar Models can be, how bad the mold lines are on old GW model kits, and how sloppy I have got in my painting.  Still, mostly for my memory, here are the steps to painting Dire Avengers

Blue Armour - Caledor Blue - Teclis Blue - Hoeth Blue
Helmet - White.   Lots of Coats of White
Details - Black.  Any Black
Weapons and Other "hard" decoration - Bone washed Agrax Earthshade.

The final Avengers look like this.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

What's In Your Head...

So, in order to break up the painting of all of the Neverborn for Malifaux that I have been doing recently, I decided to paint up the Walking Dead, All Out War set that I have had sitting on the shelf for a while.
I played the game as part of my birthday celebrations with Dom of Nothing But 1s.  He is mainly a Batman player, but we both seem to think that this game was pretty good.
I started with the Walkers, as they were the easiest of the models, and I stole the Monochrome paint scheme that I saw in the Walking Dead group on facebook.  Despite this, I think that they have come out reasonably well for a quick job.

Step 1 - Paint the white undercoated models with Khorne Red

Step 2 - Drybrush the model with Tyrant Skull Dry paint

Step 3 - Wash the model with Agrax Earthshade

Step 4 - Paint the base Black

They aren't the prettiest paint jobs, and they might get touched up or fiddled with at some point in the future, but for now, in groups, they look pretty effective.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Crocodile Rock

So, it has been a couple of months since my last post, but I can assure you that I have not been idle.  I've got nearly all of the Neverborn faction finished now.  Most particularly I have been working on finishing the "Type" models from the faction.  So far, I have completed Woe, Nightmare, Nephilim, Mimic, Puppet, Illuminated and am working on the last few of the Swampfiends.

Particularly, I am currently painting the Gators.  3 Bayou Gators, and McTavish.

Painting Recipe (With some photos)

Step 1 - Undercoat white
Step 2 - Paint all of the under scales Ogryn Camo
Step 3 - Wash Underside Athonian Camoshade
Step 4 - Paint upper scales Castellan Green
Step 5 - Wash whole thing Agrax Earthshade

Step 6 - Drybrush Top scales Sylvaneth Bark

Step 7 - Drybrush underside Tyrant Skull

Step 8 - Inside of Mouth Pink Horror
Step 9 - Wash Mouch Carroburg Crimson
Step 10 - Paint Gremlins......
Step 11 - Teeth in an appropriate bone colour
Step 12 - At this point, paint the rest of the details, and any other figures on the model (Such as McTavish)
Step 13 - Base in your choice of style.

So, some the finished McTavish and Bayou Gators..

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Dream a little Dream of Me!

So, I have now painted almost all of the Nightmares to replace my Dreamer crew, and begun the process of rebasing them.  The only models that are left to assemble and paint are the Twins and Insidious Madness.  The Madness I shall do as part of the Woes, and the Twins will be part of the next project, the Nephilim.  So far, I have Puppets, and now Nightmares completed.  The plan going forward is to move on next to Nephilim, and then Swampfiends, followed by Woes, and then Darkened (Who are mostly already painted)

So, pictures of the finished models.

All of these have been painted in a quick and dirty manner in order to get them back on the table, and then photographed using a phone camera.  More to come once I have them varnished and rebased.