Tuesday 26 November 2013

Knitting, baking and the Karate Kid

"You should help me out with sewing up my latest knitting commission." said my darling wife as we headed for the lift at our local station. "I'll even pay you for each one you sew up."

I readily agreed, much to Sim's surprise. You see, I've started to learn that she is often right, and in any event, life is a little more entertaining when I go along with her suggestions. I'm trying to say "no" less. I was enthused enough that I said I could totally do ten!

Then I got home and was shown how to do what I needed to. My stubby, ungainly fingers got it wrong time and time again. I shouted at the knitting and swore and felt like throwing it across the room. In the time I was given I managed perhaps a quarter of one, not ten.

Then, there was the recent work bake off... Which resulted in the above cow pat resembling chocolate cake. It didn't finish cooking at the expected time, the icing melted when I put it on, and all in all it took twice as long as I thought it was...

So, why am I talking about this?

Well, firstly because I was reminded about a Cracked article I read recently (http://www.cracked.com/article_18544_how-the-karate-kid-ruined-modern-world.html) about how people of my generation expect things to be too easy.

Secondly? Well, it made me realise that I have actually been painting for quite a long time now, and I actually know what I'm doing a lot more than I realise! And some of the stuff I'm doing now probably isn't obvious or simple for people who are just starting out.

I am not some genius painter and modeller - but I am capable of being a lot better at it than I was when I started getting back into the hobby... Because I enjoy painting the hours of practice I have put into it don't really feel like hours of practice. That has probably made me underestimate the effort I've made in improving my painting.

Similarly, my writing has improved from the time spent on producing this blog - I am regularly writing words for others to read. Practice doesn't make perfect, but it certainly leads to improvements!

The moral of the story is that everything you want to do, whether hobby or work related, takes an investment of time and effort. With things you really enjoy that time will fly past, but you still out the time in. Very few worthwhile things, whether baking, knitting, or painting model figures can achieve mastery in a day. But a little bit of regular practice will definitely see improvement.

Spend three months painting for twenty minutes every day and compare a model from the first day with a model from the last day - I think it likely you will see a significant improvement, even if most days you will not have seen any change because it has happened gradually.

(The cake was edible, by the way - just not really very appealing to look at...)

Monday 18 November 2013

Hacking 40K: Getting Rid of "Barrage Sniping"

This is not a sniper's weapon
Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition has been around long enough now that I am not afraid to start proposing a few hacks, or house rules, that I am considering that might improve on some of the less ideal parts of 6th Edition. Its a big boy now. It can cope.

Those of you who read the 40K forums and blogosphere will have probably come across the idea of barrage sniping. For those of you who have not - here is a brief summary. People who already know - hush now, let everyone else catch up.

In usual shooting attacks, casualties are taken from the closest model to the firer. The two exceptions to this are precision fire and barrage weapons. Precision fire is meant to represent both individual characters and snipers' abilities to pick out a particularly dangerous individual and shoot them. It works if you roll a 6 to hit.

Barrage weapons - that is to say, indirect fire weapons which use a blast marker - take their casualties from the centre of the blast marker, and not from the closest model to the firer. There are two "hit" markers on the scatter dice, so this allows barrage weapons to select the person to take the hit first twice as often as snipers and characters. This is even more effective as it means that every hit caused by the template is applied first to the model hit - so the melta gunner has to survive maybe four to six hits.

The intent of the "from the centre of the blast marker" was clearly to make it look cinematic and cool. Instead, it means that massive artillery pieces at the far side of the battle field are, mathematically, more effective than precision snipers at picking off an individual model.

Don't get me wrong - the United States government has been showing for quite a while that a cruise missile or air strike is a perfectly effective means of long ranged assassination - but currently, it seems just too disproportionately good. It shouldn't be a precise weapon - it should be something that achieves long range assassination by reducing everything in the target zone to a fine red mist.

Possible fixes

There are two possible fixes I've considered. I'd love it if a few people who use barrage weapons a lot could have a go with them and give some feedback - I sadly don't have much in the way of heavy artillery painted up yet, and my glacial painting speed means that won't be fixed soon...

  1. Use your blast markers as usual to determine the number of hits. Then, randomise who takes all the hits. Assign every hit a barrage weapon causes to a random model in the unit.
  2. Use your blast markers as usual to determine the number of hits. Then, randomise who now counts as the "centre of blast", then apply the rules as normal from then on.
I suspect the first option will be much too slow, and the second option is "just right" - but I would like people's opinions on that. The third option would have been to randomise who the blast marker is centred on to start with, then scatter as normal and apply from the centre of blast. That, however, reduces the ability of the firer to maximise the number of models they are trying to hit, and reduces people's abilities to aim blast markers to aim for the "centre of mass" of a unit in the hope of getting the most casualties.

What do people think? Is anyone willing to give it a go?

Friday 15 November 2013

Did I dream it? A Chaos Space Marine list with Mutilators

Somewhere, recently, I saw or heard an argument that the Mutilators in the Chaos Space Marine list were a better bodyguard for a Chaos Space Marine Terminator Lord in a Land Raider than Chaos Terminators, as they had more wounds and more flexibility to punch a variety of different opponents in the face in close combat.

I have now totally forgotten where I heard this. Was it a podcast? Was it in a blog post somewhere? I don't remember. Maybe I dreamt it. I shall award one Internet Point if anyone can link to my inspiration for this craziness.

So, I had a first pass at putting this into a list today.

1500 Pts - Codex: Chaos Space Marines

HQ: Chaos Lord in Terminator Armour
Mark of Slaanesh, Combi-Meltagun, Lightning Claw, Warlord

HQ: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour
Mark of Slaanesh, Combi-Boltgun, Force Axe, Mastery Level 3, Spell Familiar

Elite: 3 Mutilators

Troops: Noise Marines
10 Noise Marines
Icon of Excess, Blastmaster, Noise Champion with Melta Bombs and Doom Siren
1 Chaos Rhino with Dirge Caster

Troops: Chaos Space Marines
20 Chaos Space Marines
Icon of Vengeance, Flamer, Meltagun, Aspiring Champion with Melta Bombs

Fast Attack: Heldrake with Baleflamer

Heavy Support: Chaos Land Raider
Dirge Caster

I will certainly say that as a Guard player, the idea of that few models on the table is a little scary. I went with Slaanesh and a big horde of CSMs because I am currently considering doing my Dark Vengeance models up as Slaanesh worshipping Iron Warriors, who grew bored during sieges and found ways of entertaining themselves during all the dull bits.

Only two scoring units, with two tanks and a horde of Marines starting on the table is really not very much at all - I did consider trimming down to a more 'multiple small units' approach with Rhinos to increase the number of targets the opponent has to deal with and to allow the capture of multiple objectives - but I decided against it for this draft.

The Heldrake, obviously, reserves. The characters and the Mutilators charge forward at the enemy in the Land Raider and get out to murder things dead. The Noise Marines push forward in the Rhino and find an objective to push people off as they are a bit tougher than your usual choices. The 20 man squad either sits back or, if you're feeling brave, pushes up on foot looking for its own objective. Heldrake does as Heldrake pleases. Everything is Fearless or a vehicle.

If I was playing at 1750 or so, I think I'd just straight up add two Maulerfiends while cackling insanely.

I don't have any Chaos Space Marines painted up right now, so it's likely that this list will remain TheoryHammer for a long while yet. But it was an idea in my head, so I have written it down and put it on the internet to entertain others.

Monday 11 November 2013

This week, Finished Puppets and Saints Alive

Painting wise, I'm very pleased to have finished painting the Marionettes who work with Collodi. I just need to finish the Wicked Dolls, then I'll start work on basing them all.

As you may be able to spot in the background, the Wicked Dolls are also progressing a little bit, although one had a horrific mould line that I'd missed, so he's been pulled off his base, had the mould line removed, and then re-undercoated. He should catch up with some base coat soon.

Finally, in the background, our errant little Herald finally has the first colours on him which aren't pink! That certainly feels like an achievement, and I hope to keep his progress creeping along, even if it isn't quick. Just doing a little bit on him every time I sit down to do something else seems to be working quite well.

Today, I went to the National Gallery. It was not a hugely well planned trip - it was a rescheduled trip to meet up with a friend to go and see Sir John Soane's Museum, but we had not checked until recently to discover that, in fact, that museum is shut on a Monday.

During our wanderings, I noticed that the queue for Saints Alive, the Michael Landy exhibition, was quite short. So we dived in...

The exhibition is only on until 24 November 2013, and if you have any interest in art, I recommend going. Those with an interest in 40K should also consider going, as a lot of the work is a mix of Renaissance religious art and gears, injected with a wicked sense of humour. That should sound familiar to anyone who has more than a passing interest...

The donation box included a statue of St Francis, who smacked his head against a crucifix every time you gave money. There was also a "St Francis Lucky Dip" where you could win a T shirt. My companion did, and she was inordinately happy and excited about this. The irony was not lost on me...

This is Carlo Crivelli's painting of St Michael. It is interesting, but wouldn't really stand out to most wargamers. This is where Landy's genius has come in. His sculptures are based on collages of bits of Renaissance art, made into massive sculptures - most of which move, make massive amounts of noise, and eventually destroy themselves from people interacting with them.

This is Multi-Saint. The legs are from the St Michael painting by Crivelli, as is the devil he's standing on. And this is where, suddenly, things come to life. You suddenly realise that the ornate turquoise armour with lion-faced knee pads is pure, unadulterated awesome. The photo doesn't do it justice. Landy has taken a painting and made a sculpture from it. I could entirely imagine and slightly more gothic version of these on a Dark Angel, or even Lion'el Jonson's armour when Forge World finally do him.

Landy has, in some ways, shown me a way - there is genuine inspiration which you could take from museums and paintings and put into your miniature painting. Miniature painting is artistic, and while it is not the sort of thing you expect to see at a gallery, outside of Warhammer World, perhaps there is inspiration to be taken from it?

Thursday 7 November 2013

Product Review: Warsenal Optical Camo Markers - now edited for reduced stupid...

The moment I saw the Optical Camo Markers that Warsenal produce, I knew I was going to pick some up at some point. When they made a post on their Facebook group saying that their current supplier of radiant acrylic was not going to be able to supply them and that their current stock would have to last until they found a new supplier, I went out and bought a set immediately.

I was pleasantly surprised at how little time it took for the jiffy bag of things to arrive from the US. As a UK customer, I did have to pay more in postage than the relatively cheap price of the tokens, but I felt that the look of the tokens was worth the additional expense of the international shipping.

Warsenal also threw in a big sticker and a little pin badge, which is a nice touch. I am considering turning the sticker into a terrain bill board or something similar with a bit of weathering...

My first version of this post raised the quibble of the bubbled up coverings on the bases. Warsenal very helpfully and incredibly quickly pointed out that this is a protective covering for transit to stop scratching, and it just peels off.

I ran downstairs and fixed one to take a photo. Doesn't he look even sexier now? The base numbers were a little unclear with the covering on (unsurprisingly), but now show up a lot better.

This also speaks volumes for Warsenal's customer service and speed of response - they were also incredibly nice about me being a blithering idiot who can't be trusted with string. Anyone who has the patience to deal with me gets two thumbs up in my book...

The website warns that for some bases, you may not get a snug fit and need some glue to hold them together. It seems I was lucky - only one is at all loose, and he'll still stand up perfectly well on his own without any glue.

Here's a shot of a few of the markers scattered around a board. From this angle, you can't really make out how the light varies depending on the angle you're looking at them with. Obviously, these were taken for the original, unedited blog post, before I realised that the blue protective film should be taken off...

This gives you more of an idea of the different colours you can get - different shades, reflections of scenery, but also seeing through them, all in the same shot. They really look the part on the field, and will also be handy for line of sight issues compared to a flat token on the floor. When I next play a game of Infinity, I shall let you know how they fair.

In summary, you do not need these for a game of Infinity, but if you want your force to look just that little bit cooler, especially if you are using quite a lot of camo, then these are definitely for you.

Monday 4 November 2013

150 posts - a look back

I started the blog back in April 2012 with a mixed bag of objectives. I wanted somewhere I could talk about my hobby as most of my other social media was dedicated to my other hobby, which is LARPing. While there's some cross-over, there's a lot of people who aren't interested in the other, so I decided to separate things out.

It took 25 posts and a month to put my first photos up - of a completed Leman Russ tank. These days I try and make sure all of my posts have some photo content in, as I find it helps break up the text and just generally looks better.

I've also gotten slightly better at focussing - not much, but a little.

The blog really took off in September 2012, when I posted up a bunch of rumours and things I found out at Games Day. Those two posts earnt me over 4,500 views, which given most of my posts seem to average out at about 50 views. Before that, my Imperial Guard 6th Edition tactics articles were my highest viewed articles, due to the massive lack of in depth tactics articles compared to 5th edition.

I had got back into 40K and painting because my wife paints. She didn't game. But late last year she suddenly realised that she'd actually got a playable Dark Eldar force, and ended up learning to play, which I documented.

This year, I have tried out Inquisitor 28, picked up (but not yet played) Taban's Eden, learnt Malifaux, and gotten involved in Dark Sphere's 40K slow grow league. I also recently tried Infinity.

I also hit quite a few events - Salute, Grumpy Old Wargamers, Enter the Citadel and Games Day 2013. The latter, despite a slow start to hits, led to a massive explosion in the number of views I received. Last month had a spectacular 13,619 views. Given that at the start of the month, I hadn't passed the all important 40,000 view milestone (which is now smashed), that's a lot of people coming to have a look.

While I've been writing this little retrospective, I've been having a bit of a think about what this blog is. There's a lot of aspects to it. I try and make sure I provide regular content, producing a reasonable amount of readable words and viewable pictures - at least one a week, preferably on Monday. That discipline is something that I hope will stand me in good stead in some future projects.

There's also the community aspect. The Youtubers around Templar's Crusade 01 and Joeyberry seem a little more obvious about their communication with each other than, perhaps, the odd mails or comment exchanges I might have with, say, Headologist, Mordian 7th, Admiral Drax or the indeterminate amount of Zzzzzs . . . But I still don't regard myself as being in the same category as the folk who play Inq28 with JB, for example.

I am very pleased that my painting and miniature photography is now progressing to the point where there are pictures and efforts I've made that I'm really quite proud of. You can see the sort of thing I'm now managing with finished models here.

This remains a personal blog - it mostly consists of painting updates and a few battle reports, but sometimes I come up with articles on other subjects which catch my eye. And these are often some of the things I'm most proud of - so if I'd have to pick out anything for someone new to the blog to go and have a glance over, it'd be these. I'm also often a lot more nervous about them, as they are me expressing an opinion, rather than simply telling people about something I did, or something someone told me.

So, here is my post on the influence of Durer on early Warhammer art, and also my post on why I don't mind, from a setting perspective, Chaos Space Marine leadership.

Oddly enough, quite a lot of my hobby time does end up being about doing things not just for the experience, but also to provide blog content. The blog itself has become, in some ways, quite an integral part of my hobby experience. Given how eclectic the blog is, I'm aware there's a wide range of reasons people will have subscribed, but I am quite curious as to what sort of things people will be interested in the future.

So, I'd like to hear your comments - what bits are your favourites? Is there anything you'd like me to ramble on about? What do you blog for, and how does it interact with your hobby?

It is not often I fish for comments, but it would be nice to see if we can get a discussion going in the comments section this week.