30 April 2010

Just a warning; this post went on for a long long time and it has no pictures to look at. I think I've talked about most of this stuff before at some point, so I won't blame you for not reading to the end.

I haven't had much time for hobbies this week, but I've been taking five or ten minutes a day to assemble a figure here and there. I've added a rank of Halberdiers to the Greatswords and Mortar that make up my Empire force. Working on them a little bit every day has kept me excited about the project and by association all the other projects I have in my mind. I really want to start painting these guys. School is out soon, but my wife is looking for some part-time work to help us reach some goals and I want to spend more time with my kid before I go overseas later this year, so I'm not sure how much my hobby time will increase. I think my stress level will definitely go down a bit, though. I'd really like to have 1000-1500 points of Empire painted befor I leave, though. It would be nice to "complete" a project or two this summer. I think it would be feasible to finish a few hundred points more of Space Marines and the Empire army by then if I do a little every day with a few all-weekend benders thrown in for good measure.

I did a little mental audit of my various projects in one of my classes the other day. I was a little surprised to see that when I write it all down I've got enough figures to build at least a decent starter army for almost every project on the table. Some projects fall a little short, specifically historical projects and Lord of the Rings armies, but for almost everything else I've got enough stock on hand to build some good-sized forces. I think that in the consumer mindset I am always looking at the next shiny thing instead of thinking about all the neat stuff I have on my shelves at home. There are things that I would like to add to each project, but in most cases there is nothing so pressing or essential that that army couldn't be built, played, and enjoyed without it.

Exceptions would include some infantry formations for the Warhammer Fantasy Dogs of War collection I'm building. I've about got Special and Rare choices filled out, but I am lacking a bit in Core formations like Leopold's Leopard Company, the Alcatani Fellowship, and Ricco's Republican Guard. I'd also really like to find a set of the Giants of Albion with Hengus the Druid, but they only show up very rarely on eBay and fetch a pretty penny when they do.

I'd like to add some of the Forge World Elysian Drop Troops stuff to my Guard army, but I think I'll be able to shoehorn it all in at some point in the future anyway. I've got some jump packs, helmets, and a Drop Sentinel already so I can represent a small drop force on the tabletop as it is, but I'd like to add some more sentinels and maybe a couple of their buggies too.

I read in the comments on this post at the John's Toy Soldiers blog that Wargames Factory is working on some Heavy Weapons figures to go with their Sci-Fi Troopers in Greatcoats sprues. That would make them a little more appealing, as hopefully the Heavy Weapons will fit in as substitutes for the Games Workshop Guard army list. I'd been trying to decide how I would convert the basic three poses on the current sprue to fit in as Heavy Weapon teams, but they may be making things easy on me. I will probably wait to see how the line shakes out before I sink money into it.

And the latest White Dwarf has got me itching to play large battles with Games Workshop's War of the Ring figures. I've got bits and pieces of several different factions, but not really enough of anything to play a large game with the mass formations that would give it such great visual appeal. I do have enough Goblins painted to play a Mines of Moria scenario, though, if I could just get my Fellowship and Cave Troll painted. I'd really like to have some big formations of Orcs and Easterlings and Knights of Dol Amroth. I wouldn't even mind having a small formation of Hobbit Archers. I hope that GW continues the pattern of putting figures out in plastic, especially some of the infantry troops that are prohibitively expensive in plastic. I've noticed that many of the armies in White Dwarf that are actually owned by staff instead of being Studio armies are devoid of large numbers of those pricey metal formations. I guess even the staffers can't stomach those prices.

On the historical side of things, I need some Germans to oppose my Flames of War Americans, but first I need to choose a unit or campaign to build around. And I've got enough Vikings for a small game of something-or-other, but no one to really oppose them. I may hold out for Wargames Factory's upcoming Saxon line.

All of that is in the future, though. Right now I am pretty excitied about my Empire army, adding a few Space Marines to my painted pile, and maybe putting together a few Imperial Guardsmen or my Elysian Drop Sentinel.

28 April 2010

Some Thoughts On the Empire

This is not a tactics or army list review, just some thoughts I had while putting my figures together over the last couple of weeks. The first thing I want to say is that I really hate two-handed weapons. The Greatswords have half the hilt of their swords in each hand, so you have to make the arms line up just so or the hilt will look wonky. Usually at the point where the arms would line up the torso would have some kind of ornament that needed cut off to allow for arm positioning or the head wouldn't fit due to a wide brim or a feather. It was frustrating, but I think they are mostly good to go now.

The Mortar kit went together pretty quickly with no major problems. I did have a little trouble with the guy holding the big Q-tip, though, as his gunnery implement has two arms attached to it. The angle of the arms didn't quite match up with the mounting points on the torso, so there were some gaps that had to be dealt with.

I built a Halberdier tonight to see how they would work out. Again with the two-handed weapons. The bodies and legs all come as one piece, so the figures go together pretty quickly once the mold lines and flash are cleaned up. The arms again do not come off the weapon at quite the right angles to match up, and some of the figures have junk hanging on their belts that interferes with proper arm positioning. It's not too big of a deal, though, and I am still enjoying the process.

I've been mixing and matching some parts from kit to kit in an attempt to build some flavor and a story into the army. The Greatswords and later on some Swordsmen will represent troops from Middenheim who have been dispatched to the outskirts of Middenland to aid in stopping the Beastmen raids. As they come from the big capital city, they are being modeled with nicer equipment and the heads with feathers on the caps. I've also tried to pick heads for them with more facial hair; perhaps in the city it's fashionable to have a beard.

The local militia don't get the fancy equipment or any plumage on their heads. They are pretty bare-bones (some even have bare feet) and will probably be painted less uniformly than the big-city regiments.

The Flagellants are nutters and will probably just wear whatever they want. Arguing with a fanatic about uniforms is a surefire way to waste your time and breath, so it's probably best just to point them in the direction of the enemy and hope they do some damage.

I haven't quite decided on an Order for my Knights to hail from. There are plenty out there, but I am wishy-washy when it comes to settling on one. That will probably take a while.

26 April 2010

The Empire Moves Along Slowly

I've got a small unit of Greatswords and a Mortar put together for my Empire army. It's been moving along slowly, but I've been able to grab a few minutes here and there in between other stuff.

I'm also posting a couple photos of the boy, for family who read the blog. This first one is what we are usually able to capture. He seems to sense when the camera is out and either stops whatever he's doing and puts on a deadpan expression or he charges the camera full-bore and tries to twist the lens. Either way it is difficult to actually get a picture of him doing something.

He also likes to chase the dogs around. They tolerate it to a degree, probably because he tosses food on the ground and they get a little taste of the "people food." He is especially fond of Buddy's tail, and will chase him around trying to grab it.

Internal Conflict

I spend a lot of time fighting myself, it seems. I have a compulsive "need" to acquire things. It is much better than it used to be, but not entirely under control. I often have to spend a lot of time talking myself out of an impulsive purchase. The most recent case has been the Wargames Factory Sci-Fi Troopers. They are neat figures and I could pre-order a bunch of them now. I'm sure I would be excited for a few minutes upon placing the order, eagerly anticipate their arrival in the post, open the box and have a look at the sprues, then place them on the shelf behind all the other projects clogging up my miniatures backlog. Rationally thinking, it makes sense to avoid buying them until I am ready to sit down and build that particular army.

The impulsive gamer in me screams out that they are shiny and we must have the precious now! I have to continually remind myself that the figures are not a limited edition, they will probably still be around when I am ready to order them, by that time there may be improvements and additions to the line (particularly a replacement for that rushed-looking pistol arm on the sprue), and that miniatures are a luxury item instead of a need. The argument is more convincing now than it used to be, but I still spend way too much time talking myself out of things that I don't need. It's a pain in the rear end and I hope that with enough resistance training I'll be able to make a habit out of saying no except when it's in the budget. I've been reading and absorbing a lot of personal finance and investing blogs lately as a motivation builder.

22 April 2010

Sci-Fi Greatcoats from Wargames Factory and Recent (In)Activity

Real life has been pretty busy the last couple of weeks. I found some time to put together a rank of Greatswords for my Empire army, but that's about it on the hobby front. I cleaned up the hobby room a little bit, but it's not really noticeable. I've got so much stuff stashed on every shelf that it has become very difficult to store new purchases. I guess that's a sign that there are too many boxes of figures, at least in that one room.

And on the subject of putting figures together, I need to branch off into a little side rant. It may just be me, but the nozzle of every container of model glue I buy plugs up well before I have used up all the glue inside. The only way I am able to get a good amount of use out of my glue is to build an entire army in one or two sessions over a couple of days. If I go much beyond a couple of weeks the nozzle clogs up and I wind up spending thirty minutes getting the glue flowing again or injuring myself with whatever sharp implement I'm using as an unclogging tool. Or both. Just wondering if that's a common problem or if I'm just doing it wrong. The glue I buy looks like this:
Wargames Factory has announced the release of some Sci Fi Troopers in Greatcoats. One of the many things these guys could stand in for are the Games Workshop/Forge World Death Korps of Krieg Imperial Guard army. Eighteen of these guys will cost you $19.95 plus shipping from the Wargames Factory site, with a few pre-order deals going on at the moment. Ten Krieg infantry will cost you about $54.00 plus shipping at the current exchange rates. Of course with the Wargames Factory release you don't have access to some of the iconic Krieg options, like the cavalry and artillery, but you could flesh out a decent infantry and vehicle force without selling a kidney to fund it. I've currently got plans (and figures) for a different Imperial Guard force, but in the future I may come back to this one.

I don't have much else going on at the moment in the hooby realm. Hopefully in between writing papers this weekend I will find some time to put together a few more Empire figures and/or slap some paint on my last few Space Marines. Well, the last few that I have put together, that is.

I have decided on a theme for my Empire army. They are going to be from Middenheim/Middenland, with a few religious crazies thrown in for good measure. The history of Middenland seems to contain a lot of conflict against Beastmen, and the colors are a little different from most of my armies. Pretty much everything else I paint is green in either uniform or skin color, so blue and white may be a nice colorful diversion. I read in the fluff somewhere that mortars are used when fighting the Beastmen, because their higher arc of fire allows them to be used in the forests where Beastmen are found. Cannons have a hard time in the woods because of their lower trajectory. So my force will include some mortars to fit in with the theme.

12 April 2010

Fun and Games

This afternoon the wife, the boy and I went to Hobbytown to meet up with a friend of mine and his wife to look at toys and talk about our upcoming game night. The boy really enjoyed the display of kid's toys that they have in the store. My friend decided to start a Beastmen army for Warhammer Fantasy. I will be building a rival Empire army. At some point we may branch out into 40k or Lord of the Rings, but for now we will hopefully be able to get a couple of small Fantasy armies put together before the potential deployment overseas. While we work on our troops, the four of us will be playing a D & D campaign. I am trying to decide which province of the Empire my army will hail from.

After we got home from Hobbytown, I refined my character concept and my wife got her character rolled up. I'm looking at a Minotaur Barbarian/Rogue and she will be running a Razorclaw Shifter Druid. There is also a Bard in the group, I'm not sure what race it will be. The group looks a little weak, as there is no healing and no real damage absorber. I think we may solve that by either inviting more people or having a couple of NPCs join the party.

So that's a little update on what I've been doing. It's pretty exciting to have some gaming prospects on the horizon. We need to find some figures for our D & D characters and I need to get cracking on putting some paint on some figures. I started putting some Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard together for my Space Marines. I would like to use them as some kind of special HQ unit for the Assault (8th?) Company of my Chapter. With their different-looking armor, they will be a bit of a change from the same Scorched Brown/Catachan Green power armor that my other Marines wear.

07 April 2010

Is That Model Really Worth It?

I was going over some Beastmen and Empire army lists the other night and working out how much they would cost to purchase at Games Workshop's recommended prices. I rarely pay full price for models, but the MSRP gives a good baseline to look at for comparisons.

In looking at a Beastmen list I decided to see what I could do to lessen the cost, just dividing the cost of the models by the number of game points they are worth to come up with an overall cost per point individually and for the overall list. The first model I targeted was the Doombull, as it is a rather pricey metal single figure. I compared him to some models that looked fairly cheap, the Chaos Warhounds. The result was pretty surprising. Depending on the build you go for, the Doombull costs between 12.31 and 17.55 cents per point. This was well below the average for my overall army list, so I got the idea that something was up. Depending on the options you pick for the Warhounds, they cost between 22.00 and 36.67 cents per point. That turned out to be about middle of the pack for the stuff I considered.

Razorgors topped out the price-per-point list at 45.45 cents. This is somewhat expected as they are low-point metal figures. Centigors are also metal models and come in at 36.09 to 40.53 cents per point when built at 10 models and 20 models with full command. Other units in the higher range of price-per-point include the Ungors and Bestigors, which come in at the high 20s to mid 30s.

The next lower bracket include the higher-points plastic infantry models; Gors, Minotaurs, and the Giant. The Gors range from about 23.50 to 27.75 cents per point, while the Giant and Minotaurs hover right around 20 cents per point. Character models come in cheapest per point, with the Doombull I discussed earlier and the Bray-Shaman coming in at a super-low 8.28 to 17.67 cents per point.

Once you get into the named characters, you get really cheap on a per-point basis. They range mostly in the single digits, with a maxed-out Great Bray-Shaman coming in at 3.96 cents per point. Even Gorthor the Beastlord with his chariot comes in at under 12 cents per point.

You could cut some of these costs even further by building lists around the Battalion sets and converting your characters from regular plastic kits, like building a Doombull and two Minotaurs out of a single plastic box, or building an army general out of a Gor box set.

I imagine that armies available almost entirely in plastic would be even cheaper per point. the Empire army I priced out came in at about 4 cents less per point overall when compared to the Beastmen. I guess it's pretty nerdy to go through and do all this math, but it was interesting to have some of my perceptions (high-cost Centigors) borne out and some of them (Doombull and Chaos Hounds) turned upside down. It might be fun to go through some of your armies and see how they stack up.

The reason this is relevant for me personally is that I want to build an army that focuses on the larger creatures, but I figured it would cost a lot more than an army full of the smaller infantry simply because the unit price is so high. But when you factor the points found in a box of Minotaurs or a single Giant, the cost actually may go down. An army will still need some of the small creatures, but I can save money by getting those figures in a Battalion box or two and fill in the rest with the larger stuff. At least that's the plan.

05 April 2010

Virtual Trophies

Fantasy sports are one of my non-wargaming hobbies. With the NBA and NHL seasons coming to an end, I have been evaluating my make-believe teams. In hockey I have already won a third-place trophy for a league with early playoffs, and I am in a position to win a couple more trophies once the season ends for good, probably two second-place trophies. That means I should get a trophy in every hockey league I joined this year.

My NBA teams are not doing as well. I may get two trophies (out of four teams) and the other two teams aren't even close. Some key injuries came into play, but I think the main reason for my success in hockey and relative failure in basketball is the personal factor. At their heart, fantasy sports games are merely spreadsheet exercises. If you removed the names from the statistical sets you could still play effectively, and perhaps even perform better. But that would basically be doing accounting as a form of entertainment. I do not follow professional hockey. I know nothing about the teams or the players, so I am able to shuffle my roster somewhat heartlessly when a player is underperforming. I don't come into it with a bias. The NBA was my first real sports obsession, so I come into fantasy basketball with a lot of prejudice. I may hold on to an underperforming player because I am a fan of the team or I am holding out hope that he will play to his potential. I have attached myself to a particular set of statistics because of the name that appears next to them. Anyway, that's my theory.

Baseball season starts in earnest today. My team, the Houston Astros, is pretty much doomed to fail from the beginning, so I have no hope that the real season will go well for me. My heyday of sports fandom was in the mid-90s when the Houston Rockets and Denver Broncos were winning trophies. Since then my teams have all struggled in the throes of mediocrity or worse. The good thing about the start of baseball season is that I've got four fresh fantasy teams full of potential. When the numbers haven't started pouring in it's easy to imagine that every one of my teams has a chance to win a little digital trophy. Actually, one of my teams is pretty bad and I don't see it winning anything. I'll be lucky to keep it out of last place. I tried an auction-style draft for the first time and it didn't go well for me. Last season I actually watched some baseball games, and I may try to catch a few this year as well.

04 April 2010

Lots of Excitement, but Not a Lot of Progress

I've spent a little time in the last week or so reading the latest White Dwarf (the one featuring the Blood Angels). In spite of the problems I've had with my now-canceled subscription, the last few issues have been quite motivational for me. I think my excitement comes from the proliferation of articles featuring army building and army painting. Unfortunately all this excitement about projects old and new hasn't really translated into any measurable progress. School and work have pretty well monopolized all of my time. Any time left over is generally wasted.

I've also been trying to help my wife out a little more with the raising of the boy. I don't know if my token efforts are even noticeable, but I am trying. He has finally gotten to the point where either one of us can get him to go to sleep instead of him requiring her each time, so I guess that's progress. He's begun to say a few words, or at least approximations of words that mean certain things. And he's begun to try to imitate the sounds we make when we read books or talk to him. But mostly he just runs around like a maniac intent on destroying everything in his path. At least he's generally good-natured and cute while he does it.

Back to hobbies, I've been thinking about my Space Marines. With the relatively new Space Wolves and the Blood Angels that released today, as well as the vanilla Space Marines, there are a lot of choices. I'd like to try all of the Space Marine types, but I don't want to paint and play three different armies, especially as many of the units overlap somewhat between them. I think I will paint up all of my Space Marines in one paint scheme, and just swap out the special units when I want to play a list from a different book. When I play Blood Angels I can swap in Sanguinary Guard, Baal Predators, and Furioso Dreadnoughts. When I play Space Wolves I can play Wolf Guard and Thunderwolf Cavalry (whenever the models get released). But all the generic stuff can stay the same from force to force, and elements from all of the box sets can be mixed and matched to build them. At least that's the plan.

I have enjoyed the articles about the various Lord of the Rings/War of the Ring armies that the White Dwarf staff have built. It is somewhat discouraging to me that I doubt I'll ever be able to do Lord of the Rings like I want to. All of the models from the range that I've painted so far have been fun and look good when they're done. The background and story are compelling. Pretty much everything about the game excites me, but the models aren't readily available locally and I don't already have a huge stockpile of them. That makes it hard to justify further expansion in that area, especially when I've got so many other projects going on. I'm not sure that I will get around to the game before Games Workshop drops the Lord of the Rings license and the models get more expensive and harder to find. At the moment they seem to be in maintenance mode for the game, releasing a model here and there to fill gaps, but not really pushing it all that hard. Many of the plastic figures are a very good value, but building units made up of metal figures seems very expensive. Really it isn't any more expensive than a metal Warhammer unit or a 40k vehicle, but for some reason I have a psychological aversion to it. I guess the short version is that I really like the Lord of the Rings concept and the range of figures from Games Workshop, but I don't see myself being able to build it up the way I want to.

I've also been a little bit obsessed with the latest version of the Warhammer Fantasy Beastmen. Games Workshop took a lot of the Chaos stuff that I don't care for, and it's entirely possible to build a Beastmen army full of the stuff I like, which is basically anthropomorphized livestock, giants, and spiky boars. I'm especially enamored of the Minotaurs and I would like to get another Giant kit and build a cloven-hoofed Giant. Do I need another army? Certainly not, but need really doesn't come into play in this hobby.

I met a guy in my National Guard unit who along with his wife is into gaming. We are going to get together with them later this month and hopefully get some sort of gaming going. He may even be open to playing one of the Warhammer games, which would be awesome for me and maybe spur me into getting some more painting done.