31 January 2011

Recent Reading

I finished reading the Bone anthology a couple of days ago. It's a really good adventure story. Although it's got over 1300 pages, it ended much too quickly. But the story ended, and I'm not sure how you could top what the characters had just been through, so I guess it ended in the right place. Most of the complaints from Amazon reviewers focus on the lack of color in the anthology printing, but I think the line art really stands alone very well. The few other negative or neutral reviewers are just cold soulless folk who wouldn't know fun if it bit them on the bum and said, "Hi, I'm Fun!" I'd recommend reading it if you get the chance.

I also read the Sabbat Worlds Anthology, edited by Dan Abnett and featuring short stories and novellas from him and several other Black Library authors. All of the stories take place in the world of Gaunt's Ghosts, although many of them focus on other units and other planets. But all are part of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade that Gaunt's Ghost's made famous. After reading the first two stories I wasn't sure I'd spent my money wisely on the book. They left me feeling a bit flat, I'm not sure if the writing wasn't very good or just because I didn't identify with the characters and situations in them. Luckily, the book picked up for me from that point on, and I enjoyed the rest of it. The first Abnett story was a bit silly, though, as you could tell pretty soon what the surprise ending was. I sincerely hope that he was just trying to give some insight into Gaunt's character and values rather than trick the reader, because it was pretty obvious what was going on. I can't really say more without giving up spoilers, so I'll leave it at that. I'd recommend the book if you are following the Gaunt's Ghosts series, but otherwise you probably won't miss much by giving it a pass. Next on my agenda is Blood Pact, the most recent book in the Gaunt's Ghosts series, and after that I will probably start in on the Horus Heresy books.

I slapped some black wash on the Dwarf Warriors the other day, but that's about it on the miniature wargaming side. I've started running again after a few days off, so that's been fun. I can't say I enjoy running, but I do feel better when I've made it a point to exercise (almost) daily. And I've enjoyed watching my times slowly get better.

27 January 2011

Not Everything is Negative

Although I am mildly irritated by Forge World's disregard for my favorite armies and the uninspiring Hell Pit Abomination figure for the Skaven army, things are really not all that bad. I got a shipment of new books to read in the mail today, an anthology of stories from the Gaunt's Ghosts setting and the first four books of the Horus Heresy series. I have nearly completed my reading of the Bone anthology, which has been a great read. I've made it to the last book, so I may be able to go to bed on time today rather than staying up late to read just one more. We'll see if the Horus Heresy books keep me up past my bedtime.

The twins continue to grow and appear healthy. One of the benefits of having multiple kids in the womb is that you get to have more ultrasounds, so I think my wife gets to look at them almost every week. I get to see a few of the pictures, although the babies aren't very cooperative.

I am still ignoring the Dwarves, who should be half-painted by now. I haven't been able to get myself going on this second batch. I partially blame changes in the routine at work, as changes to my routine usually leave me floundering for a while. The day shift guys have been having difficulty sleeping, so they hang around the office at night and bother me socialize. So the first few hours of my shift are devoted to listening to other people's drama and/or receiving unsolicited advice for problems I don't anticipate facing in my life. For my schedule those are the hours that are best suited to working on figures, so instead of working on Dwarves I get to take part in an un-aired reality show drama. I find it frustrating, but I don't suppose there is any benefit in holding a grudge. So I let it go and silently pray that the other guys will be healed of their sleep issues. Perhaps I should give them the advice my Mom gave to us, "How can you get to sleep if you're out here messing around? Maybe if you go get in your bed you'll feel more tired."

I have a lot of ideas for my wargaming armies, but I don't see a lot of actual progress being made for the moment. I need to find a template for Imperial Guard infantry, so I can draw different camo designs on them and come up with something I like for a Mars-type planet. I recall seeing one, maybe it was in the old Imperial Guard army book or an old copy of White Dwarf, but I haven't had any luck finding a digital one that I can use on the computer or print out and color manually. The best way to do it would be to paint different designs on actual figures, but I don't really have the resources for that here.

My couple weeks of leave is coming up soon and I'm looking forward to spending some time at home with my family. Our two-year old is extremely energetic and talkative, so I will probably spend the entire time being jumped on and talked to. It should be a lot of fun. And it will be nice to finally meet the twins. I doubt I'll get much wargaming stuff done while I'm home, but maybe I'll be able to steal a few moments for myself to do a small project like paint a character model or a superhero. The weather at home is still a bit cold and wet, so plans for motorcycle riding will likely have to wait until late Summer. I may sneak out once, though, with my heated jacket and gloves. The best thing will be getting to spend some time with my wife. I enjoy her company quite a bit. We'll both be going crazy with the new babies and the toddler, but hopefully we can sneak in a few minutes to go on a date and get our lives synced back up. Sometimes it's a difficult adjustment because the deployed soldier and the family at home both get into routines, and coming home is a bit of a shock to both sides. But I'm looking forward to seeing them and living in something that's not a shipping container for a couple weeks.

The Curse of Chaos

This is going to be bit of a rant, I suppose. Probably a two-parter, although the parts are related. My first complaint deals with the Hell Pit Abomination figure that Games Workshop released for the Skaven army. The model is just too busy. People seem to be fielding plenty of them because of the juicy statline, but for me it just doesn't fit in with my vision of a Skaven super-beast. If they were going to give the Skaven a big Moulder-created figure, why couldn't it have been someting like a massive Rat Ogre or Rat Mammoth (like the Lizardmen Stegadon, only furry)? At least something with a face. From the tail to the center of the torso, the critter looks okay. After that, it devolves into a complicated mass of heads and limbs that just don't work. There's so much going on that no real theme can come out of it. I don't particularly like the army book description, and I really don't like the model. Maybe the stat line is all right, but I've never paid much attention to stat lines before. The battle report in January's White Dwarf featured two of the creatures, and I couldn't help rooting against them. I just don't see the draw, which brings me to my next problem.

Forge World recently sent out a newsletter proclaiming the first wave of releases for their Warhammer Forge line, models that focus on the world and armies of Warhammer Fantasy. Rather than covering a variety of popular Fantasy armies, all of the releases are Nurgle-themed. Someone at Forge World must be a huge Chaos fan with a Nurgle fetish, because they release far too many models that regurgitate the same tired theme. I hope they eventually release something exciting for the other armies, but it seems a bit narrow-minded to only cater to one segment of your fan base with the inaugural wave of releases. I'd like to see a Dwarven war machine, some Skaven contraption, or perhaps a Forge World interpretation of an Imperial Steam Tank. I'm sure they could do wonders with the Orcs and Goblins, too, as their Ork range for 40k is pretty decent. Granted, I can't afford half of their stuff and mostly only window shop, but there are a few models from the 40k line that I am going to get as time and budget permit. I would like to suppor the Fantasy side of the house as well, but only when they decide to support all of the hobbyists who don't want to run Nurgle-themed Chaos armies.

25 January 2011


Today before work I played the board game Shogun with a couple of guys from my unit. One of the guys is really into board games and has been hustling pretty hard to find players. Three of the five scheduled people showed up this evening, which is the minimum necessary to play. It's a pretty interesting game, with players fighting for control of territory while balancing a limited budget that must be split between raising armies and constructing buildings. Owning a territory will score some points, but buildings are where the game is really won. The game lasts two turns, with four rounds per turn that represent the seasons of the year. At the end of winter, the number of buildings in each region are added up, and the owners of the most buildings in each region gain points.

I came in second place, with the guy who owns the game winning. I don't think I really caught the scope of the game until partway through the second turn, and by then it was too late to catch up on construction or conquest of territories with important buildings. I think there is a tentative plan to play again soon, and I should be able to give it a better run next time.

I did have a couple of good moves during the final turn, using the combat mechanic to my advantage. All of the armies are in the form of small colored wooden cubes. During an attack, the armies are gathered together and thrown into a battle tower, which is like a dice tower except that some of the armies thrown into the tower might stick on the shelves and stay inside. The ones that fall all the way out are used to resolve the combat, and the ones that stay in the tower have the opportunity to influence future combats. I knew approximately what my opponents might do during the attack phases. I arranged some useless combats in the early part of the fighting to pre-load the tower with armies of my color, so that in the combats that really mattered I would have an advantage. It worked well this time and in two decisive battles I had more armies come out than I'd put in, providing the margin of victory for those combats. It's not a fool-proof method, but if you know there's an important combat coming up you can increase your chances by trying to get some more of your unused armies stuck in the tower.

23 January 2011

Superhero Gaming

The next batch of Dwarves is coming along slowly. I am trying to push through and actually keep this project moving. There's not very much that's complicated about them, but I am a slow painter. One of the guys asked me how long it takes to paint each one, and I estimate my time at 1.5-2 hours per figure. So I'm figuring it will take a little over 200 hours for the army, once you figure in the time it will take to base them and brush on a coat or two of varnish, as well as waffling around and painting character models. I may even hit 300 hours on the 2000-point Dwarf project.

I didn't work on the figures tonight, as I had to watch some football. I'm glad the Packers beat the Bears, and it looks like the Steelers are going to beat the Jets. That would make for a good Super Bowl matchup. I sure hope the Steelers lose to the Packers, though. Roethlisberger has an uncanny ability to move around in the pocket, but his decisions off the field make me root against him. Of course, you can't throw a football in an NFL stadium without hitting a player with some legal and/or personality issues. But the Steelers should have some bad karma coming to them after they stole that Super Bowl from the Seahawks a few years ago.

I've been getting a little tired of using the same GW paint colors for everything, especially skin tones. I've been looking at other paint lines, like Foundry's paint system, but switching paint systems is not the cheapest thing to do. I will probably just pick and choose a few different colors from other lines to supplement GW colors that I want to switch up. I know there are a lot of people who use cheap craft paints that come in big bottles for $0.99, and I use some of them for bases and terrain, but they just go on a little too thick and grainy for me to use them for my figures. Even watered down they don't go on the way I'd like. There's no doubt that hobby paints are expensive, but so are most hobby items.

A couple of blogs that have caught my eye recently are those showcasing superhero figures. I love comics and the brightly colored heroes and villains who populate their worlds. We're even naming all of our kids after various comic book heroes, which is something I hope they'll appreciate as they get older. We haven't done anything too crazy with their first names, though, as it's important to me that they'll be able to suppress the comic book connection if they want to later in their academic or professional lives. But enough about my kids, here are a couple of blogs I've spotted recently that heavily feature superhero figures. There are a lot of neat figures out there for superhero gaming, quite a few from Reaper's Chronoscope line, a bunch from Superfigs, some Heroclix that can be rebased, and probably a hundred more I don't know about just yet. I've only painted one super so far, but I have big visions for teams and individuals that could inhabit a four-color world. I just need a rules system and a pile of lead.

I also wanted to bring some attention to this Death Mountain terrain piece over at the Ricalopia blog. There are a few work-in-progress posts prior to the post I linked, so you can see the process that went into it. It's a combination of GW kits and foam that come together to make something really neat and unique.

19 January 2011

Reptiles, Reading, and Too Much Bacon

I thought I had something to write about, but whatever idea I had has flown the coop and I am unable to bring it back. I finished my book on the illegal reptile trade, which was an interesting look at how far some people will take an obsession. I had no idea how much double-crossing and dirty dealing there was in the world of animal trade. Even some of the most famous zoos in the world were allegedly in on many of these deals, although they tried to distance themselves from it once the big stings by federal agents got them some unwanted press coverage. The feds apparently had enough evidence to go after the zoos, but thought better of it, preferring instead to take down the sleazy guys who actually arranged and carried out the smuggling.

I would still like to keep a reptile or three, probably just Owen, our Russian Tortoise, and a small snake or two. I'm not too interested in the rare and illegal critters offered by the folks I've just finished reading about.  I've promised my wife that I won't try to bring home a snake until I am there to care for it and have a place set up to put it. The males in my family have a history of bringing home animals that don't necessarily have proper housing set up yet, and sometimes it gets interesting.

I haven't read much from my Bone anthology yet. I may try to get stuck in today after my shift, but I also may decide to paint some Dwarves. I haven't decided yet. It would be nice if this place had a library that was any good, because I keep running out of books and I really don't have space for all these books, either. An e-reader of some kind would sure be handy, but good luck finding a place to download books from. Many new PC games are unplayable here as well, as the anti-piracy features render them unplayable without a handy internet connection. I've just about given up entirely on video games. The return on time invested just seems to be getting lower and lower for me personally, and jumping through all the hoops just to verify that my software is a legal copy makes me more grouchy than I already am. I haven't quite sworn them off entirely, but I'm pretty darn close.

Now I'm off to get some breakfast. The portions at the chow hall are ridiculous. If you ask for bacon, you will get a minimum of 8 slices, maybe up to 12. If you get eggs, there will be at least 2 cups of eggs. If you want hashbrowns, you'll get a huge pile of them. It's crazy. I will probably have a heart attack caused entirely by bacon overdoses. I hope that's covered by my insurance policy.

17 January 2011

I haven't made any progress on the next batch of Dwarf Warriors, as I have been too caught up in reading books. I've read as far as I can in the Gaunt's Ghosts series, as there is one anthology of short stories and one final novel to read. They are on order, so it will be a few days still before they arrive. There are rumors that the next novel is in the works, but it will be a while yet before it is released. I don't even think it is fully written yet.

I've been toying with the idea of reading through the Horus Heresy books, although I've heard that with all of the different contributing authors the quality of each book varies greatly. But I still may take the plunge and try them out to get a decent look at the background of the Space Marines.

My parents sent me a couple of books, the Bone one-volume anthology which collects the entire run of the adventure comic into one massive paperback tome. It does not have the color art of the individual books, but I don't think it detracts at all from the story. I am currently reading the other book they sent, Stolen World: A Tale of Reptiles, Smugglers, and Skulduggery.  It covers the career arcs of several big players in the world of illegal reptile smuggling. It's a pretty interesting story, and the people involved in this sort of smuggling are about the same sort as you'd expect international smugglers of just about anything to be. I also received a recent issue of Reptiles magazine from my wife, and it was interesting to me that one of the guys from the book who served a couple of prison terms for his actions had a feature about one of his snakes and a couple of ads in the magazine. You'd think that he'd move away from the reptile industry, but maybe he's legit now. From what I've read in the story, though, these guys have a hard time sticking to your garden-variety legally-acquired creatures.

My wife also sent me the most recent issue of White Dwarf, which heavily features the Skaven. I have been thinking of modelling my Warhammer armies as opposing pairs with common terrain sets to use between them. Dwarves and Night Goblins might make good enemies, and there would be plenty of terrain that could be built for underground battles; pillars and stone monuments for the Dwarves, and rubble and giant cartoon mushrooms for the Goblins. The bigger greenskins don't fit this model very well, though, and neither do the other Goblin types. The Empire and the Skaven would work well against each other, although the Skaven would also be natural rivals for the greenskins and the Dwarves. I'm not really sure how to fit it all together. It really only affects my choices for basing schemes, but the bases are an important part of making the army look like it fits in with the other things on the battlefield. I'll have to think about it some more. I am looking forward to flipping through the issue, though, as it looks like it contains plenty of stuff that is of interest to me.

15 January 2011

The 11 Dwarf Warriors I've been working on are finished. There are still some things I may do to them eventually, but for the moment I am calling them done. They look pretty good to me, and I hope I can burn through the next 100 figures fairly over the next few months. I wish I had a lot more free time, as there are about 3 million different wargaming projects I'd like to complete. With the recent Skaven releases I've been thinking about various Skaven armies based on the different clans described in the fluff. I've ordered the new Uniforms and Heraldry of the Skaven book from Games Workshop. It should be a good reference for idea. I used the Uniforms and Heraldry of the Empire book quite extensively when deciding on the colors for my Empire troops.

I've read rumors on a couple of blogs today that Wargames Factory may be under new management/going out of business/changing business models. Some people have waited a couple of months without receiving their figures, and it looks like they might be out of luck entirely. I ordered a Saxon army deal a while back, but it arrived without any trouble. It would be a disappointment if they do go out of business, as many of their figures are quite neat, and I have ongoing projects based on the Wargames Factory Vikings and Saxons. I'm sure I could mix them with other manufacturers, but I tend to enjoy keeping my forces consistent. We'll see how it shakes out.

There is a fair bit of down time when I'm on duty, so I brought my Dwarves into the office to paint during the slow times. I water down my paint pots so I can paint directly from the pot and shut things down quickly by wiping my brush off and closing the lid if something comes up. So far the other guys have shown a bit of interest in the painting of the figures, but not particularly in the game itself. One of the guys I work with is a former Warhammer player, but he said he quit the game because he and his friends would fight over the rules and that the books were written in such a way that the only way to win was to out-cheat the other player. I think that they might have been going into things with the wrong attitude. He's one of those folks who look down on everyone they meet as an inferior intellect, so it's a bit of a chore to talk to him anyway. At least there is plenty of time to paint.

12 January 2011

No Sleep

It's been difficult for me to get to bed on time the last few days, as I find it difficult to stop painting and reading when I should. I suppose it's good that I am excited about my activities, but I can't say I feel very good when the alarm goes off. Right now I'm reading through the last few Gaunt's Ghosts novels, and I'm currently working my way through His Last Command, the ninth book in the series.

Of course, reading the fiction has got me thinking about the tabletop game. Lately my mind has been churning over various ideas for my Imperial Guard army. I don't think all of my ideas will fit into one force. If I tried to shoehorn everything in and they would wind up looking like my Space Marines, who have bits and pieces from every Chapter out there. I've been trying to come up with proper fluff for the Marines to explain why they have a strong Space Wolf influence, various parts from the Black Templars, Sanguinary Guard and other Blood Angel bits, and probably some Dark Angels stuff as well. The only way for me to go was a homebrew Chapter because I like all of it and I prefer to mix the parts all together. I think my Chapter (as yet unnamed) are probably scavengers or relic hunters of some kind, going to the sites of previous battles to retrieve artifacts and equipment. Of course, taking bits and pieces that by rights belongs to other Chapters isn't going to set well with those other Marines, so perhaps my Marines offer the relics up to their original owners and keep a few pieces for their own use. Or perhaps the equipment has been lost for so long on Chaos or Tyranid-infested planets that the original owners don't want it back for fear that it has been lost long enough to absorb some Chaos energy. I would imagine that every so often a Marine wearing this found equipment mutates, goes crazy, or grows a segmented carapace, lending an air of truth to the rumors and raising suspicion among "pure" Chapters. Or perhaps my Chapter spreads these rumors as a way to hold on to more of their found treasure. I've been tempted recently by some of the older Power Armor patterns on the Forge World site, specifically the Crusade, Iron, and Corvus pattern armor, although you can create most of a Corvus pattern suit from any Tactical Marine plastic kit. Those beaky heads are expensive on eBay, though, especially if you want a lot of them. Anyway, I think this paragraph was supposed to discuss my Guard army, not my thoughts on my Space Marines. I'll have to get to that.

I will definitely want to do a Recon force heavily based on the Elysian Drop Troops. For my basic troopers I will probably use Cadians supplemented by parts kits from Forge World, mostly a mix of weapons and grav-chutes. I suppose Catachans might work well for Recon troops, but it's sort of weird to attach a grav-chute to a guy wearing a tank top. I will have to find another use for my Catachans. In a perfect world this force will be equipped with light vehicles and air support, hopefully in the form of the couple of Valkyrie kits I have at home and some of the Forge World Drop Sentinels and wheeled Assault Vehicles. They'll probably all be painted to match the Red Planet theme I envision for all of my 40k armies.

The rest of my force hasn't received a lot of thought, although I would like to field a little of everything. I may split things up so that I can represent a couple of different regiments with slightly different uniforms and equipment. Perhaps that would be a good way to split up Catachans and Cadians, with the Cadians being the more regimented units with higher-quality gear and the Catachans having a more ragged, Mad Max feel. They might even be so depleted that they rely on Penal Legions to fill gaps in their lines or act as the first wave in assaults. Or maybe the Cadians would, to spare their superior troops for the clean-up work.

I haven't given much thought to how such forces would play on the tabletop. It doesn't really matter to me, I suppose. I've been thinking that playing games isn't the highest-ranking thing on my radar. I find it difficult to enjoy gaming, especially when I play games with people I don't know very well. I'm not very open with new people anyway, let alone when there is a competition at hand. I'd probably play more if I had friends or family to play with regularly as I can recall that playing computer or board games with them doesn't give rise to the same negative feelings I have when I play with strangers. That would mean I'd have to cultivate relationships with strangers or acquaintances by gaming with them, so it's just a vicious cycle of me battling against my own social awkwardness. I'd rather sit at home and paint than go out and fight my demons.

When I've been able to break away from my reading, I've made some good progress on my first batch of eleven Dwarf Warriors. Why am I painting eleven figures, rather than good round numbers like five or ten? That's when I ran out of paint during the first color's basecoat. There are seven or eight more figures in the unit, so in another week or so I hope to have a full unit of Dwarves finished. Hopefully I will get this first batchc finished or at least close to it after my shift is finished. I will have to wait to post photos until I return home, as I don't have a camera handy.

10 January 2011

More Progress

I've been making some progress on my Dwarf army, with most of the base colors blocked in. I am deviating somewhat from the painting guide to give the troops some variety. Armor, shields, and weapons are all the same colors, but I've chosen a few different colors for shirts and beards. I failed to have my wife send me one set of gray paints, so for the Dwarves with gray beards I am using the group with more blue in it, I think it's Shadow Gray, Space Wolves Gray, and Skull White rather than Codex Gray, Fortress Gray, and Skull White, which are the more traditional grays. Something along those line. I painted a test figure and he looks all right from a distance, so it should be okay. I will probably wind up needing those other gray colors at some point, but for now it's okay. Overall I am happy with the paint scheme. The figures won't win any awards, but I think they will look good as an army out on the table, especially if I can slog through them all. If I can do it, it will be my second fully-painted army, though the Skaven may not count anymore with all of the changes to the rule system and the army book.

08 January 2011

I've started working on my Dwarf army a little bit. It looks like I've got about 2000 points to paint, which is somewhere around 110 figures. I did have to build the characters up a bit to stretch the list out to 2000 points. In an ideal world I would probably take some points away from characters and add in another artillery piece. I won't be gaming with them any time soon, so I can get that all sorted out when I'm home. The paint scheme is nothing spectacular or unique. I am just going from the How to Paint Dwarf Warriors article on the Games Workshop website. So far I've just got some of the metal and clothing started. I am a painfully slow painter, even when I'm trying to speed-paint. Another dilemma I have is figuring out how to get them home without destroying the paint job. I don't want to be too much of a whiner, but many of the packages I receive here look like they've been through a mail shredder. Just about every box is crushed, and it's not uncommon for flaps and strips of cardboard to be torn off the boxes. I imagine that boxes moving the other direction suffer a similar fate. I'll probably have to order a couple of foam infantry trays or some kind of army case for them.

I've also had a look through last month's White Dwarf. The magazine featured an article on different terrain boards that one of the staff had made up, of course using different GW scenery kits. For the 40k board he built and painted a Mars-type red planet board that I thought looked pretty good. I'd already been planning to use a red and gray color scheme for my Imperial Guard, and this terrain board looks like a good starting point for me when I get around to building some scenery for them. I think I may build all of my 40k figures to fight on a red planet, so the basing and painting and terrain will all match. I'm not sure how that will affect my Orks, but I've got a little while before I have to worry about that. There are still a few model kits I'd like to have as far as gaming pieces for my armies, but I'd really like to bulk up on my scenery collection, which at the moment consists of an unbuilt Watchtower kit, a grass mat, and a space mat. Games Workshop has released a few nice kits recently, and I could stand to scratchbuild some things, too. Eventually some of my armies are going to be painted and I may want to play with them or set them up on a table and make battle sounds while marching them around.

I've also been thinking a little about my planned Space Marine Chapter and how it will be put together. I doubt I will ever paint 1000 Space Marines, plus HQ, vehicles, and staff, so I will probably try to paint a Battle Company (3rd Company), selected HQ (Chapter Masters, Librarians), vehicles (a little of everything), and elements from the 1st Company (Veterans and Terminators) and the Scouts. I saw this blog post from GWpertinent showing magnetized arms for every Terminator weapon option today. It seems like a good idea, and I can see the benefits, especially when you are just trying to fill out a unit for a game. You see a lot of vehicles and larger kits magnetized, but it's more rare to see it in basic troops. I will probably still build my models the old-fashioned way without magnets or interchangeability, but it's an interesting idea.

It doesn't look like I will be taking any classes this semester. I can't count on being in the same situation all the way through May, and I can't risk failing any more classes. It stinks not to be making progress in school, but right now I just don't think I can do it. My wife says that at least I will have a chance to work on my Dwarves. She's a good woman. I'm glad she bonked me over the head and made me marry her.