Wargaming Tradecraft: September 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Photographing Your Minis

Casio is my mid-range camera of choice
As artists, we eventually want to show off our work - be it in a blog, as a tutorial or just in a gallery. Even if you're just painting for yourself (which you should be) you'll want to show your friends, and there's inspirational value in your photos for other artists. The following talks about tips for taking nice pictures, and then looks at a few FREE ways to clean up the photos and edit them into a reasonable package..

This was written for a group project that Ron over at From the Warp put together - see the Collaborative Post with similar suggestions from others.

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Eldar Units

Well, as long as everyone else is on the bandwagon, here's some news and pics from Games Day UK 2010, reported by Strangleweb at Bell of Lost Souls: http://www.belloflostsouls.net/2010/09/games-day-uk-live-updated-1115-gmt.html

I'm an Eldar player, so all I'm going to show off are the new Eldar stuff coming from Forgeworld - for more of the new releases, take a look at the above article. Highlights include Dark Eldar and Forgeworld for Warhammer Fantasy.

First off, Eldar seem to be getting a new aspect warrior: Shadow Spectre. Supposedly it'll have a weapon that works like the Prism Cannon. (though weaker) Pretty cool looking unit. The armour seems heavier and maybe we'll seen some nice movement or jump/warp spider packs due to their hovering.

Also, some new tanks in the traditional style of the Eldar. The Eldar Lynx might be beyond normal tabletop as it seems big enough to be a super heavy. The one in the background, the Eldar Hornet, looks like nothing more than a suped up weapon platform. Maybe this'll bring some heavier firepower to our Fast Attack choices and/or some better armour than Vypers.

Is it just me though, or does the Eldar Hornet look like the droid tanks from Star Wars Phantom Menace?
image from Galactic Toys

yes, yes I think it does...

Weekly Update

Soooo, let's just chalk this week up to RL crazyness due to work related matters. Things are calming down though, and I'll try to get a post or two out this week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Weekly Update

So, a few things from the past week... more than I expected.

First off - Happy 1yr Birthday Massive Voodoo! If you haven't already visited them, do so. What I love about these guys is their art's incredible and they paint from the heart. This is a blog dedicated to showing others not only how to make some incredible creations, but to also do it for yourself, because that's what's important.

I got up a post on using paint on primer called gesso. This one is for all you people stuck in climates where spraying primer on sucks - now you have another option for basing your miniatures. I also bought a funnel and snapped some photos while I used it.

There's a new addition to my sidebar that I've noticed a few blogs have picked up: RevolverMaps. It's a site that lets you see where your readers are from - I think this is an awesome feature as it interests me to see where my blog is being viewed.

I've joined a second blog network. *glances over to the right hand column* Int'l House of Pancakes. I don't quite get the name either, but they've got a good thing going over there. It's run by some guys who are pretty tell-it-like-it-is. I was also featured on their Weekly Top X for my post on varnish. It's important to note that this group is aimed at an adult audience - it's basically anything goes as long as you're not discriminating against race, gender, orientation, etc.
That means kids, stick with From the Warp which is PG. FTW still has tons of great stuff over there including Tutorials from blogs all over, (including some of mine) some great Editorials to think about and every week they highlight some of the past weeks posts from around. (I'd link, but they don't seem to have labels)

For the record, this blog will remain PG - not because I'm a goody two-shoes, but because I started this hobby as a kid and want my information to be properly shareable with all ages. If the internet was what it was when I was starting out, who knows what I'd have learned and be creating today.

Also, Kirby over at Kirb Your Enthusiasm has launched a chatroom -  http://kirbyourenthusiasm.chatango.com . I figure this could go one of two ways, considering the venom already found on forums, but being able to chill out and actually dialog with people has it's benefits.
His site's got a lot of good detailed writing posts on various games with in depth reviews and tips. There's a number of guys working on it and if you haven't seen it, it's worth checking out.

Something else that really caught my eye this week is Drathmere's blog over at http://40khobbyblog.blogspot.com/. He's trying some interesting techniques at the moment - Painting wish washes. He's creating some pretty cool things with the style and I might try it myself somewhere down the line. I suggest taking a look.

Wow.. this didn't intend to end up as a link post - busy week I guess.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Funnel

That's right folks, I bought a funnel! One more mitey weapon to add to my crafting arsenal.

As this blog is dedicated to everything you need to know about the craft, no detail is too small. As such, an excitingly short post about funnels is now to commence...

I bought the funnel because as I work on my water tutorial I'm finding I need a good way to clean up the sand. You see, when I base with sand and such, I like to apply some thinned wood / white glue over the area, completely cover it in the sand and then brush the extra back into it's container. This is easy enough when you're working with small bases, but at uneven terrain scale, it's going to get messy.

Simply lift your terrain and pour the excess sand into your funnel, aiming for the container you want everything in.

Now, there is actually a slight problem you can run into. As you may have discovered in the past, fine sand can stick to things because of static. A plastic funnel will be one of those things, so you may end up with some bits left behind. You'll want to clean them off so they don't create a mess or contaminate another type of sand. Use a damp paper towel to wipe it down - don't blow it off, unless you want a face full of sand.

You can find them at most hardware stores and they come in different sizes. I'd suggest a larger one.

Would you believe there's other features you can look for besides size? This one is huge (look at it lying on paints) and has a rim to help avoid spills - it cost me a whopping $2.98.

Yeahhh, so how exciting was that? Anyone else have uses for these things that don't involve reenacting The Wizard of Oz?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gesso (Paint on Primer)

Most of the time, you'll be spraying primer on your models. It goes on evenly, covers a large area quickly and is pretty cheap. However, sometimes you need to do a fix, touch areas up or add on a little something. You obviously can't spray primer on a model that's already being painted and painting without priming will cause problems down the line. Not only does the paint go on poorly, but it will come off easily. Some people use the new Citadel Foundation paints instead of priming, but even these will be apt to scratch off.

I can't remember where it was or who I was talking to that the word "Gesso" came up. [jes-oh] Gesso is simply the name of art quality paint on primer. It provides a good painting surface and goes on even smoother when mixed with a little water. A spray on primer will still be more even than a paint on one, but gesso is still great for touch ups and other times you don't want to spray. (or during the winter when it's too cold to properly prime miniatures) (such as in an area or during a season where weather hits the extremes as spray paints degrade greatly when it's too hot or too cold.)
Update: Reader Deadmeat points out that primer can become useless in heat extremes as well. 
  • A single thick is enough for things that aren't very detailed. Gesso is usually thick though, so for detailed miniatures you'll want to paint a couple layers, each thinned with water.
  • I've found White Gesso can be a little streaky, affecting the quality of your base layer. To avoid this, make sure you use long even strokes with a wide brush rather than a pointed one. Another way to avoid the streaks is to thin your gesso even more and use many layers.
  • Depending on the paint you'll be layering first, you may not need a perfectly white base. The important thing is to create an even, non-streaky surface that won't come off easily and paint applies nicely to.
    • If your first layer is going to be Citadel foundation paint, there's a really good chance you'll be fine with a thin layer of gesso.
    • If you're working with lighter colours like yellow, it becomes more important to create a nice, even, strong white undercoat.

2 layers of gesso, thinned with water, to prime pewter.

Gesso is white and will cover even black just fine.

As with the rest of my art store products, I use Liquitex. I'm sure there's other fine brands out there, this is just what's available locally. http://www.liquitex.com/Products/surfprepgesso.cfm I'd recommend either ordering online or finding a local art store and seeing what they have. This is one of those things that you're better off going to where you'll get the better product - art supplies from art stores and tools from hardware stores rather than hobby/craft stores. (a bad primer can ruin your entire model)

+ Something gesso has over primer is you won't get a too thick base coat, since you're the one painting it on.
+ You also won't end up with a rough surface like you can get from spraying primer on in dusty environments or when it's too cold.
- Takes a few thinned coats.
- Can be streaky if you're not careful.

Interesting Uses

  • As there's no chemicals, you can use it on problem surfaces such as styrofoam. (since the chemicals in spray on primer eat styrofoam for breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, tea, dinner and supper)
  • Liquitex also carries a clear gesso which would allow you to paint or tint clear surfaces (clear or coloured film / plastic from audio stores, overheard paper, etc) for things like windows and stained glass. (Although overheard paper labelled to be used with inkjet printers already have a slightly rough absorbent side.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekly Update

Sometimes I wonder if I should keep writing weekly updates. I suppose it lets you know I'm still alive and keeps me posting. I suppose these will also be a good way to skim through what I've done by clicking the "Weekly Update" label or to hear about what's in the pipes.

Couple more things from last week, I posted on the Varnish I found that finally doesn't suck. Thanks to Ron from From the Warp for pointing out that I've been spelling the name of my favorite brand wrong... woops. Liquitex, not Liquidtex (see what I did there) has a great range of stuff. Check it out.

Also, a slightly involved post about how to randomly place terrain. Terrain is important. Ask any army that's gone up against a gun line. Random is fair.

In the works is a post on Gesso - awesome stuff if you need to paint primer on your models. Also I've gotten a bunch done this past weekend on my water effects tutorial. Still plenty to do and it takes a while with all the gel/glue drying - but it is coming, and it's thorough.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Random Terrain Placement

As my buddy Hex plays Nids and I play Eldar, this as you can imagine leads to greatly differing tactics on the battlefield. (Not just our own, but for the others we game with as well) As such, we've developed a system for randomly deploying terrain. Due to the randomness of both terrain placement and type, your battles will end up with more or less table coverage. This will end up favouring different armies and tactics from game to game.

These rules have been tweaked here and there, and you're welcome to do the same. Usually we'll set the table up once per session (day) rather than before each game. (multiple times a day) If you feel like taking the time between games to generate the field again, go right ahead.

Quick Overview

  • Split up the table - 6 or 4 sections depending on table size.
  • Roll a die and scatter it 2D6" from the center point of each section.
  • Place 0-2 more dice to fill any large gaps.
  • Replace dice with terrain, slightly angled to the center by their roll.
    1. Large Buildings and Structures
    2. Bunkers / Small Buildings
    3. Walls
    4. Walls
    5. Ruins
    6. Area
      - Scatter a bunch of markers from the center point.


We play on an 8 foot by 4 foot table.

 We tried various layouts and have decided that splitting it into six parts works for us.

In each section, we place a marker (dice) roughly in the center.
On a smaller table, 4 quarters might be better than sixths.

Each of these markers gets scattered 2D6 inches, stopping at table edges.
On a smaller table, you could scatter D6 inches, though random is good.

We sometimes end up with a gap on the left and/or right half of the table, near the center and will usually place extra markers to fill them.
These are optional and will depend on the size of the table and how close your first markers are.

Roll a D6 (a normal die) for each marker, replacing the marker with the die.

Replace each marker with a piece of terrain. Face the terrain to the opposite side of the table, angled slightly towards the center. Terrain is placed according to the numbers on the dice and what you have available in your terrain collection:
  1. Buildings and Structures
      • Large, tall and intact items that take up a chunk of the field.
    • Buildings
        • Houses, Stores, Towers, crashed ships, etc
      • as per page 78 of the Warhammer 40k 5th ed Rulebook
      • Large buildings designed for models to enter like transports, treating windows as fire points. Each window is roughly large enough for two models to fire out of.
      • You should define the following, which should be kept the same from game to game:
        • Armour Value
          • 9 - corrugated steel / fencing, 10 - log cabin, 11 - brick, 12 - concrete, 13 - reinforced, 14 - bastion.
        • Access Points
          • Doors, broken windows, etc.
        • Transport Capacity
          • How many models can fit inside. (Some models like Terminators count as 2.)
    • Structures
        • Hills, canyons, oil refineries, bases, etc.
      • Impassible terrain or open-topped buildings that cannot be entered like transports but can be walked on wherever models fit. They must have ladders/stairs/etc for models to traverse levels.
      • These could also be buildings that units can't enter and instead use doors as points to access other levels or the roof.
  2. Bunkers
      • Small to medium sized intact buildings or reinforced firing lines, usually one floor in height with a single entrance
    • These are fortified emplacements usually just big enough to fit a single fire-team.
    • Treat them as providing a 3+ cover save to the occupying unit or as smaller versions of normal Buildings from #1 with a high armour value.
  3. Walls, Wire, Fences, Sandbags, Statues, Rivers, etc.
  4. Walls, Wire, Fences, Sandbags, Statues, Rivers, etc.
    • Objects of various sizes that block or obscure line of sight and provide cover to infantry, monstrous creatures and/or vehicles.
    • These will be difficult, dangerous or impassible terrain.
  5. Ruins (destroyed buildings, broken temples, abandoned dig sites, etc)
    • as per page 82 of the Warhammer 40k 5th ed Rulebook
    • Wrecked single or multi level areas that units can only stand where you can fit them.
    • Follow normal rules for Ruins and are difficult terrain.
    • The entire ruin is treated as being covered in rubble. This confers a 4+ cover save to models even in the open, areas that look intact, aren't (windows can be used as doors and inner walls can be moved through) and rubble can be climbed to other levels.
  6. Area Terrain (Forests, boulders, craters, etc)
    • Create your area terrain using either 4th or 5th ed rules. The difference is 5th ed area terrain can be seen through using true line of sight, while 4th ed area terrain allows for thicker terrain that blocks sight.
      Either way, scatter markers from the original to create your area. For 5th ed, use more markers or spread them out evenly.
    • 5th edition
      page 22 of the Warhammer 40k 5th ed Rulebook
        • Boulders spread around for models to dodge between. Ancient relics like Eastern Island heads jutting from the ground.
      • All true line of sight with markers that models must weave their way through and if you can see them, you can shoot them.
      • Difficult terrain where applicable. (Walking over roots from a tree or a walking between 2 trees on a single marker)
      • Models in the terrain gain a 4+ save and units shot at through more than 2" of area terrain gain a 4+ cover save. (obscured sight)
    • 4th edition
      page 21 of the Warhammer 40k 4th ed Rulebook
        • Trees marking the outline of a forest to trudge through. Piles of dirt marking the outside of a crater that models crawl through.
      • Draw a border to represent the area of terrain making it easier to fit models inside.
      • Difficult Terrain, blocks line of sight, height of the markers defines height of the area.
      • Models within 6" of the border are in cover but can be seen and can shoot out.
      • Models deeper than 6" are out of line of sight. (the area terrain is dense)

As you can see, this roughly ends up as 25% coverage, which is what's recommended.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Varnishing Your Models

Horror stories of varnish gone bad
found on DakkaDakka
I should start by saying my adventures with varnishing has never worked out. My idea of the perfect varnish was something completely clear. Not matte, not gloss, not in between (Satin) - but exactly as you painted it. This doesn't exist.

Matte is what I'm interested in, because I don't want shiny glossy models. I've tried a number of spray on varnishes, mostly matte, some satin and they've always ruined my models. Some ended up looking gloss anyways, others dulled out the colours to boring flat tones. Sometimes dust would get picked up from the air or inside the bottle (even in non-dusty areas) and cover my figures in a rough horrible texture. In the case of my 3D Dungeons and Dragons game board, a satin spray varnish even frosted the clear levels.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Weekly Update

Happy Birthaversary to me!

Busy weekend full of excellence to celebrate both my birthday and wedding anniversary. Thanks to all those involved, especially my wonderful wife! Also went and saw the special edition of Avatar, so all that pretty much ate up the long weekend.

On the gaming front, I did get a couple more tutorials up. If you hate losing a brush when the finally start the harden from dried paint or chemicals, here's a tutorial on restoring them. Also, I wrote up some instructions on using small butane torches while hobbying as well as a few things to look for when buying them and how to refuel. I also reformatted a few pages - Techniques and Musings - so that items I haven't written about yet don't show up as strong. I left Supplies alone, because it's still a good list for anyone interested in finding things to help their hobby and why.

Couple things coming this week; should get my varnish tutorial up as well as rules for randomly placing terrain before a battle.

Side note: If you're looking for all glass cabinets like stores have to display your minis, IKEA is the place to be. $60-80 will get you one, the more expensive version having built in lights at the top. The moment there's room, it will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Mini Torches

Here's a toy tool for modelling that comes in handy from time to time. 95% of the time I'm using it to build terrain, and usually working with styrofoam.

As with any use of fire, keep away from flammable things, outside if possible and to keep some water or sand nearby in case you need to need to put out flames that get away from you. (Also, do you know where the fire extinguisher is in your home?)


You can probably find them at hardware stores or smoke shops. The butane fuel will also be available at these places. This article refers to a small torch, great for hobbying, rather than a large one which would be unwieldy and too powerful or a bbq starter which doesn't have a directed flame.

When you're choosing one, make sure it's refuelable. Another useful feature is having an adjustable strength so you can create a smaller or larger flame. (Helpful depending on the size of your projects) If it's got a starter built in - bonus; otherwise pick up a lighter and maybe even a candle.

When you're buying the fuel, look for one either specifically made for your torch or find a generic one with multiple tips. Off brand will probably be cheaper and fuel is fuel. The key thing is having a tip that will fit into your torch's fuel socket without spraying all over. (It's _very_ important that your fuel fit properly into your torch.)


These are butane powered and will require refueling from time to time for small jobs and often during larger projects.

Always read instructions for the torch and fuel completely, this is a general overview.

If your fuel container wasn't made specifically for your torch, it should have multiple tips. Find the one that fits into your torch's socket best. The tip's hole should cover the socket's smallest hole (fuel line) while fitting snugly inside the socket. If the tip's hole is too small, it won't cover the socket's fuel line, and will spray fuel into the air. If it's too big, it probably means it won't fit around the socket either - this will also spray fuel into the air.

  • Attach the proper tip to your fuel container.
  • Turn the fuel container upside down.
  • Press the socket of the torch against the tip of the fuel container.
  • Gently apply more force to the connection - this will open the valve on both ends and allow the fuel to flow from the container into the torch.
  • Your torch and/or fuel container should include directions on how long to hold the connection open.
If the connection isn't made properly, you'll hear a hissing and may see some of the fuel spray out. It evaporates quickly but will be very cold. (And your hands will probably be within spraying distance) Holding a poor connection together longer in hopes it'll still work is not only dangerous but bad connections usually won't be refueling at all.
NEVER refuel while you have an open flame going. (for example, a nearby candle)


If your torch has a starter, great. Use the starter to light it, following any instructions that comes with the torch. (there may be a safety switch) Otherwise, simply turn it on in front of a flame. You can use a lighter, though I tend to like using a candle so I can turn the torch on and off as I please.

If your torch has an adjustable strength, you'll need to use the medium setting. Too low and it might not light, too high and you'll just end up blowing the flame around, still not lighting.


There's plenty of times when you may want to use a torch for some directed heat, rather than just a candle to melt stuff. Use a torch like you would a pen. You're drawing / sketching the fire over surfaces.

Plastic melts easily, but most of the miniatures we work with are so small that it's nearly impossible to direct a little flame to a small area. (Heating up sculpting tools is a good alternative, just don't burn yourself picking up a hot tool) Large things like vehicles and walkers may be more appropriate if you're working with plastics.

Most of the time when I'm using the torch, I'm sculpting styrofoam to create terrain. (Standard safety reminder: these are toxic fumes, use in a well ventilated area, use a fan, wear a face mask and NEVER use blue/pink foam, which is _highly_ toxic and being phased out of many places)
  • Use a smaller flame to carve detail into walls/floors
  • Use a larger flame to create texture over a big area. Just quickly sweep the flame over the area - you'll notice you don't even have to get too close. To add more texture, just make more passes.
  • You can pvc/white/wood glue together a large piece of terrain, and the glue won't melt with the styrofoam. (unless you use a huge amount of heat) This allows you to carve, texture and detail the base as a whole, creating a natural look, rather than a pieced together look.
  • After cutting styrofoam, you'll get lots of little balls creating a mess and falling off. A quick pass of flame will solidify the cut.
  • Instead of creating a mess by cutting styrofoam, burn details in. Examples would be riverbeds, trails, explosions, ditches, etc.
  • Bringing the flame close and quickly removing it will carve as well as light bits, creating more of a plastic surface - if done right, this creates a surface that can be spray painted without melting.

You can also do some basic welding using a mini torch.
I won't go into detail here, that will come in a later post - if you're not familiar with what I'm about to describe then wait, rather than attempt it yourself.
If you're familiar with these terms/techniques:
  • Buy some thin brass/copper. (from hobby or hardware stores)
  • Use a candle/torch to heat them to the point that solder will melt when it touches the metal. (The solder has to be melted by the metal, not your flame, otherwise it will pop off)
  • Since you want the metal to melt the solder rather than the flame, you'll have to use the flame somewhere on the metal away from your join, where the flame's heat won't melt the solder - the problem with this is other places you've already soldered could melt... I didn't say it was easy.
  • Since so much of the metal will be heating up, you'll want some other tools to prevent yourself from burning your fingers. Pliers and a vice will help a lot.
  • You can apply some liquid flux to the metal to help the solder attach.
When creating my Khorne standard, all the joins were made using a high end soldering iron that gets hot enough to heat the metal to the point it'll melt solder. The joins were messy though, so I used my torch to slowly heat the joins part by part and smooth the solder out.


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