Wargaming Tradecraft: July 2010


Art of Noise

I don't know about you, but when I paint, I need a distraction. Perhaps it's for the other parts of my brain that won't shut up, or maybe just painting needs a little more excitement. Now, that doesn't mean I want an evil monkey constantly pointing at me while I work or a marching band stomping by my desk every five minutes, but something in the background that other parts of my mind can pay attention to.

In the past, I had limited desk space for painting. Well, not so much limited - just less than I do now. Also, consider there was a time when not only did LCD monitors not exist, but neither did YouTube, and you wouldn't consider watching other media on a computer. During this time, my stereo was my friend. It played stuff from the radio, CDs and mix tapes. If you've got a computer anywhere in your room, toss a bunch of your music on random and hit "Play".
Speakers are key for me, because I find headphones/wires distracting when I'm trying to paint. However, I know that other people prefer headphones, as they can help make the world disappear. If you have but a laptop, go out and buy a cheap $5 set of speakers and an 1/8 inch audio extension cable / headphone extension cable. Set the speakers up on your painting desk, just because it'll sound nicer. If you go the headphone route, an extension cable is still a good option, so the cable's not pulling at you.

These days, I usually prefer to watch TV shows and Movies while I paint. I've got a computer beneath my desk and an LCD monitor on my desk (previously, next to) that I can look to now and then. I prefer things that I've already seen, and don't rely on visuals too much. If you find yourself paying too much attention to the video, find something else to watch or resort back to music. Think of it like listening to an audio book you know the story to. It's background noise.
Needless to say, anime is a tricky option here, because you're not going to be able to paint and read subtitles... and dubs suck.

Speaking about audio books, that's another option. Libraries have lots and tend to offer a wide selection. Alternatively, you can always find a program that reads text and there are plenty of free out of copyright books at Project Gutenberg and Project Gutenberg Canada.

Painting with friends is also a great way to pass the time. Either get together at someone's place, or see if your LGS does painting nights. Not only can you "geek it" with friends, chatting about your favorite hobby and be social, but it can be a great way to see what others are doing, help each other, trade ideas, and get inspired! You could even share paints and other supplies this way.

Today's homework is this:
What about you - do you enjoy distractions while you paint, or require utter silence? How do you achieve either?

Pics of my minis for an online store

I meant to mention...

I frequent a great forum on and off, MiniWarGaming, who ran a contest to fill their online store with photos of their followers minis. I think this is a great idea for any store to build loyalty. (Unfortunately they're not local to me, else I'd visit the store) If you're not familiar with them, I suggest checking them out - Not only is their forum a great and positive community, but they run the odd contest and create a lot of free material, such as painting and terrain tutorials. Their newsletter has with battle reports, updates, strategy tips and so on, with video.
Also, apparently the reasoning behind taking down all their photos was that Games Workshop came down on them, claiming copyright over all their photos... in the store... to sell Games Workshop products...

Anyways, a bunch of mine were accepted, three even as the primary photos for the stuff on sale. Two of these are still up there as the primary shots.

Weekly Update

Busy times for me at the moment, hence a slight slowdown in the posting.

In August, my wife and I will be heading to Baltimore for Games Day 2010. It's something I've wanted to see since I was little, and as long as we're going I'm going to enter a few things - my Space Hulk Blood Angel Terminator, which I've cleaned up some since it's photo on Deviant Art and my Chaos base, which I intend to clean up a little more.
The reason for the post slow down is I'm working to finish my final entry to Golden Daemon, which is an Eldar Harlequin Wraithlord perched on top of an Ultramarine dreadnought which is sinking / thrashing around in water. I've had the parts for over a year and had been slowly modding and building it. Over the last few months I've been painting it between other projects. This is pre-blog-vision, so I don't have any WIP photos, and I haven't started taking any because it seems wrong to start mid project.

The weekend was very full too. Saturday was Rock the Park in London, ON to see Heart and Lynyrd Skynyrd, then back to London Sunday for Star Wars in Concert, the music of, by the live official symphony, with video from the 6 movies, hosted by C3P0.

Pre-concert Saturday involved some wandering and we discovered a hobby shop, Imperial Hobbies & Games - on Dundas, just down from the John Labatt Center. Decent sized store, carry a variety of games and paints, used miniatures, free gaming tables and most importantly a very friendly staff. (and wife approved - important criteria for the female gamer)

Sunday we had to stop at the mall to meet my brother, which meant popping my head into the Games Workshop. As always, it held up to it's high standard of super friendly staffing as usual.

While I was in Imperial, we got talking about paints and the Employee was working with P3. They're supposed to cover like GW foundation paints, so I picked up White, Red and Yellow. Haven't had much time to play with them yet, but used the White last night some, and was very impressed by it's strong covering with just a thin coat. Flowed pretty smoothly too.

I do have a number of posts on the go at the moment, and a few more just full of notes. Specifically, paint brush info, water effects and background noise. I just need to make some time to do some make-work projects with photos to accompany the posts.

Manual Cutting Tools

You'll often need tools to cut minis out of their sprues, cut wire, strapping and anything else that comes along.

You can use thin sharpening tools to refine these as they wear out. Stones usually won't be thin enough, but there are diamond dust coated sharpening tools that are. I'll write another article on sharpening your tools.

Something I won't cover are a few of the excessive options, but know they are out there. If you want to buy something to cut thick chain links, it's out there, as are bolt cutters. (expensive) But, if you do need some chain link, hardware stores usually provide the appropriate tool or staff to cut your lengths in store.

Features to Look For

  • Handle Length
    • You'll get more force from longer handled models. Probably not required for cutting plastic, but sometimes helpful if you plan on getting into thicker metals or need a little extra power.
  • Handle Protection
    • A rubber or plastic covered handle makes working with these easier.
  • Spring Loaded
    • Not quite necessary, but makes things a little easier if they open themselves back up.
  • Tip Size
    • Smaller and thinner tips are best at getting into tight areas.
  • Toughness
    • Larger, heavier models will work best on tougher jobs and metal.

For most work, I prefer Wire Cutters. They're strong, fine tipped (so you can get them anywhere in a sprue) and thin. (so they cut close to the bit) Higher end versions come with holes / sharpened U's to strip wire, but you don't need this.
These aren't really made for cutting thick metal like pewter and lead. If you do, you may notice that you'll end up with grooves in your blades.

- Look at electronic stores for the best types.

Side Cutters are a heavier duty version of cutter. They come in various sizes, but usually not as thin or fine as wire cutters so you'll have problems using them on sprues. However, they'll cut stronger materials like pewter and lead without wearing out and are great for doing a lot of modding.

- Look at hardware stores for the larger stronger ones, but hobby/craft stores may have smaller versions.

For larger, specific jobs, Tin Snips get it done. These are for cutting (thin) sheet metals, strapping and thick wire, without wearing out. Great if you plan on doing a lot of sturdy terrain work or don't want to wear your other cutters out on thick wire.
The photo is my pair, just a nice small handy one. But they do come larger which also makes the cutting easier on you. (shorter handles mean you need to use a lot more force when cutting thicker metals) Also be sure to cut as far back on the blades as you can, rather than use the tips.

- Hardware stores are also the best places to find these, as they also carry the products you might want to build with. Some hobby stores carry thin sheet metals like copper and brass, and might have the appropriate cutter as well.

If you want to do some larger work with pipes, you'll need this Pipe Cutter to make clean cuts. Aluminum, copper and brass can make small barrels, smoke stacks, and great supporting structure for a large terrain piece.
Simply place the pipe inside it, and tighten until you're cutting into the pipe some. Spin it around the pipe, tighten some more and repeat until you've cut through.

- Hardware stores will have a selection of options.
- Plumbing supply stores should also carry what you need, and require less hunting.

What to look for when sourcing supplies

So you're looking to start hobbying, having difficulty finding something specific or just don't want to pay the ridiculous prices some hobby shops charge for things? Well, maybe you need to shop around some more, because supplies can be found all over - if you know where to look. As my other articles go into details about specific tools, I'll give some suggestions on where to find them - in here, are hints and tips on hunting around for the right thing.

What DO you need?

You're going to need a list. At a minimum, you'll want paint, primer, brushes, wire cutters, hobby knife, super glue, plastic glue a water cup of some kind and paper towels. If you already have the basics or want to check out a larger list, take a look under Supplies. (I'll go into detail on each and why as I have time)
Next, you need an idea - an image - a style... Figure out what you'll need for your army, and get an idea of how you want your army to look. That way, as you're hunting around, you can try to picture how what you're seeing could fit with your army.

So you swing by your local gaming store, which will probably have all of the above. What you're looking for isn't availability though - some of what you're looking for are the following things:
  • Am I hunting the right product?
    • ex: side cutters vs wire cutters - there's a difference?
  • Am I at this level yet / Is this safe in MY hands?
    • ex: You don't need a Dremel or a soldering iron when you're just beginning.
    • ex: Kids shouldn't use power tools.
  • Is this the best brand for what I need to do?
    • ex: Citadel Primer vs Krylon Primer
  • Can I afford this?
    • Often (but not always) the greater the price, the greater the quality - BUT not necessarily the product you need.
  • Have I looked around enough?
    • Specialty items might take some hunting to find, and after 3 or 4 places, you might jump and buy it at the first place you find it.
A final note on the term "availability" - If you have limited transportation / don't want to go around hunting supplies or don't want to wait on ordering / restocking, by all means buy all your supplies from your local gaming store. What they carry usually isn't "bad" - but I guarantee you there is better and cheaper out there.

Am I Hunting the Right Product?

This is what you ask yourself when you reach that aisle full of stuff that looks the same, but is slightly different in some way. To go back to the example of side vs wire cutters, the difference is the thickness of the edge that cuts. Side cutters tend to be large plier sized, and even the small ones aren't too great at getting into the small areas when chopping parts out of sprues. Wire cutters on the other hand, are generally much thinner, come to a finer tip and great at getting into all sorts of small areas.

That's the sort of thing to think of. Rather than get into specific product differences, this is a thinking exercise - be aware of what you're buying and don't assume that everything will work the same. Try to picture yourself using it.

READ the packaging. Even I'm taken in by "Ooo, I could use that!" sometimes. Not too long ago I bought some picks with all sorts of thoughts about creating scratch marks, cleaning, and such - skipping right over the word "aluminum." Naturally, the first time I tried them out, the pick bent 90 degrees backward and not a scratch on the mini.

Oh, and don't worry if you buy the wrong thing - most stores have a return period, and if you decide to hang onto it, you probably will find a use for it eventually. I don't know what I'm going to do with those crappy picks though.

Should I buy this?

The two points I want to make here, is that there's a lot of shiny things out there that'd help your hobby and not all of them are safe. These things not only cost money, but will need to be stored somewhere or else they'll create clutter. As you get into some of the more specialty items, the danger / awareness level goes up.

Even in the hands of professionals, dangerous things are still dangerous and you should be aware of what you're doing. But, in the hands of one of the many younger people of this hobby, power tools, electrical equipment, chemicals and even simple fire can be a problem. If you're among the younger audience and reading this, please get your parents assistance if you want to try some crazier techniques. Parents get into this stuff to, and it might be a good activity.

The other point about shiny things is that you're going to see a lot of fancy toys tools. You don't have to buy them all at once or for some project you see online you might do in 6 months or a year. If you don't need it, don't buy it. Collecting a bunch of stuff you'll never use will only eat up your storage area. If you're just starting out, stick with the basics and explore other techniques that seem interesting as you get more comfortable in your element.

Is it the right brand?

This gets tricky. To start, you're going to have to rely on online reviews, asking other people/forums. Name brand isn't always better - and sometimes it is for certain things, but not for others. Confused yet? This really is going to boil down to what works for you.

In the example I gave above, White Primer comes in many forms. I find Citadel leaves a rougher finish, while Krylon a smoother one. Is one better than the other? Personally, I prefer Krylon's smooth, but not too smooth finish. Note the keyword - "Personally". That's why I say this comes down to what you prefer, because I know there's a lot of people who swear by Citadel.

I might cost a little more as you make mistakes, but be open to trying other brands and seeing what you like more. However, don't use models you want to be super-awesome as guinea pigs for new products.

Can I afford this?

Incase you haven't noticed yet, this is an expensive hobby. I'm not going to create a buying guide here, but the cost of this hobby adds up fast. The more enthusiastic you are about it, the fasting you're going to spend money. Just try to be aware of what you're spending, and maybe even save the bills... I couldn't fathom at this point what I've invested over the years.

Just be aware of what you're spending. Maybe at some point in the future I should do a cost comparison... like [roughly] 1 dremel = 1.5 tanks = 2.5 five man units = 25 citadel paints = 40 paint brushes.

Have I looked around enough?

When you're looking around, consider any store an opportunity to find hobby supplies. I don't just mean a small step sideways to model train stores and their massive supplies of flock, I mean ANYTHING. Your best friends are junk and surplus stores, but also electronics, hardware, garden, aquarium, pet, art, craft, knives and so on. Really, any store you walk into has the potential to have something useful.

If you've finally located a hard to find item, don't stop your hunt. When availability is limited, you don't want to hinder yourself by buying something that's not quite right - a tool should do what you need it to do. By hunting around more, you'll find other options. (type of product, brands, cost, etc)

The other benefit of hunting around more is that the more places you look, the more your mind exercises in imagining all sorts of products and how you could use them. On your first time into a store, or if you haven't been there in a while, walk every aisle and learn what they carry.

Step by Step - Eldar Guardian in plate and chain

Here's the walkthrough for (what I call) my mark 1 Eldar armour. (as it's from the day when they used chain mail and plate.

I begin with a single medium thickness white base coat of Krylon White Primer.
First thing I do is get the black undercoat for all things metal since they're mostly beneath the rest of the model. (ex: his armour, is easily accessible, while his chain mail is harder to get at and we wouldn't want to chance getting black on anything else)

I then paint his face (Elf Flesh), the cloth (Vomit Brown) and the leather. (Tallarn Flesh)
Next I darken these areas with washes of complimentary but darker colours. This gives some depth and clean blends to the shadows.

Face: Tallarn Flesh
Cloth: Bestial Brown
Leather: Vomit Brown

Now that things have a little shadow, I lighten them again by highlighting all areas but the cracks and crevices. (locations of shadow) At this stage, you're just looking to do a basic highlight away from the shadow.

Face: Elf Flesh (same as the original layer)
Cloth: Leprous Brown (a little more intense colour than the original)
Leather: Desert Yellow
So I've darkened everything, then lightened it. Now I can see a little contrast and decide what needs some more shading / highlighting.

Face: Tanned Flesh is used to darken the shadowed areas.
Cloth: Vomit Brown as shadows look good, but needs more highlighting.
Leather: Bestial Brown is washed on to add another layer of colouring. (as faded leather often will)

Face: I finish with a Bleached Bone highlight.
Cloth: IF you want it to look a little lighter, dry brush Elf Flesh.
Leather: Desert Yellow can be painted or dry brushed on to highlight.

I've then begun the armour with a Regal Blue base coat, the gun body with Bleached Bone and some Scab Red shadows on the gun front.
Armour: Enchanted Blue dry brush / paint on to highlight.
Gun Body: Snakebite Leather wash. (or appropriate medium brown)
Gun Front: Go Fasta Red is thin enough that when painted on, the Scab Red shows through.
Armour: I'm still lightening it with Festering Blue, closer to the edges.
Gun Body: I highlight with Bleached Bone and use some Bestial Brown to age it some.
Gun Front: I've used Tanned Flesh to highlight here, but you may have your own preference - just try to avoid making it look pink.
Armour: I use a Space Wolves Grey dry-brush to highlight the edges, but this is optional depending on how much you want to highlight it.
Gun Front: Elf Flesh can do the same here.

Chainmail: I've dry brushed the chainmail areas with Polished Blue metallic. (You may need a fine brush you don't might ruining with dry-brushing to get into the smaller areas)

Chainmail: I've used some Tin Bitz to shade and age it. You could also follow this up with a little Silver.
Jewelry: Used a metallic red fabric paint as a base.

Hair: I've based it with Bad Moon Yellow, then followed it up with a few layers of a Golden Yellow wash (thinned right down) to blend it down to the roots and finally Golden Yellow painted into the roots.
You could wash the yellow with flesh tones or light brown, and even highlight with Bleached Bone or White, but by skipping that, it remains very vibrant.
I paint the gems with layers of green, getting smaller and lighter each time.
Dark Angels Green, Emerald Green, Scorpion Green.

You could even dot it with white to finish, or mix in a metallic agent for a different look.
At this point, I've decided the armour needs a little shadow, and use some Necron Abyss to shade the crevices and places where shadow should be.

The final touch are some pupils!

I'm not sure if the left side of his mouth is a modelling defect, a war wound, or if he thinks he's Stallone.

  • An acrylic (water based) Metallic Red can be purchased from your local craft store such as Michaels.
  • Metallic and Pearl agents can be bought at art supply stores and are mixed into an existing colour or on your palette.

Hobby Safety

In my travels of various forums and tutorials, I've noticed that something greatly lacking are safety instructions. There's a lot of great ideas out there, but also extremely stupid and/or dangerous ones. A big part of the problem here, is the target audience - I started wargaming when I was just a kid and there's plenty of other kids out there these days picking up their first paint brush - and knife. There also seems to be a general disregard for safety - Even though we're just building models, doesn't mean you shouldn't look up an MSDS and proper handling instructions.

This document isn't designed to be the end all, be all of safety instructions for hobbying - it's very important to always be aware of what you're working with and the safe way to use it. These are just some of my own observations and tips to keep yourself healthy while enjoying this hobby.

I urge everyone to read this from start to finish, as things that seem simple may have important notes and enlighten even the most experienced of us. Some of this may seem really obvious, but I've seen/heard some scary suggestions with zero regard for safety. Not everyone's going to follow this, but I feel it's important to be aware of what you're getting into and make that choice yourself.

*UPDATE* I should also mention, I will update this document as a master copy as I find things to change. If you leave comments with suggestions, they may just find themselves worked in with a credit to you.

In the beginning...

When I began this hobby, it was back in the good ol' days of the internet that involved dialup modems and you actually had to wait minutes before you could read a single page on a website. Back then, gaming communities existed almost exclusively in stores; for a kid, not only could transportation be an issue, but playing a bunch of older strangers was intimidating. As such, my community involved the friends I'd game with - friends are still who you should be playing, but nothing gets the creative juices flowing like poking around diverse communities and seeing what this hobby is capable of.

We ended up spending most of our money an hour away in Toronto at the Games Workshop store there. Every time we'd walk in, the employees were friendly, inviting and were great to talk to about questions, units, options and so on. They introduced me to Space Marine, (before Epic, Space Marine was the name of the small scale game) Warhammer Quest, (Diablo style hack'n'slash dungeon crawling) Space Hulk and eventually, Warhammer 40k.

To this day, every Games Workshop I walk into I see the same friendly manner in their employees. Smaller hobby stores have the danger of getting cliquish and stale - not always inviting to a new player. Hopefully, this doesn't turn people away - and it shouldn't, not with the internet. Now, you can game with your friends, and join any number of online forums, galleries and other sites to share your ideas and learn about all sorts of things you may never have even considered.

Recently, I've been getting back into the hobby quite a bit - we don't get many chances to play, but all the modding, painting, terrain, and so on has always relaxed me and is something I really enjoy. I've had a great time reading what others are doing, seeing some fantastic models and trying to push myself more. There's a lot of fantastic tutorials and people putting lots of work into sharing their knowledge.

The reason I've created this blog is that I want to give back to the community that's helped to keep this passion of mine going. I want to show new hobbyists that the important thing is to practice, experiment and just keep at it; you will eventually get better. Towards that, I'd like to share what I've learned over the years (and still am learning) as well as cause some debate.

I am interested in hearing from anyone who finds these articles helpful and even constructive responses from those who think I'm doing things completely wrong. Everyone works differently, and maybe my methods aren't for you - but someone else could read your view and learn. Comments are enabled on all posts, so please give me some feedback. You'll also notice there's a Q and A section, and I will try to get around to responding to anything I'm emailed either as a post on the blog for all to enjoy, or a response back through email.