Wednesday, November 20, 2019

'X Marks the Spot!' The 10th Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge


It's that time of year again! If you're interested in participating in the event, head over to the Painting Challenge blog to see what shenanigans are being planned this year.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Sisters of Battle for FriendsCon


On top of my 2mm madness, another project I've been working on these past few months has been putting together a Sisters of Battle force for a friends tournament that we just had just a few days ago. Byron hosted six of us loons at his house with a delicious BBQ lunch and supper - a great day out. I'll post a couple shots of the event at the end of this.

Last winter I debuted my first efforts with this project, using models kindly provided by IainW, a long time participant of the Painting Challenge and all around good egg (thanks Iain!). As I mentioned in that post, this is not my first foray into the Sisters of Battle, as many years ago I had collected a sizeable force only to regrettably sell it off. 

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to reconstitute (reconsecrate?) my collection of Adepta Sororitas (nerdspeak for the Sisters) and so have been furiously collecting, building and painting models for the past few months.

I understand that the Sisters will have a new Codex-guidebook-thingy coming out soon, but this force is based off the stopgap rules which were published last December. This is just fine with me as I don't expect myself to be haunting the tournament circuit anytime soon - this collection is largely about enjoying the various models and their attendant fluff, with absolutely no eye to being competitive.

Okay, now how to best describe this lot? Well, let's do it by troop type and see how it goes. 

First up are the 'Big Hats' - the leaders, characters and other HQ elements leading the Sisters.



The Abbess


This lady, the Abbess, is the head honcho, the matriarch of the Order. I call her Madge as she totally looks like a Madge to me. Our Gallic friend Sylvain would best describe her, 'Une Femme Formidable.

This figure was a gift from Byron and originated from the Toughest Girls in the Galaxy Kickstarter that was run a few years ago. Thanks Byron!



A wonderful sculpt. I really love the pose, with her brandishing a scroll. 


'These, heretic, are your library fines. Suffer not the Late to Live!'

Saint Celestine



Yes, in the lunacy that is 40K, players have full access to field god-like Primarchs, terrifying Daemon Princes, and for the Sisters of Battle, an undying saint. 



The story behind Saint Celestine is that she was a Battle Sister who, due to her fanatical devotion to the God Emperor of Mankind (GEM), was chosen to be an immortal avatar to her fellow Soritas. In game terms she a bit of a beast, but can be struck down. Not to be deterred, she has a very good chance of immediately coming right back for another bout of zealous mayhem. Yep, kinda bonkers.


GW makes a very nice Celestine model, but I wanted something a little different and found a great rendition of her on Thingiverse designed by the talented 'jimbeanz'. To reflect her heroic stature, I scaled her up slightly so she'd be suitably intimidating on the tabletop. This in turn made her wings quite enormous, so I magnetized them so they can be removed for easy packing and transport.


Celestine is accompanied by what I jokingly call her backup singers. These are a pair of Geminae Superia bodyguards, basically hard-as-nails Sisters sporting zippy jetpacks, powerswords and bolt pistols. Weee! In game terms they essentially act as ablative armour for Celestine, soaking up extra hits for their Main Girl. 


These models are from Wargames Exclusive. I quite like how the jetpacks are modeled with their artificed wings.

Battle Sisters


The main troops are the Battle Sisters themselves. Power armoured ladies, with a wide variety of weapons and fanatical resolve, they form the backbone of the entire force. I painted up about 35 of them, but here is a small sampling along with a few of their leaders. In addition to the venerable metals castings that I got from Iain, I also picked up a bunch of resin versions from Wargames Exclusive.




Arco-Flagellants and Penitent Engine



Okay, these two units are very similar, so I'm lumping them together.  Both are a bit crazed but quite fun to run on the tabletop. 



Arco-Flagellants are essentially criminals who have been swept up by the Mechanicum, lobotomised with a dull spoon, brutally augmented with cybernetic power flails and then festooned with auto-injectors containing toxic mixtures of combat drugs and pain inhibitors. Think pro rugby for the 40th millennium.



They're led by a priest, providing them a little moral guidance to help chivy them along. 




Penitent Engines are similar to Arco-Flagellants, but the poor loon (looness?) is 'installed' half naked in an open cockpit power-suit, armed with paired flame throwers and huge circular saws. Yep, totally plausible.



Unlike the 'misunderstood' Flagellants, the Penitent Engines are piloted by REAL jackholes. You know the type: evil crime lords, small-fingered, porcine heads of state with no moral compass, and the absolute worst, those guys who wear their ball caps backwards and drive those annoyingly huge Dodge trucks with sport exhausts (okay, these examples may be somewhat coloured by personal bias, but you get the gist).



The idea behind both the Arco-Flagellants and the Penitent Engines is that they're promised absolution only if they get rendered down to bloody viscera on the battlefield. 



Yes, all this helps to underscore that, while the Imperium of Mankind may not be an especially forgiving place, it is a big supporter of karmic hubris. As I've said before, one can only imagine that recidivism is probably non-existent in the Empire. 

Vehicles

Last up for the force are the vehicles. These lumps are all variants based off the tried and trusted Rhino chassis. 



The Repressor is sort of a crowd control vehicle, if 'control' means either shooting, immolating or squishing your offending crowd. It features multiple firing ports to shoot from, a handy-dandy flame thrower, a pair of stormbolter turrets and an anti-personnel dozer blade.  Very noice.

Forge World (or as I call it, 'Gouge World') used to have a Repressor model, but it has long disappeared from their catalogue. Undeterred, I found a great 3D kit on, yes, you guessed it, Thingiverse, designed by StFishbulber. The various bits took a bit of cutting, filing, and repositioning, but the final product is fairly convincing I think.



The Immolator. With its extra crispy flamey goodness, the Immolator is a perennial favourite of Sisters of Battle collectors.  For something a little different, I used a third party turret from Wargames Exclusive as I quite the raw, aggressive silhouette it gives.



The last vehicle I'll cover is the Exorcist. This silly thing is basically a combination of a Kayatusha rocket launcher and basilica pipe organ. Makes perfect sense. I love the baroque design, especially the Sister gunner at her 'keyboard' and the servitor drone loading the rockets into the pipe organ. Again, it's completely nuts, but in a fun way. 



So there you have it, the basis of my Sisters of Battle force. For those who are curious they didn't actually do too bad in our FriendsCon with two wins and one loss (a miracle in of itself as I had no idea what I was doing most of the time). 


Noah sending in his Eldar against my Girls with Byron and Ray on another table in the background.
Greg moving up his Tau against Ray's Deathwing (aptly titled as they were soon to be rendered down to smoking boots only a few minutes after this photo). Poor Ray, such a good sport.

My plan is to add a few more units over the coming months, but I feel the pull to try something else - maybe some WWII stuff for my Italian Campaign, we'll see where the brushes take me.

Thanks for visiting - I hope you all have a great week!


Monday, September 23, 2019

2mm Napoleonics! (Or, 'What I did During my Summer Vacation, Part I')



We had a very nice, restful summer, with lots of lazy days and bright sunshine to sit back and recharge the batteries. While I did spend a lot of time outside puttering with some landscape projects, I did manage to get to grips with a couple hobby things as well. One of them, still ongoing, is building-up a Sisters of Battle force (I hate saying 'army' for something that's usually composed of 30-40 figures) for a friends-themed event being held later this autumn. Lots of nostalgia with that one as the Sisters were my first 40K army before I reluctantly sold them off to finance a trip to Europe - I'll get into describing that gambit in a future post.

So what's the other project that has occupied many of my summer evenings? Well, again, it's another old flame, but this time instead of boltguns and chainswords, its back to muskets and shakos.  Napoleonics - 'The Beautiful Game' - remains my first miniature wargames love and for me it's experienced a bit of a renaissance with the release of Dan Brown's excellent 'General d'Armee' (GdA). The rules are quite 'crunchy' and somewhat overwrought in some spots, but on the whole they're pretty darn good and, for me, they manage to hit most of the sweet spots for a battalion-level set of instructions. The most important result from this resurgent interest is that it's driven me to get more Napoleonic games on the tabletop.

After a few recent games I came to the conclusion that I wanted to try playing this level of game in a figure scale smaller than 28mm. Don't get me wrong, I love all the colour and pageantry of 28mm Napoleonics, BUT the size of the units often constrains how much can be reasonably put on a normal tabletop. We typically game on an 8'x5' playing surface, and, allowing for room for flanks and a few bits of interesting terrain this means that we hit the limit at around 15 units per side. In Napoleonic terms that's around two to three brigades - a nice little game, but still fairly limited in scope. So, I really wanted the ability to do larger divisional-level games while still having room for the units to 'breathe'.

With all this in mind, I played around with the idea of expanding my recently repatriated 15mm collection (thanks Greg!). I even retouched/rebased a few units to see how they'd look - not bad, but I would need significantly more units, meaning lots of figures and heaps of painting. Definitely possible, but I needed to think on this more before pulling the trigger. Then, one afternoon I found myself looking through our display cabinets and came across my proof-of-concept 3mm ACW units that I did-up a few years back. I was reminded by how neat the 1:1 arrangement looked and wondered if I could 3D print something similar for Napoleonics, say in 2mm. I then remembered an online conversation I had with Zach, the talented creator of Forward March Studios about his 2mm range of figures. Well, it turns out that Zach is now offering his entire library of 3D print files for a very reasonable price. Inspired by this, I duly plunked down for the series of designs and began the process of test printing and plotting possible unit layouts.

Here is a selection of 2mm models from Forward March. From front to back, a 2-flag infantry stand, a squadron of cavalry a round command stand, a load of windmills and a row of German themed houses.

After playing around with the raw printed models I quickly came to the conclusion that due to the relative ease of printing, assembly and painting, I wanted to create units which were more like boardgame playing pieces, composed of one base highlighting a specific formation. For example, a unit in line formation would be a single base with the battalion arrayed in line, whereas if it changed into column, or square, it would be swapped-out for a base reflecting those particular formations. This would be quite different the common multi-base approach, where players switch around their component unit bases to mimic the formations they need. Ok, why do this? Well, the thing that really excited me about this scale was its ability to convey how these formations would really look in relation to one another.  



In this scale, the British 2-rank line looks realistically thin and elongated when compared to the bulkier 3-rank lines used by the French (and most continental armies). In looking at the British line, one can see how many French commanders would have thought that its apparent fragility would be susceptible to mass column attacks - not so much as it turned out.

Cavalry formations look great in this scale as well as the massed units really help emphasize the space that was required to properly maneuver these large groups of horsemen. 


Here are two British cavalry regiments with the one in the foreground in columns of squadrons and the other drawn up in line.
One formation that I especially enjoyed working on was the artillery batteries. Quite understandably due to cost and space considerations, artillery in most tabletop collections rarely illustrate the depth gun batteries would absorb, what with their limbers, ammunition caissons and support wagons. But doing this in 2mm it's an absolute doodle.  



Above is a French 8-gun battery deployed for action. The depth of the formation is to illustrate the space required to accommodate the supporting ammunition caissons and support wagons.
Note: for the artillery I broke my own rule by having them arrayed on multiple bases as I wanted to allow segments to be removed in order to allow other formations to park or move through it, something that was commonly done on the battlefield.



So, with a bit of head scratching and eraser nibbling I came up with a series of base shapes that could reflect the various formations commonly used during the period. I estimated I wanted around 30 battalions of infantry each for the French, Austrian, Prussian British and Russians, with a half dozen batteries and around 10 regiments of cavalry as supports. I reasoned that this 'recipe' would give me enough units to reflect a good sized corps per side and not overstress a modest sized table.







After I decided on my basing recipe, my good friend Byron over at Northern Lights Terrain cut me up a schwack of MDF bases to start the process.

Eagle-eyed readers with 15mm collections will see that that frontage of my units are probably not that far off from their own - it's really in the depth that the this scale really differentiates itself. 

Is this in true 1:1 scale? No, but its very close. I estimate that these formations are roughly at 1: 1.3 ratio. Not bad! 



The Process

The assembly and painting of these bases is a fairly straightforward affair - its definitely more of an assembly line  approach than working with larger scales.

I find one of the tricks to tackling small scale projects is getting the basing and colour pallet right. My colour choices I'll talk about below, as to the bases, personally, I like them fairly thick (3mm) as it gives something to grip onto. I also like my bases with rounded corners as it gives the finished stands an almost chit/playing piece look about them. Horses for courses though!

The 3D prints I used for this project makes it very easy to organize and glue down the formations onto the bases, you just mix and match figure strips to the formation you want to do. 


They don't look like much, but we'll see what we can make of them.

This unit will be a standard-sized French battalion, in line formation, five companies wide (the sixth company is assumed to be detached on skirmishing duties).



After the component pieces have been glued down, I apply a layer of fine sand over thinned down PVA on the base. I leave out a small corner section for the unit label and I glue down a steel shim for magnetized markers (more on that later).



Once the sand dries, I prime the base dark brown, and then apply an overspray of grey to help 'lift' lighter colours used later in the process. The groundwork is then painted a chocolate brown, drybrushed up with a mid and light browns and finally ending in a light khaki dusting. I just use cheap craft paint for all this work. 







Yes, the base looks a bit wierd at this point, but the next step will set things to right. The base is given several coats of green emulsion from Woodland Scenics. A great product as I find it gives a very nice semi-opaque green effect to the groundwork. 




Next is painting the figures themselves. Because of the extremely small scale, I typically use very bright (and very unhistorical) colours so they're easier to see on the tabletop. I simply paint the top half in the 'national' tunic colour - in this case a fairly vibrant blue for the French. I then paint an off-white strip along the bottom and highlight to indicate their trousers. 



The light blue is then inked (or washed) with a darker shade. This will sink into the recesses and temporarily darken the overall tone. For the French I use Liquitex Prussian Blue ink (yeah, go figure).



I then highlight with the original colour (light blue in this case) with a few additional spots further lifted with some white mixed in. This gives the figures a bit more depth and aids in their overall visibility. 



In order to make the figures better stand out on the base, I outline the formation with a dark brown mixed with a touch of black to create a shadow effect.

Usually the flags are the most fiddly part of the process, but I think the extra time invested really finishes off the base nicely. The French tricolour is fairly easy to do, whereas the British Union Jack can be a bit of a bear!

Aaand that's it for painting the figures. Yes, its very, VERY basic, but I've found that less is more when working with these smaller scales - if you try to paint too much detail it can often muddy the overall effect.

Now, we're almost done: The bases are given a very light scatter of fine flock over thinned PVA. Not too much though, just an impression, going heavy on the flock can often overwhelm the figures.



Finally I touch up the base edge with dark brown, affix a unit label at the bottom corner and magnetize the bottom for safe transport. Done!


The crescent shaped bases are skirmishers.

An early test game using the figures (no highlighting or flocking yet - slacker). You can see some of the magnetic casualty status markers on a few of the French units.

I can usually get around 4-6 bases done during an evening's sitting, so roughly a brigade. In preparations for our first game I managed to get 20 battalions of infantry, 4 cavalry regiments and 2 artillery batteries done in around 2 weeks of work - I certainly couldn't have done that in 28mm! 

Two regiments of French cavalry in line supporting a brigade of infantry.


Status Markers


I like using roster sheets to keep tabletop clutter to a minimum and for this project I wanted to take it further by having that ability to denote status right on top of the unit. For example, in GDA units can endure around 8-15 points of damage before breaking. I equated this to three levels/stages of attrition which a unit can be marked: blue for light damage, yellow for medium and red for critical. This way opposing players don't have perfect intelligence on precisely how knocked about an enemy unit is. 

So to do this I purchased a pack of magnetic map 'pins' and then spray painted them in the three status colours. I keep them affixed to a thin steel sheet handy for the players to pull from. 



During games we simply pick off the markers we need from the steel sheet and place them on the steel square located on the bottom left of each unit. This provides a relatively minimalist approach to marking unit status without having to use dice, counters, etc.


This French brigade is a bit of a bad way. The lovely tree bases are by the very talented Mr. Miles Reidy.


Storage

Storage is frequently a struggle for many miniature gamers as there just doesn't seem to be enough room to squirrel away all the shiny things we acquire. A great aspect of collecting microscale armies is that their storage and transport is SOOOO much easier than dealing with larger scales. 

For this project I found that I could use inexpensive photo scrapbooking containers sourced from one of our local big box craft stores. 



The larger containers can carry two of the thinner cases. I've estimated that each nationality could fit in four of the smaller cases, all nestled in two of the larger containers. Since they were available in multiple colours I snagged a pair for most of the nations' livery, red for British, light blue for French, white for Austrians/Spanish, and dark blue for Prussians. I just need to find a set of green cases for the Russians...

This entire project, encompassing five national armies, will fit in 10 cases. This makes it not only very compact to store, but is also fairly straightforward to select, transport and use during games. 

____________________________

Okay, <phew> there you have it. A VERY long post (sorry about that!) of me describing how I spent a good portion of my summer evenings. A bit mental, but good fun.

I plan to do a few more updates on this project in order to cover terrain and a few oddball formations/units. Also, keep an eye out for a Peninsular War scenario that we've developed using these figures; that will be coming up soon as well.

Thanks for dropping in folks. Have a great week!

Next up: Sisters of Battle!