Thursday, September 23, 2021

Recommendation: Turin (youtuber)

My hobbying has been scatterbrained this summer, so while I continue to chip away at things and not post, I wanted to point you fine folks towards a youtube channel I have been enjoying very much over the summer: Turin. He largely plays and casts the Warhammer Total War games, which as a Warhammer Refugee into Kings of War now, I have very much enjoyed, and thought some of you might enjoy as well.

While I was aware of the existence of the various Total War games, and have obviously played Warhammer Fantasy, I have never played anything from the Total War franchise. Thankfully, Turin's commentary during his casts is quite insightful, and he is very good at  distilling games. He explains everything from basic game mechanics to general army tips, to the meta strategies for each match up. His meme-game is pretty strong too, which adds to the entertainment. He's been doing the youtube thing for years, and has a deep catalogue of Warriors of Chaos and Empire games, which helped draw me in as those were my armies back in the Warhammer days. Check him out!

Monday, August 30, 2021

New Halflings (Beta)

Like many things, I am very late to the party here, but for those unaware, Mantic is launching some Halflings! This is a welcome addition to some of the more robust halfling miniatures offered up in recent years, kicked off by the Halfling Militia box from Wargames Atlantic. The models on-offer from Mantic, as well as a Beta version of the new army list can found online at their store. Additionally, you can play around with the list in EasyArmy's editor, though I believe you need to be a paying member, since this is a Beta offering. Check it all out! It's a good time to start a halfling army! 

In 2nd Edition, the Halflings were a very robust sub-faction of the League of Rhordia, with the halflings broadly taking over the specialist and war machine duties, as well as filling the roles of cheap alternatives to every basic army choice (heroes to fight, inspire, or cast spells; infantry in all stripes, and lighter cavalry options both with lances and with bows). I really liked the concept, and I built up a dopy halfling-only list that I was pretty fond of. It used very cheap historical scale (1/72) miniatures with some greenstuff to get the hairy feet effect. Each miniature was dirt cheap, and it was a really fun list for me to run in smaller or learner games. 

Unfortunately, that army did not fare well in the transition to 3rd Edition and the introduction of keywords to the game. All of the war machines of the League were "humanized", and most of the halfling units were outright done away with. I was left with one "combat" hero choice, and one choice each for underpowered melee infantry, knights, and archer units. All in all... not a lot to work with for a full army even in tiny games...

Fortunately, the new list is very deep! Choices abound, though I must assume some final tweaks are coming before the list actually launches.


Abilities and Keywords

As noted in the Beta download from Mantic, the halfling army has two special rules. 

The first is Relentless, which you can buy for units, and gives an attacking unit some (3) one-time rerolls to damage rolls in melee. The upgrade is cheap, but seems odd and messy, design-wise. Upping it to 3 here is exploring some design space, but odd. Why not reroll all or something? I would imaging this is them playing around with design stuffs, and this might get tweaked prior to launch. (UPDATE: Not having played 3rd Edition, I was unfamiliar with things like the Ogres "Crocodog" option, which does a similar "3 rerolls for hits" thing. Relentless is still playing around with some design space, similar to the Elite and Vicious special rules, and is actually building on some stuff already in game.)

The second special rule is Spellward, which gives all spells to hit the unit (from both friendly and enemy units!) a -1 modifier to hit. I really like this rule, and some "magic resist" is some neat design space to explore in the game. It also opens up a neat little space for them, as they are dealing more with Auras as an army rather than spells. I like it. y

Oddly enough, the new halflings seem to have lost their previous rule gimmick, "Stealthy", which was on all of their infantry-type units. I think this is ok. Though the "Steady-Aim" and "Potshot" rules help shooting in 3rd, ranged combat is still not the focus of this game, so Stealthy may have been too powerful for the majority of an army to have.

"Ravenous" is an army keyword being put to use, and it interacts with their "Sauceror" hero, which is a bit of a mouthful to try and pronounce, but to me seems to be a play on words between "Sauce" and "Sorcerer"? Anyways, the Sauceror generates auras (with up to +3 effects) to benefit units with the keyword, and has a nice fluffy association here, though giving Ravenous units Relentless has some dark connotations? Part of me wishes this was dialed way up; cannibal halflings or something.

"Tinker" is another army keyword, and really expands on the specialist and war machine roles the League had them doing. The Engineer interacts with this keyword, providing some buffs to the mechanical units in the army, like the war machines and newly imagined Iron Beast. 

I like that there is a split in the army, though am not super-sold on the Tinkering sub-faction as-is. I don't really want trolls in my halfling list, that's why I'm running halflings. And am so-so on them wielding multiple flying contraptions and jetpacks and having numerous gunpower units since it goes so contrary to the traditional, serene and simple version of the halfling. I would have liked to have seen their tinkering innovations dialed back a bit, or channeled elsewhere.

Units and Fluff

As mentioned above, the army has a great variety of units, which are largely split between the more "normal" (Ravenous) halflings and the more mechanically-inclined (Tinkering) units, which leads to an odd mix of traditional country-style halflings with robust steampunk elements creeping in. It's a weird mix for an army, but I feel like Mantic is trying to do something unique here, and so we get jetpacks and troll-riding dudes and mechanical beasts with Gatling guns alongside the folksy rabble. 

The War Wagon could have been a neat, rustic-inspired concept to build on? They could be chariot-units; Halfling farmers taking armored wagons in groups for protection. Give the chariots high defense, and let them be kitted out to provide rallying or auras, or platforms for small-arms groups or for mounting war machines... let the tinkering be done on wagons instead of with jetpacks.

Stats

I think most of the Beta changes are going to be stats and points shifts. Right now everything has the normal speed values (5 for infantry), which doesn't jive with the previous iteration of Halflings in 2nd, nor the League's Halflings still in 3rd, all of whom have little legs and move at 4 Speed. Previously, their mounted units had Speed 7, but 3rd edition looks to have bumped that up to 8.

Additionally, the halflings are presented as very competent fighters, which I would think would be tweaked before print. For instance, special rules aside, their new Cavalry hits on 3+ like and has 5+ Defense, just like normal human-style knights.  This goes against the 4+ Me / 4+ De on the League's version. We'll see what the stats and points end up being, but I would think with the League already published, the army would be spun down a bit to match those stats. We'll see.


Final Takes

I'm not much for the forest trolls and steampunk units, but I do like the rabble-aspect, and the basic Ravenous units in the army looks like they will translate nicely and reinvigorate my old one, so I've been pretty happy with Mantic's announcement here. We'll see how the army list looks at the official launch, but I think I will have a go-to teacher army again!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Hobby Update: More KoM Pikes

My painting has never been amazing, so I tend to eschew expensive centerpiece units, and run wide lists more often than not. With this approach... it is hard for me to say "no" when hobbying on an army. If a unit is good enough to run, why not hobby up three or four or five and give yourself some real good flexibility with list building?

Last year, I did up a regiment of Pikes for my Kingdoms of Men army, and I then immediately wanted another for the reasons above. Unfortunately, the lances were hard to come by. After scoping out bits sites in vain for a year, I relented and through ebay, acquired more lances-with-arm bits from a box of Fireforge Teutonic Knights. Expensive lances, but the Teutonic sculps and ascetic are cool and iconic, and I will find uses for them eventually.

Hobby space is still at a ridiculous premium for me, but I was able to do up a second regiment of pikes at long last! It's been over a year, but the hobby process should the same as the previous regiment, and all my thoughts on the unit expressed in that previous post should still hold true today. 


The pikes make it hard to get a good camera shot from the front.
So I think that means I did a good job with them?

I actually ran out of pristine square shields, so had to substitute battle damaged shields from the Veterans kit to finish these off. I decided they would go in the front, as that made sense to me. This will be a second regiment, so that difference should "sell" each regiment being a bit unique, though they still look fine all ranked up as a (potential) horde. While I believe the meta these days says that the best way to run these is as a horde, I still want to give the multiple small units approach a go whenever I can, so these will probably be run as separate units on the table. I mean, meta doesn't matter to me since I don't play competitively (well, I don't play at all right now), so might as well run goofy things.

A horde of pointy things.

My basing has changed a bit over the years. The Regnum here has primarily gotten paste, and while the paste name has stayed the same, the consistency has varied a little between the three bottles I have purchased. I don't know if I didn't mix them up consistently enough or what, but the stands are looking pretty pronounced in this new unit. That is a dilemma for another day though. For now, my army is still homogenous enough on the techniques and aesthetics that I am not going to bother with any touch-ups yet. 

So yeah, another Regiment of Pikes ready to go! Space is still at an extreme premium in the apartment, and unfortunately time is too. But hobbying has been relieving stress, and I've got some prep work in on some of the new Fireforge Byzantines, so more to come soon! 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Kickstarted Fireforge Cataphracts

Back in the Before Times, I noticed, and then decided to back, a Kickstarter from Fireforge expanding their Byzantine range. Historically, I have not been keen for any Kickstarters, backing only 3 prior to this one, but I loves me some Byzantines, and figured this would be a nice little surprise for me down the road. It was! This all shipped in May, and arrived at my door in late June.

Fireforge seems to work in three mediums, "normal resin", which as I have mentioned before is very brittle and I do particularly like, "fine resin" which I have no experience with (yet), and "plastic", which is great. Their minis all tend to be the same scale and general configurations (same attachment style for the head, flat arms and such), so swapping between (plastic) kits is very easy, especially for heads and weapons. Thankfully, through stretch goals and such, most of their new kits made it into plastic. 

With the Kickstarter stuff all mailed out now, their online shop started selling the kits in July, and their stock has finally caught up the last few weeks. They also have a small promotion going on to celebrate a European sportsball thing, so check them out! 

Their website looks to have a bunch of finished pictures, but nothing (at the time of writing this) for sprues to show what you in the box, so uh.. here we go! From the Kickstarter I received boxes of their CataphractsHorse Archers, the classic Varangian Guard, in addition to some characters for backing at certain levels. We'll go kit-by-kit I suppose.


Cataphracts

The Cataphract Horse Sprue
As mentioned before in the blog, I have been after a good cataphract model for a while, and these are "it" I think! The armor looks nice and heavy and meshes well with the historical stuff. They look like a group of solid, heavy cavalry.

Fireforge has used "stands" for their miniatures for as long as I have been aware of them. The stand, as I call it, is basically a smaller piece of flat plastic (or resin... whatever the mini is made from)  attached to the miniature which then serves as the connector to a base instead of the feet of the model. 

The stand can help with stability and such, but can be a bit of an eyesore for multibasing, as everything is standing on little bumps which you need to either carefully remove (sawing around all those tiny feet), just work around or somehow disguise it with additional pebbles or higher flock. I was surprised to see that that is not the case for any of these minis! The Cataphracts here look to have their hooves either flat with the ground, or a tiny addition to a hoof to help attach them flush to a flat base. I am pretty excited about this change! 

Cataphract knights? Riders?
Anyways, here is this sprue.
My preferred method for basing was relying heavily on textured paste, and pasting around all those tiny feet can be such a pain, and it forces you into a weird workflow. No stands lets you hobby up the minis and the bases separately, and then just glue the minis right onto that finished base as a last step. 

The Kickstarter path for these was weird. These were originally 6 to a box in a resin, but transitioned to plastic midway through production anyways. My package had a baggy of 9... I do not recall if that was a bonus for backers (bumping the box up from 6 to 9) or if my baggy was missing a pair of sprues to get the full 12, but I only want a regiment max right now, so I am fine with this. The real box comes with 12.

The riders fit together like GW Chaos Knights circa 2010, with each leg being its own bit. The kit comes with either maces or lances, which is a bit lackluster, but fine by me, as these are always going to get lances I think, so anything else is just a bonus.

The helmets are all closed chain veils, with plumed and non-plumed options, which is a nice touch. All-in-all, this kit comes across as very simple but very serviceable. I like it!


Horse Archers

Horse sprue for the Horse Archers.
The Horse Archers are largely designed the same, though the sprues are organized differently. The box comes with 12 horse archers. Each horse sprue has 3 horses, and each rider sprue has 6 archers, so you get 4 horse sprues and 2 archer sprues. That seems like a fine split, and you should be able to get a great unit with varied poses.

Again, no more long, bulky stands for the horses! To quickly highlight their design approach, look at the top-most horse body on the right-hand side in the pic here. It has the little nub on the back hoof, which is how they are connecting non-flush hooves to the base. Much better than that traditional big plastic "wisps" of dirt or whatever being tossed up. We'll see how well these stick to bases, but aesthetically, this is an improvement.

The archer sprue has a ton of "extra" bits like shields, sheathed weapons and stored bows and arrows. The stored bow bit is a little sad, being straight, smooth blank plastic on both sides. But I think the intent was to attach other bits on top of it? I don't know. Being archers, everyone gets a bow, with the other arm being a knocked arrow or just released arrow. 

Rider sprue for the Horse Archers
Getting bows-only for the weapons is a bit of a bummer, but the kit is for horse archers, so I totally get it. The Kickstarter did have a third horse-related kit, the Koursores, meant to be a kind of middle-of-the-road raiding unit, and that kit comes with melee weapons, with lances, and swords and stuff. Pick up one of those and you should come out with enough right arms to customize as you wish. (Left arms could potentially be a problem; the Cataphract sprue only comes with 3 left arms, so if you are using tiny shields, you may need to get creative with any conversion work.)

All in all, all of these horse kits are solid. I am temped to pick up more, as I can see soooo many possibilities... but I am going to hold off. I am still not hobbying all that much, and all of my purchases here are still on the sprue!

If you are looking to get into Kingdoms of Men, these cavalry kits are solid and should be a great jumping off point for an army. You can cover basically all your mounted needs (Knights, Mounted Sergeants, and Mounted Scouts) with these kits. Not bad at all!


Varangian Guard

"Fine Resin" Varangians...
with some of the extra bits. 

Historically-speaking, the Varangian Guard are wild and they have fascinated me for a while. Long ago, I wanted a "special" unit of Foot Guard with two handers to run in my KoM army to stand in as a homage to this historic group. Originally that was going to be older Chaos Warriors to tie things out to my Varangur, but I think I will do these up now instead. The scale will be much better I think.

The box comes in groups of 12. I got two boxes to try and run one regiment, with some models left over. There are only 6 bodies, but a ton of weapon options, so I am hoping some basic orientation pivots and different weapons will help break up any potential "monopose" worries.

I am actually excited to get to these as they are made with Fireforge's "Fine Resin", and would be my first foray into that material.

All of the sprues (? I honestly don't know if that's the correct term for these if they are resin.. It must be, right?) need a lot of cleaning up, but the kit is sprawling with weapons and shields and such. I think there is at least one other sprue that didn't make it into the picture here? It's a big baggy, but you get the idea. 

First impressions on the resin are all good. The "fine resin" has far more bend and give than their old resin. I will definitely need a fresh blade on my hobby knife before working on these and these will need a nice soapy bath and a lot of clean up work before I can hobby on them, but I am excited to give these a go. As with all of the other new kits, these models lack stands now as well, so we'll see how that goes. More to come on these for sure! I'm not getting in a ton of hobbying still, but I think these will jump the queue a few spots as I want to try out this new material.

Bonus!
Leaders

For pledging at a certain tier, I got some "bonus" leader minis, their Harald Hardrada and their Byzantine Emperor twofer pack.

Both are in resin (not actually sure if it is their normal resin or their fine resin. The box is unfortunately packed away for now so I cannot check). both are also stand-less. 

I would not have bought these on my own accord. I may do up Harald as a test mini and eventual leader mini for that unit of special Foot Guard, or the emperors as one-off characters in between projects or just to practice a bit, but I have no big desire to hobby on these. Still, free is free, and I'm sure I'll find a use for these eventually.



Summary

All in all, this was probably overkill. I don't need more minis right now, but I am happy I backed this. If you need any cavalry kits, any of these seem like solid choices. I am not displeased with any of the models, and I'll find uses for them eventually. I am quite keen to try out the fine resin Varangians, and will share more on them once they have some paint on them!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Hobby Update: Abyssal Gargoyles

After finishing up the Horsemen, I decided to bite the bullet and order up some Gargoyles (and, while I was at it, a Ba'su'su mini) in an attempt to try and finish up my Abyssals army. I am still missing many, many units, but given their ubiquity in list I have seen, the Gargoyles at least are the last models I feel that I absolutely must have in order to have a "proper" Abyssals experience. I ordered the models through Twilight Kin, and I would order from them again. If you are in the States and looking for a retailer for Kings of War minis consider checking them out. 

My gut instinct is that I multibase moderately-well, hitting around 80% of the model count for most of my units. I could be way off, but I think that feels about right. For these though, I had heard horror stories, and originally planned to pull back a bit, and buy two boxes, for a 7:7:6 split between three troops. In the end, I wussed out and decided to just get one box, and oh boy am I glad I stuck with one box. These are finicky models... If you are going to a tournament that demands the PMC or 50%+1.. good luck. You will have your work cut out for you I think. I am just fine with running these in 5 model troops for my casual games. If memory serves, these are very old sculpts, so some leeway is probably due. However, after hobbying these up, I can say I do not really like these models! 

They came in baggies, not on a sprue, and upon arrival I jumped right in, so I don't have a good reference shot for the model pieces. But starting at the bottom, the pillars are ... interesting. Some have hands grasping upwards, some are ornate, and some have what looks to be vegetation winding up the sides. I dislike them all. I am experimenting with some spackle for some dune-centric desert bases, and decided to branch out with some spackle here too. Each column got smeared and obscured  by spackle, so all are rockier and a little more uniform looking: roughly similar perches from where the gargoyles survey the battlefield and their prey.

The spackle obscured the pillars nicely. Then it was just a black base coat, dark grey layer, and then a light grey drybrush. Simple stuff. The wings have a diluted red wash to add a hint of coloration.

The torsos here are ridiculous. I decided to take a hobby knife to all the gargoyle bolt ons, removing them with a number of rough straight cuts to looks like the chests were roughly hewn like the rest of the model. The models have cracks and rough patches to show off their rocky forms, so I then continued on my spackle adventure, taking tiny bits and smudging them on the chest, legs and arms to try and disguise my cuts. That said, I don't really see anywhere the spackle made any difference, to be honest.


Very dynamic! These don't look bad, but the tails are quite concerning. I wish they were more "perched" than "pouncing" for their poses. Lava was orange, then a few layers of increasingly yellow paint. Good enough for a lava pool effect I think.

The wings themselves look great, and (using bat wing terminology) have wonderfully defined fingers to aid with painting up the mini. The skin bits in between are also pretty nice to paint up; allowing for nice dry brushes and easy washes. The wings are great, but the piece as a whole is also a little much. The bit has both wings, the tail, and the whole thing attached to a nub on the back of the model's torso (similar to how a Space Marine backpack is attached), but with so much going on, the wing bits are thicker than the torso itself! From the side, the model looks pretty weird. Almost like it has a spine for the torso and a second spine for the wings and tail.

The poses are also a bit ... much. All the bits seem to be more-or-less interchangable, and make for very dynamic poses. However, I am very wary of the tails... one snag and I feel like they'll torque the mini right off at the ankles. So I tried to arrange it all so that very little of any model is hanging over the side of the base. I'm not sure how many more I could possibly fit on the base. I will need to be very careful with these on the table. If I were to redesign these, I'd add the tail to the pelvis and wrapping around the pillar, to get another point of contact on the miniature and reduce the overhang. The wings could still attach like a backpack, but I think this would make the models far more stable.

On the table, the Gargoyles were regarded as some of the best chaff in the game for 2nd Edition, due to flying, great regeneration, and the their general ability to get places they had no business being. Having not followed 3rd Edition much, but knowing the general rules remained the same, I can only assume they remain desirable, so we'll definitely give them a go in the next game and see how they do!

Not a bad little hero model. In all the official pics, these stony warriors are given glowing eyes. I may embrace that at some point, but really didn't feel like messing with eyes right now to be honest. Eyes and the painting of the edge, and these all will be totally done.

Additionally, I picked up a Ba'su'su model. This one was metal, which surprised me, but probably shouldn't have; it is a pretty old sculpt I think. Overall, I like him. On the table, he looks to tank about as good as any regiment, but also costs about the same. He'll be expensive, but should appear in any game above 2000 points. I think in those larger games he'll be able to dart in a hold stuff up nicely.

...And these should bring me to over 3000 points. The Horsemen, additional Moloch Horde and now the Gargoyles should provide me with a much-better "balanced" force than I had this time last year.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Hobby Update: Abyssal Horsemen

I still have only about 1 square foot of desk space to hobby with (shifting to working from home has not been kind to my available space this last year). But painting up the Necrons recently was fun, and I hope to get in a game of anything this year, so I am trying to reorganize a bit, and squeeze in a little more hobby time now that the weather is getting nicer and vaccines in my friend group are on the rise.

I still have a handful of KoM infantry-sized units to do up. Several were even primed last summer, but I failed to work on them over the winter. Even now, with the smaller space I am hesitant to tackle those projects yet (each with roughly 15 minis per unit; all with stands), I so grabbed something else from my "pile-of-shame": some Abyssal Horsemen.

I picked up the models sometime back in 2019. They are Death Knights from the Runewars game. I played a small demo game, and the game had a few neat mechanics (like secret orders, and a up-in-the-air unit activation method), but was pretty convoluted and every gaming tool from rulers to dice was proprietary (I mean, it is a Fantasy Flight game). So the game is totally not for me. However, the minis were surprisingly good. I think the game is pretty defunct now, but have not followed it. If you can find boxes of it, consider picking them up if any catch your eye.

A box of Death Knights comes with 4 knights, just two sculpts repeated. The pieces only fit together one way. All in all, these are not bad sculpts. They were designed to be narrow, and sturdy, and fit over their bases, rather than play around with physics with jumping models and extreme leaning. I liked the simplicity to these. 

Nice and simple. Well-designed. 

While searching for a suitable base, I found one that already had paste and cork board, done up for some Varangur I'd imagine. I decided to re-use that. The cork board was in big chunks in the middle, longwise, which would not be great for cavalry, so I just tore at the cork board, removing what I could.  I needed to make it more flat, not entirely flat. Anything glued down stayed, and the rest I pasted over, spreading some green stuff around for "lava".

The models had some seriously thick stands, which wouldn't play well with the re-used base, so I decided to be brave and remove those. I saw glue around the hooves, so I broke out my knife and managed to pry/cut one off the stand. As you can see, it has little inserts and stuff, which is why the miniature felt so secure. Peg, hard plastic, and glue would do that! I freed the rest from their stands and removed the nubs. The plastic here is quite hard. I don't think I would attempt this with a typical model. A saw or something would probably work better to gently separate the mini from the stand.

They are quite sturdy.

Base conceptualized and models freed, I set about finding a way to make them more interesting. I  had snagged two boxes back in the day, enough for a regiment, but was originally put off from hobbying on them. I was used to more-customizable kits, so when I opened the boxes at the time, the sculpts stumped me, and I wasn't sure how to really turn just two repeated sculpts into a unit that looked decent.


Revisiting them now, I decided that some weapon-swaps and head-swaps is all I can really do with the sculpts as they are. The limiting factor is me! I didn't really want to mess around with any big conversion work since I'm just getting back into hobbying again. I dug out some old Chaos Warrior helms, and a bunch of old Empire weapons, since it looked like they needed hands and not gauntlets or gloves. After cutting off helm horns and arms, I just started fiddling.

Step 2: Draw the rest of the owl. Sorry, I didn't think to take any WIP shots.

One of the riders is grabbing the reins with their left hand. I decided to leave all of those as-is, so most of the swaps are for right handed-weapons. I liked the sculpt pointing, but figured only one should be doing that, and made him the champion. As I got to painting these, I realized that the "faces" are intended to be more masks, so be aware of that, should you pick these up. That's a neat idea, but I needed to have heads facing different directions to get a more varied unit. In retrospect, I probably should have both realized this sooner and swapped out the last three heads as well to go with a more "uniform" looking unit, but oh well. 

With no WIP shots, ya get a few more completed shots.

I do like the bronzy armor, both in these pics and in real life. Several layers of GW's Gehenna's Gold did the trick. I had one bottle myself, and inherited two from someone giving up their collection... so it's nice to find a use for the color. Thinning and layering aren't my strong suits as a hobbyist as I tend to want to play games more than hobby, and so just crank out units that are "good enough" for the table. Both here and with the Necrons, where the goal was to just paint... my painting skills are improving ever so slightly. 

And a shot from the side. I mean, they're cavalry. They should be flanking, after all!

Having played zero games of 3rd, and it been over a year since I read the rules... I hesitate to comment on their use in game. For my collection, though, they should be a good addition as I slowly round out the army. I lack quicker units, so the cavalry aspect should be a plus, and with what looks like very typical typical stats, but Fury, CS and Regeneration (and one more attack) they should hit as hard as typical heavy cavalry, like in the Kingdoms of Men, but do better in any multi-turn combat. Time will tell, but these will be making their way into any eventual Abyssals list!


Friday, April 30, 2021

Hobby Basics: Light Box

One of my purchases in 2021 so far is a small, foldable "light box." After my struggles photographing the Goreblights, I ordered this, figured this would help my photography for the blog. You can DIY one for cheap, but having virtually none of the materials on hand (no extra lights or lamps, no neat paper..), and no great space to setup/store a large light box permanently I opted for the easy way out and just bought one ready-made. 

For those that don't know... the light box can be a great photography tool, emulating the effects of a large set or photo shoot on a small scale. The box has a smooth backdrop for simple backgrounds, and enough lights to both illuminate the object and mitigate shadows from the shot. My photos for the blog here have been less than professional, and have been atop bookcases and countertops and illuminated by lamps. Generally, you'd get what I was going for, but they don't look all that impressive.

With no real hope of any in-person stuff the last year-plus, it's been hard to find any motivation to hobby, and the content here has stalled out, as you will have noticed. But I'm now on the list for a vaccine shot in the coming weeks, and friends are starting to look to the summer for games and potential get-togethers. That generally positive mental shift, plus some recent good weather got me to dig this light box out and do some hobbying for the first time in a loooong time in an attempt to try it out properly. Cuz retaking a picture of already completed hobby items is for chumps I guess.

Not what you were expecting, eh?

Over the pandemic, I got reacquainted with Ebay. I had used it as a kid to get some sweet sweet Magic The Gathering cards (ooo, Urza's Saga, how broken you were...), but I think that was the last I used the platform, prior to the pandemic. I mean, I browsed back in my WHFB days, knowing that "ebay armies" was a thing, but never found anything worth pouncing on. Anywho, I took to Ebay, and found some new Necrons. 

I used Necron conversions as Warforged for a lengthy D&D campaign set in Eberron. They were going to be the big bads of the overall campaign, and after setting the hooks literally years prior, the party had just started to uncover the sinister plans of the Perpetual Legion, and their insidious ties to many of the previous adventures. Flying in their battered airship over an inhospitable wasteland, the last session we ran saw the party discover a hidden city for the Legion, which stood up on the legs of hundreds of industrial automaton platforms as the party's airship approached... aaand then the campaign then ran into irreconcilable scheduling differences. 

Scheduling likely won't be any better for that campaign yet (pesky children), but the talk of potential post-lockdown fun got me wondering what kit-bashes I might be able to throw at these players in due time, and wondering what the Necron range might have added since circa 2015-2018.

They are really making you work for an kind of unique looking army... the head pieces in particular are insane to me... so much over-engineering at work here. All the bits had odd-shaped nubs too, making it very hard to mix-and-match. Great for mono-pose (no mistakes), bad for unique hobbying. 

Unfortunately, the kit-bashing was not meant to be! The Destroyers are designed as mono-pose, and ridiculously so! Heads connected to collarbones connected to arms. And the torsos had a nub sliding through everything in order to connect it to/through the leg/spine bits... I'm not even sure if you could even swap the legs between models (that is, assembled trio with a different assembled trio; individual leg swaps should be out since the mini utilizes the hex nubs to get into the base). Basically a year away from any serious hobbying... conversions on this scale was more work than I wanted to engage in. The models are impressive, but are kinda too cute by half? The same poses could have easily been achieved with more of a "classic" design (eg here are the arms, separate from the heads, and torsos, also by themselves). The pelvis had pistons with nubs supposed to fit into the other leg part... but the piston made it hard to push-fit the legs together without busting the piston. Neat poses, but over-complicated design than I am not a fan of.

In the end though, I decided to double down, buying up some kind of Lord model and another trio of slashy Destroyers. I needed a limited project, and despite the flaws, these had caught my attention. 

So, I took a day, and set about hobbying, with the intent to start slow and reinforce some good layering and thinning habits (multiple layers for the metal to get good coverage; sliding scale to white for the face plates; just ... playing around with the blades)... The minis were a nice way to spend a day. They could still use some work (highlights to the metal, washes in spots, that kind of thing), but I'll wrap those details up in the coming days. 

I don't know when they will ever see a gaming table. Perhaps one or two may indeed threaten an adventuring party at some point (hmm... mental note to work up stats for some warforged driders), but the whole crew is likely overkill. I am entirely uninterested in playing 40k, though Grimdark Future from OnePageRules is still something I would be keen on trying out at some point, and these guys could be a heckuva cool unit to field.. We'll see. Even if they are not used for gaming, they did exactly what I needed them to, and were a nice, limited unit to hobby up.

...And because I am a bit of a chump, I decided to dig out my Goreblights from storage for a quick photoshoot do-over. Can't have a post with just weird-lookin robots, right?

Ta-da! First try. No longer blurry.

Will need to play around more with positioning of the minis relative to the light, but yeah, pretty good! You even get to see some of the nice glisten effect going on. Wet undead are gross!

Overall, the light box is neat! It folds up for easier storage, and is secured by buttons when assembled. It comes with a few different fabric colors for the curved backdrop. My only concern real concern is the light apparatus... which is a naked strip with a usb port to power it. I envision that getting dusty or something eventually, but we'll see how I do there! The other concern may be the size of the box... fitting in hordes may be difficult. They'll definitely fit, but it might not be the best shots. Ideally, you would not see the sides of the box, like you do in all these pictures!

Also at play is a new phone camera! My previous phone belly-flopped onto the hard kitchen floor, over the winter, obliterating the screen. The new-to-me phone is still a few iterations behind the times, but should be a step up or two in camera quality. I'll need to play around more for sure with the new phone and light box, but the first shots here seem like improvements to me!