Superstition and Wargaming

I've always found superstition to be fascinating. Small little rituals or patterns people use to reinforce a particular belief or influence an outcome.
I first ran into superstitions when playing sports. Athletes might have very specific pregame rituals, "lucky" objects, etc. I, for example, have a ton of little things I do before and during every game. I put my gear on left side first (left skate, right skate, left pad, right pad, trapper, blocker, etc), and remove it in the same manner. Some goalies will tap the goal posts and crossbar in a particular pattern or manner before each period. I respond to a referee's 'ready' signal with the same little stick salute every period. After I tore up my knee in September of this year, I racked my brain for any little detail or procedure I might have forgotten that led to the injury.
Some of my rituals fade in and out. I'll wear the same Under Armor (washed between games) until we lose a game, and then I rotate to another set. For a while, I was winning and playing well whenever I stopped at a particular convenience store and bought a 20 ounce lemon-lime Gatorade and a regular Snickers bar (not almond, double chocolate, or king-size).

Such small displays extend into my wargaming. On the Friday night before a tournament, I drag out my gallon Ziploc bag filled with dice. I spill them out onto the floor or countertop, and sort them by color and set. I roll all of the dice of a given type at once, and pick out any sixes. Those go into a smaller bag that goes to the event with me. I never use the same dice as I used in the last tourney, except my large, white scatter die and my GW dice block.
There is absolutely no actual correlation between this ritual and my dice performance at the table, but I still do this each and every pre-tournament Friday.
I've met other players with more direct, at-the-table superstitions. Some players refer to use the word "missile" at the table, and use "rocket" or "frag and krak" instead. They claim saying the word "miss" before a roll causes the shot to...miss. I personally cannot begin a game until my army is ranked up neatly on my tray or display board. One does not go into battle with his troops in disarray!

How do you feel about game rituals and superstitions? Do you have any of your own, or are they simply a sign of a mental illness like OCD?


Hobbyless Holiday

I hope the holiday treated all of you (well, the Americans, at least) well. Mine was ok, between long drives and a fussy, sick baby boy. Sleep is for the weak, apparently.

I wasn't able to squeeze in any hobbying over the long weekend, since I was away for Thursday and Friday, exhausted on Saturday, and my plans to airbrush on Sunday were altered when I realized I needed my skates sharpened for a hockey game that night. Oh well. Maybe Tuesday night instead.

I did finish reading Dan Abnett's Malleus over the break, and I have moved on to Hereticus. Malleus was good, but had a really floppy ending. The story is action packed and intriguing, but I felt like the last chapter and epilogue were completely phoned in. Eisenhorn spends the entire book (like 3-5 years of time) tracking down the Big Bad, only to defeat and resolve the conflict in six pages. I've often wondered at the editing processes of novel writers, and this notion that it's a lot like writing a movie or TV show. Half of what you intended gets left on the cutting room floor. I suspect there was a conversation that involved the editors saying "Great book, Dan, but it's 75 pages too long. Shorten the ending, please."

The more I read of the trilogy, the more I'm tempted to add a small Allies contingent to my army. I'd really like to add a single Inquisitor model and a small unit of Kasrkin models to my collection. I love the Kasrkin, both in models and in fluff.
Of course, I'm not sure how to implement that addition. I thought of three different options:

1) Run them out of Codex: Grey Knights. Inquisitor as HQ, Kasrkin as Henchmen Elites. This would require em to also run a Troops slot. I'd probably go for a 5-man Strike Squad, because Terminators are too pricey points-wise, and the Strike Squad brings Warp Quake to the board. Of course, I'd probably also want at least one transport, either for the Strike Squad or the Inquisitor. Another benefit here is that I can take a lot fewer Kasrkin models as Henchmen Warriors. The other options below require a full 10.
I flatly refuse to run Coteaz to make the Kasrkin Troops. it just doesn't fit with the reason I wanted to run them in the first place! I don't want big, in-game benefits for these guys. I just want the cool models on the board.

2) Run them out of Codex: IG. Inquisitor model is a Primaris Psyker, and the Kasrkin are IG Vets with lasguns. It's ok, but I'm not sold on the Primaris part. Yes, he brings Divination to the board, but again, I'm not in this for game benefits. Again, I'd probably need a transport.

3) Run them out of Codex: IG. Inquisitor model is a Commissar Lord, and the Kasrkin are IG Vets again. Less in-game benefit, and more wargear options for the HQ (though not as many as an actual Inquisitor).

I really can't decide which I like, though I like some aspect of them all. The IG options would also grant me access to a Valkyrie, which I've wanted to try painting since the final scene in THQ's Space Marine game. The Inquisitor shows up in a black-painted Valkyrie with =I= symbols on the wings. Very cool.

What would you do?


Bored and Apathetic

In the middle of last week I had drafted up a post going over a variety of things I could do to improve my overall army painting scores. I got about halfway done (2 pages, or thereabouts) when I let out a big sigh and scrapped the whole thing.
After the flurry of activity in which I engaged to prepare for the Standoff, I'm finding myself completely apathetic to painting and the game in general. The only thing I've done since then is put half a coat of primer on a plasma cannon Marine, throw a quick coat of Shadowed Steel on a magnetized multimelta for an attack bike, and clean and mount 5 helmeted heads for an airbrushing experiment that may eventually turn into a unit of Sternguard.
I guess I'm just sort of jammed up right now. I have the plasma cannon Marine nearly ready for paint, another attack bike waiting for primer, a comms relay waiting for primer, and the five heads as well. My main priority is the airbrush experiment, so I'm waiting to prime those with the airbrush, at which time I'll likely hit the rest of the stuff as well.
The problem with the airbrush is time. It takes time to set up the brush, mix/thin my paint/primer, and then clean up. The spraying is the easiest and fastest part!
So, when I do have motivation to work on something, I don't have the time available for lengthy setup. When I do have some time, I don't have the motivation to bother. Quite the cycle, but one that happens almost every time I do a big ramp-up for an event. It's sort of like climbing a mountain under a time constraint, and then coasting down the opposite slope.

The next "event" on the horizon is my FLGS's December monthly tourney. It's 1500 points and billed as a charity event. Bring canned goods or peanut butter to donate, and you can buy one-time bonuses based on your donation total. Here's the list of buyables:
  • Dice re-roll:    1 can
  • Auto hit on a deviation dice:   Peanut Butter
  • Redeploy a unit after initial set up:     5 cans
  • Unit/Model  gains Skyfire for the turn:   Peanut Butter
  • Unit/Model Snap fires on 5+ for the turn:    2 cans
  • Unit/Model Snap fires on 4+ for the turn:    5 cans
  • Deny the witch on 5+:    2 cans
  • Auto Pass a look Out Sir:   2 cans
  • Model/Unit gains eternal warrior for the turn:   5 cans
  • Model/Unit attacks gain instant death for the turn:  Peanut Butter
  • Model/Unit Attacks gain +1 Str for the turn:    5 cans
  • Model/Unit Attacks gain Rending for the turn:  2 cans
  • Model/Unit gains fleet for the turn:   2 cans
Some silly stuff, and some really good stuff. All in the name of charity for one of the local food banks. Yes, some folks are inwardly groaning about the prospect of Daemon armies with a flat of peanut butter and unerring scatters for Flamers, but who cares? That's like $30+ donated to a good cause. The auto-hit is also being drooled over by players with Manticores and Deathstrikes.
There are a lot of neat toys here, and hopefully that will entice folks to bring a lot of stuff to donate.

I'm not sure what I would bring for a list to this one. I drafted up a few lists before the change to charity format, but I think I'll revise now to make the list a little more goofy and fun. Do I run something outlandishly top-heavy, like a 10-Terminator list? Something far too elite and small, like Deathwing? Marines are hard to make silly!
What would you bring to an event like this?


Standoff After-Action Report

The dust has settled, and I've had some time to rest and reflect on my attendance at the Standish Standoff 2 on Saturday.

I woke up at a typical 6am for the day as I'd been up til 10pm Friday night finishing off my final two models for my army. I packed up my gear and hit the road around 8am. Stopped for a coffee and a pastry, and arrived at the shop just before 9am.

My first task was to unpack and get my marines ranked up on my display board. One thing i find aweseom is that whenever I run my Biker Army, I typically get a couple "Man, that's a LOT of bikes!" comments by passers-by. Saturday was no exception. I got at least two comments on the biker volume, lol.
Here's the list I played:

Captain on Bike (artificer armor, relic blade)
Bike Command Squad (Champion, Banner Bearer, Apothecary, Storm Shield Vet, Power Axe Vet)
Techmarine on Bike
Bikes One (5 bikes, 2 flamers, combiflamer, meltabombs, heavy bolter attack bike)
Bikes Two (6 bikes, 2 meltaguns, combimelta, meltabombs)
Bikes Three (6 bikes, 2 plasmaguns, plasma pistol, meltabombs)
Attack Bike Squadron (3 bikes, multimeltas)
Landspeeder Squadron (2 Typhoons with heavy bolters)
Assault Squad (10 strong, 2 plasma pistols, sergeant with 2 plasma pistols)

It's my standard Go Fast syle list. I've got running fluff for the army that I add to every time I run it in a GT-style setting.

I ended up with a 36/40 for painting, which was good enough for 6th of 32 (three points behind 1st).

My first game was against a Necron army. I've known the player for a while now, as he ispart of a great club down in Massachusetts. It was a throwback style Necron Phalanx list, with some toys thrown in, like a Tomb Stalker. We were playing Special Ops. I selected Blitzkrieg as my primary, Battlefield Cnotrol as Secondary, and Domination as Tertiary.
The Necrons deployed with obscured LOS behind a big building, in a solid block. I was spread across my zone, and maneuvered myself to execute a textbook pincer movement. I ended up winning by jamming up the Necron movement in the center of the baord, preventing them from taking the central objective as their primary goal. I had 5 units in the Necron Zone as a result of my wide flanking maneuver. We tied on secondary (I didn't hold a majority of quarters) and tertiary (same KPs).

Game two was against a heavily converted/self-built/sculpted Chaos Daemons army run by another great player from the same club. We played Vengeance.
I'm not a huge fan of the mission format, but you play what you play. I know how to deploy versus Daemons pretty well, and filled my deployment zne with my models, and then pressed forward a bit during Turn One.
There were just too many monsters in the Daemon army for me to take down, though my opponent's save rolls were crazy good. I'd sink 4-5 wounds on a monster, and he'd save all but one. I'd then remond him about his Feel No Pain roll, and he'd make that too. That happened three times!
I ended up losing primary, winning secondary (due to a sacrificial Sergeant challenge keeping me on an objective on the final turn), and splitting tertiary.
I was near top-of-the-middle after the game.

Game Three was against a Blood Angels/Guard force. Very much a 5th Edition list with lots of Razorbacks and Predators and two Flyers (Storm Raven and Vendetta). We played Battlefield Superiorty.
I originally had first turn, but the initiative was seized, and I lost a couple random models and my Predator to a Manticore shot on the first turn. Halfmy heavy guns were gone in one shot. Damn.
I retaliated by running my Captain, Command, and Techmarine right up the gut. Bikers can murder transports handily these days with krak grenades. An IG Chimera went up in smoke from the Captain's blade and a random krak grenade or two.
The game ground on and on, with me losing bikes a few at a time, and then assaulting transports with grenades over and over. I had the game with 17 minutes left, but we determined that because we had both had so few models left, we could fit in another turn. That final turn saw the arrival of the enemy Storm Raven carying a small Troops squad and a Dread. The troops landed fine, but the Dread mishapped back into Ongoing Reserve (scattered back onto the Raven when dropping out via Skies of Blood). That swung the primary to my opponent, but tied the secondary and tertiary.
Good, close game that saw me make a crazy number of Jink saves when it mattered!

I ended the day in 16th for raw Battle Points, which is exactly what I expected to do.
I took second place for the pub quiz with a 6 (I think that was 12 correct answers?).
I'd designed my list to be solid on composition, and had an 80 there (-5 points for the third Fast slot).

All told, I ended up in second place for People's Champion (soft scores only) by 2.5 points. The irony was that the winner was my second round opponent, who'd gotten my Favorite Opponent vote for another 5 points. Damn him for being so cool! lol.
I landed at 7th place of 32 for Overall. Not too bad!

Overall, it was a great day. My knee held up to standing for the whole day, which was nice.
My army performed as I thought it would, being very good against some opponents and less useful against others. But for a few rolls here and there and things might have gone more in my favor than they already did.

The one, glaring lesson I took from the day is that I need to improve my painting again. I'm a "clean and smooth" painter. My Ultramarines are always sharp, but I don't do blended highlights, weathering, etc. Clean and smooth doesn't stack up against other folks' styles and armies.
I need more.

To that end, I am either going to attempt to start painting using zenithal highlighting and my airbrush, or start painting another Chapter. I keep gravitating toward Howling Griffons for some reason. I showed my wife the lineup of Marine schemes in the last few pages of How To Paint Space Marines and she liked the look of the Dark Sons. I also thought about doing Subjugators in the past, but if I change, I'm going with a quarter or halved scheme to up the challenge value of painting.


Just Over 24 Hours

Yes, in just over 24 hours I'll be stepping into the FLGS for the second annual Standish Standoff. 32 player 40K event. 1850 points, composition rubric, and painting competitions.
I've been working on models to shore up my army for a while now, and spent another 3 hours on them last night. I need to put in a couple more hours this evening, and then I'll be ready.
I've spent all my free time painting, so beyond a general breakdown of what armies will be present (pretty much one of almost every conceivable combination of core and allies), I have no clue what I'll be facing. I haven't played all that many games of 6th Edition, either.

All I really care about for the day is getting in three enjoyable, non-contentious games. Oh, and the pub quiz. Pub quizzes are my favorite extracurricular at these events, because I really like to see how my fluff knowledge stacks up againt the test.

I'll have short batreps availabel next week for your reading pleasure. I don't do turn-by-turn batreps anymore, because I can rarely remember the turn-by-turn of games more than an hour after playing them. I focus on general tactics and specific situational outcomes. I find that more useful than the turn-by-turn rundown, because the specific turn-by-turn will never be repeated by anyone, ever.

Wish me luck in hammering out the rest of these last two models before tomorrow!


Real Wargamer?

I found this while hopping blogrolls this morning, and found myself over at Frontline Gamer. It's apparently a list of qualifications to be a "real" wargamer. Let's see how I do, shall we?

* Spent at least £500 on figures / tanks - and you get extra kudos for every £500 you've spent
What is that, about $750 bucks? Yeah, I've got that one covered. I dont' have a true calculation on what I've spent, and I think it would be depressing to attempt to total it up.

* Pricked your finger or thumb on a pike block - several times
Oddly enough, I've never cut or damaged myself while modelling. I'm careful and have pretty good dexterity.

* Tried at least 10 different rule sets and vowed never to play half of them ever againNope. I've tried 40K, WHFB, and Reaper's Warlord system. I only quit on WHFB and Warlord (and Warlord only because no one plays it). I played Star Wars minis and Heroclix for a while, but I'm not sure those count.

* Bought an army off EBaySort of. I've bought a couple of discarded collections that I rolled into my army, but never an entire complete army.

* Sold an army on EBay
Nope. I've sold bitz and single models here and there, but not a whole army. The closest I can claim is selling my fledgling Sisters of Battle collection on Bartertown. It was hardly an army though.

* Spent months painting an army - then used it in anger once
Hell no. I'm a one-army kinda guy. I've been building for four plus years, and playing for the same.

* Tried several different periods and genres
See above. Just sci-fi and fantasy for me, and since I now HATE fantasy, just sci-fi.

* Dropped a box of figures on the floor from a great height
No. Who in their right mind stores their models in a box?

* Lost a battle on the last throw of the dice
Sure, plenty of times. But the problem is that 40K now ends games on a die roll, so that applies to almost EVERY game of 40K where it's not a lopsided win/loss.

* Made at least one enemy for life
No comment!

* Had a proper, stand up argument over a wargamers table
I don't have time to shout at folks over toy soldier games any more. I'm not sure I ever did.

* Thrown a dice across a room
In exasperation, yes. In anger, no. I've "banished" a few dice from time to time. Just a casual toss over the shoulder to be rid of the saboteur in my camp.

* Rebased an army for a different rule set

* Inflicted a whopping defeat on an opponent
I've rolled a couple people, but mostly newbies. Close games are FAR more fun than a stomping.

* Suffered an embarrassing defeat due to a stupid tactical decision
I don't get embarrassed when I lose. I might do a little headsmack, but I don't lament losses.

* Joined a wargamers club

* Bought a ton of lead that remains unpainted
Oh yes, I have boxes and shelves full of unpainted items that I've had for a couple years now.

* Been to a wargamers show
Nope. Not exactly sure what that is. A convention? Still no.

* Have more dice than is logical or necessary to own - and have used most of them
No such thing as too many dice. I have my GW cube, a retired Chessex cube, and a gallon zipper bag half-filled with other dice. I have a little ritual I use for selecting dice the night before a tourney. That's NOT insane. Not at all. My wife doesn't make faces at me as I roll dice across the counter while she's cooking dinner. Never.

* Have taken boxes of troops down to a club just to show them off to your matesJust one box. My first trip to my FLGS was actually taken in order to scope out the place and show off my first painted Tactical Squad to someone besides my wife.

So, by this list I'm not a proper wargamer. Bummer. I think I'll keep painting and playing though.


Sweat the Small Stuff

In looking back over some of my past work and comparing it to my more recent work, I realized just how crucially important small details on your models are. It's the tiny details that really make a model stand out from its peers.
Let's look at some of my past Space Marine Bikes as examples, and then compare them to my most recent work.

Here's my Biker Apothecary:

He's "ok, not great." He uses my old gold painting method, which was very flat, and some subdued edge highlights. The white is ok, and I'm sort of proud of the fact that the liquid levels in the narthecium match the gravity of the model. The purity seals lack depth in the red. Keep an eye on that box magazine for the bolters, as well...

Here's the first biker I ever painted:

Again, gold is super flat, highlights are thin and pale. The metals are dirty and lack any sort of depth.

My biker Captain model:

More of the same problems. That tarp on the back is just terrible. The bolters on his bike aren't even squared to the front. They point downward!

Finally, my first Attack Bike:

Same as the other bikes, but look closely at the tire on the sidecar. Nice mold line, man! Sheesh!

Now compare those to my recent Attack Bike:

Highlights are brighter and more crisp, the gold has actual levels and depth, as do the metal parts. Remember the box magazine? I actually painted the exposed rounds! Go back and look at all the older bikes. Does the contrast of the loaded brass look better or worse than the all-silver box mags?
I don't have a photo to help illustrate this one, but on the recent attack bike I painted all of the console and handlebar buttons one color, red. I attempted some lens effects on them, and they look pretty good. On all my old bikes, I painted each set of buttons a different color. Yellow, green, red, blue. The consoles look like a Christmas tree. No lens effects, just flat paint. When I first painted those old bikes, I figured the Marines would want different colors for what each button does. The effect is just too busy. It doesn't provide contrast or crispness, it creates visual confusion. Besides, Marines are psycho-indoctrinated and battle hardened. They don't need multicolored buttons!

I'm rapidly learning to take my time and examine the small details of my models, like exposed brass casings in a magazine or the purpose of using colors on different objects. I'd have to say it improves the end result quite a bit. Would you agree? Do you have any small details you always make sure to paint? Any favorite little bits to touch with paint?


How I Prime Models

Want to know a secret?
I can't run a spray can to save my life.
Seriously. Every time I've ever tried to use spray can primer on a non-terrain model, I've screwed it up. Too much primer, gritty primer, missed spots. Spray cans and I just do not get along. As a result, I switched to brush-on primer years ago. At first I used Reaper's Brush-On Primer in white, but was clued in to the following method by someone whose name I cannot remember. Props and credit to that guy, whoever he was.

The recipe hinges on two main components: black craft paint and glass and tile medium.

I use Delta Ceramcoat black craft paint, as I've found it to be the best there is for craft paint. You can use whatever you like. The key is the FolkArt Glass and Tile Medium. This stuff is used to allow crafters to paint on smooth glass and glazed tiles. It gives the craft paint some "tooth." That's basically the attribute that allows paint to stick to a primer.
This stuff became hard to find in my local craft shops a while ago, so I bought a handful of bottle online one day when I found a supplier that carried it. If you attempt to find some for yourself, try the craft paint additives at your local Michael's, AC Moore, or JoAnn Fabric.
Pour out a 50/50 mix of paint to medium. I use an old blister pack for all my priming mixes.

Mix well with a few drops of water. Maybe a 25/75 water/primer ratio. Here are the pieces I'm priming today (my next attack bike, its driver, and a couple Rhino hatches):

Use a crappy old brush and start applying the thinned mix to your model. You have to find a nice balance between too thin and too thick, and too much and not enough. It takes some experimenting to get used to.

Keep going until the model is covered. Make sure to avoid any small air bubbles. If you get any, pop them with a hobby knife or something sharp.

He looks like hell right now, but set the model aside for a couple hours to fully dry. Be patient. If you try to paint or add another coat before the first is dry, you'll tear the 'skin' of the primer and it'll look like crap. Should you do so, use a damp brush to wick away any clumps and then let it redry before trying again. Once the model is fully dry, the paint and medium cause it to 'shrink' to the model's contours.

Some larger, flatter areas might not have as much primer on them. If so, apply another thin coat.

The hole in this guy's back is for a pin for his back pack. These older models didn't have large enough torsos to allow the backpack to attach properly when the shoulder pads are in this position. The pin reinforces the connection between pack and nub.
Once everything is completely dry, you can start painting!


Finished Attack Bike

Remember that attack bike I've been going on about in my last few posts? It's done!

Iron Halo base, magnetized heavy weapon, metal sidecar and gunner. Simple stuff. That's Ultramarine brass etch on the front wheel well, and the sidecar. The squadron number was a major pain to paint. Something about trying to paint a perfect circle eludes me, even if it's a premade brass circle.
Just one more of these to go for my Standoff army.