No Progress

Real life has taken a toll on me of late, and I haven't managed to start working on my Tyranid project. I have a bag of Carnifex back plates to start working on, but haven't had the time to sit down and prime them. I want to try airbrushing a white homemade primer, using the same recipe as my black primer, but with white craft paint. I'd planned to take an hour to do so on Sunday, but got distracted listing things on eBay. Oops.

I have managed to slowly pick away at my fifth (or sixth?) attack bike. Only a few more colors to go on the bike and that's done, then on to the driver and gunner. I'm only managing fifteen to thirty minutes a session right now, but "Brick by brick, my citizens. Brick by brick."
I have to content myself with small progress these days.

We have a team pairs event coming up in February at the FLGS. 925 points per team member. Each member must take an HQ and one Troop, but the rest of the FOC is shared. I'm curious as to what sort of shenanigans we'll be seeing, like Necron/Tau night fight hooey (slightly less useful now with Dark Angels' night vision goggles). Your armies can't share effects or psychic powers but blanket stuff like Night Fighting or the effects of Doom/Enfeeble/etc still work.
I can't decide what I'll run. I'm leaning toward troop-heavy, but am also thinking about bikes. Problem is, 925 pts is damn near pointless for bikes. I also considered an Ultrawing force, wince at 925 you can fit Belial and about 3 squads of TDA, plus a Dread if you keep it cheap.


Brainstorming Scratchbuilt Nids

As I get further and further into the planning for this Nid project, the more I think I might need a notebook for all my little thoughts.
Today I've been thinking about the ability to scratchbuild/kitbash some of the more annoying-to-buy models. Little stuff like spore mines and rippers. These are little add-on models that are used in units that almost nobody fields, but they run upwards of $1.50 USD per model? That's insanity!
As a result, I'm thinking of ways to simply scratchbuild them using Greenstuff and Nid bitz.

Spore mines are easy. Use the little extra detail bitz that come in almost every kit, and either add them to a small ball of Greenstuff, or glue them to a small brick of sprue, and use GS to seal up the blank areas, like putting crust on a pie or a skin graft on a burn victim, or maybe leather on a rugby ball? All of this mounted on a length of paperclip or brass rod, or even another length of sprue, which is then attached to a base. Use long ropes of GS to make progressive layers of tentacles drifting down from the "ball" and concealing the rod/sprue. Simple enough, and will likely look pretty good. Add small details to the skin of the mine, and done.
I'm also looking at Gaunt spinefists for this purpose. They have some nice detail, and with proper cutting, I think I can put a couple at an angle on a piece of sprue, and make a double-mohawk-looking spore mine.

As for Rippers, I've been looking at either Warrior faces or Gaunt heads. The Warrior faces will probably work best. Start with a face, remove the flesh hook tongue if it has one. Crown the head with a Genestealer armor plate. Slice off a Carnifex tongue from the long-tongued head and use it as a base for adding overlapping plates to the body until you can join it to the head. Fill any body gaps with GS, and add small textures like pores or what have you with some tools. Then, cut the thumb claws off of several spinefist bits and Gaunt arms, and arrange them in order from large to small. Add small knobs of GS as needed to form joints, and then press matching sockets into the GS. Apply legs to body, and body to base (probably with thin paperclip wire painted black), repeat 3-5 times.

I'm also thinking making Ymgarl Genestealers is stupid easy when you just cut off their lower jaw and apply a couple rows of tentacles.

Those are my ideas for now. I found a tutorial on making kitbashed Zoanthropes someplace, but can't find where I stashed the link...


Tourney report, Tyranid update

Saturday was our FLGS monthly tournament. 1750 points, straight up. No funny business or special rules/scenarios.
I brought a pretty tame list:

Jump Librarian, Epistolary, Null Zone, Smite
3 Tac Squads in Rhinos
5 Terminators with 2 chainfists, no heavy weapon
Ironclad Dread with Ironclad launchers and 2 HKs
Squadron of 3 multimelta attack bikes
10 Assault Marines, 2 plasma pistols, sergeant with dual plasma pistols
Thunderfire Cannon
Autocannon-only Predator

I wanted to try out a psyker in 6th, as I'd not run one yet. I got out my rusty, trusty Jump Librarian and upgraded him to Epistolary for better Deny rolls. With the arrival of new Deathwing, I took Null Zone for the forced rerolls on invulnerables, and Smite for the AP2. If I ran into anything without mass invulnerable saves or 2+ armor, I'd planned to take a Telepathy power and then either a Telekinesis or Pyromancy power.

First game was Special Ops, against a CSM/Daemons force, run by Khorne Inquisitor over on my blogroll. The only objective I can remember taking was capturing table quarters. It was a hell of a fight, that was bent significantly in my favor when his 300+ points of Tzeentchian Terminators and Sorceror Lord scattered off the table and were destroyed by mishap. We ended up splitting all of the points straight down the middle, 16-16.
Things learned: be careful with model placement in combat squads. A couple times over the day I lost the only important member of the squad (heavy weapon, typically) by placing him in the wrong spot. I lost my only plasma cannon on turn one in this game due to a failed Morale check from shooting casualties. I was only about 6" from the board edge in an attempt to hug cover. Oops!
Obliterators are scary, but simple enough to counter in certain situations as they're forced to pick a new weapon every turn.

Second game was Search and Destroy against Deathwing. A chance to test the mettle of the new codex!
I placed one objective deep in my own deployment zone behind a LOS-blocking pillar, and the other just shy of board center. My opponent's placement was similar. I had one Tac Squad remain whole and sit on the deep objective, while combat squadding everything else except the Assault Marines.
We ran into a question during deployment as a result of the new DA dex: Do units using Deathwing Assault count as being in reserves? If so, do they count towards your 50% unit cap? Also, do all of the units using the DWA arrive on the same turn, or do you declare per unit?
We decided to play it as the DWA units not counting towards your cap, but they all had to arriveon the same turn. My opponent had them all arrive on Turn One, and dropped them all around my deployment zone, along with a pod full of Tac Marines. Deathwing are pretty impressive on the drop, as they get twin-linked shooting for that first turn. I lost my Thunderfire right off the bat by failing one 2+ armor save on two dice.
I decided to have my full Tac Squad fight a 'lost hope' action, attempting to hold off the enemy Tac Squad and Belial with 8 Terminators. They lasted quite a few turns, due to some impressive saving throws and doling out some equally impressive shooting damage to the enemy Tac Squad. The rest of my army pushed forward, leaving Belial and his big mass of TDA in the dust. I crashed headlong into the other Deathwing units with Null Zone up, decimating them with plasma weaponry and Ironclad beatings.
The game would have been closer on objectives, but my opponent forgot to get his rearguard Tac Squad out of their Rhino to score the objective they were sitting on. Did I spot that on his turn and not say anything about it? I have to honestly say "yes." I feel a little bad about not reminding him. In the end, I took primary and tertiary, and lost secondary.

Third game was against another CSM/Daemons combo, but built very differently. I read over the list, saw two flyers (Blight Drone, Helldrake) and a flying monster (Fateweaver) and despaired. How was I supposed to beat those?! The mission was Safeguard, and I put both of my objectives in my back right area of the board. I deployed heavily around that area, with my ASM as a flanking unit on my left. The only unit deployed by the opposing army was a large unit of Cultists spread across a ruin and a Skyshield. Unfortunately, there was a tower blocking LOS to many of the cultists. I opened up on them, killing quite a few, but we forgot to roll their Morale test (on a 10, with attached Sorceror). We remembered later in the game, but the proxy roll determined it wouldn't have mattered, as they passed with a 3). I did manage to kill the Helldrake on the last turn with a hail mary multimelta shot. I knocked Fateweaver out of the sky twice, but only put a single wound on him during the whole game. He's just too tough to keep down with T5, flying, and a rerollable 3++ save. The only counter I gad to him was my Librarian's Null Zone, but he was simply too far away for it to help.
Again, we split the points down the middle, 16-16, but I managed to grab 6 bonus points for partially destroyed units that were still alive. Two of those points came from single bolter Marines surviving from combat squads. Talk about a razor's edge!

At the end of the day, I ended in 5th place in a field of 14. Not too shabby. I also won the "door prize" random draw, for a little store credit.

I browsed through the Tyranid models with my credit slip in-hand. I looked at Genestealers, Warriors, Raveners, a Venomthrope, a Broodlord, and the Hive Tyrant and Carnifex. My credit wasn't enough to buy anything outright, and I didn't feel like spending any extra money quite yet, so I held onto it.
Also, I'm not sure where I want to start with Tyranids. I'd like to start with an HQ model, but am not sure which one. The Hive Tyrant is impressive, and would be a great first model from a painting competition entry perspective. The Monster category isn't typically well represented in most of the local events.
Problem is, I'm not a huge fan of the Tyrant in game terms for the vision I have for my eventual army. I'm going with as many melee-only units as I can. The Tyrant is only a real melee threat if it's got wings. I'm not sure I want to jump right into painting wings.
I'm leaning more toward a Prime for gaming purposes. It can be kitted for melee only, and can actually perform pretty well. But, I'm not sure the 40mm model type will be the best place to start experimenting with painting techniques.
I'm not interested in Tervigons at all. I hate them, and refuse to use them. Mostly because every other Tyranid player runs multiples, and I just don't want to be in that boat.

I have the Carnifex back plates I need to practice techniques, so on Sunday I picked up a bottle of white craft paint to use in making my airbrush-applied primer. I also went for a walk on the beach with the wife and our son. I picked up a few broken crab shells and looked at the anatomy and patterning on the shells. I took one piece of lobster shell home with me in order to have a good sample of the way color is distributed across the shell.

I've also been thinking about the possibility of mixing and matching pieces from different Nid kits in order to get more unique-looking monsters. But, without having bits in hand, I'm not sure how my plan would work. So, to you Nid players: do the heads from the Tervigon/Tyrannofex kit or the Trygon/Mawlock kit fit into a Carnifex neck area? Do the crushing claws from the Tervigon/Tyrannofex fit into a Carnifex arm socket?
I'm hoping the monster-size heads are all interchangeable, so I can create some funky-looking Carnifex models as well as other monsters.


How Long Does It Take?

GW released updated FAQs for most of the armies and the BRB yesterday. I'll leave it to others to do a rundown, but the one change that caught my eye in a big way was the ruling regarding weapon range as it relates to wound allocation. Essentially, you can only allocate wounds to models in range of your guns. The rule is poorly written and allows a single longer range weapon to circumvent the wound allocation for all lesser ranged weapons that fired alongside it. Intent is clear, implementation is not.
I'm not going to spend any time talking about the value of the rule, how it can be interpreted, or what in-game balance issues it causes. I am going to talk about bookkeeping in 6th Edition 40K.

I'm curious as to how long your typical 6th Edition game is lasting now. Due to real life, I'm relegated to mainly playing 3 games a month at the FLGS monthly tournament. We vary our formats and points levels, but folks seem most comfortable in the 1750-1850 range around these parts.
I've played a good amount of 6th Ed games so far (though not "a lot," by any stretch of the imagination). I've rarely had a game go a full 5 turns. Maybe two in all the games I've played so far. Our tourney rounds average about two hours. Most games are landing at about the 3 full turns, with possibly a rushed 4th turn if you're lucky or there have been a lot of casualties to reduce the total unit count. That's not much! The few non-tourney games I've played have gone the full 5 turns, but required two and a half to three hours to complete.
I feel some of the blame for the extension of play time lies with the increase in book keeping required by the 6th Edition game, as well as the increased player freedoms like premeasuring at will.

6th Edition rules contain a good amount of counters and status tokens. Soul Blaze, for example, applies a status marker to an afflicted unit, and that status requires dice rolls for effect, then hits, wounds, and saves. Morale checks as well, if the effect kills models. Biomancy powers like Iron Arm create a status token (unless you're one of those people who refuses to use a token to indicate status, which is confusing and I hate you for it, ;)). You then have dice rolls to determine effect.
Even before a game starts you have additional rolls for psychic powers, warlord traits, Chaos Boons, etc.
Premeasuring allows players to extend the game time by premeasuring every range and option. A player can conceivably check range for his movement, move the models and make dice rolls, measure for shooting an/or movement in the shooting phase, make dice rolls, measure for assault ranges or movement in the assault phase, make dice rolls, etc. Yes, I love being able to measure bolter range before I commit, but I can't deny that doing so repeatedly in a game causes the game to go longer than I'd like.

This new wounds-from-range-only rule just tacks on more time. You not only have to check range for target acquisition, but again for eligible casualties. More time spent, less turns played.

Does anyone else feel that 6th Edition is an edition of book keeping? Don't get me wrong, I love the edition, but man-oh-man does it take forever to play.


2+ armor? Say hello to my little friend...

Progress is fun!
I finished my first-ever plasma cannon Marine!

Pretty simple. I used flow improver to do the shading on the plasma coil, which made it far easier to paint than my old method of layering.

Now I'm working on another attack bike. About 40% done, and then on to Sternguard or something.


The Great Devourer Stirs...

As you all know, I've hemmed and hawed over improving my painting level in the last several months. I've considered refining the techniques I use on my Ultramarines, looked at expanding the use of my airbrush, and even considered changing Chapters. All of those are interesting options, but I've hidden behind the "I don't have TIME!" excuse so far.
The other day I was doing more brainstorming after thinking it might be neat to do  a Hive Fleet Behemoth army, so I'd have both sides of the Battle for Macragge. The problem there is that I hate the color scheme of Behemoth. It's overly cartoonish, and I've not really seen any nicely painted examples. Plenty of spray-n-dip paint jobs, though.
During my Google ramblings, I stumbled across this link. It's a review of the Forgeworld Masterclass for a Hive Tyrant. Apparently, Forgeworld does or did run day-long classes for locals who want to learn and use new techniques. Wish I lived in Nottingham, UK!
I was inspired by the review, and decided I had to do a more "realistic" job on my potential Nids. I started searching for cool looking real world bugs to emulate. I found lots of shiny beetles and striped wasps that were interesting, but most everyone does Tyranids in flashy colors.
While walking on the beach a while ago, I noticed the standard carpet of dead crab bodies amongst the seaweed. Then it hit me...Tyranids aren't like bugs, they're like crustaceans! Crabs are scavengers, carrion eaters, and beach cleaners. The scour the beach of biomass!
I started looking at possible colorations of different real world crab species. There are all kinds of neat ones out there, but I settled on one that's common here in Maine: the European Green Crab. It's an invasive species that's currently destroying several Maine fisheries and coastal habitats. Little green Tyranids!
Here are some shots of real Green Crabs (via Google):

Lots of great possibilities for Tyranid models there.
So, I've decided to start working on some Nids, and I'll call them Hive Fleet Karkinos. Karkinos is the mythical crab represented by the constellation Cancer. He annoyed Hercules during his fight with the Lernaean Hydra. I'm sure someone else out there has used the name, but nothing inspired by mythology is unique anymore ;).

It's important to note that this won't be a "second army" for quite a while. I'm going to put out models only after testing a ton of techniques, and building each model very carefully. I'm thinking that these guys will be my painting competition models. Something I can carefully repose, sculpt, and modify before applying a great paint job.
To that end, I have several things on my new to-do list:
  • Lay hands on some Tyranid carapace bits to practice on. I'm thinking Carnifex back plates or Warrior extended carapace parts. Something cheap and easy to get.
  • Look into artist inks. I'm thinking that overlays of inks over light paint applied on white primer might get the effect I want. GW washes might work as well.
  • Decide if I want the "wet look" or not. Should parts of the models be slick and glossy, or all flat?
  • Research tutorials on making drool effects. Nothing scarier than a big monster with acid drool, right? I remember seeing one done with fly fishing line.
  • Plan a 500-1000 point army list. This is a low priority, really. This project is more about awesome models, and less about winning army lists. But I should have something playable at the very least.
  • Decide if I want to use all new,plastic/Finecast kits, or if I want to venture backward into Second Edition metals. I'm leaning very heavily to plastics, as the old edition metals will probably not be able to hold up the paint jobs like the fine detail of new kits. 2E Nids are charming, but very soft and very round.
  • Stay calm and remember that this is a side project. I am still working diligently on my Ultramarines, but they are the "simple, clean, easy" army. These Tyranids are a high-level project I should be in no rush to complete.
What do you all think?


Learning What Everyone Else Knows

I learned a new-to-me technique over the weekend. I say new-to-me because others have been doing this for ages, and they call it "using a wash."
Sometimes when I'm painting Marine armor, my brush will slip, and I'll accidentally fill in a joint or crease. When this happens, I typically rinse my brush and attempt to pull the misplaced paint out of the joint. If I'm too slow, not all of it will come out and I'm left with a "fuzzy" joint.
Here's an example from my current plasma cannon Marine:

See that panel on his left thigh? I had trouble reaching it under the plasma cannon, and flubbed the lines repeatedly. It looks like crap, so I have to fix it. (Yes, there are mold lines on the hoses. No, I don't care. it's a metal cannon on a grunt trooper. I did my best.)
I get out my shade color and my bottle of flow improver.

I put a bit of paint on my palette, next to a pool of flow improver. Thin the paint to a desirable consistency.

Pick up a brushload of the thinned paint and dab it into the armor seams.

Not quite dark enough, so I use another brushload, but less thinned.

Much better. I hit this one more time at the same consistency, and allow it to dry. Then I carefully go back in with the topcoat color and clean up the area.

Done! The area goes from junk to acceptable in a few minutes. I used the technique on all of the mispainted or blurry joint areas, and the model looks much better now.

This isn't a mind-blowing revelation of technique, but it's new for me. I used to go back in and paint the seams by hand. Now, I just fill them using flow improved paint and retouch. The flow improver forces the pigments into the low areas, whereas paint thinned with water would create tide lines and not fill the joins.
Simple and effective!


I Hate Cats, and I Dislike Dark Angels

Warning: there is cursing ahead!

Yes, I hate cats. There's nothing worse than a pet that barfs on your floor, sits on your kitchen counters, and shits in a box that you have to empty daily. Unless it's a pet that decides to dump half of your 40K collection on the floor for fun. Such was the case on Saturday. I was playing on the floor with my son in the nursery when I heard a massive crash from my office. The source? Aforementioned cat tearing three full Battlefoam trays of models off of the shelf they were stored on, and down onto the floor. About a four foot drop.
So, one full tray of bikes, one full tray of Terminators and Assault Marines, and a tray of Dreadnoughts and Landspeeders on the floor. Smashed into pieces.
I resisted the temptation to throw the cat out into traffic, and the pile sat there for a few hours while I waited for the wife to wake up from her post-work sleep.
I eventually sorted through the carnage and the result was:

That's one Terminator loosened from his base, a Terminator Chaplain with his Iron Halo bashed off, a dozen bikers in various states of destruction, two metal Dreads smashed off their bases and feet, a Landspeeder with broken gun rails, a Landspeeder gunner with his gun broken from his hands, and two Assault Marines with jump packs broken off.
Anyone who knows my paint process and speed knows that this pile represents about 6-9 months of work. These days painting all these models would take me over a year. I was seeing red, and was tempted to throw it all in the trash and quit (it had been a very tiring and frustrating holiday week-plus).
Thankfully, when I was able to get the boy to bed later that night and take a deep breath, I looked over all the models under my OttLite with my glasses on. There was a minimum of damaged paint, with only a few smudges or streaks here and there. My multiple coats of Dullcote paid off. Anything that exploded tended to do so at a pinned point (Dread feet, jump packs) or a glueable area. After two full hours of work, I'd reassembled everything. The hardest part was figuring out which backpack went to which Biker. I had to closely inspect the broken joints and match up glue distortion patterns in the plastic. Tedious.
In the end, I was able to recover all of the models. The cat lives, for now.

I'm sure most folks have already seen the leaked photos of the upcoming Dark Angels model kits. If not, search around the 40K blogosphere.
All I can say is "what the fuck?" That's my first impression of what I've seen of the new models. The new Landspeeder is a unanimous failure. Straight out terrible. How does the pilot fly that thing with his gunner blocking 50% of his field of view? And where is the best place to be when firing a huge double plasma cannon turret? Why, with your head right between the plasma coils, of course! I'm not sure who designed this kit, but they need to be fired. Twice.
The new flyer is nice. It's essentially a redesign of the Stormtalon kit that everyone cried about. I never had a major problem with it. The new wings are boss, though.
People are pissing their pants over the new Ravenwing kits. I'll have to get hold of the sprues to decide if there are any good stowage or decorative bitz for my Ultramarines bikers. Folks are up in arms, good or bad, over twin-linked plasma guns on bikes. I run plasma on bikes a lot folks, and twin-linking isn't a huge deal. Fewer overheats, sure, but it's not all-powerful. You don't get extra shots from twin-linking, extra range, or anything of that sort. Marines were already reliable in shooting plasmaguns.
The new Terminator kits are "meh" to me. The posing of the models is purely uninspired. Most are standing there in some awkward "I've got an itch" pose. The dual-claw model is in a Wolverine-esque pose, but his legs lack any motion, so the end result is floppy.
Overall, I'm not impressed with the amount of decoration on the new models. I feel it's overdone. Some decoration is acceptable, especially for veterans and characters. The design team did well with the Blood Angel and Grey Knight kits. Those are detailed without being too busy. These DA kits simply have too much going on. Every possible surface is covered in something. A design philosophy like that essentially shoehorns modellers into one specific style. Yes, you could mix with the basic Marine kits like Space Wolves kits are designed to do, but then you ask "Why does that Terminator have legs encrusted in designs and decoration, but the rest of him is not?"
I have to reserve final judgement for when I see the sprues in person, but right now I'm not impressed.