Monday, March 22, 2010

Painting Tyranid Hormaguants

This is just a simple step-by-step guide to how I painted my Hormagaunts. They were reasonably quick to paint and turned out decent. I'm sure the same techniques would work just as well with other colors. All of the paints I refer to are Games Workshop/Citadel paints, though some are older versions or colors no longer in production. If you want to replicate my method but can't find a particular paint that I mention, deal with it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gaming Superstitions

If you're a gamer, odds are that over the years you've been gaming you've picked up all kinds of little rituals and superstitions about things.  It's probably unavoidable in any endeavor that involves such a great deal of randomness and uncertainty.  You try to make sense of the uncontrollable senselessness of it by perceiving patterns where there are none, and trying to apply rules to that make no sense.  In games that involve a lot of random chance, people seem to like to invent ways in which they can pretend to influence, and therefore exert some control over, the randomness.

For example, many people like to roll particular dice for certain types of rolls, or particular colors of dice for different armies.  Some people don't like others to touch their dice, since they might rub their bad luck off on them.  Some people don't like using the same set of dice for two consecutive rolls, always grabbing some "fresh" dice for a new roll.  I'm sure there are countless others.  Here are some that I've found myself believing in:
  • Never roll one single die for anything, if it can be avoided.  Out of every roll you make, there will almost always be at least one "failed" roll.  So if you roll a single die, it will almost certainly fail.  Because of this, if there is one weapon different in a squad, I roll all the dice together and use a different colored die to represent the single weapon, and I always wait until all attacks have been resolved so I can roll all the armor saves together, instead of one at a time.
  • Conversely, once you start rolling a large number of dice in a single roll, more than 15 lets say, you dramatically increase your chances of rolling really badly.  So if I have a lot of dice to roll, I'm better off rolling them in multiple smaller batches than all at once.  One of the batches may turn out to be a really bad roll, but it's unlikely to have multiple batches rolled consecutively to roll really badly.  For this same reason, anything that allows re-rolls is much more valuable in my mind than it should be.
  • Never say "anything but a one", or something similar, before making a roll.  You might as well not even bother rolling at that point, you're going to fail.
  • Models that are pointing always do well.  I have no idea why this should be, but it is.
  • Any newly painted models are going to get killed.  The more pride you have in the paint job, the more spectacularly embarrassing their battlefield performance will be.
  • For some reason, for really crucial rolls, I like to use dice that were sitting with the 5 side facing up.  This seems to come through for me pretty often.  Something about the die being used to a high number facing up, and wanting to return to that state.
None of that makes any logical sense, of course.  But it is what I have observed over the course of years of gaming.  I'd be really interested in hearing about some of the other gaming superstitions out there.  Do you only roll certain colored dice for certain things?  Do you have some lucky incantation you say or think before a particularly critical roll, or some phrase or deed that always jinxes you?  Please leave me a comment and let me know about what rituals work for you, or what superstitions you've come to observe in your own gaming.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mantic Games Plastic Skeletons

I've purchased and assembled some of the Mantic Games Plastic Skeletons to hopefully use in my Vampire Counts army. For anyone else who might be interested in these, here are my thoughts on them.

Like Mantic's other stuff, the Skeleton Regiment comes in a reusable thin plastic box that resembles a VHS tape box. Inside are two thin sheets of foam, two sprues of Skeletons (one a troop sprue and one a command sprue), 20 20mm square bases, and two sheets of stickers (not water slide transfers, but regular stickers). Each sheet of stickers has 2 banners, shield designs, and a mantic point. When you save up some ridiculous number of Mantic points, you can redeem them for some limited edition stuff or something.

You can see official pictures of the two sprue types on the Mantic Games Blog, specifically the posts here and here. You'll notice right away that most of them have shields, and many can be given either spears or single-handed weapons like swords or axes. It might be tricky if you want to arm the whole unit with spears, for a couple of reason. Each sprue of 10 skeletons only has eight spears. On top of that, three of the bodies on each sprue of 10 have a weapon already modeled in the hand. Two of them would be easy to remove and replace, the one holding the axe would be a little more difficult. So if you want to give them all spears, you'll have a little extra work to do and will need to come up with some extra spears.

You'll also probably notice there are some fun little extras included on the sprue, such as a severed Dwarf head, a skeleton bursting from the ground, and even a little skeleton dog. Those are neat, and I plan to use the bursting skeleton and the dog as just extra members of the unit. Unfortunately, they don't come with bases so you'll have to supply two extras if you want to use them in such a way. Otherwise you could add the dog as a decorative element to the base of one of the skeletons, and use the bursting guy as a marker to represent something. The other little extras can also be used for terrain pieces or objective markers or just base decorations.

While assembling them, I noticed that they did tend to have some significant mold lines. Some of these can be very difficult to get to with a hobby knife or file because they are in cramped spaces, like between a leg and the cloth hanging down between the legs. Also, some of the mold lines can be really hard to remove without removing some of the detail of the miniatures, like on the rib bones. Plus, many parts of these models are very slim and delicate, so you have to be pretty careful not to snap off an arm or weapon while you're preparing them for assembly. As a result of all that, these take a long time to prepare. This does remove some of the advantage they seem to have been going for with having few parts so they can be assembled quickly.

However, once the parts were cleaned of mold lines and ready to go, they were pretty quick and fun to assemble. Out of a regiment of 20, 12 of the figures don't have much customization. You have three different types of lower body, and you stick one of the corresponding upper bodies on. Some of these already have weapons attached, so you're done. Others have empty hands, so you pick a weapon to put in them and you're done. Or give one a horn, bell, or standard pole. By having different combinations of upper and lower body, you can have quite a variety of differences and probably have a unit of 30 without repeating any of the upper body/lower body combinations. But you don't have any way to pose them differently, aside from maybe angling them differently on the base. They are quick to assemble.

The remaining eight out of the 20 are more fun to put together. These have bodies in more dramatic poses with empty hands, or some with separate right arms that you can attach in different positions, and separate heads. This works out well, since you can get a lot of standard-looking guys put together quickly, but still have a few unique poses that are more fun to assemble and will stand out in the unit. There are extra weapon arms and heads, so you have some choices in which ones you'll want to use.

If you're like me, you may have initially been scared off from wanting these by the first pictures they had up on the Mantic website, where it looked like the whole unit was dancing. Once I saw the sprue pictures I was relieved to see that you aren't required to assemble them that way. So rest assured that you don't have to make all your skeletons look like they're dancing. There's really only one or two of them that have to look like they're dancing. I don't know what Mantic assembled theirs that way, or choose to use that terrible picture to show off their product.

Anyway, moving on, another weird thing I didn't notice at first is that these models have eyeballs modeled on them. That seems a little strange to me. But I suppose if you just paint them as glowing orbs of magical energy or something, they'll look okay.

So you might wonder, as I did, if these would work well in games of Warhammer as cheaper substitutes for the Games Workshop skeletons, or for people who prefer the style of these skeletons. In some way they seemed clearly designed for this purpose. They come with the same size bases, they have the same weapon options and the continually expanding Mantic range of undead contains a lot of unit types that are similar to the kinds of units in Warhammer undead armies.

On the other hand, these models are significantly smaller than Games Workshop miniatures. They are a little shorter for one, and in addition are much more realistically proportioned, so they don't have extra large hands, heads, and weapons. This combines to make them look much smaller than most Games Workshop miniatures. The pictures below show, from left to right: very old Games Workshop plastic skeleton, Mantic skeleton, old metal Games Workshop skeleton, another Mantic skeleton, and the previous version of the Games Workshop plastic skeleton.
Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment

Unfortunately, I do not have any of the newest Games Workshop plastic skeletons to include in the comparison pictures. I don't really like the style of them, so I haven't bought any. I have seen them in person, and they are much smaller and way more reasonably proportioned than the previous version, so I think they would likely fit in okay with the Mantic skeletons. The older Games Workshop plastic skeletons, as you can see, don't match well at all. You definitely can't mix parts between them for conversions as they'd be way out of scale, and mixing the models in the same unit would look bad due to the different styles and proportions. It might look okay to have them in different units in the same army. You could always argue that the Games Workshop skeletons are undead mutant ape-men or something.

Here are some pictures of my first completed regiment of Mantic skeletons. There are 22 of them, including the skeleton dog that I based separately, and the one bursting out of the ground.
Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment

Finally, here are a couple pictures of the re-usable storage box they come in with the foam inserts. This might work okay for storing plastic models, even once painted, as they won't be heavy enough to chip each other if they move around in there. I wouldn't store any painted metal models this way.
Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment

I do have a bit of a dilemma in putting together the rest of my Mantic skeletons. There are enough of the standard swords to give all of them such a weapon, except for those that have a molded on hammer or axe. I could arm almost all of my skeletons with the swords and make them look more uniform, but I really like the variety added by some of the other weapons. So, do I make one unit all with swords, and other unit all with completely mixed weapons? In this case, one would have been an organized military unit in life, the other more of a band of warriors that used whatever weapons they could supply themselves. Or do I have most of them with swords, and a few with other weapons to represent those raised during the course of a battle, which would therefore be armed differently because they were originally part of the unit when it was alive? Or do I just mix them any way I want, figuring a vampire general would just reorganize units however was convenient? Or am I just putting way too much thought into this? Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Warhammer 40,000 Battle Report: Blitzkrieg on Planet 18-D93

The Setup
I recently played another game of Warhammer 40,000 up at the Battle Bunker in Downers Grove, Illinois. We agreed to 1500 points of my Tyranids against my opponent's Orks. The Battle Missions book had just been released, so I picked up a copy when I arrived at the store. It contains 30 new missions that don't require any special table setup or force organization chart or army selection, so we decided we would play one of those.

Each army had three missions in the book that are particularly suited to their style of warfare. If you wish to play one of these (as opposed to randomly playing any of the 30 missions in the book), you roll off with your opponent. The winner will play one of the three missions specific to their army. That player rolls a D3 to determine which of the 3 missions to play. You could accomplish the same thing by one player rolling a single D3 for which of the three missions, with an odd number meaning choose from one army's missions, and even meaning the other. Then again, if you didn't like a lot of die rolling, you wouldn't be playing this game anyway.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tyranid Hormagaunts and Weights

I recently finished painting up half a unit of Hormagaunts with Toxin Sacs and Adrenal Glands. With these first eight Hormagaunts, I was trying to work out the color scheme I would use for all of the similar sized creatures in my Tyranid army. It turned out a little more orange and not as red as I think I'd like, but otherwise they look okay. Here are some closeup pictures of one of them.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Grismeire Valley Campaign Turn 2

After already suffering the complete destruction of one of the Beastman armies, the forces of evil were a little reluctant to be aggressive. The Beastman Lord, having witnessed the nearby destruction of one of his armies, led his 1st Army back towards the safety of their camp, and away from the rampaging Bretonnian 2nd Army. Meanwhile, the Beastman 3rd Army, having plundered Soude, moved South towards Chateaux D'if but did not reach it.

The Lord of the Vampire Counts army, the shadowy figure known only as The Master, left the 1st Army and joined his 3rd Army to confer with his generals. The 1st Army then moved West towards St. Mer-Eglise, hoping to draw the attention of the nearby Bretonnian 2nd Army.


The side of good once again acted decisively. The High Elf 2nd Army advanced from Nice, up the river bank towards the Vampire Counts 2nd Army, occupying Poussenc. The High Elf 1st and 3rd Armies both moved Northwards. The 3rd Army occupied the village of Chateaux D'If, setting up another link in their support and supply chain. At the same time, the High Elf 1st Army, led by Prince Finduleas Tethelion atop his mighty Dragon, attacked the Beastman 3rd Army to clear them away from the outskirts of the village while the 3rd Army moved to occupy it.

The Bretonnian 3rd Army moved far to the North to support Prince Tethelion's advance. The Bretonnian 1st only repositioned themselves slightly, not wanting to commit to battle just yet. But the Bretonnian 2nd Army charged right past the village of St. Mer-Eglise to attack the approaching Vampire Counts 1st Army.


The Beastman 3rd Army, far ahead of any friendly forces, was no match for the High Elf Lord on a dragon and his loyal bodyguard, supported by nearby friendly armies. The Beastman 3rd Army was completely massacred, and any survivors scattered. It wasn't looking good for the invaders, but the Vampire Counts 1st Army, positioned in the open between Soude and St. Mer-Eglise, managed a solid victory against the attacking Bretonnian 2nd Army. The surviving Bretonnians fled to the South.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Magnetizing Tyranid Warriors

Tyranid Warriors have a lot of options. I've had six unassembled Tyranid Warriors sitting around since the last edition of the codex, in part because I couldn't decide how I wanted to arm them. The new edition of the codex didn't make the decision any easier. I really want to try out using Tyranid Warriors, but don't know what weapons to give them. And what if after using them a few times with the weapons I chose, I decided I didn't like them? What if sometimes I wanted a shooty unit of Tyranid Warriors, and other times wanted to go all out for assaulting? I really didn't want to have to buy, and spend the time assembling and painting, several full units of Tyranid Warriors just to have all the options available to me, knowing I'd never use them all at once.

So rather than try to decide on weapon options that I'd use forevermore, I decided to try to magnetize my Tyranid Warrior arms. This way, I could easily switch out which weapons they used from game to game, and have more options available to me to try out. I mention all this because it pertains to the subject of this post, which is tips on how you can magnetize your own Tyranid Warriors. Through the process, I learned some helpful (and sometimes harsh) lessons on the subject, and being the helpful kind of guy that I am, I thought I'd share them with you.