Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ultramarine Scouts First Night Out

Last night the Ultramarines faced off against Carl's Grey Knights. Unfortunately my army is still a vanilla build of vanilla Marines. Combine that with the fact that one of Carl's Venerable Dreadnoughts and a Land Raider exploded one Vindicator and immobilized another in the first shooting phase and you have one very sad bunch of Ultrasmurfs. I wonder if it wouldn't have been a lot more effective to hold both Vindicators in reserve, thus encouraging him to move his Purifiers and Paladins closer to my troops, and then roaring the tanks in to deliver some mid-field blasts. Come to think of it, anything would have been more effective than getting my heavy support blasted to kingdom come in the first round of shooting.


On a much more positive note, my recently completed sniper Scouts had a pretty decent first outing. I had originally intended to sic them on a Dreadknight, but when Carl brought two Venerable Dreadnoughts instead, I had to change my plans. The five snipers were able to do some damage to a Purifier squad, which nearly earned their points right there. Unfortunately, I soon failed four 3+ cover saves and lost most of the squad in a single turn, leaving one sniper and Telion. Despite those losses, that lone sniper would have finished earning back the cost of the squad had Carl not made a cover save against a rending shot.

He's got a bolter round with
your HQ's name on it
However, the Scouts' shining moment came when Sergeant Telion used the Eye of Vengeance rule to target Castellan Crowe in the middle of his squad and knocked a wound off him. If you count a half-wounded Crowe as a half-value Crowe, Telion earned his points in a single shot. Had a couple of Telion's later rolls been rending, my 50 point sergeant probably would have killed a 150 point HQ.

I definitely need more sniper Scouts.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ultramarines Sniper Scouts WIP, Part III

Once a model has received it's basic paint job, it's often tempting to put off finishing it. I mean, it's obviously playable; does it really need more work? My Terminators sat for several weeks before I finally gave them their final washes and highlights. I was also tempted not to finish Sergeant Telion. Given how new most of our players are to 40K, we rarely play games larger than 1000 points. At 50 points, Telion is a significant investment in a smaller game. However, having already spent a ridiculous amount of time on the Scouts, I decided not to delay in completing them.

Scout squad with Telion (2/9/12)

Telion got my full attention once the other Scouts were fully assembled. The special character represents my first pewter model. I quickly learned that paint doesn't like to stick to pewter quite as well as it does to plastic (Bryce warned me about this) and realized that I had to be very careful about rubbing paint off of points or edges. Additionally, I had read that watery glues like the Krazy Glue Craft I've used for all my other models (and which I like very much) doesn't quite work as well for metal figures. Instead I used Krazy Glue Craft Gel Formula to attach Telion's bolter and head to his torso. I followed that up by allowing some of the watery glue to seep into the crevices of the joints. This seemed to work pretty well.

Telion is painted in similar colors and in an identical style as the rest of the squad. The primary difference is that the inside of his cloak is three layers of Gore Red painted over Calthan Brown. (I learned the hard way that Gore Red does not easily cover black while painting my Captain last year.) Telion's beard is a layer of Codex Grey with watered-down Skull White highlights.

Telion closeup (2/9/12)

I took the assembled and mostly painted Scouts to our game last week to show them off to Bryce, Jon, Carl, and Kevin. The squad didn't get the chance to fight since I played proctor to Carl and Kevin early in the evening and wasn't in any condition to play in the latter half of the night when I was hit by a particularly nasty gallbladder attack (it's a long story).

I finished off Telion and the squad over the week following the game. I used heavy doses of Badab Black on the armored portions of the Scouts and Devlan Mud on the fabric portions and over gold areas. In the end my models look positively filthy compared to Games Workshop's examples. I do this because it's easy to apply a wash over the entire surface of a model and because I can't imagine that armor that's supposed to see continual combat while being hundreds if not thousands of years old can be anything but horribly dirty. (GW's professional models may look pristine, but all artwork depicting Space Marines shows their armor to be chipped, spalled, cracked, scorched, and smudged.) Although achieved with a different technique, the "grimdark" Eldar look showcased at FTW reminds me of how I like my Ultramarines.

I dry-brushed some simple highlights over the washes, which also served to slightly lighten up the models. I've attempted to do bolder highlights in the past but have been dissatisfied by my inability to produce smooth, consistent lines. The armor was dry-brushed/highlighted with Ultramarines Blue, the fabric with Bleached Bone, and the black regions with Codex Grey.

The completed squad (2/18/12)
I really like the color scheme for Ultramarines Scouts. However, it makes me laugh to think that troops that wear giant gold winged skulls on their chests and off-white trousers could ever be stealthy, even if they do use camo cloaks. Telion has the Stealth special rule and he has the most garish armor of them all.

Finished sergeant (2/18/12)

Completed Sergeant Telion (2/18/12)

Telion's base is decorated with a bullet-punctured Ork skull provided in the sniper Scout box. The Bleached Bone-painted skull was weathered using Badab Black and Devlan Mud washes and then highlighted with watered-down Bleached Bone. Given that Telion was supposed to have played a crucial role in the Black Reach campaign and that one of our regulars plays Orks, I thought it an appropriate addition.

Now that I've finally finished the Scouts (about two and a half months after I started them), I'm having a hard time deciding what I should build next.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ultramarines Sniper Scouts WIP, Part II

As you can see from the right hand side bar, this blog is a member of the FTW blogger group. Anyone who visits FTW will see pictures of fantastically painted and detailed miniatures produced by very talented individuals. As a newcomer to 40K with limited modeling skills, I was reluctant to join the group. However, I have been encouraged by those posts which compare hobbyists' earlier models with examples of their latest work. I hope that my WIP posts will illustrate my evolving and (hopefully) improving modelling style. I expect that they'll also get a few laughs from older 40K modellers who have years of experience using techniques I've just discovered or who have progressed well beyond the simple methods I'm so proud of.

Late last year I wrote about building a sniper Scout squad for my Ultramarines army. After searching for a proper primer, I finally undercoated the five Scouts and Sergeant Telion on Thanksgiving Day. I'm rather ashamed to say that, thanks to the holidays, family visits, long work days, a change in my painting style, and the fact that Scouts have a significantly more ornate paint scheme than power armored Ultramarines, I am just now finishing the squad.

I'm still pretty new at painting miniatures, so my technique is very basic and produces passable tabletop quality figures at best. In other words, I'm definitely not going to be winning any awards anytime soon. I originally intended to finish each Scout one at a time since I've found the assembly line approach to be effective but tedious. However, as work progressed on the sergeant (I consider the Scout with the open stance to be the sergeant when Telion isn't part of the squad), I realized that I would take months to finish the six figures at the rate I was going. I therefore switched back to my usual assembly line approach for the five Scouts while I worked on Telion at a different rate.

The Scouts and Telion with a Rust-Oleum undercoat (11/26/11)

As I've said before, I don't fully assemble figures beforehand so that it's easier to paint them. This means 1) that my figures are almost entirely painted by the time I put all the pieces together and 2) a significant period of time might pass before I consider the figures playable. This is in sharp contrast to Bryce, who bought an Elder army, assembled it in a week, and played the entirely unpainted army the very next game night. For Bryce, 60% of the fun is in playing the game and the other 40% is in making the models. For me, those numbers are reversed. For our Dark Eldar player, Kevin, a full 70% of the reason why he got into 40K was to paint miniatures. This could explain why he has the most detailed figures and the smallest number of playable models.

The fully assembled sergeant and parts of his squad (1/22/12)

Being pretty unimaginative, I replicated the paint scheme shown on the box. The armored pieces are three coats of Mordian Blue painted directly over the black undercoat. For the fabric portions of the uniform, I painted a layer of Calthan Brown over the undercoat, which I then covered with three coats of Bleached Bone. The camo cloaks are two to three coats of Charadon Granite painted directly over the undercoat with Codex Grey and Fortress Grey markings. All gold portions are painted using my favorite technique; a layer of Calthan Brown painted over the undercoat followed by two layers of Burnished Gold.

Earlier I mentioned that I'm using a new painting style. Actually, all I've been doing is thinning my paint by quickly dipping the tip of my brush into water before dipping it in the paint and occasionally between strokes of the brush on the model surface. (I believe Bryce uses a variant of this method.) My earliest models suffered from obvious brush strokes and lumps of prematurely congealed paint. By wetting the brush frequently, I've been able to apply smoother coats of paint, although it also means that I have to use more layers to cover the undercoat.

The fully assembled squad (2/2/12)

Much of the time I spent on the Scouts was spent on their faces. In a mostly ineffective attempt to vary their skin tones, several of the Scouts' faces started with a layer of Dwarf Flesh over the undercoat while others began with Calthan Brown. Over this I painted two to three coats of Elf Flesh. I then painted the eyes. Again, since my skills are limited, eyes are represented by simple brown or blue dots. An Ogryn Flesh wash darkened the Elf Flesh and gave the faces a more natural tone. Finally, I used thinned Elf Flesh to highlight the nose, cheeks, jawline, and forehead of each face. I think I could get better skin tone variation if I use the lighter Gryphonne Sepia wash on a few faces rather than Ogryn Flesh.

A close up: the Ultramarine logo is hand-painted

Since I've never had much success applying decals to curved surfaces, all chapter and squad markings are hand-painted (I'm rather proud of this). The left shoulder pads of three Scouts are exposed, meaning that I had to paint three inverted omegas. Unlike those talented individuals who can easily paint a free-hand omega, I start by painting a rough circle with a bar over it. I shape the logo as necessary with the tip of a sharp hobby razor and clean up lines with a little Skull White or Mordian Blue where needed. This process used to take about an hour and a half of work per logo when I was painting my first Tactical and Terminator squads. By the time I did the Scouts, I'd gotten it down to about 45 minutes.

On the two exposed right shoulder pads I painted the squad number. Since I intend to do at least four Scout squads, and because all non-sniper Scouts have exposed right shoulder pads, I decided to give the sniper Scout squads higher numbers so that I'd only have to paint "III" or "IV" a couple times. Close combat and mid-range combat Scouts will be marked with the more easily painted "I" or "II". I also intend to do a three man Scout Bike squad which will get squad number "V".

Another close up: squad markings are also hand-painted

Next time I'll cover Sergeant Telion and the final detailing of the sniper Scout squad.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Emperor's Angels of Death

A few days ago I suggested to Bryce that he post on why he chose the Imperial Guard as his primary army. I would then follow it up with why I chose Space Marines in general and the Ultramarines in particular.

When I first started playing 40K, Bryce didn't even have an IG army. I'm a pack rat and have to overcome severe inner struggles to get rid of anything. Bryce, on the other hand, doesn't keep anything he doesn't use regularly. Since he was rarely playing 40K at the time, and because it was nearly unbeatable and drove away potential opponents at the local game store, Bryce sold his Death Korps of Krieg army mere months before I finally agreed to give the game a chance. After we started playing on a weekly basis, he decided to build a new IG army; i.e., his Steel Legion. What Bryce didn't mention in his last post is that he has recently added about 1000 points of Eldar to his collection.

Although he didn't have a Guard force at the time, Bryce still had Tyranids, Tau, between 1000 and 1500 points of Space Marines, and the beginnings of a Grey Knights army. Before he even directly invited me to play, he was trying to get me to decide on an army. One night he left me a mysterious message on Facebook asking if I preferred 'aliens or Space Marines'. My response was "uh, Space Marines?"

And they shall know no fear
As explained in the oldest post on this blog, I finally agreed to play the game once in the hopes that he would leave me alone about it after I had given it a try and told him that the game wasn't for me. When I arrived at his home, I found a small force of Raven Guard Space Marines set out for me while he had set out another small group of Tau for himself. It didn't take me too long to figure out that he had handpicked the Tau force to allow me to win pretty handily. Even then, Bryce's plan worked perfectly; after one game I was hooked on 40K.

I quickly developed a preference for Space Marines during that game and those shortly thereafter. Just about every aspect of the Astartes appealed to me: they're genetically engineered neo-medieval troops in enormous suits of armor covered in parchments, wax seals, ancient relics, and trophies. Their suits make them look like the love child of Darth Vader and Iron Man, they drive around in ancient tanks covered in ribbons and banners, all their equipment is painted in bright paint schemes that say "come get me!", and they decorate everything with gold eagles and skulls. The worst armor save you get is a 4+ on models that still have toughness 4, a single Marine can carry weapons that other armies have to mount on carriages and vehicles, and many HQs can take on a Hive Tyrant three times their size and kill it with only a little luck. Their elite troops are more survivable than most tanks and carry giant energy-spewing hammers. Space Marines can enter combat by dropping from orbit, teleporting in, infiltrating, or descending from the sky with jump packs. It's like GW took real world marines (awesome in and of themselves), hosed them with testosterone, and gave them weapons dreamed up by wild-eyed, caffeine-fueled pulp sci-fi and fantasy writers. It's pretty hard to top that. On a different note, I liked the sense of brotherhood among the Space Marines. Even the titles used among the Astartes reflect this; e.g., "Brother-Sergeant". For this same reason I often think that the Clone Troopers of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, who treat their fellow clones as brothers, have some of the most interesting storylines and are easier to relate to than the overly aloof Jedi.

The cannon in his left hand is considered a pistol

So, why did I choose the Ultramarines? After that first game Bryce gave me a box of unpainted Marines, many of them built using the Black Templar upgrade parts. (Apparently Bryce will often keep armies around for the purpose of giving them to friends and thus luring new players into the game. The fiend!) However, I had never done the kind of detailed painting that 40K figures require and I didn't want to practice on the upgraded models. I was also intimidated by the idea of painting pre-assembled figures. I'm not particularly good at painting around corners and I seem to have a psychological need to paint surfaces that you can't even see. Thus, I decided to gain some experience by buying the Games Workshop starter paint set that includes five Space Marines with Ultramarine markings. My original intention was to build a Black Templar force and to include the five Ultramarines whenever I needed more troops.

Closer! I want to hit them with my sword!

As I built and painted the figures, though, I found that I really liked the paint scheme of the Ultramarine's 2nd Company; i.e., blue armor with gold trim and white inverted omegas. My wife has pointed out that the Ultramarines' colors are similar to those of our alma mater, Brigham Young University, and has suggested that there may have been some sort of subconscious influence. Additionally, I was still unsure about how much I wanted to get into the game and was reluctant to spend money on Black Templar upgrade sets on top of the already substantial cost of the base models. Given how much I've already spent on my Ultramarine army, and how much I plan to spend in the future, this concern over the expense is laughable now. The real clincher, however, was that GW has given the Ultramarines a lot of attention in the form of numerous named characters and a relatively extensive history. It was the backstory that got me interested in the game in the first place, so I ended up choosing the Marines about whom we know the most.

Could the Black Templars be next?

Ironically, as I begin to look for my next army, I've found myself looking at the Black Templars again. I like how different their organization is from Codex-compliant Marines and the blessed hulls of their Land Raider Crusaders (which make them immune to the lance effects of Kevin's dark lances and Bryce's bright lances) could prove useful. To top it off, the armor of the Black Templar officers and elites is some of the most ornately decorated of any Marine chapter and would look pretty sharp on the table. My final decision will probably depend on the quality of their inevitable 6th edition codex.

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