Thursday, 16 February 2017

Mini head-to-head: Veridian and Ardanna

Whilst working on the latest batch of Raging Heroes models, I happened to spot Canoness Veridian on the shelf at our local FLGS and snapped her up. It struck me that besides being likely to end up in the same army, she had a lot in common with one of the RH models, Ardanna, the Pillar of the Faith, so I thought it might be fun to work on the two at the same time. (They've even both got one foot resting on something, come on, they're practically twins...)

This isn't really an attempt to decide which model is 'better' because with any piece of art that's a deeply subjective thing, but let's take a look at each model as we go through the process of building and painting them.

Preparation and Assembly

I don't have WIP shots other than the pic above since I thought of this a little too late for that, but lets take a look anyway because there's a fair bit to talk about here. Overall, this is a big win for Veridian, which won't come as a big surprise to anyone who's seen me write about the Raging Heroes 'Trollcast' material before, but it goes a little deeper than that. Firstly, Veridian comes with full assembly instructions and her box features a full-colour picture of the model painted. I wasn't planning to paint mine in the same scheme, but a colour pic is incredibly useful as reference, especially when you get one of those mystery nubbly bits and can't work out exactly what it's meant to be. By contrast, Ardanna comes as a sprue in a bag, and to figure out her quite fiddly assembly involves Googling her to look at the Kickstarter concept sketches, which is less than ideal. (I should mention at this point that Ardanna was a Freebie from the second TGG Kickstarter and even if I had paid for her, would have cost less than half what Veridian does, so this difference in presentation is understandable.)

Veridian went together fine, though I'm not 100% certain I got her sword completely straight. On the other hand, Ardanna's sword was definitely curved, and due to the way the model is designed it has to be exactly the right length. Eventually, after heating and bending it several times and having no luck I gave up on the damn thing and replaced it with a spare sword from a Sister of Silence, by trimming off the top of the guard where the sister's hand usually is. This had the benefit of adding an Aquila to the model, too.

I was a little disappointed with the sharpness of the detail on both models. On Veridian, some of the fleur-de-lys details on the robes were very weak, and similar symbols on Ardanna's robes were even worse. I tend to rely on drybrushes and washes early in my painting to resolve details, and as we'll see, not all of it did. I'm sure more technical painters would achieve better results. Finally, whilst the GW model required a bare minimum of cleaning, the Trollcast was, as usual, an utter swine to prep, resisting multiple baths in fairy liquid and scrub-downs. Apparently there was a batch of models in which the mould release bonded with the resin to produce a mini that was damn near hydrophobic, and I can believe I got one here!

Anyway, let's see them painted..

Veridian's definitely giving us the stink-eye

So, they came out OK, though they could be better, but any painter who doesn't think something could be improved is probably wrong. Let's look at them both from all angles.


Veridian painted up pretty easily, overall. She's nominally painted in the scheme of the Order of the Valorous Heart:

I know the side-shot at the end is almost the front shot. Meh.

As you can see, some of those infernal fleur-de-lys designs defied me. There's not really space on her sleeves for an Order symbol, but one could probably go on the lower robes if you're a freehand ninja, which I am not. Other than that, though, the rest of the detail came through pretty well. I'm really not sold on the pose, however- I think the angle of the raised leg is just a bit off . You may or may not be familiar with the John Blanche painting that inspired her:

Image presented through blatant theft and without any right to do so.

I think in that image the upper body is slightly better positioned, moving the figures centre of gravity to a more natural position. The actual mini to me looks like the skull is almost about to push her backwards. Still, overall it's a pretty decent figure, though not as nice as a certain other recent release for the Sisters... moving on.


I've painted Ardanna in the red, gold and white scheme used for Celestine and the Geminae (and there I was diplomatically not mentioning them...) My plan, which I know will outrage some, is to use her as the Emperor's Champion and have some of the Raging Heroes sisters in the same colours as a Black Templars Crusader Squad. I'll explain this as them being a particularly militant Minor Order whose faith manifests in a slightly different way- they won't actually be female Marines. Anyway, picture!

So, I think we can call this 'interesting'. I had some late drama with the Trollcast still repelling paint in the hollow by her foot, but finally beat it into submission with a small drybrush and some brush soap. As we can see, the detail on the lower robe, especially the fleur-de-lys, proved tricky to bring out- if I were doing it again I'd probably go with gold and try drybrushing the hell out of it. The gargoyle also lost some detail, but since it's meant to be a statue I put that down to intentional weathering.

In general, some of the very fine details like her crossed hands and the bare foot, were very tricky to pull off. This is a model whose pose screams 'paint before assembly' but that assembly is so fiddly as to make this very difficult too. The robes do at least have some nice dynamic folds in them, especially at the rear, and the face and hair are as beautiful and full of character as we've come to expect from Raging Heroes. I had no idea if the backpack was meant to be stained-glass or something else, so I'm looking forward to seeing the official painted model on that one! Overall, though the pose is initially a bit confusing I do like it a lot, more than Veridian's, and I like how she's looking at us over the pommel of the sword. Let's see the original concept art:

As we can see, they got pretty close, with the only real difference being the position and size of the pistol- and since exactly how to attach it was a bit unclear, the position is down to me. You might notice the sword is different, but that's due to the swap I did.

A Winner is You

So ultimately, which is the 'better' model? In purely technical terms, it's Veridian- the issues with Finecast are well-documented but at least the paint sticks first time and in general, it's an easier model to build and work on. Ardanna, though, is a really bold and exciting design which gets my vote on an artistic level. Your mileage, of course, may vary...

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Dark skin tones- down the rabbit hole...

So, above you can see my recent paint job on the old 'Warrior Woman' model from Schaefer's Last Chancers, which I did to go with the rest of a Rapier battery crew that you can see over on my Deviantart. Whilst doing the write-up for those models, or in fact whilst I was thinking about that write up whilst painting them, I hit a bit of a problem.

You see, especially compared to the Raging Heroes models who form the rest of the battery crew, the Warrior Woman model's face is pretty hideous. GW have always been a bit hit-and-miss with female faces and this one was a very palpable miss. Here's the official GW pic so you can see what I mean:

I hope you'll agree that whilst I'm no 'Eavy Metal painter, mine looks a little nicer than that. Now it's when we come to the reason why that I started to run into trouble. To get the boil well-and-truly lanced, here's what I'm trying NOT to say:

"Because the model had an overly large, unattractive face, I painted her with very dark skin."

Now that's not what I'm saying, but I can see how someone might reduce it down to that. It's very noticeable that dark skin tones are rare on 40k miniatures and indeed, on miniatures in general, at least in my experience, leaving aside obvious things like Salamanders or African armies for historical games. To an outsider, that looks really odd- I mean really, really strange. For example, the default flesh tone Citadel paint is called 'Cadian Flesh Tone'. Cadia, let's remember is (or was, spoiler alert) a planet, and yet GW are fine with the implication that everyone on it is the same shade of Caucasian pink. I've tried to avoid that particular pitfall, if pitfall it indeed is- for example, a typical squad of my renegade Guard looks like this:

As you can see, I use a variety of tones to suggest an army drawn from a fairly modern society. In practice the models are put in squads fairly randomly so you don't get quite the quota system that's going on here. I think this squad only used three base colours- Kislev Flesh, Mournfang Brown and Zamesi Desert- whereas later squads also use Rhinox Hide and Cadian as starting points. Now here we begin to see one of the problems with the darker tones, which is that when used on a miniature they tend to hide the detail. This was the whole reason why I used the Rhinox Hide base colour on Warrior Woman, since it allowed me to dictate the shape of her features with the highlights. In general, the only way to deal with this issue is to go with more extreme highlighting than you usually would, which you can sometimes see on the rare occasions people do bare-headed Salamanders.

There are a few other related things to look at. One of these is the interesting phenomenon of armies like Marines where only a very few models have bare heads. Take a look at this image from the original Warhammer 40k Compendium:

 You might need to view that at full-size to get the effect. The thing is, when I saw that picture in my impressionable teens, I immediately assumed that all Marines of the Howling Griffons chapter were black, because the one Howling Griffon I'd seen with his helmet off was. There's probably some psychological name for that and it makes no sense if considered logically for even a few seconds, but it stuck in my head. It's very rare to see non-white Marines (yes except the Salamanders again) even though many, like the Dark Angels, recruit from several different planets- and anyway, the idea that everyone on a planet would be the same colour is pretty silly.

The other thing that's... interesting.. is the names of GW paints that are used for skin. As I mentioned earlier, the base colours I use for dark skin are either Rhinox Hide for the very darkest African black skin, or Mournfang Brown for a more Afro-Caribbean look. If you look on the GW website for 'flesh' paints, neither of them is there, and in fact all 13 paints are for white/ pink skin- though in fairness there's one called Bestigor Flesh so it's not like it's only the really dark colours that are named after monsters. Still, it does bother me a little effectively saying "I painted the light-skinned guys in the skin tone of the brave defenders of Cadia and the dark-skinned guys in the skin-tone of a big, angry beast".

Of course, while we're at it we could think about some of the Xenos races. We all know Tyranids come in all colours, and with Necrons it's basically a case of going for a re-spray, whilst Orks just get progressively darker green as they get 'arder, but for races like Eldar and Tau things are pretty vague. There certainly seem to be different mixes of blue and grey for Tau, but as for Eldar- have you ever seen a black Eldar? (Remember, if you're old enough, the shock of Tuvok, a black Vulcan, to some people) It makes some sense (ironically) for the Dark Eldar to be pale due to lack of sunlight, so should we expect Exodites to be darker?

I'm not going anywhere too profound with this, and certainly not suggesting anyone get cross about it all, but there's some interesting stuff there. It certainly seems the paint range could do with some paints named to suggest Asian (Cathyan Goldflesh?) or dark (Lustran Ebony?) skin tones (though of course Age of Sigmar killed both those names stone dead) which might help make people feel a little more included, but it's very much a first world problem. Still, something to think about next time you paint a squad of Guardsmen or Cultists, eh? 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Figure review- Creature Caster Spider Daemon

As promised a while ago, here's a quick look at my Spider Daemon who eventually arrived from Canada in the last few weeks of 2016. This one's a bit spicy, hence the rather nondescript part breakdown above that hopefully won't get anyone in trouble if it ends up popping up as a thumbnail!

Speaking of breakdowns, I think the creator of Creature Caster, Jeremy Glen, had a couple on the way to fulfilling this project, which in the end came in a couple of years late. Nonetheless, I'm not here to go on about the risks and pitfalls of backing Kickstarter projects, I'm here to talk about whether my sexy spider daemon was a sufficiently sexy spider daemon. (Spoilers: Yes)

As you can see from the picture above, the model came with a few spare parts. There was an extra head and sword (the unused head is on the left, the unused sword is the higher up of the two) as well as a little mascot figure (bottom left) which I used as a tester to see how much cleaning prep work was needed to make the paint stick. In the end, two fairly thorough washes with warm water and Fairy did the deed. There's also the large rock that serves as a base but is technically optional- though the pose of the model really requires it you could certainly have her standing on a wrecked dreadnought or part of a Knight, for example, and re-posing her to stand without it would be challenging but not impossible. I ended up sticking the rock to a 50mm GW base for 40k compatibility and more stability, though the model is fairly well-balanced with just the rock.

There were a few casting issues, most notably wit the legs and the upper part of the larger claw arms:

Here you can see the arm parts, with a pretty nasty mould line down the middle that looks like it might be the result of a slip. I was able to get rid of most of it with a knife, but it did leave a slightly distorted shape. Here are the legs:

Now that's a pair of really nasty lines, which were very tricky to hide and involved a little filling as well as filing. It's not easy to see here- in fact I'm not sure I noticed when I took these pictures- but there was also a problem with the claws at the back of the feet, at least one of which was hollow due to an air bubble.

I also had a minor issue with the torso:

There was far less going on here in terms of mould lines, and the piece was good and solid, but I felt some of the detail was a little soft. The nipples, in particular, were in some danger of vanishing when painted (which I think we can all agree would have been a disaster) since they really didn't stand out all that much from the breasts.

I had a spot of bother getting the model on to the rock- the attachment pegs didn't really both want to go into the receiving holes at the same time, and even when they did, they then prevented the claws from fitting into the small recesses in the rock provided for them. In the end, I cut the pegs off and used a little Green Stuff to add some more rock under the feet, which were quite happy to fit to the recesses but then stood a little clear of the rock itself for my tastes. I'm not sure how such a thing could have happened- nothing seemed bent or warped- but it was fairly simple to fix.

The rest of the model went together largely fine. There were no instructions, but the various pegs and fittings were well enough designed that it was easy to work out what went where by looking at the Kickstarter pictures. A little filling was required, especially on the leg joins, but overall the fit was decent. The various vents and sprue attachments were sensibly placed and avoided too much damage to detail when removed for the most part. Overall, the material was quite similar to the resin that Privateer call 'plastic', but possibly a little softer and more flexible, and it took superglue very nicely, meaning that with the good joins no pins were required.

Here's the final result, after painting in my Slaanesh scheme:

Click for larger view
I go into detail about the painting on my Deviantart page, but keeping with the review side of things it's worth mentioning here that the detail, whilst mostly good, does tend to flow rather than having clear areas to block in, which posed a few problems to me, an old-school brush painter. I think this model was probably designed with an airbrush in mind. There's also one hard line at the right hip (visible in the far right panel above) which I'm not at all sure should have been there. I thought it was detail during assembly, but it looked pretty odd during painting and I had to fudge it a bit.

Finally, lets have a size comparison shot, co-starring an unsuspecting pre-Heresy Dark Angel:

In his personal case, about two seconds before more Heresy than he can handle.
As you can see, she's a big one, and could probably pass for Zarakynel or an Exalted Keeper of Secrets in a pinch, though what's Monstrous and what's Gargantuan is a bit of a fuzzy area at the moment. 

To conclude then, this is a really exciting model (make of that what you will) that does present a few modelling challenges. I would hesitate to recommend it to a beginner, but it's certainly no harder to work with than most Forge World models. I have no idea if Creature Caster plans to actually sell this model as a production figure at some point, but I'm certainly glad I got her when I had the chance.

Would I back another Kickstarter from Creature Caster? Yes, if I liked one of the model concepts as much as I did this one. Hopefully with the contacts and experience gained through the course of this project the next would run closer to schedule, but all the same I certainly wouldn't want to back one with a particular date in mind. Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment, as the saying goes.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

The Inevitable Christmas Post

Happy Christmas to all my readers, or more accurately to all the Faeit 212 readers because let's be honest, the overlap is basically 100%.

If you're stuck for something to read whilst waiting for/ digesting that turkey, or whatever alternative you're trying out this year, might I direct you to the sidebar where you'll find an assortment of shorts and articles, both 40k related and otherwise. Of course if you need a chewier read and happen to get a Kindle or similar this year, there's always my book..

Going forward, once I can extricate my metaphorical feet from the equally metaphorical wet cement that is Let It Die, I'll be reviewing my new Creature Caster Spider Daemon, working on lots of new-old metal Daemonettes, and revisiting both my CSM and Sisters of Battle. I'm also working on a sequel to the book, so if you should happen to give it a look please let me know, the feedback is always encouraging!

Until next time, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all that jazz.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

About Time II- the sequel nobody asked for

Some time ago, I wrote a little think-piece on here about dumb time travel in fiction, calling out some of the more ridiculous things movies, books and games do with it that make absolutely no sense. Well, whilst I stand by every word of it, the offenders listed there do deserve an apology. It's not that they aren't dumb, it's that most of the others are too.

Oddly enough, what led me to this realisation is actually one of my favourite repeat offenders, the DC TV-verse. Without veering too far into spoiler territory, recent plots in the DC shows are revolving quite a lot around time travel, and one of the noted side-effects has been that a character who previously had a daughter now instead has a son. This development sent me down a rabbit hole of thinking that led to some pretty startling conclusions.

One quite common trope (I hate that word, but it's useful here) in time-travel stories is a character having to make sure that they get born. Maybe they stop someone killing one of their ancestors, or persuade their future parents to get back together after a breakup. This is usually presented as a pre-destination paradox- the result of an event (e.g. Marty) goes back in time and causes the event (e.g. Marty's parents getting busy). What isn't addressed is how incredibly, astronomically difficult that is. I'm going to do that really pretentious italicised quotes thing now, because I haven't done it before and it looks cool:

"I can't wait to get back to Deep Space 9 and see your face when you find out that I never existed!"
Julian Bashir, DS9, 'Trials and Tribble-ations'

Julian doesn't know the half of it. In 'Trials and Tribble-ations', a sub-plot features Bashir wondering if he's supposed to be his own great-grandfather. Leaving aside for a moment the effects a time-loop might have on genetic diversity, as a doctor Julian should know something very important, which most of these stories (with the notable exception, presumably by pure luck, of the DC shows) ignore. In order to make sure a baby 'A' is produced by parents 'B' and 'C', we don't just need  them to fall in love and produce a child- we need them to do it at exactly the right moment. 

"When your parents combined their DNA, the odds of them producing someone with your precise genetic pattern were ten million to one. Add in the odds of your parents meeting and bothering to procreate in the first place, and the odds of your existence are along the lines of drawing three straight Imperial Courts in an honest game of Vedran whist! If you overcame those odds once, who's to say you can't do it again? "
Tyr Anasazi, Andromeda, 'The Widening Gyre'

Now Tyr gets it, or most of it. As most of us know, the process of fertilisation involves millions of sperm attempting a Death Star Trench Run to be the first to reach and penetrate an egg. Unlike Rebel fighters, however, these things are constantly being created and re-absorbed by the body, and so every one is subtly different. Even the most minute change in circumstances might result in a different sperm remembering to use The Force and... ok, that metaphor has stretched past breaking point. Where I'm going with this is that even a few seconds difference in the time of conception will probably lead to a different resulting person. Of course, they'll be a very similar person in many respects, carrying most of the same genetic markers and so on, but even two 'identical' twins will generally go on to lead different lives. Our baby will be more like a brother or sister to the potential person who should have been born if our hapless time traveller hadn't spilt coffee in the lap of his great-grandfather and made him miss the train home. (Not actually 'our' baby, of course. I mean, I'm flattered, but I don't think of you that way.)

Once again, this whole thing probably comes under the heading of Thinking About It Too Much, but it's certainly an interesting thing to consider. So many stories revolve around the idea that time can take a certain amount of punishment and just bounce back as if nothing had happened, or maybe you come back to find your dog never died and now your uncle speaks Portugese, but as we've seen, go more than one generation and the chances that any of the same people even exist start to become pretty remote. It's probably the sort of thing that gets Richard Dawkins very excited and makes him write books that make Buddhists want to punch him. I feel a Nightwish segue coming on..

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

40k and White Wolf- a word of caution

Before anyone gets over-excited, this isn't some sort of rumour post about a tie-up between White Wolf, the legendary paper RPG makers, and Games Workshop. Rather, it's a look at how the fate of one might foreshadow the travails of the other.

Back in the day, when I used to do pen-and-paper roleplaying, there were several systems that were big with our gaming group, and few were bigger than White Wolf's "World of Darkness". To this day, my old gaming buddies and I can happily regale an unsuspecting victim with tales of the Vampire clans of the Camarilla and the anarchistic Sabbat, the tribes of the Garou and the various flavours of Mage, amongst other things. The Storyteller system, supported by a steady flow of sourcebooks, allowed players to take part in a struggle to decide the very fate of reality itself. Eventually, the story reached its own End Times, known variously as Gehenna, the Ascension, the Apocalypse and various others.

Of course, the thing with a story is once it's over, it's over. You can write a sequel, but if you basically end by destroying the world then the only option is reboot city. We've seen this recently with Age of Sigmar, and White Wolf did the same thing with the "New World of Darkness".

Now, I don't move in those circles any more, but from my perspective this reboot never really took off. Veterans didn't really appreciate all their knowledge of the setting becoming obsolete overnight, and new players were intimidated by the negativity from the older ones. These days, White Wolf are a shadow of their former selves who were recently bought out by the makers of Eve Online.

What does this have to do with 40k? Well, the Warhammer reboot was, I think we can agree, eventually fairly successful, especially once GW wised up and released the General's Handbook to add a points system. The thing was, though, that this was with a background of very low sales of Warhammer and a world that was largely stagnant and very derivative. 40k, on the other hand, is still for all its faults one of the best-selling and most famous sci-fi wargames in the world.

I've always said that one of the great strengths of the 40k setting is that massive battles and campaigns can be won and lost without the larger galaxy giving much of a damn. Entire star systems can be eaten by Tyranids, overrun by Orks, or lost to Chaos and there's still plenty more where that came from. It means players have a lot of room to tell their own stories and need not worry unduly that something official will come along and render them invalid. Recently, though, this has started to change. The threat against Baal, the desolation of Fenris, and now possibly even the destruction of the Cadian Gate are events too serious to ignore, and the rumours point to Chaos forces even reaching Holy Terra itself. But for me, this whole thing actually started with the Tau.

The thing with the Tau Empire is that, compared to most 40k factions, they're tiny. The Tau Sept Worlds are a mere postage-stamp in the galaxy, and the whole race could conceivably be wiped out by the Tyranids, Orks or even the Imperium if they got around to it in the space of one lost campaign. For all the talk of the Tau being a faction of hope- even the only 'good guys' in the galaxy- there's no scope in the setting for them to suffer a serious reverse. They're uniquely isolated in one place, they don't have that many worlds, and they have a lot of enemies. Put the Tau in a campaign and we know the worst they'll do is a stalemate because if they lose heavily, they're gone- and you can ask any old Squat player how that feels. This is really the first time that the huge 40k setting finds itself lacking space for stories.

Now we have Chaos possibly breaking through to Terra, Daemon Primarchs returning and Loyalist ones waking up or being rediscovered. Rumours point to Luther escaping The Rock, and the Eldar possibly creating Ynnead and defeating Slaanesh. Many of these events would have impact that the 40k setting, as it stands, cannot sustainably absorb. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Maybe the Black Crusade will be defeated at Terra and we'll enter a new Great Crusade, an age of progress and reconquest. Maybe the Emperor will die, and maybe be reborn, we just don't know. But the problem for me is that all of this picks away at that great strength of 40k- a setting that was too big, too awesome in scope and wide-ranging in timescale to be broken. We're seeing more galactically significant events in a decade or so than have occurred over the previous ten thousand years, and that begins to pick away at the foundation that makes 40k's world so compelling.

Perhaps I'm worrying over nothing. Perhaps if they break the galaxy this 40-something might decide to make a clean break with the whole thing. Maybe, since the galaxy is such a big place, I won't be missed. But the thing with big events is that they tend to make everything around them look small, and 'small' is never a word we want to see associated with the 40k galaxy.

But maybe a reboot is what the whole thing needs. Let's just hope it goes better than the White Wolf one.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Homebrew: Slaanesh Daemonkin

Having finally managed to get some play-testing in, my Slaanesh Daemonkin homebrew Codex is ready for prime-time! You can find it at the link there, or in the side-bar.

Rather than clutter up the rules with it, I'll take a moment to talk about the design philosophy and basically how it works here. Obviously, what we're going for here is 'Khorne Daemonkin, but Slaanesh' and the available unit roster reflects that. (The TL/DR version is 'everything in Khorne Daemonkin, but the Slaanesh version') That leads to some omissions, like Chosen, Havoks and most of the tanks, but I was very wary of trying to 'fix' Daemonkin by adding lots of stuff they don't usually get. In particular, Daemons don't get access to Rewards, which hurts quite a bit but was necessary for consistency. As with KDK you get the upside of being able to affect mortal units with Loci.

The core mechanic, as in KDK, is a tithe counter, which in this case is referred to as Excess. Since Slaanesh Daemons can use psykers and therefore have access to Summoning, it was important to make it a little harder for them to gain points, especially since the cap is at six, as opposed to eight. Slaanesh Daemonkin gain points through excitement and emotion, rather than from pure slaughter- in general, if you can pass Leadership tests or make your opponent fail, you gain points. This leads to some interesting decisions- wiping out a unit with shooting gets you nothing, but breaking it does, and losing combat can sometimes gain you a point where winning wouldn't.

So what can we do with Excess points? As with KDK, the first half of the table is buffs, and the latter half is summons. Due to the lack of space, there's a bit more flexibility in some of the summons than in KDK- the 6 result gets you either a Keeper or a Daemon Prince, with upgrades, for example. Since at present there's no way to get more than one result, there can be some tough decisions to make there.

I've also added a few Artefacts. One of them, the Song of Fears Remembered, helps get around Fearless enemies which otherwise would cause a bit of an issue, whilst the other two are just quite interesting and potentially useful.

Anyway, have a look, give it a try, let me know what you think!