Sunday, 14 May 2017

Dark Souls: Mr Smough's Embarrassing Problem

I've been working my way through the models in the Dark Souls board game, and as we can see Mr Smough here has a.. problem. We shall call it Hammer Droopitis.

Put it in the Big Book! Actually don't. Also (c) Disney because I don't need that sort of heat.
 It seems that the plastic poor Mr Smough is made of isn't quite capable of dealing with the weight of the massive hammer head, because an initial treatment with hot water only fixed the problem for a couple of days before The Droop returned. So stronger measures were required.

Sadly Mr Smough's 'partner', Mr Ornstein, was not supportive.
The first thing I did was to apply the hot water again and get the hammer shaft as straight as I could again. Once this had cooled and dried, I cut the hammer head off with a razor-saw as cleanly as possible:
Most of that flock is stuck to the mat, but I'll admit surgical hygiene left a bit to be desired 
The next step was to drill a hole as deep into both the hammer head and the shaft as possible. Into this I then pushed a suitable pin, for which I chose an old broken steel bit for the same drill since it wouldn't bend.

There's a hole in the head and a pin down the shaft and he's still standing. What intestinal fortitude!
Finally, after dry-fitting the whole thing and leaving it for a day or so to make sure The Droop had been banished, I glued the whole thing together again. Whilst due to the way Mr Smough is posed there's still a little curve, it seems quite a bit straighter and he seems much happier.

Is he smiling under there? I'm going to assume so.
To be fair to Steamforged, the Dark Souls models are meant to be good board game pieces as opposed to proper miniatures, so the somewhat soft material is understandable and makes them easier to transport. Just don't expect me to do this with those bendy arrows on the Silver Knights...

Monday, 17 April 2017

Lets talk about armour..

Once again, as the latest Raging Heroes TGG models filter through into general release, the ongoing debate about armour, especially that worn (or indeed, not worn) by female models has popped up. There's actually quite a lot to chew on here, not all of it related to gender, so this may ramble about a little. Buckle up! (This post is a little long, and quite image-heavy)

Let's start with the one that irritates me most and is conveniently most easily dealt with. Take a look at this:


Now let's be honest, that would be pretty dumb, and there's certainly no shortage of outfits on female characters in comics and to a lesser extent games that would probably only stay attached by magic or the most advanced sticky-tape known to science. Let's take a look at another nice example before we get to the boring talky bit.

This one's a particularly good illustration of why 'bikini armour' annoys people. At its worst, it's presented as having the protective qualities of field plate whilst having the coverage of O2 in the Outer Hebrides, which is clearly daft. Games, be they tabletop or virtual, where the same suit of armour looks like an entire ironmonger's on one gender, and three bits of tinfoil held together by twine on the other, are certainly asking to be ridiculed and deserve every last bit of it. Heck, I've even been a bit guilty of that one myself in the past, using some of the older, bulkier Witch Elves as Chaos Warriors of Khorne in my Valkia army. WFB/ AoS gives you a bit of an out in the form of Chaos Armour that has grown into the body and gone under the skin, but still, a 3+ save for a bikini is a bit cheeky (potentially in more ways than one.)

The thing is, though, there seems to be the prevailing idea that this.. supposed to be the same thing as this...

..which is pretty odd, when you remember that Sonja was inspired by the writings of the same person who gave us this guy:

Now we can go round and round as to whether being basically naked as a male barbarian and being every bit as naked as a female warrior is the same thing or not, but one thing I think we can probably agree on is that neither is exactly 'armoured'. The thing is that there's a pretty simple reason for this- both characters are basically adventurers, not soldiers. Both of them have plenty of battlefield experience, sure, but you can bet that if they see a battle coming they usually take time out to grab any armour that's available, as you might remember from the end of the classic 'Conan The Barbarian' movie. Once the battle is done, however, they usually discard or sell the armour and move on, and by happy random chance that Sonja pic gives us one of the reasons why that is- she's wading through a river. Now you can actually do quite a lot by way of running, jumping and even doing cartwheels in battlefield plate armour, as seen in many Youtube videos like this one...

..but one thing you won't be doing is swimming. An old friend of mine still tells the story of when his veteran Runequest character, resplendent in enchanted runic plate-mail and tower-shield, decided an entire raiding party of over 100 Orcs was a tad rich for his blood and attempted to elude them by swimming a river. Needless to say this ended poorly for him. Of course you could always take your armour off before trying something like that, or carry it about in a sack and only put it on when danger threatened, but with the really solid stuff you'd want on the front-line of a battlefield that's not really an option, and of course if you're a thief like Conan sneaking into the Tower of the Elephant to make off with the valuables, you're planning to be carrying a heavy sack out, not carrying one in on the off chance you run into a guard.

Of course the other thing with battlefield armour, especially in fantastical settings like 40k or AoS, is that its protective value only takes you so far. As any Dark Souls player will tell you, the ability to take a few sword blows without dying is very handy, but should that same armour lead to the dreaded Fat Roll when you try to dodge the jaws of an irate dragon all you've done is give the thing some intestinal discomfort when nature eventually takes its course. In 40k, sure that power armour is very nice, but if the enemy are pointing Grav weapons and plasma guns at you you'll be envying those Wyches as they Fleet their way into cover.

Games in general, and video games are particularly bad for this, are not fond of reflecting the negative effects of armour. Most games that let you swim let you do so in full plate with no penalty and wear helmets with no effect on your hearing or vision. The visibilty thing is particularly interesting- I've talked to people who actually wear medieval helmets who don't think it's a major issue, but then there's this quote from an interview with Nicola Adams on winning her first pro boxing match:

"I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it," Adams told BT Sport. "You can see a lot more without the headguard. I loved it. I'm here to stay."

Now that's very interesting, given that the headgear worn by Olympic boxers is completely open in the front and is designed mostly to protect the forehead and temples. I've never yet seen a game in which the effect of a helm on the wearer's peripheral vision is represented, though of course any game in which you see from a first-person view does limit it anyway. (There's a related discussion there on why third-person is in some ways a more 'realistic' viewpoint but that's for another time)

On a related note, it always amuses me in RPGs when people ask for a 'hide helmet' option (and I'm one of them, much of the time) and others say something along the lines of "you can't have the protection and not accept the consequences" in a game where characters can drink healing potions apparently straight through a full-face helmet without even stopping to open the visor.

So, I think we've covered why characters might wear little or no armour in games. How much skin that armour reveals is a matter of personal taste but if you're going to have barbarians in loincloths it stands to reason that their sisters-in-arms aren't going to be wearing a smock. Let's take a quick look at another common argument, the dreaded 'boobie armour'. 

Quite a few people have an issue with the look of Sisters of Battle, and the fact that, like most (but not all) armoured female miniatures, they have breasts on the armour:

To look at this firstly from a 40k perspective, the most common complaint is that this forms a Shot Trap, where a bullet or blast hitting the curved piece would deflect into a more vulnerable area. I've never been hugely convinced by this argument.

After all, if we look at this example, the shot would seem to be likely to be deflected right into the middle of the chest, where we would expect the protection to be thickest, or up towards the gorget and shoulder guards, or off to the side, or down to the legs, none of which have any big gaps. Interestingly, if we look at Astartes armour..

..we can see plenty of places where a shot can deflect off a curve into another part of the armour, most notably the curved chest plate which seems to want to guide a bullet under those chunky shoulder pads, or the inviting hollow at the gut. I was going to say at this point that the bottom line is that Power Armour will almost always have some shot traps and the breasts just move it a bit, but then I read this very interesting piece, where in the comments it's explained that in fact, the concept of a shot trap in modern tank armour is basically obsolete, since at the velocities the projectiles now travel at they either shatter on impact, lodge in place, or go straight through. Since power armour is basically tank armour on an infantryman (being made of Ceramite and providing a save against Autocannons, which are the closest thing in 40k to modern tank cannons) it seems we don't need to worry after all. As for how armour shape would effect weapons like Shuriken, las-blasts etc. your guess is as good as mine, but it seems to work better than Stormtrooper armour does. The bottom line seems to be that for good protection, everything needs to be covered in armour and both Astartes and SoB armour seem to have that, er, covered.

Of course everyone really, really should be wearing their helmets but the Emperor protects, and all that. (At least SoB hair looks like it would fit in the helmets, unlike the Sons of Russ...) 

So what about fantasy? What about this sort of thing?

Now, let's draw a very important distinction firstly, in that we're not talking about something like this:

That has obvious gaps all over the place and a blade sliding off it would go straight into something squishy. Interestingly that image comes from this article which raises a few relevant points and also illustrates that I don't have an editor and Kotaku does. No, what we're talking about here is whether an otherwise fine set of plate is compromised by boobie curves, which is a commonly made argument. In that Kotaku piece, the armour-smith says the design 'seems to guide a thrust straight to the heart' and we can certainly see that this is true. If you look at that other video so, so far above though, we see a sword-strike on a breastplate and it just bounces off- it doesn't deflect, it simply rebounds from the armour. If the armour is strong enough to resist a full-blooded impact from the attacking weapon, then it being 'guided' to centre body mass like this doesn't matter- in fact, you could reinforce that central area to compensate. Real plate armour, like this...

..was rarely defeated by the weapon puncturing the metal, but by it entering a join, which is why there are so many overlapping plates. The idea that a thrusting weapon like a Rapier or Estoc would be able to go straight through the breastplate simply because a 'trap' prevented it sliding off seems fanciful.

Now of course 'boobie armour' is not in any way historical. In the era when plate armour was common, women on the battlefield as warriors were basically unheard of, and one of the rare examples we do know of seems to have worn fairly standard armour:

Good old Joan of Arc there, who was also the inspiration for Bretonnia's Repanse de Lyonesse (and wears basically this armour on that model) Also, between the armour and the person it's protecting would usually be leather and/or a cloth gambeson, to absorb the impact of blows (and prevent chafing, especially if you had mail in there too), so whilst some adjustments might be needed for the comfort of the bustier lady (as seen with modern police stab-vests) you wouldn't necessarily actually need breasts on the armour. However, armour certainly was made to show off the... virility of the wearer:

That's Henry VIII's armour, on display in the Tower of London, and as we can see Henry Jr was provided with generous accommodations. It's certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility that were a warrior queen to take to the battlefield in armour, it might have been similarly exaggerated, even if the breasts on the armour actually didn't have their fleshly counterparts in them at all.

What I'd like to find, and so far Youtube is coming up blank on this, is a proper test of such 'feminised' plate armour versus various weapons, compared to the performance of the more historically accurate stuff. The expense of making this sort of thing only to then wreck it is obviously a factor- I talked to a lady a year or so a ago who was having a suit made, and so far she had an arm and a gauntlet after a years saving.

So here's my bottom line, at least for now- ultimately everyone has their boundary for what's 'ridiculous'. You might find SoB armour silly but have no problem with an Astartes with shoulder pads so big they'd crush his head if he shrugged, and that's fine. But it really comes down far more to your personal taste than to some slam-dunk of 'practicality'.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Wheel of Fortune- keeping it random

Random Allocation, and similar rules, are the sort of thing that can really blindside you when playing 40k. The Wrath of Magnus. for example, has a Warpstorm result where you have to pick a random model with the Daemon rule, which might well be a single model from an army of 100 or more eligible candidates. Let's have a look at how to handle it.

Random Allocation

To look first at Random Allocation itself, where we simply have to pick a random model in a unit to take a Wound, we find the 40k rulebook is not much help, simply telling us to pick the model 'at random'. So how can we do this?

Firstly, we can just let a dice sort it out. This seems simple, and sometimes is, but has its problems. In the ideal case where a unit is exactly six strong and standing in a line, the humble D6 rides to our rescue. If there are more or less than six models, though, it might help to have a bag of old-school RPG dice- D4, D10s, D12s or even D20s. Even then, you probably won't have the exact right dice, but most gamers will handle this by rolling, say, a D10 for a 9-man squad and just re-rolling a 10. There are a couple of pitfalls to beware of, though. Firstly, and this is what we might call rookie mistake #1, never roll multiple dice at once for this- say by rolling 2D6 to pick between models in a unit of 12. If I have to explain why, you've probably not been doing this very long but suffice it to say that whichever model got assigned '7' will be getting pretty nervous.

Hint #2- he's in the middle of this.
The other, potentially more subtle problem is that models rarely line up nicely in the middle of a game. In a mass of models it can be hard to assign a number to each model, and harder still to remain consistent without causing arguments, such as when that d10 comes up 6 and you're sure that 6 was the meltagun guy, but the other player swears blind that 6 was the bolter chap standing next to him.

My preferred method with Random Allocation is to do just that- simply reach into the squad without looking too hard and grabbing the first model to hand. This has the advantage of speed, but obviously is too open to abuse to be used in tournaments or other situations where player trust might be a little lacking. Some rules, like Mob Rule, imply a 'fluffy' source for the damage, such as allocating wounds from Breaking 'Eads to the nearest Boyz to the Nob, or removing the runtiest Ladz in a Squabble, but again these can hardly be used in a tournament.

The Chop

So, here's an alternative method, which comes to us from the world of computer programming. Basically, the Chop relies on splitting a set of data in two, and then picking the most desirable of the two remaining sets. So for example, to randomly pick a model in a squad you draw a line through the middle and flip a coin, or roll a D6 (1-3 left, 4-6 right). You then halve the selected models again, and roll again. Obviously this will often mean one 'half' is one model bigger than the other, but overall this should even out. Eventually you end up with a single lucky (or unlucky) winner, and since both players can clearly see what's going on, it's less likely that confusion will result.

The Chop principle can also be used in other random situations. For example, if we have to pick a single random model on the table, we can simply split the table down the middle and roll to pick one half or the other. Then we split that half, and roll again. This will start to zero in on a single location pretty fast, even in an Apocalypse game, and of course once a zone holds only a few models we can easily use a more traditional method to make the final selection- the Chop's principle advantage is how fast it handles large amounts of data, rather than in efficiency at the end.

We can even use the Chop on other random events, like Weapon Destroyed results, by zoning the tank's hull into port and starboard or fore and aft, though usually this can be handled with a single roll.

There are probably other ways of randomly selecting, but these are my thoughts on the matter. Let me know your preferred method in the comments, if you feel the urge...

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Logan, and what the critics miss...

First off, whilst I'm not going far into spoiler territory here, this will work better if you've seen 'Logan'. Enter at your own risk....

Many critics are calling 'Logan' the best X-men movie ever, some even call it the best superhero movie ever- which in critical circles is admittedly like awarding the prize for 'Tallest Midget' or 'Most comfortable Thai Prison' but praise is praise. I'm not going to tell them they're wrong on that, since it's a subjective opinion and anyway, Logan is damn good. You're probably going to have more fun with 'Deadpool', but that's not always the end goal. My own mini-review is simply to say yes, it's damn good, it's certainly moving, and frankly it's refreshing to see Logan's savagery accurately represented for once. It makes you appreciate what the more clean-cut X-men were dealing with all those years.

That last thought brings me on to my topic, something which has irked me about reviews of... well let's call them 'superhero movies' for now. I like to live by the maxim 'a person is about as big as the things that make them angry' so I've got no further than irked, or on occasion miffed, but still, miffed I am.

Many of the critics came out of 'Logan' expressing surprise at how much they were moved by it. In part, of course, this is due to Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart being two of the best actors in the X series, but I think there's more to it than that. You see, we've grown up with these characters- we've seen a young, optimistic Xavier found his X-men, seen Logan struggle with his past, lost loves and old sins. We've seen them defeat terrible threats, mourn loss, and even re-write the future, and now, finally, we see the inevitable end of their path. 'Logan' isn't just a strong story in it's own right, it's a pretty hard full stop at the end of a longer story. Not every chapter of that story was exactly stellar, but all of it informs our feelings for the characters.

So why am I irked? Well, read a review of any of the MCU movies, once the critics had got over the initial shock of the first Iron Man being as good as it was, and some hack will eventually come out with the complaint that 'it would be a better movie if it wasn't busy setting up the next one'. To call this complaint dumb is to describe the Mariana Trench as 'sort of low, and a bit damp'. Movies are still catching up with TV in this respect, but we've come far beyond the days where a story was simply contained within one film. Game of Thrones 'Red Wedding' works because of what comes before it- sure, you could make a decent short film out of a similar idea, but it would lack the punch. Babylon 5 spent two whole seasons carefully building to the events of its third and fourth and the result was a show still held up in high regard some twenty years later, even with sets made of cardboard and polystyrene and effects by an Amiga.

Personally, I found 'Captain America: Civil War' a very tough film to re-watch because for all of the entertaining action, the emotional conflict is pretty painful. All the talk of 'Team Stark' or 'Team Cap' misses the point completely because ultimately these people are on the same side- and we know this because of the ten or so films before. When Steve and Tony are split apart again just as they seemed to be reconciling, it's a gut-punch with twenty hours of windup behind it, and that's what makes it hurt.

It's fair to say that the X-movies have struggled to match the core MCU in terms of consistency, but it's hard to argue that with 'Logan' they didn't stick the landing. This sort of long-form storytelling is tough, and right now many others are trying to emulate it with varying degrees of success. The bottom line is that in this new age, the story doesn't necessarily end when the credits roll- there's often another 'after' that follows the Happily Ever one and it might not be so happy after all.

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.