Sunday, 23 February 2014

Magnetising the 'Dark Nephilim'...

Greetings Wargamers and Hobbyists, and welcome to the workshop...don't stand too close to the 'Fission Powered Magnatron', it might just drag all of the iron in your body out through your nostrils...

It has been said on more than one occasion that I talk too much, and the looks I get from my darling wife are pretty unequivocal in letting me know when I have talked for too long about 'hobby stuff', which she herself has a very limited interest in. Today, I would like to show you some actual modelling, as evidence that I do occasionally do more than just talk about the hobby. Sorry if it turns out to be a little bit of a long post, but I hope it's useful someone.

In recent months, since Games Workshop began releasing some truly magnificent large 'dual kits', which for the uninitiated are kits that use a common base to build one of two distinct models, I have picked up two: the Mortis Engine/Coven Throne, a fantastic centrepiece kit for my Vampire Counts Warhammer army, and the Dark Talon/Nephilim Jet fighter kit; a flyer for the Dark Angels Space Marines which allows you to build either a ground attack craft toting some very rare and unusual weaponry (the Dark Talon), and the Nephilim Jet fighter (a superiority fighter with some fearsome anti-infantry firepower as well as being geared up for taking on opposing flyers).

I will state here and now that I am not going to get into a discussion about how effective the Nephilim and Dark Talon are in the game, just that I love the model and both the build options, and that as an obstinate sort of guy, I intend to use both in games as the mood takes me and the opportunity presents itself.

With that out of the way, I'll run quickly through the boring bits so I can then focus on the important bit: the magnetising.

Now you don't need me to tell you about the basics of putting a kit together from cellophane wrapped box to the end of the printed instructions, which from Games Workshop are generally pretty clear and easy to follow, but for completeness:

Clip all of the bits carefully off the sprues. (I know some people prefer to paint 'on sprue' and then assemble, but that's not how I roll. I can just see myself hunting round the edges of each and every piece looking for the 'clipping points' and having to paint them after everything else, so what's the point? Just my preference.

Spend time filing and scraping all the bits, to make sure that everything fits together snugly and you don't end up with a load of visible mould lines when it comes to painting.

Next, have a look at the instructions and work out which bits of the kit are common to both build options, which should be clear from the instructions because they kinda split into two once you start tailoring the kit in one direction or the other, and assemble as far as the 'common build' element is complete in whatever way you typically prefer. I just use super glue, because I find it quicker and easier to rectify mistakes or detach pieces for ease of painting.

Next comes the fun part...playing with magnets.


Before I continue, there are a few things that I couldn't have done the magnetising without, or at least made life much easier:
A pin vice and drill bit that was the same diameter as my magnets
Modelling putty
Super glue
Rare earth magnets. The are various sizes, but I am using 2mm x 2mm

A quick word about magnets

This may or may not be obvious depending on how much experience you have had with rare earth magents. I have releativly little experience with then, so I'll say it. The magnets will only attract if they are positioned the correct way around. If they aren't, they will repel, and nothing will stay in place. I don't say this to be condescending, I say it because the magents we are working with at small and fiddly and have a life of their own.

It can be hard work handling them and fitting them a particular way around without them flipping round on you, but it is important to get it right. It's easy to work out which way you need to fit a magnet because they will stick. Transferring just one to the model and fixing it in place is the hard part.

Getting Organised

By this point, I had a mostly assembled aircraft, and the bits I needed to sort out and make interchangeable were:

Two tail fin variants
Forward mounted Heavy Bolters/Sensor plates
Under-wing Hurricane Bolters/Black Sword Missiles
Three different nose mounted guns
Stasis Chamber sides/Nephilim sensors
Stasis Chamber top/Nephilim top
Hurricane Bolter ammo feed covers/Dark Talon maneouvering thrusters

Here are some pics of the bits that were magnetised so you can see them all in one place, and so you can refer back, rather than flooding the article with photos.

Easy Peasy

So, let's get a head start with a couple of easy items. The tail fins fit into a slot mounted on the top of the tail tightly enough to just pop them in and out without the need to fix them in any more secure way. Ditto the front mounted Heavy Bolters and Sensor plates, which fit snugly into a recess without the need for magnetising. You could magnetise them, but I felt this wasn't necessary and I had more than enough to think about without making work for myself.

Stasis Chamber/Nephelim top

So, the first magnets I fitted were for the top plates for the Stasis Chamber/Nephelim top. To position the magnets, I identified a common point on each of the top plates and the main aircraft body where I could position the magnets. I did quite a bit of checking that the magnet positions would line up before I fixed them in place, because having magnets that don't line up correctly makes the pieces less likely to sit in the right place.

I found that I needed to position the magnet in the main aircraft body where there was essentially just a space, so I used a trick I picked up from my Mortis Engine build: I rolled up some green stuff, stuck it to the inside of the craft, then pushed the first magnet into it until it sat flush with the point where the top plate would meet it. I then fitted magnets to both the top plates. I was able to drill a hole in the Stasis Chamber plate and just push the magnet tight into the hole, but the plate for the Nephilim configuration needed another 'green stuff nest'.

With the push fit magnets a lot depends on how well your drill bit size matches the magnet diameter. Mine was spot on so I didn't need to glue them in place at all. If your hole is a tiny bit big, you may need to glue the magnets in place or use some modelling putty to fill the hole and then push the magnets into that to get a solid fit.

Stasis Chamber side plates & Nephilim Sensors

Thankfully these were easy to do as well. On the backs of each of the four pieces to have magnets fitted, there is a raised locating shape that slots into the main body of the aircraft in a corresponding slot. All I needed to do was drill and fit a magnet in the centre of the locating recess on the aircraft, and then in the centre of the corresponding locating point on the Chamber sides and sensors. The Chamber sides were a 'drill and push' job, and the sensors were a 'fill with green stuff and push' job.

Nose mounted guns

There are three options for guns that fit into the nose mounting point: the Rift Cannon for the Dark Talon, and the Avenger Cannon & Lascannons for the Nephilim. The Lascannon and Avenger Cannon will push fit tightly into the mounting recess, so I found no need to magnetise these.

The Rift Cannon however was more involved, as the piece rests on the front of the mount on a lip, rather than pushing right in like the other two. In addition, there is nowhere inside the mounting point to fit a magnet, just a hole. I rolled up some more green stuff, and used that to fill the hole in the nose mount, pushing it down far enough so that it didn't prevent the Lascannons and Avenger Cannon from being pushed right back inside, and pushed a magnet into it.

Next, as the Rift Cannon doesn't push down into the recess, I had to create a 'mounting column' on the back of the cannon and push a magnet into that, so that the two magnets would actually be able to contact each other when fitted in place. Job done.

Thrusters/ammo cover plates

Here is a bit that took a little thinking about. The thrusters for the Dark Talon build themselves were easy and enjoyable to do because setting them was so straight forward: a hole drilled in the centre of each thruster recess, and a corresponding magnet in the back of each thruster, all of which pushed in tight, no problem.

The ammo cover plates for the Nephilim however are one of the reasons I put this build off for quite a while until I figured out how to do a few things. Because the thruster mounting points all point out at an angle, there is no obvious point where you can mount magnets for the ammo cover; the pieces don't have sufficent contact points, apart from the lip around the edge of the ammo plate where the glue would go if you where fixing them in place.

In the end, I knew I wanted to use two of the four thruster magnets to mount the ammo covers onto, so I used a small ball of green stuff, stuck it to the top end of the back of the ammo cover, and then pressed it down into the recess, so that the green stuff took the shape of the angled thruster mounting point. I wet the green stuff first so it wouldn't stick to the thruster mount. This gave me a mounting point on the back of the ammo cover which matched the shape of the thruster mount where I had fitted the magnets. All I did then was push magnets into the rounded shape in the green stuff, et voila, job done.

Underwing Hurricane Bolters and Missiles - last bit!

This one worked pretty much the same as the nose mounted guns. There was an open recess in the mounting point, with nowhere to mount any magnets, so it was another case of shoving some green stuff inside to create a mounting point for the magnets and pushing one into the centre. I then did a 'drill and push' magnet fit on the back of the Bolter plate, but for the Missile plates, the hole that already exists in the middle of the back of the plate (the reverse of the central missile moulding) is too big for the magnets, so I needed fill the hole with more green stiff and push the magnet into that.

Setting time

One thing I have fund with rare earth magnets green stuff is that the magnets are so strong that until the green stuff has set, another magnet can pull the magnet out of the putty or yank it out of position, spoiling your work positioning the magnets. Once you have finished positioning all the putty mounted magnets, they will all need to sign over night to set, before you can attach and separate them to your hearts content. 

Once the green stuff has set, if a magnet does work loose you can just super glue it back in place - making sure it's the right way round of course! You don't want to have to cut a magnet out of the green stuff and have to re-mount it.

I think that's everything. Except one bit; I haven't yet decided what to do about the Stasis Bomb for the Dark Talon, but I think I'll have to mount a magnet in the ridged mounting point on the missile and the corresponding slot on the aircraft body, because there really is nowhere else to put it!

Nephilim top

Nephilim underside

Dark Talon top

Dark Talon underside

I hope some of you have found this post useful. I am happy with the results, and am now ready to get this sucker painted. If anyone has any questions about this project, feel free to drop me a comment and I'll send if I can help.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

P.S. finally decided how to attach the Talon's Stasis Bomb...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Forging the Narrative...#3

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists and welcome again to the War Room. We seem to be spending rather a lot of time in here lately...

Part three of my intermittent 'Forging the Narrative' series on Campaigns and my efforts to muddle through their planning and execution. This time around, I would like to talk about another element that needs to be clarified in order to allow your plans for war to progress. Two things I think you really need to know about are:
  • The Factions that will be taking part
  • The use of Alliances

Now I believe that these two points are important to get clear early on because they will impact the kind of games that will be played as part of the campaign, and the structure you will need to put in place to support them. Let's go into a little more detail about each of these areas:


A key point to work out before you can do, well, pretty much anything really as far as I am concerned, is to work out who will be taking part in your campaign, and what armies they intend to use. I find it is easier to formulate a plan and a backstory once this information is known, because otherwise you either have to come up with a very broad and generic plot idea, or you will end up having to shoe-horn armies into the plot in ways that you struggle to be convinced by yourself, let alone the players that have to play out the story.

So, question one - who is playing, and what armies are they using? If players have their own army fluff or character names worked out, this can be worked into the story, and saves you having to come up with this yourself. It also adds greatly to the players sense that their own army is developing organically and coming to life, developing it's own history based on games played rather than pure concoction.

Knowing how many players you have taking part and which armies will be represented also allows you to judge whether the armies can be allowed to operate individually, or whether you will need to group them into appropriate factions to make the narrative development and game planning more manageable.

It also gives you a chance to let the players know if the balance of armies is at all out of kilter, and let them decide if they want to rethink which army they intend to field. Heaven knows a campaign where 80% of the armies are Tau and the rest are Orks might be challenging to say the least.

I think this is one thing that caused me difficulties in the campaign I tried to run last year - for a narrative campaign there were too many individual armies roaming around and doing their own thing, and it got too complicated to organise and keep the plot straight. If it had been a straight forward map based campaign, this wouldn't have mattered so much because the plot matters less after the campaign begins, but there would have to have been a far broader supporting story, because in a map based campaign players pretty much move where they like rather than where the organiser wants them to.

 So, I advise you to try and get clear in advance how many players you have taking part and with which forces.


So, you know who is playing, and what armies will be marching to war and causing havoc. So what happens if you have players that have smaller armies than the standard size for games in your group, perhaps because they are in the process of building up an army, or you want to play some bigger games for some scenarios? Well one option is to use 'Alliances' to even things up a bit.

Quite simply, you can allow two or more players to ally for larger games, which gives you options for playing special battles at key points in a campaign, gaming events in themselves which require a little more work to arrange perhaps due to the need for a larger table, more scenery, and of course more time to play the game out, but well worth it for the spectacle and the excitement. The back stories associated with many games systems are littered with tales of alliances, pacts, oath breaking and betrayals, and sometimes you can find inspiration for your own games in those stories.

There is also another practical benefit of using alliances which takes the use of factions a step further. It is always going to be far simpler to plan, drive and complete a campaign with two opposing alliances comprised of multiple armies and factions, than to try and run a campaign involving several autonamous armies, all with their own agendas. 

If you have many players wishing to take part, it may be a good option to consider creating two alliances and save potential headaches later on, like players inadvertantly being ganged up on, or one player running away with the campaign too early on and taking the fun out of it.

If you really want to play a campaign with lots of individual players and armies all going their own way, you might like to go with a structured map based campaign rather than one with a narrative you want to play out to the bitter end...

Next time, think I'll be getting into the part of the campaign planning that can be the most fun, but also give you the most problems to solve...the games!

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Here is a photo of the progress I have made on the Hasslefree models I was painting. I expect to have these completed within another hour or two. I think I'll try and black and white check pattern floor for the bases. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Pack Your Bags: Sprue Cutters Union #28

Greetings Wargamers and Hobbyists, and welcome to the ‘Wanderium’. This rather large hall is where all of our travels are recorded; upon the immense spinning globe...see all the pretty little lights? That small cluster of lights, right there, are the ones we are going to talk about today, as this week, the Sprue Cutters Union members have been asked...

- How far are you willing to travel for this hobby? -

To answer this question fully, I am choosing to categorise my hobby-travels into two areas: planned hobby related travel, and un-planned hobby travel.

My planned hobby travels could be considered both impressive and unimpressive in equal measure. I can't really answer the question in terms of whether I am prepared to travel great distances across deserts, mountains and rolling oceans, because I have never had to. The key events in the Games Workshop hobby calendar for non-tournament gamers are the events at Warhammer World, and Games Day. Warhammer World is in Nottingham, on the south side to boot, which makes it around a forty five minute drive for me to get there. Games Day takes place on the near side of Birmingham at the NEC/NIA (National Exhibition Centre/National Indoor Arena) site, which can't be more than an hour away.

So, impressive in that I basically live in the centre of a fairly major and vibrant gaming area, with some sites of Games Workshop related international pilgrimage within easy (Deep) striking distance, and unimpressive because I have never had to travel all that far to an event. Even the odd forum meet-up I have attended has typically taken place at Warhammer World, because it's a great place to visit and play games, but is also central in the country.

So, to add more interest, let’s have a quick look at 'accidental' international hobby visits.

I am very fortunate to have been able to travel fairly broadly with my wife before our son was born, and during our travels I have 'stumbled' across both Games Workshop stores and indepedent hobby shops in some far flung places. We have sometimes come across stores where I was fairly confident they would be, because we were in a country with a sizeable gaming community and in a major retail area, and at other times rounded a corner to be greeted with a splendid gaming store where I wasn't thinking at all about hobby, along with groans of 'here we go again' from my long suffering wife.

For example, I once bought a Space Marine Strike Cruiser model for Games Workshop's Battlefleet Gothic in a Games Workshop store in Toronto, Canada, where my wife (girlfriend at the time) insisted I buy something, just because of the novelty of being abroad in a Games Workshop store - you can see why I married her of course!

A more unexpected incident occurred in a shopping centre in Penang, off the coast of Malaysia, where whilst out for a walk and browsing the shops, we stumbled upon a games shop which also sold Games Workshop products! Imagine how pleased I was when I was able to purchase the Warhammer 40,000 4th Edition Rulebook in such a place. It gave me something great to read during the remainder of the holiday, and was probably at a discount compared to UK prices to boot!

So there you are. If you are prepared to accept these accidental hobby related purchases made in far flung places, then I have travelled some considerable distance and still had the hobby in mind, even if it wasn't planned. If you are not prepared to accept that, and prefer instead to cry 'cop-out! that's not a hobby trip!', then I say this. I live within an hour's drive of both the Games Day venue and Warhammer World. I'll let that sink in, until next time...

If you would like to read more on this same topic from a variety of viewpoints, please check out the links that other Union Members will be posting in the Topic Hub over on The Combat Workshop. Usually I would be posting links directly to those posts here too, but this week I am first to post!

Topic Hub

Finally, if you would like to consider joining the Sprue Cutters Union (#spruecutters), then check out this link for more details. All you need is a blog of your own, and a passion for miniature modelling.

Thanks for reading...

P.S. there will be pics this week! I'm just typing much faster than I'm painting at the moment...

Monday, 10 February 2014

Forging the Narrative...#2

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome once more to the War Room for the second part of this sporadic emission, which serves as a vent for my musings on campaigning in the miniature wargaming hobby.

After considering in part one what a campaign needs to be like in order to garner and maintain interest from participating players, for part two I would like to consider some of the first practical decisions that have to be made when planning the campaign itself.

For me, a good campaign needs a strong theme or narrative (after all, 'Forging the Narrative' is the name of the game these days), and this means that there needs to be an engaging story running through the whole thing, like letters running through a stick of rock. The question is, do you want the campaign to follow a set plot path through from beginning to end, or do you create a back story that leads the participants to the threshold, and then let the story develop naturally as the armies battle it out and attempt to achieve whatever objectives they have been set?

Each of the possible routes is perfectly valid, but the decision you have to make is whether you want the story to play out as you envisaged, ensuring the climactic final confrontation you originally planned, or whether you are happy to let the participants play out the rest of the story naturally, come what may as far as the story is concerned.

The ways that each of these options could work out are numerous. For example, when letting the players dictate the outcome, in a map based campaign the story that develops will be driven by the actions of the armies on the map, and where they choose to move, expand their empires, and engage their enemies. You might be playing a campaign that, instead of a map, allows players to choose the scenario to play next, and who against, which gives them a good degree of control over match ups and how the plot develops.

If you want to take more of a hand in pushing the story in the direction you want, you might have a map campaign or a narrative campaign with a pre-determined route that the armies battle down on order to reach the destination at which they will face their final battle. An example of this might be the Storm of Chaos Campaign (ooo, my favourite!), that Games Workshop ran what seems like an age ago now, which was played in stages, each one bringing Archaon and his horde closer to their prize - Middenheim, the City of the White Wolf.

So, I guess that's the simple question: do you as the organiser want the players to play out the story you have decided on, ensuring that you can plan a suitable finale? Or do you allow the players to take a greater role in determining the direction that the story takes, and risk losing the strong theme among all the strategic moves, avoidance tactics and power play that can ensue?

The answer to this question comes with the answer to another question: What do your players want? Do they want to be told what is happening around them, where they are going and who they have to fight, or do they prefer more autonomy, and a greater feeling that their actions are having a wider impact on the campaign?

In our own Club Campaign - ably run by Nick, with just a little input from myself - the Warhammer 40,000 Campaign that we are playing through has a simple structure, with some embellishments to allow the players a sense of involvement, but ultimately is dictated by the choice of scenarios and supporting story that we have put in place, and I think that we have found a good balance. Above all, it is still relatively simple to play out, once all the planning is done and ready to rip. 

The campaign has been laid out in three stages and at each stage, each of the players (eight players divided into two teams) play a battle against an unknown opponent (players are allocated their scenarios by their ‘Supreme Commander’), with the final stage being a grand finale. In the final showdown, tactical bonuses are awarded to each side depending on which battles they won earlier in the campaign, making their lives easier or more difficult depending on how they got on.

The clarity of knowing that the campaign will be completed in just three gaming sessions is a great way to ensure participation, maintain interest, and assures players that there will be a satisfying conclusion without it dragging on for months. Petering out into nothingness is probably the biggest threat to any campaign, so I think that starting simply and clearly is best. Let more involved and complicated campaigns come with time and experience, as players and organisers get a more developed idea of what they want, what works and what doesn’t in their gaming group.

This is probably a nice place to stop, as the next thing I want to talk about is 'factions and alliances', which raises more questions about simplicity VS drama and plot.

Until next time, thanks for reading...

P.S. Still no real progress, but got the three mini's undercoated. Soon.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

We're being tracked...

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome to the jungle...ssshh! We're being tracked...

Having been in this hobby for a fair while, but even more so since the advent of the internet, Blog-iverse, Facebook and Twittersphere, if there is one thing that I think gamers, miniature modellers and hobbyists have in common is that we seem to like to track things.

Now I'm not talking about furry quadrupeds in idyllic woodland, I mean projects, gaming, modelling, painting etc. I'm not entirely sure why we do it, but I expect we have an in-built need to organise, catalogue, record and analyse information, it's hard wired into the kind of people we (or most of us) are, and when it's something that plays a significant part in our lives, like our hobby, then it can become something verging on the obsessive.

It seems that not only do we have this need to track hobby related data, we also seem to want to share that information with the world, which can sometimes be a double edged sword. Some people post regularly in a Works in Progress forum thread, others post simple lists of stats in our forum signatures, others still dedicate entire blog posts to it, and a tiny minority talk about it on their podcasts.

So, what kind of hobby related information do we track?

Look to the lists...

I guess the obvious one, but one that people probably don't even realise is a form of tracking, is when gamers keep a roster of their assembled army, and this of course tracks the size of their army as they add models to it (which we  need to know in order to be able to agree a size of game to play), and it makes choosing army far easier, because we can take units from our 'standard roster' to form our army to the agreed points total. I keep complete rosters for each of my armies, gangs, fleets, teams etc, so I know both what I have, and the size of game this will allow me to play. Some people like to list each of the armies they collect and their size in points in their forum signatures.

Recruiting and Deployment...

Next, Recruiting and Deployment, which you good people may know better as 'models bought' and 'models painted'. These two things show us and everyone else for that matter, how many models we have added to our collections during the given time period (typically 'this year'), and how many models we have painted. These painted models aren't necessarily the same models as the ones we have bought, but a comparison of the two figures gives us an idea of how well or poorly we are doing in the personal war we fight against bare plastic.

I started recording my own 'bought and painted' stats in my forum signature over on Astronomican at the start of 2012, but that's also the time I decided to trade away and sell all of my old Epic models - a considerable quantity of stuff - which I then used to fund the purchase of a sizeable Ogre Kingdoms army. Quite simply, I traded and sold a lot of models I wasn't using and had little prospect of coming back to finance a load of models that I would use.

Unfortunately, this totally skewed my 'bought vs painted' record, as 'bought' seemed to spiral and painted stayed stagnated, because I was spending my time doing modelling work, assembly work and generally organising the trades and sales and all the incoming miniatures. Well worth it though. I've started again this year. Let's see how I get on...

Role of Honour... other words, 'Games Played'. Some people like to keep a record of the games they have played. Sometimes it's as simple as that he figure, how many games they have played this year, but it can go much further than that. A common record shows how many Wins, Defeats and Draws a player has earned, which can be a fun little stat or a stick to beat ourselves with, depending on how well we are doing and how seriously we take our gaming results.

For my own record, I found it interesting to keep a record which goes back to the point where I joined the MAD Wargames club that I attend regularly. It shows what games system was played, what size of game, what the victory conditions were, who the game was against, the result, and a couple of sentences about the game itself, which typically I use to remind myself where I went wrong. Gamers often say we learn more from our defeats than our victories, and this is where I try to record those nuggets of wisdom. The stats are also interesting because I can break them down by opponent, game system, army and victories vs defeats to see who I play well against, and who I get flattened by, and whether there are some armies I do better or worse with or against.

The thing about game result tracking, is that sometimes our results are being tracked by others as well. In a 40K campaign, or Blood Bowl League for example, it's important to track results in order to asses who is winning and by how much. In fact, games that include 'character development', like Blood Bowl, Necromunda, Mordheim, Warhammer Quest and innumerable other games and RPG's require a detailed level of tracking to be maintained just to enable us to play.

Finally, the most obvious and most talked about form of game result tracking is that which relates to tournaments and competitive events, whether points awarded for painting, or results from games, you can't have a tournament winner - in fact a tournament probably can't progress beyond the opening stages - without tracking the results of the games the participants have played, as the results can determine who a participant plays next, and ultimately who the winner of the event is. These results can then go even further to determine who is eligible to take part in other events, like Masters tournaments and international events, and even who the  current top player in a country is, or even just the most successful player in your own garage.

So, if you partake in any of these tracking activities, and someone asks you, 'do you have an analytical mind', you can answer 'yeah, in a manner of speaking...'

If you track gaming related info, why not drop in a comment about it, especially if it's something I haven't mentioned.

Thanks for reading...

P.S. their is no P.S. pic today, because I've been on a bit of a posting spree this weekend, and haven't had a chance to do any hobby, but I have made progress on DIY in the this space.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Visions of Terror - Further Thoughts on White Dwarf

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome to the boiler room...this is where the furnace that fires the boiler that heats the water that travels through the pipes that travel all the way through the manse that keep the whole place nice and toasty when there is frost on the ground and teeth in the biting wind it located.

I'm thinking...

Following on from my previous post on the subject, I have now read right through Warhammer Visions. Bearing in mind that as a subscription holder, this is what will be replacing my traditional monthly White Dwarf magazine, and having given up looking for secret extra pages and hidden articles in some pictorial code language, I am thinking dark and unfortunate thoughts.

Lots of people have said plenty about the changes made to White Dwarf, how that affects subscription holder and non-holders alike, and what that leaves us with at the end of all things. I personally have only rarely been one to criticize Games Workshop or White Dwarf, except occasionally on pricing and the odd clanger of a model, which being fair are typically few and far between. I'm a bit of a Games Workshop Fanboy you might say, but late on this week I came to simple realisation about how I judge my White Dwarf Magazine.

I have a veritable library of White Dwarf magazines going back years, and have had a subscription for probably close to a decade. I have analysed my own reading of White Dwarf over the last twenty years, all the great battle reports, campaign articles, army building and Tale of Four Gamers, Gathering of Might, Global Campaigns etc, and made a terrible discovery...

The new Warhammer Visions magazine (and the White Dwarf Weekly Issue 1 for that matter), represent the first and only time in all my long aeons in the hobby that I have come to the end of the magazine and, instead of sliding it under the coffee table, into my bag, or on the shelf with the others, my initial and natural urge was to pop it in the recycling bin...I mean 'heavily embellished gothic cast iron furnace'.

This is a really sad thing for me. Not only that, I got through Visions in about twenty minutes. Even the most recent editions of White Dwarf gave me a few hours leisurely reading, a bit here, a bit there, and always reading in a strict order of reverse-priority.

I always saved my favourite articles till last, so it would always be a regimented routine of: start at the front, and read through to the back, but skip Blanchitsu, Jeremy Vetock, Jervis Johnson and the battle report, then read back to front, picking these up as I went, and always, always finishing with the battle report, being ultra careful not to stumble onto the final page of the report that gave the result. This was my bible.

Yes, White Dwarf has changed a lot over the years, sometimes for good, and sometimes ill, and of course everyone has their own views about what the liked and didn't like. I am very forgiving hobbyist, and a big fan of Games Workshop and White Dwarf, but at the moment I am most troubled about the changes.

I have never been a person to get rid of or throw out models, and have only sold models I wasn't using to fund other gaming purchases. I have always been able to justify my expenditure by considering it an investment, something I get enjoyment out of over many years, and hopefully one day will share with my son. Hell, the models even hold their value pretty well, so if the worst ever came to the worst, at least I could get something back from all that investment.

As I said at the end of my previous post on the subject, I haven't yet cancelled my subscription, and this is mainly in the hope that things pick up (quite drastically I might add), but by that simple measure - do I keep it, or does it go in the furnace? - at the moment, I may finally be saying 'fairwell' to Grombrindal. It will be a sad day indeed if it comes to that, but I am not one to spend money on something that doesn't enhance my hobby. Facts are facts, regardless of how much I wish they were otherwise.

The flames roar, the crisp pages begin to curl in the heat...

Friday, 7 February 2014

Photo Finish: Sprue Cutters Union #27

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists, to another Sprue Cutters Union topic (#spruecutters). Today, we're sitting out on the balcony, reclining on comfortable deck chairs in the glorious sunshine. I would be showing you good people around the lavish photographic studio I use to take stunning pictures of my completed modelling projects, except I don't have one...

This week, the Union Members have been asked to:

- Show us your Photo Studio! -

So that's simple then, straight off the bat; I don't have a set up specifically for taking photos of my models. I do take pictures of my models though, so where do I take them and what with? Let's start with 'where'...

Typically the photos I post for posterity will be taken in one of three possible places: at the canteen table I paint at during my lunch breaks at work, at home in the kitchen, or, as many wargamers do, mid-game, in order to commemorate dramatic moments during battles.

At home and at work, I try and make sure I have two things: a clean and clear background, preferably white, and plenty of light so I can avoid having to use flash. At home, the background is often the white lid of a storage box we have, or the kitchen worktop, which is a wood effect colour, but looks ok for pics. At work, the canteen tables are fairly large and a very pale off-white, so I can take pics with just the tabletop in the background.

What I want from the background is to allow me to take pictures that keep the miniatures as the highlight. I don't want the background to detract from the miniatures or impact the colours I have used in my paint scheme. It's far better if I can avoid using the flash, because natural light gives a better, more natural image and shows the paint colours more like they appear first hand. I'll settle for artificial lighting, but flash is a last resort. I guess that because I don't have a dedicated space for photography, I'll take what I can get. I have in the past used a roll of white paper to give a background, and even layed out white or grey card to place models on.

Secondly, 'what with?' I used to use a Lumix TZ6 compact camera on the macro setting. As it's a ten megapixel camera (I think), I can get good results with it, but it's a bit of a pain having to take the camera to work or to games, even though it's a compact. It's one more thing that can get lost, stolen, left behind or dropped. More recently, for about the last eighteen months in fact, I have just used the camera on my phone, which is five megapixels (again, I 'think'), and a macro setting. This seems to do just fine as long as the background and lighting is all ok. It also allows some interesting effects to be applied for 'in game' shots. With pics to show what the painting looks like, I go without the special effects.

At the moment, I'm not taking pictures with enough seriousness to need anything better than I have, but I would like to think about something a little more permanent if possible and if space allows...

If you would like to read more posts on this topic, especially from scale modellers with much better set-ups than mine, I invite you to check out the links to member blogs below, and also to the Topic Hub over on The Combat Workshop, where members will post links to their excellent blogs as they release them.

Finally, if you would like join the Union yourself, then check out the details here. All you need is your own blog, and a passion for miniature modelling.

Topic Hub

Doog's Models
The Garage Gamers

Thanks for reading...

P.S. Here are the models I am about to start painting, a gift from my wife for my Birthday, produced by Hasslefree soon as I can get them spray undercoated that is.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Cackling Clara...

Welcome sports fans, to a special article detailing a new ball about to make things interesting on Blood Bowl pitches across the Old World.

This ball was orginally designed as an entry to a competition run by the illustrious Both Down podcast, an act of whim, of fun, but the ball has since been acquired by the Hundsheimer Hexen Pharmaceutical Company, "Your number one choice for hexes, potions and poultices", and now they're sponsoring it's use at stadia all around the Blood Bowl circuit.

Clackling Clara, the Hexen Ball

Cackling Clara, the once feared Witch of Langwald was, unbeknownst to some, an avid Blood Bowl fan. She was also known to have once been enamoured with the owner of Egdenberg Undertakers Undead Blood Bowl team, Count Erik Schwarznacht. Unfortunately, though she was a skilled practitioner of magic and useful to Count Schwarznacht, her mad cackling drove him to distraction, and finally he tore off her head rather than listen to her insane howling a moment longer.

Rather than have her body burned, as is always sensible with Witches, Schwarznacht had her skin and bladder cured and made into a ball. Little did anyone realise until the first match with the new ball was played that Cackling Clara wasn't quite gone. She would have the last laugh after all.

If Cackling Clara is used in a match, Clara's love for the excitement of a good Blood Bowl match draws her damned spirit back into the ball that was made from her skin, and she delights in casting spells on the ball carrier with amusing effects.

Each time a new player becomes the ball carrier, roll a D8 and consult the table below to see what effects Clara's insane spellcraft has on the unfortunate player. The effects of each spell last only until Clara casts a spell on a new ball carrier. If the player already has all of the skills or mutations that form the spell, then apply the result which is one higher than the roll, or one lower if the first roll was an 8.

1. Ribbit. The ball carrier is turned into a frog, as per the rules for the 'Zap!' card, and left hopping around on the field, dropping the ball as for a failed pick up attempt. The spell wears off as soon as the next spell is cast. This will cause a Turnover if a player from the same team cannot grab the ball as normal before it comes to rest.

2. Look! No Hands! Clara thinks it's positively hilarious to cast a spell turning the player's hands inside out just as he picks up the ball. The player gains the No Hands mutation and drops the ball as if he/she had failed a pick up. This will cause a Turnover if a player from the same team cannot grab the ball as normal before it comes to rest.

3. Moo-tation! The players head transforms into that of a bovine beast, and sprouts great bulls horns from his head, gaining the Horns mutation while this spell is in play. Unfortunately cattle aren't known for their tactical acumen, so the player also gains Really Stupid while carring the ball.

4. Shrinking! The ball carrier shrinks to the proportions of a Snotling, enabling them to dart between players legs with the ball. The player gains 'Titchy' while the spell is in effect. However with significantly shorter legs, their MA is reduced by 1 as well.

5. Clara says 'hi'! In a moment of creaking, cracking and splitting, the head of Cackling Clara sprouts from the players shoulder, granting them the Two Heads mutation, as Clara spots incoming tackles for the player, however unnerving this may be, but as Clara is something of a distraction, the player also gains Loner while the spell is in effect, as he struggles to coordinate with his team mates above the mad cackling.

6. Curse of boils and buboes. The player gains the Foul Appearance mutation for the duration of this spell, as foul boils and pustles errupt all over their skin. Star players renowned for their good looks receive double the number of boils and buboes as other players, though this has no additional in game effects, it's just Clara dishing out payback for the wrongs done to her by past lovers.

7. Third Leg! The player sprouts an additional leg from their hip, allowing them to sprint all the quicker. Increase the player's MA by one, and they gain the Sprint skill. However, being unused to sporting an odd number of lower appendages, the player suffers -1 to all dodge rolls they make. They do have an extra leg for opposing players to trip after all.

8. Frogs legs! Clara's spell turns the player's legs into those of a giant amphibian! The player gains the Leap skill while the spell is in effect enabling the player to leap like a frog towards the endzone and over other players. Unfortunately the player is also easily distracted by tasty buzzing flies attracted to the carnage of the Blood Bowl field, and so also gains Bone-head to represent this.

Thus far, the Hexen Ball has proven nigh on indestructible, suggesting that the magic that infuses the ball is still strong, and tournament organisers continue to use the ball during events as the often humourous effects of Clara's spell casting are real crowd pleaser. Plus, the spells haven't killed anyone...yet.

Please feel free to try these rules out in your own games of Blood Bowl. I recommend trying them out in a 'friendly' or exhibition game first, rather than a league or tournament straight away. They are designed to makes things fun and unpredictable, but without causing outright injury or damage to a team, and most spell effects have both positive and negative results. Clara likes to see a good match played after all, like any other Blood Bowl fan.

Let me know how you get on with Clara.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Here is a photo of how the Hassle free minis I was working on turned out.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Spinning Compass...

Welcome wargamers and hobbyists, to a quick post slotted between the weekly Sprue Cutters Union topics, and really it's just my thoughts on a hot subject for discussion at the moment - what on earth is going on with White Dwarf?

Anyone who buys White Dwarf will know by now that with the February release the magazine has undergone its most significant change since I began in this hobby with issue 160, way back in February of 1993, so I guess it's 21 years this month: White Dwarf has gone weekly, lost a whole chunk of it's usual 'content' to a new publication which is released monthly called 'Warhammer Visions', and in many ways taken my beloved hobby magazine and split it in twain.

The new weekly magazine appears to comprise all of the new releases, reviews, designer interviews associated with the new stuff, and sprinkled in are a few gaming and other articles (including some new rules!) by established White Dwarf contributors, like Mr Jervis Johnson. Warhammer Visons is pretty much just that -  230ish pages of photos of models (in many cases the same miniatures photographed from five or more different angles), but including articles like Blanchitsu, Army of the Month and Kitbash, all of which I like. It also does appear to contain what is certainly a much condensed and picture based battle report, but at least it's still there, even if it is in a new form.

As a long time subscriber, I personally am yet to see how swapping my fairly balanced (if somewhat advert heavy) monthly White Dwarf for a magazine full of photos is meant to be a good thing. Is it meant to inspire me to paint more models? Buy more miniatures? Play more games? What? After all, I can see boat loads of photos of models online, and not pay a small fortune (as magazine prices go) for the privilege. As yet, I haven't gone right through Visions with a fine tooth comb, but I will, and I will give it a couple more issues to amaze me before I decide to cancel my subscription...

These pretty huge changes have really got me thinking: with all the online content available, all the painting guides and modelling tutorials, all the great paint jobs and video battle reports, and all the myriad blogs, plogs and campaign logs out there, which direction is a magazine like White Dwarf meant to go in? It's as if old Grombrindal is lost in the wastes and desperately trying to get his bearings so he can find the path again, hence the 'spinning compass'.

I have thought over the last few years that what White Dwarf needed was marketing disguised as actual content. Give us an escalation campaign to show off the latest batch of army releases, or the classic version of A Tale of Four Gamers - the version that allows the participants a budget each month so we can see how much they are spending and what they're getting for their money, to prove that Games Workshop aren't ashamed of their pricing.

I guess with the release schedule over the last twelve months or so, it stands to reason that White Dwarf felt like one big advert, with battle reports we could predict the results of nine times out of ten. When every issue is dominated by a new book and army release, and the end of every year by a new film related game release, it's no wonder every page is advertising something.

Light your beacons wargamers, let's see where the next few issues take us...let's see if Grombrindal can find the path again. I have no plans to start buying the new weekly magazine, but I'm not prepared to write the old boy off just yet either...

Thanks for reading.

Picture from the Games Workshop website: