2/28/2006

A Little Ink

This is the moment I wait for.

After painting all these little idiots in plain old boring Bleached Bone, I finally get to apply some ink and bring them to life.

Check out the "before" shots:



Pale and featureless, but then I whip up a little dose of this magic mix:



It's a mix of mostly water, a few drops of dish detergent, a few parts Brown Ink and a few drops of Flesh Wash. Though it looks very dark, it's really very light on the ink. Even so, I still live in fear that this will spill somehow.

I lay the Wraithguard on their back or side and slather it on:



I don't stand him up for this job because the ink tends to pool in the wrong places when the center of gravity is below him instead of behind him.

In the end, we have this (one completed Wraithguard mixed in there for comparison purposes):



Notice how much different (and better) they look than the pale whiteys you saw pictures of earlier? I still have the gun to paint and all the blue spots like the tabard and the "tattoos", not to mention the base... but I consider this to be the point where the Wraithguard "came to life".

Farseer Bill Speaks

After posting my editorial, entitled The Vision Thing, I got some excellent feedback from my good pal Bill, aka Farseer Bill. To be honest, a lot of my thoughts about what Eldar are (and should be) all about have emerged from discussions from him, and he has given me permission to reprint his comments here because he says that the same is true on his side. So that's nice.

In particular I'd like to point out how Bill starts with large-scale vision and then distills it down to stats and rules. This, in my opinion, is exactly how the creation of 40k rules should work. Too often we see a philosophy where rules should be created by democratic process, but the emergence of an army's identity is a question of art, not science, and as such it has to be born out of a creative process.

Secondly, I believe the three little words, "War As Art", should largely guide the creative process for GW when they develop the new Eldar codex, and I thank Bill for articulating that.

Anyhow, here are his comments:

There are three things in my vision that are important about Eldar.

Craftworld Eldar are about the mystic side of the universe, the constant struggle of life versus death, of purpose versus desire. They are a dying race that not only steps up to struggle against their fate, they embrace the struggle as part of their pysche. The outflow from this embracing is the artistry of war and the beauty of dealing death. That is why beauty and function meet so powerfully in the Eldar armies.

Technologically, Eldar are near or at the top of the current heap. They have lost more technology than humanity has ever learned, and the remaining technology operates at a level beyond the brightest minds of Human, Tau, etc. Only the Necrons match their technological level and remember, Eldar defeated the Necrons before humans came down from the trees. (Pre fall Eldar true, but the point stands).

Finally, the third point is that Eldar are inherently powerful psykers, skilled and practiced. They use psionics in their tools, weapons, war machines, everything. Their most powerful seers can divine the future possibilities and lead the craftworld from danger, or into it as need be. Some seers have experience in combat as aspect warriors from a previous Path and so have taken on the mantle of Warlock. Seers that become fixed in the Path of the Seer become farseers, but not all farseers are of the warlock kind.

Combining these three things:
1) War as art
2) Superior Technology
3) Powerful Psychics

Gives a vision for me that is unique to Craftworld Eldar. The details (speeds, skills, powers) are all extraneous to focusing on Eldar as the Beautiful Destroyers, the Masters of the Fates. To acheive a good start in this direction I think the new codex needs to have these main components:

1) Extremely customizable Farseers not only in wargear and powers, but also in stats and skills.
2) Different levels of Warlocks. Warlocks, Warlock Masters, and Warlock Champions used to be the three levels, but I would settle for two.
3) War machines with the option of BS4. Make it extremely costly or limited, but at least one tank in the Eldar army should be able to get BS4. Failing that, more twinlinking.
4) Aspect warrriors that are very focused in their method of deathdealing yet can be customized some way.
5) Guardians that can be defensive more than they can now. (Give them splinter rifles for all I care!)
6) Weapons that demonstrate superior eldar technology, yet still are limited in some way.

The Vision Thing

Right now we know almost nothing about the upcoming Eldar codex. We all think it's coming later this year around Q4 2006, but that's just speculation; we don't really know. Various off-the-record comments by smartymen who are supposed to be "in the know" leak out here and there, but unfortunately they often contradict one another and so we're not able to make much out of it. At this point I can honestly say that we don't really know much and if there are some out there who know more, they aren't saying much. Soon, however, news will start trickling out of GW about what is actually going to happen with the new codex, and then all guessing and hoping and dreaming will turn into the piecing-together of jigsaw fact pieces... so the time for wild speculation is definitely now.

I was going to write up some thoughts on what we should be expecting, but I didn't want to make this post so structured (i.e. a "rumor roundup", etc). I also don't want to just make a wish list, because the point of that is sort of self-indulgent and, let's face it, everyone has a "wish list". Instead, I'm going to mix a few thoughts together and hope they produce something interesting. Mainly, I'm concerned with what you might call "the vision thing" more than I'm concerned with stat lines and release schedules. Let me explain...

A lot of people speculate on the upcoming codex in a way that I find unsatisfying, because they so often tend to think in terms of tightening bolts on the old codex rather than being bold and re-imagining the foundations of the Eldar concept. For instance, a lot of people are expecting that the best thing a new codex can offer will be to "fix" Shuriken Catapults by (for instance) giving them 18" range or something, and that's it. They can't picture anything more interesting than that. Or maybe they hope that they'll "fix" Starcannons by making them Heavy 2, AP3 or something... or that they'll "fix" Wraithlords by making them Toughness 6 instead of 8. Etc. etc. It's not so much that they're looking for a new codex... it's more that they're looking for the one they already have, along with some microscopic tweaks to squeeze a little bit more life out of it. Hey, I know that if Shuriken Catapults were "fixed" that I could easily coast on the current codex for a lot longer, but I'm honestly hoping that a new codex will offer a whole lot more than just a few changes in the stat lines. The Eldar are such a great concept and are so interesting in so many ways that it seems that some truly creative minds at Games Workshop could take them to a level that no-one is really even expecting. I'd like to see that; getting away from the familiar and comfortable and trying out some new ideas which re-invent what we think the Eldar are supposed to be.

When I look at other recent codex releases (the Space Marine codex in particular), what I see is that Games Workshop goes to great lengths to make sure that all of the army - every single unit, every single item of wargear, every single upgrade - has a place and time where it's the best choice (or one of the best choices). When a codex goes stale from age (especially if it overlaps with a core rules update), you will see that certain parts of the roster fall into general disfavor and other parts are used to excess. It was like this for the Space Marines before their recent codex but, when that book was released, suddenly there was no fat in the army list. Everything made sense in the right context, everything had a role to play. From Whirlwinds to Librarians to Attack Bikes to Terminators... each choice from the Space Marines list would serve you well if you applied a modicum of tactical skill to its use. Now, we see that the Eldar codex is in a state of disrepair (I think, in fact, much worse than the Marines codex was) where several units are rarely, if ever used. Shining Spears, Swooping Hawks, Jetbikes in general, the Avatar, Heavy Support Weapons, War Walkers... all are rare in the typical Eldar list. Other units such as the Seer Council, the Falcon and the Wraithlord are not only ubiquitous but, in the hands of an unsporting player, offer unfair advantages to the Eldar army which aren't matched by the points allocation. The codex reminds me of a house which has half collapsed; some rooms are caved-in and off-limits and, as such, the rooms which are undamaged are used twice as much or more because not only are they still workable, but they're the only option for a place to go.

My hope is that the new Eldar codex will make all units logical for different uses at different times. This is particularly important to the Eldar, as it is an army of specialization where every unit choice should serve a very, very potent end when used in the proper context. I believe that many issues around balance in Eldar armies will simply evaporate if Eldar players have more viable options than just Farseers, Seer Councils, Falcons and Starcannons.

There are sometimes questions about "traits" in the Eldar army and how they might be applied. One rumor I've heard that really intrigues me is about Exarchs who confer whatever powers they have onto the squad itself. For instance, a Striking Scorpion Exarch could give his entire squad Crushing Blow; a Dark Reaper Exarch could lend his unit Fast Shot; a Howling Banshee exarch could confer Acrobatics. This would be an interesting and very "Eldary" way to lend traits to Elite units, and because traits are a direction GW really seems to be going in, I think it makes a fair amount of sense. Naturally, a lot of the Exarch powers would have to be tweaked in order to make them appropriate for an entire unit (would anyone want to see 17-point Fire Dragons, who already have a S6/AP1 weapon, with Burning Fist - a trait which gives them a Power Weapon and lets them re-roll "to wound" results?). I believe that doing this would open up the Eldar army to greater flexibility and specialization. It's a more complex task for the Eldar than it is, say, for Marines, because the Eldar are already very specialized; where having a basic Tac Marine lean one way or the other with his skillset is utterly practical, having Fire Dragons become masters of close combat would upset the purpose of Aspects on a fundamental level. Again, this is why I think that the Exarch powers would have to be re-written to make this a viable concept... but I really like the idea.

When it comes to basic troop choices, Guardians need special attention from GW in the next codex because they are the very backbone of the Eldar army concept. Though many argue that Aspect Warriors play that role, I believe this is a misconception which has arisen from the fact that Guardians are (as it currently stands) very hard to use effectively in-game. As a result, most players prefer to leverage their Elites as Troops when they can (either in the Force Org slot or merely in function alone), because they go toe-to-toe much more effectively against the Marine-equivilent forces which make up the bulk of enemies one faces in a typical game.

"Fixing" the Guardians brings up the issue of stat-lines, which I believe are a crummy way to design an army. If you only look at the math of the unit then much of the poetry drains out of the army and, instead, you're playing Sudoku. My feeling is that stat lines should be tweaked in updates and FAQs after the army is released, but when you're conceptualizing a force you must first ask yourself "Who is this unit made up of and what are they intended to do?" Guardians are militia; not hardened soldiers in the way that Space Marines or Tau are, and their performance on the battlefield should reflect this. On the other hand, they are not always unfamiliar with the ways of war; some are retired Aspect Warriors and are not unfamiliar with the experience of combat. Though many Guardians are borrowed from ranks of gardeners and poets, I like to think that the Eldar see a relationship between the way of the warrior and the way of the artist (if you've seen the movie Hero, then you've see how calligraphy and swordplay are intertwined, and how one discipline can sharpen someone's skills at the other). I like to think of Guardians as a militia of non-warriors coming to defend their civilization for lack of resources among Aspect Warriors... but I don't regard them in the same way I think of checkout clerks and janitors; I believe that Guardians have an understanding of the mystical reality of war that lends them a certain degree of power on the battlefield. These are the concepts that I'd like to see guide the stats of the Guardian: Fragile, but not cannon fodder; imperfect, but not inept; minor-league warriors, but not mere conscripts.

A quick nod to the question about why a dying race should field common citizens in a battle when they're trying, in fact, to preserve their numbers: I've addressed this point on my blog before, but if you're still having trouble with it, imagine The Two Towers when the denizens of Rohan were arriving at Helm's Deep. Would you have suggested to King Theoden that he not employ the service of all the common citizens that he could to defend the stronghold, arguing that their numbers were too small to call upon common folk in wartime? Anyone who has seen the movie a bazillion times like I have will know that if the common citizen of Rohan had not defended the line that all of the citizens and warriors alike would have been overrun. It's a lot like that with the Eldar.

Getting back to the codex in general, I believe that its fundamental job is to make an army which centers around the basic "one HQ and two troops" a viable option. I believe this is the measuring stick of any codex and, if it's not possible to enter into a balanced combat with that sort of a Force Org Chart then the codex isn't doing its job.

It's true that an itemized list of what's wrong with the current codex is easy to assemble and I don't think anyone would question that Starcannons are too pervasive, that Wraithlords are too tough for the points and that Guardians (Defenders in particular) are hard to get any magic out of. Instead, however, of mere stat line updates, points adjustments and other minutiae, the vision of the Eldar army itself should be revisited. I think that's where the answers are and, what's more, I believe that's the way that this army is going to be fun for dorks like me who get a kick out of pretending to be space elves.

Rank & File II

Not sure if you will even be able to tell the difference between this batch of Wraithguard and the last pics I showed you, but there *is* a difference; the Bleached Bone part is done. In other words, I have to touch up a bit of the Snakebite Leather parts and then I wash in ink and I'm a good chunk of the way to done.

For what it's worth: This was a serious pain in the ass.

2/27/2006

Rank And File

Wraithguard, painted assembly-line style. And no, they're not done yet. Two Warlocks for good luck.

Painting the Wraithguard goes like this:
1. Paint one up to completion and use him as a reference.
2. Paint the others assembly-line style, meaning that you start by saying "Time to paint the faces".
3. Pick up your paint brush, open your paint pot.
4. Face, face, face, face, face, face, face, face, face, face, face, face, face, face.
5. Time to paint the shoulders.
6. Shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder.
7. Time to paint the knees.
8. Knee, knee, knee, knee, knee, knee, knee, knee, knee, knee, knee, knee, knee, knee.

And so on.

You can see the one completed dude in there and, as such, you can see that he's the reference for what the others will look like when they're done.

Tupperware Of The Ancients

Early-morning conversation with my friend Rachel, via AIM. Important note: Rachel believes herself to be having a torrid and passionate love affair with Yriel's Flagship. Not Yriel, mind you; the Flagship itself.

Me: So now I'm working on my Iyanden army.
Me: Painting, as you could have guessed.
Rachel: your iyanden army
Rachel: has this been hammerBlogged?
Me: Indeed.
Rachel: that's a lot of models
Me: Oddly, the Iyanden army has a relatively low model count.
Me: Most of the models are quite pricey.
Me: I mean in terms of their points allocation, which is the "currency" you use to build your army with, so to speak.
Rachel: ah. of course.
Me: See, what happens is, the Iyanden don't have a whole lot of people to use in their armies, so they grab the souls of their dead ancestors and stuff them into robot constructs and make them go do their fighting. It's not a particularly good retirement plan if you think about it.
Me: But whaddaya gonna do? They had an invasion of bugs that pretty much killed everything. That'll happen when you leave food on the counter overnight or don't wipe up water when it spills.
Rachel: yes, that would suck.
Rachel: here you are, safely across the river styx, hoping to settle in for a nice game of backgammon with Achilles,
Rachel: and before you know it you're called out to some grimy battlefield again. Jeez.
Me: Well, the problem is that the Eldar can't go to the afterworld because there's an evil god waiting for the Eldar to arrive and eat their souls, so instead when an Eldar dies its soul goes in a tupperware container.
Rachel: they had tupperware?
Rachel: pretty advanced civilization.
Me: These guys are millions of years old. Of course they had tupperware.
Me: But not primitive tupperware, as you know it.
Rachel: ohhhh
Rachel: they had UltraWare
Rachel: Five-dimensional tupperware
Me: I suppose that's how you'd say it in your crude language.
Rachel: I do what I can with what I have
Me: Our limited minds can barely contain the concept of tupperware as the Eldar know it. For instance, can you imagine tupperware that doesn't make a fart sound? Seems impossible, right? Unnatural? Well, the Eldar have harnessed the true nature of Tupperware and rendered it silent. And they stick their souls in there.
Rachel: wow.
Rachel: soul-containing, non-farting Tupperware.
Rachel: the mind reels.
Me: I know. Hard to imagine that, but there's a lot of knowledge beyond what we can understand at this point in our evolution.
Me: It also comes in several colors.
Rachel: are those colours perceptible by our limited human retinas?
Me: Oh sure. I mean, they were once like us eons ago.
Rachel: oh wow. so they don't see ultraviolet or infrared?
Me: Ultraviolet and infrared are irrelevant to the Eldar.
Rachel: they've transcended those concepts?
Me: If they can make tupperware that doesn't fart, do you think they care about that other stuff?
Rachel: good point well made
Me: Incidentally, it's Iyanden that was the original home of Yriel's Flagship. Just FYI.
Rachel: oh wow
Rachel: can I go there?
Me: Not if you're going to keep asking all these stupid questions about ultraviolet and infrared spectrums, no.
Rachel: alas.

2/23/2006

Skinks

I have a Skink problem.

See, a few years ago my ex-wife picked up a box of Skinks from a second-hand store where she was volunteering. At the time I thought she was being nice. In retrospect I'm not so sure that she wasn't making fun of me. I guess I'll never know.

Well, I don't play Warhammer Fantasy, but they were some nice little models, so I primed them up and let the kids paint them up. There was a theoretical agreement that they would take care of them and keep them somewhere nice, but I think that's asking a bit too much of kids so young and, predictably, they sort of started wandering.

If I had to actually locate a Skink in my house, I wouldn't be able to do it. They're not technically "kept" anywhere, so I don't really know where they're hiding, but they keep popping up in unexpected places. Notice in the photo that I was doing a bit of cleaning in a corner near the front door and - suprise - there's a Skink. This one was yellow, but they come in a variety of colors. I've found Skinks in my bed, under the driver's seat in my car and even one in the tub one day. I don't know how they get from point A to point B, but I'm beginning to wonder if they're reproducing. After all, there are only what? 16 in a box? I know I've spotted way more than 16 since they came into my life. Way more.

Yet One More Thing I'm Not Really Proud Of Myself For



So I have this Mason Jar in which I have some models soaking. I put them in nail polish remover a while ago and kind of forgot about them. How long ago, you ask? Well, let's see... today is Thursday, so... (checking watch) it'd be eight months ago.

Yeah, eight months ago I tossed some models in the nail polish remover and screwed the lid on tight. Then I forgot about them. In fact, I've even forgotten what's in there. I know there's at least two Sisters of Battle models. I think there's at least one or two Tau. I really don't know past that.

I sort of want to open it and see... and I sort of don't.

2/09/2006

Bleachier. Bonier.

There are three things I don't do. I don't force people to look at photos of my children. I don't force people to read my poetry. I don't force people to give me positive feedback every time I put a brush to a model. This update is one of those that has so gradually progressed from the last update that I'm not even sure if you'll be able to tell a difference at first glance (or second or third). I don't expect that it'll hold a lot of thrills for many habitual Hammerblog readers.

That having been said, this is actually a huge jump from the last progress update. The basic Bleached Bone on the surface is done. I found this very exciting. I did a considerable amount of work on this part of the model and I really feel like I've gotten quite far ahead. The excitement faded, however, when I realized I still have to...
- Fix the Snakebite Leather in the recesses
- Paint the exhausts
- Paint the turret
- Paint the bottom
- Paint the driver
- Ink everything
- Make a Big Blue Stripe™
- Make tons of little yellow runes in The Big Blue Stripe™

Yeah, so obviously in climbing this mountain it's better to look down at how far I've come than up at how much mountain is left to scale. Still... I've got the drive to do it.

On the other hand, I'll be seeing my girlfriend next week, and that has a way of making a man forget about space toys...

2/08/2006

My Other Car Is A Falcon


Yesterday one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me transpired. I was at the local Games Workshop because I'd had a positively rotten day and needed to do something that would completely transport me away from my life for a while (so I painted the Scorpion, which I reported on earlier). It was dark when I left so I didn't notice until the next morning that someone had written on the back of my car, in the dirt:

"MY OTHER CAR IS A FALCON"

I don't know who did it (though I have my suspicions), but it currently ranks as the awesomest thing anyone has done to me in a long, long time. I was laughing all morning (and yes, I left it there).

For Sildani

My friend Sildani from Warseer (and one of the people who uses that forum who doesn't need a punch in the cock) posted this: I'm confused. The pic on this entry shows the Scorpion with no tail piece, and a bit of Leather on some of the rear armor panels. The pics of the Scorpion in the previous entry show the Scorpion with a whole lot more Leather, covering the right half of the hull.

The tail piece was once glued to the body, but now it's off (as you can see). It came off after I soaked the tank in Simple Green for several weeks. And that's a good thing; it separated cleanly and without hassle. So the tail piece was glued on before, and now it's not.

The tank started out in a grey resin color, as you can see in the photo above. I then painted it white, as you saw in earlier pics. I then stripped the white off and then primed it white (you know, as I'm writing this, I'm realizing how stupid that sounds... but the first coat had a base of Space Wolves Grey under it, and the second was just straight white). Then, I washed very watered-down Snakebite Leather over the white, giving it that sandy look. After that, seeing as I have no life and nothing else worth doing, I then started adding Bleached Bone panels, leaving the Snakebite in the recesses and cracks.

I'll be doing the same thing on the Scorpion that I do with the Wraithlords/Wave Serpents you're seeing. Same kind of look. Does that clear it up?

Oh, and btw... this is something I was doing with the Pulsar cannons before I put it together. Just to test something. I forget what.

2/07/2006

OMG TEH BONEY SCORPIANN!!!!@@

Hey, kids! I'm layering Bleached Bone onto the Mark II Scorpion tank, as you can see from the pic to the right. I can honestly tell you that I am seriously sick of Bleached Bone now, for the record. There's not much to report aside from: I'm painting. Yep. Extremely interesting, I'm sure.

The one change from the last time I painted this stupid thing is that I didn't put that tail thingie on (the part that covers the engine exhausts) so that I can actually paint the parts it covers before it goes on. Man, I'm a genius.

If you wanna get a sense of what it'll look like when it's done, look at the white & red photo I linked above. Now, instead of white & red, I'm going to do bone and blue with yellow runes (using these colors). Get it?

I think it'll be pretty. Let's wait and find out.

2/06/2006

Progress Report

Got together with the boys and did some hardcore painting. Actually, I spent more time waiting for paint washes to dry, but that's beside the point.

Below, you'll see my latest Wraithlord, complete with greenstuffed rune on his face. Not the most awesome photo you'll ever see, but I like the way he came out. Going to add a few finishing touches and that'll be that. I'm getting started on number three soon...

You'll also see Benoit's Revenant Titan. It's a gorgeous Forgeworld model done in Benoit's usual paint scheme. He has a really nice, bloody red mottling he does on his Eldar, and also adds a very cold, stony Wraithbone. It's pretty good looking.

Speaking of Forgeworld; you'll see my good old Scorpion Mark II tank has been stripped and cleaned and primed and repainted. Well, it's in the process of being repainted. I've applied a wash of Snakebite Leather (simultaneously the best and worst color that GW puts out); notice how Snakebite Leather not only changes in intensity when washed on the body of the Scorpion (compare to the turret, which is also Snakebite), but it also changes in hue? It's much more orangey on the Scorpion body and that orange disappears when applied to the turret. Weird. I've started adding the Wraithbone panels, which you can kinda see. Yes, I'm doing several layers of thinned-out Bleached Bone... a technique which really looks good but in terms of ease can suck it. If you want to get a sense of how the Scorpion look when it's done, you can check out that fully painted Wave Serpent in the back. I'll be using a big blue stripe (like the big red one... remember that?) and adding runes in yellow on it.

More to come soon.