Sunday, November 12, 2017

Initial impressions of Company of Iron (and Relicblade)

I've been looking forward to the release of Company of Iron.

I tried out Warmachine and Hordes, the army-scale predecessor to Company of Iron, when Hordes was first released.  I wanted Hordes to be my game of choice, after trying out Warhammer Fantasy 6th Edition and discovering that Warhammer missed the mark for me.  Hordes promised dynamic combat, with all sorts of over-the-top wrestling maneuvers.  I couldn't wait to have my trolls throwing enemies all over the board!

Unfortunately, the game seemed to sideline all of that flavorful combat in favor of generic, straight-up combat.  Worse, many of the mechanics that I found to be unappealing in Warhammer were replicated in Hordes:  full army-wide IGOUGO activation; no pre-measuring (which required guessing charge ranges and shooting ranges); confined army builds; and "gamey" tactics rather than historical tactics.  I quickly lost interest in the game, although I still continued to collect several factions, since I still liked so many of the models.

So I was excited for the prospect of Company of Iron, on the assumption that Privateer Press (PP) was finally going to offer an entry-level game that would be more accessible to the broader player community, i.e. new players and casual players -- as opposed to the hardened, rules-precision players that are the stereotypical Warmachine/Hordes community.

By coincidence, I received a rulebook for another skirmish game, Relicblade, on the same day that Company of Iron arrived in the mail.  My impression of each game is night and day!  Let's take a look.



The cover art for each rulebook is good.  But if I were to see each of them on the store shelf side-by-side, I would grab Relicblade first.  Here's why.

Company of Iron shows a stereotypical duel.  It's a scene that's been done a million times.  And for a trained warrior, the lady on the right shows a static, vulnerable pose.  Now granted, the boar-lady with the dreadlocks is cool, and she's about to put the smack-down on the Barbie in blue, boob-armor.  That, I can support.

The Relicblade cover is unique and compelling.  Who are these believable, personality-filled adventurers, and what are they looking at?  Where are they?  What's the deal with that saber-tusked cat?  What sandwich is that guy eating?  Now I want a sandwich, too.

Let's take a peek inside each book.

Company of Iron
Written for rules lawyers.

Company of Iron looks and reads like a prospectus for an insurance firm.  There are 13 pages of definitions and conventions, before you even start reading about how the game is played.  Dry.  Uninviting.  There is no way that a player who is new to the hobby would subject themselves to this 6-point-font agony.  I put down the book after 20 minutes, and, grudgingly, I mentally blocked the time that I would need to finish studying the rules.

Relicblade
Written for gamers!

Relicblade.  Fun!  It has cartoons!  The font is characterful and easy to read.  The writing is light-hearted, welcoming, and filled with jokes.  In no time at all, I'm learning how to play the game.  In about 15 minutes, I want to play a game!

When you add the Advanced Rules for Company of Iron, the combined Core and Advanced rules are virtually the same as Hordes and Warmachine.  The only advantage is portioning the rules so that you can learn them in two stages.  But PP could have accomplished that with a digital addendum to Warmachine/Hordes.  Which they do provide, by the way.  So I wonder why I needed to spend $70 on what is effectively a starter set for Warmachine/Hordes...  Company of Iron is every bit as complex as Warmachine/Hordes.  Moreso, actually, because there are now variations and exceptions to learn, in order to play the Core Rules of Company of Iron.

PP missed an opportunity to appeal to new and casual players.  PP can't afford a misstep like this.  Not when the community is dissatisfied with Mk III of Warmachine/Hordes.  Not when Games Workshop is finally recovering from their hubris, acknowledging their player base again, and revitalizing their image and product lines.  Not when the market offers so many good games to compete for consumers' finite leisure time.  Sorry, PP -- I want you to do well.  But this was a disappointment.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pulp Alley -- a Kickstarter I'm proud to support

This is a Kickstarter done right.  This is the latest expansion to Pulp Alley, executed on Kickstarter smoothly and straightforwardly -- and delivered more than a month early!

Expertly packed.  Loose parts taped to cardboard and the whole thing *double*-wrapped in bubble-mailers.

And how about that personal touch?!  :-)
Old-fashioned customer service is still alive.
 

It just so happens that my latest project has been to prepare terrain for my next demo of Pulp Alley.  Here is the work-in-progress.  I still have touch-ups to do on these pieces, and then I have another batch of about the same number to work on.

A mix of terrain pieces by Micro Art Studio and ArmorCast.

For a review of my first game of Pulp Alley, check out the post here.

Monday, October 2, 2017

My First Game of 40K 8th Edition

I played my first game of 40K 8th Edition this weekend at our semi-monthly game day, held at the Rocket Republic microbrewery.  I played a 3-player, free-for-all game with Jonathan and Clay.  I'm glad that Clay had a good grasp on the rules.  He patiently walked us through some things that had me tripped up, so a big thanks to him for taking a very objective view to the rules while still in the heat of battle!

I don't have any pictures from the actual game, unfortunately, so this Ork Warbuggy will have to suffice for eye-candy.
I purchased most of my currently usable Ork army, and I think the original owner did an awesome job capturing the character of the Orks.  I love this model!  And the Warbuggy was my MVP for the game.
IMO, the rules are a huge improvement over at least the last three editions.  They get across pretty much the same play experience without all of the confusion, complexity, and daunting-ness of the bloated mess of previous editions.  That said, I think that the game is still fundamentally trapped in a 30-year-old style of play.  The antiquated IGOUGO activation system; 3 waves of dice rolls to resolve combat; the lack of a reaction system (other than a token Overwatch step); and the lack of a suppression system.  Those drawbacks won't hinder me from playing the game or enjoying the game -- I just won't necessarily seek out the game.  On occasion, though, I foresee the wish to bring alive on the tabletop my Tau, Eldar, Orks, and AdMech, and it will be easier to do that in their native game system.
 
Jonathan won the game by quietly sitting on two objectives.  I had control of one, and Clay and I were wrestling over another one.  My Orks were one turn away from excising all the weedy Eldar from the second objective.  If we had rolled one more turn, I probably would have squeezed out a victory from Jonathan by 1 victory point, obtained from secondary objectives.  Just the kind of game I really enjoy -- a nail-biter until the very end.

Jonathan's Space Wolves' las-cannons sliced up Clay's Eldar Wraith-Knight like butter.  So that was interesting to see half of Clay's army get vaporized.  But it made sense, given the points that Jonathan spent on the las-cannons.  Tanks were very durable, which also made sense.  The Ork Warbuggy and Trukk were surprisingly durable and effective, which didn't make quite as much sense, but it certainly kept the game balanced.  I can justify the Warbuggy endurance by imagining it jinking and jiving and popping in the air to escape the fire directed at it.  Overall, everything felt right, which is probably a first, in my experience playing 40K, ha, ha.  So, yeah, there's another plus for the game experience.  I'll enjoy playing it again, I'm sure.
 
 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Salt Flat Nomads

There are a bunch more models in the works where this guy came from.  But the project is losing momentum....

One of three sculpts for the 'Tribal Warrior'.  I'm painting two sets of these guys and gals. 
And then there are a half-dozen more models to paint in addition to the Tribal Warriors.

One, I played my game of Dark Age at NOVA Open, so I don't have a gaming goal to drive me forward to finish painting the figures.  And, two, these guys are really challenging to paint, because they have so much fine detail.  Probably the finest detail I've seen in a metal sculpt, on par with Confrontation Cynwall and Alahan figures.  So they're pretty time-consuming.  On the other hand, I've been enjoying the learning process, as I've worked on them.

So I'm posting a pic, in the hopes that it will give me a kick in the pants to finish out the project.  And I get to see how one of my new backdrops works (the MacroMat set by TableWars).  Pretty pleased with it!  It gives me a lot of flexibility to control the amount of colored "splash" in the background (very little here, which was what I wanted to test).

The sculpts are incredibly convincing in their anatomy, and the figures tell so much story in just their posing.  Given the style, I suspected that Patrick Masson was the sculptor, but I'm told the sculptors from Big Child Creative did the work for the Salt Flat Nomads, and I'm unfamiliar with who those sculptors are.  In any case, the poses and style of the figures really stir my imagination, which is what keeps me going on the project.

Monday, September 11, 2017

NOVA Open 2017

We'll just jump right into the 'Best of Show', by Damon Drescher.
This year was a banner year for both NOVA Open and the Capital Palette.  Unfortunately, I only took photos of the Capital Palette entries, so this post will mainly be a massive photo-dump of the Capital Palette.  But, hey, probably no complaints about that, right?

The 'Bust' category was very competitive this year.
One of my favorites, by Melissa Powell.

Sculpted by Roman "Jarhead" Lappat.
Painted by John Stiening.

Another one of my favorites.  Not sure of the artist, unfortunately.

Fantastic tones and mood by John "BloodAsMedium" Margiotta.
John pretty much brought his entire collection, which was awesome. 
Filled the cabinets with incredible work across all the categories.

I plan to write an article for Figure Painter Magazine, when I can access to the official Capital Palette photos.  I'll probably reuse some of my write-up here, when I write the article.

John Margiotta's entries in the "Vehicle" category.
I love Grot Tanks!  I'll be using these for reference, when I eventually paint my own.


NOVA Open acquired two more display cabinets for this year, bringing the total to 7 wide cabinets and 2 tower cabinets.  Good thing, too, since there were more entries this year than any other -- 95 entries in the Single Figure category alone!

Some very unique pieces.


I still contend that the Capital Palette cabinets offer the best public display in the hobby.  And I also contend that the Capital Palette trophies are the most attractive trophies in the hobby (solid crystal obelisks, representing the Washington Monument), as well as the most practical (for transport and display).

By John Margiotta



The judging panel this year consisted of Roman Lappat of Massive Voodoo, traveling all the way from Augsburg, Germany, for the third year in a row; James Wappel, professional miniatures painter from Chicago; and Dave Taylor, long-time professional hobby editor, painter, photographer, marketer, designer, player, charity organizer, and all-around swell guy.

Two pieces by David Powell. 
Great to see his return to the Capital Palette, after moving to LA!


This year saw the second iteration of the move to the "open" judging format, where all entries are measured against a bronze/silver/gold standard.  Multiple medals can be awarded in each category, but the bar was set very high this year, and a bronze medal was hard-earned!






The categories included:  Single Figure (which included large figures, such as monsters and cavalry); Unit/Squad; Vehicle; Bust; Diorama; and Sculpture.  A "Best of Category" was awarded to one artist in each category, earning the coveted obelisk.  One person was also awarded a super-size obelisk for "Best of Show".

Multiple "Unit/Squad" entries by John Margiotta.
Phenomenal work!





There were awards for special categories, including:  "Fan Favorite", as voted by ballot by NOVA Open attendees; "Most Creative", awarded by Massive Voodoo; "Best Weathering", awarded by Secret Weapon Miniatures; "Best Lighting", awarded by PoweredPlay Gaming; and "Best Speed-Painting", awarded by Grex Airbrush.

Winner of the "Unit/Squad" category, by Nick Pasch.

A cool diorama.

My favorite piece in the show, by Val Melik.
This one won Best of Category for "Diorama".
Plans are already afoot to tweak the competition for next year.  The judges are proposing two divisions:  Journeyman and Masters.  The Journeyman division is intended to encourage beginner and intermediate painters, who may be reluctant to compete against more experienced painters.  The judges have also proposed a "Young Painters" division, as well, to encourage young painters.


This was my one entry -- gaming figures for Confrontation. 
I had no time this year to work on competitive, display pieces. 
These guys earned a Bronze medal, though, so I'm pretty pleased with that, given the tough standard this year!
I may blow off Adepticon for 2018, for a variety of reasons.  On the plus side, that will give me more time to complete some proper, competitive projects for NOVA Open.  That said, I'm really going to have to push beyond my current level, if I'm to earn a Gold medal.  But that's OK -- I've generally been a Silver-level painter, once I'm thrown into a larger pool of painters.  The fact that I may be a Silver or Bronze-level painter at NOVA Open demonstrates how the show has advanced to the level that I always hoped it would attain.  I'll happily take home a Bronze, if it means I can ogle at 9 cabinets of world-class art!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hero or Villain?

I'm scrambling to complete projects in time for NOVA Open, so the blog is taking a back seat.  However, a few weeks back, I finished painting this fellow just in time to use him in my first demo of Pulp Alley.  Too bad I forgot to pack him in the kit to bring to the game!

Is this fellow a good guy or a bad guy?

In my original scenario, I imagined this gentleman leading a dashing crew of British Jet Rangers.  However, I then realized that my Jet Rangers were dressed in German uniforms!  D'oh!  So I had to change my scenario to suit, and my fine English gentleman had to play the role of a dastardly arch-villain.  Ultimately, I think the figure works for either one! 

This figure lent itself well towards experimenting with painting techniques popularized in the mid-2000's by a real-life British gentleman, Mr. Kevin Dallimore, currently known for his work for the hit skirmish game, Frostgrave.  Mr. Dallimore builds up very opaque colors from dark to light, often using only 3 steps of gradation.  He also uses very strong darklining.  He now tends to blend more than he used to, with the characteristic 3 steps fading from view, but the style is still very distinctive.  I've been trying out this approach to force me to work more with opaque paints and to see what elements of his approach that I can incorporate into my own.

In case you're wondering, the model is from the Thrilling Tales pulp figures range, by Artizan.

OK, that's enough of a break.  Back to painting for Lord of the Rings and Dark Age....

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tiny Trouble in Greater Bavaria

I finally had a chance to play my first game of Pulp Alley this past weekend.  I've been eager to try out the game, after reading through the rules and determining that the core system may offer the skirmish game experience that checks all my boxes.  Friend Joe agreed to give the game a whirl during our semi-monthly gaming group meetup at the Rocket Republic microbrewery.

    
The Bloodstained Plans are stored in the central chest; the Shrink Amplifier looms majestically in the upper right (they don't build 'em like they use to); the Contragrav Cell in the upper left holds the key technical component; the Gas Box in the lower left contains the power-generating but poisonous Onesterrian Gas; and the Nervous Scientist in the lower-right corner maniacally threatens anyone with his hypodermic needles, filled with Rhino tranquilizer.


As I described in an earlier post, the game is heavily narrative-focused.  There are 5 objectives called 'Plot Points' that are either randomly generated or simply chosen.  One of the fun parts is tying together the Plot Points into a coherent story, which, in turn, can inspire a larger story arc for linked scenarios or campaign play. 

I randomly generated the Plot Points:  Bloodstained Plans, Shrink Amplifier, Contragrav Cell, Gas Box, and Nervous Scientist.  I originally devised a story where a British special force launches a rescue operation in a hidden Bavarian lab.  But when I realized that my newest models were all German, no British ones, I changed up the story to be between two opposed, German factions.


Heinrich's Sidekick, Cujo the Great White Ape, defends his home from the invaders, accompanied by his loyal, pet puppy-dog, Lucifer.

I based the scenario in the universe of Konflikt '47, with an eye towards perhaps linking skirmish games with the squad-level game.  So the scenario goes like this...

In the pre-war years ahead of the Konflikt, the Kaiser still leads Germany, desperately trying to advance arcane technology in order to maintain the balance of power. Unfortunately, the SS seek to unseat the Kaiser and capture his tech for their own. The elite SS Fallschermjager Falcon Squad, led by Lars Heitmann, invade a hidden Bavarian laboratory, intent on stealing the Bloodstained Plans for the top secret Shrink Amplifier!  Can Captain Heinrich Von Kampf, with the help of The Lab Rats security detail and a few vat-grown beasties, protect the Kaiser's secrets from the dastardly rocket rangers?.....


"Confounded Contragrav Cell!"
6 attempts to detach the key, critical component...to no avail. Stupid, stupid Fallschirmjager.

The game played as I hoped, with an easy flow and with the rules fading to the background, so that we could focus on the narrative.  Fortune Cards add random wrinkles to the game, and it was fun to imagine what the result of each card represented in the scenario.  For example, Joe's leader suffered damage from a "Peril" near one of the industrial pipes, so we imagined Lars taking an unexpected blast of hot steam to the face.



The Nervous Scientist was tugged back and forth between the battling factions, until Lars and Heinrich finally settled their differences, mano a mano, with Heinrich emerging the victor and preserving the Kaiser's hidden treasure. For now!

Joe's forces started out strong, and I felt like I was on the back foot as the rocket rangers swarmed the laboratory.  But Joe's dice failed him miserably (or, rather, the dice that I lent him...heh, heh, heh), and the momentum began to turn in my favor.  Luckily, though, the game ultimately hinged on a showdown between the two leaders -- a classic, pulp device and a very satisfying way to conclude the game.  Down to the last Health on both sides, a surprise Fortune card sealed the deal and sent Lars packing.

The game certainly met my expectations.  I like it for its narrative-driven and quick-paced gameplay.  Pulp Alley has two expansions:  one is an adventure module, and the other provides rules tweaks to tailor the game to other genres.  I'll be tweaking this scenario to run it again, and then I may venture into setting it up in campaign mode and/or expanding into other genres.  Fun times!


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Are backpack Messerschmitts a good idea?

I painted up this squad of jet rangers to proxy as a Fallschermjager Falcon Squad in Konflikt '47.

When bad guys look pretty darn cool...

But what really motivated me to paint these dudes sooner rather than later was recently purchasing the rules for Pulp Alley, a simple and very story-driven ruleset for pulp skirmish games.  I'm very excited to try out the game system, because I suspect it's going to check all the boxes that I want from a skirmish game.  As a matter of fact, I already purchased the expansion rules, which cover other settings, like fantasy, sci-fi, Wild West, etc.

My original plan was to paint two opposing factions for an introductory game of Pulp Alley, one British and one German.  These guys were supposed to be the Brits, with the jets painted in olive with yellow cowlings, until I realized that the soldiers' lapel insignia and the shape of the helmet indicated that they were supposed to be Germans!

So a change of plans for my introductory game of Pulp Alley -- there will be two opposing German factions....

To give you a better idea of how interesting Pulp Alley is, the game is based on setting up 5 "plot points", with one of them being a primary plot point, which has an associated motivation.  There are tables to randomize selection of the plot points, and it's easy and fun to tie together the plot points into a narrative.

For example, here is the story I came up with, when this unit was going to be British:
The primary plot point for the scenario is "Bloodstained Plans".  Other plot points are "Shrink Amplifier", "Contragrav Cell", "Gas Box", and "Nervous Scientist".  The major plot point is at the behest of a "Newspaper Publisher", and "Someone's Freedom" is at stake.

So, The Daily Gazette has hired Charles Pinkerton Esq. to rescue missing reporter, Evelyn Goodbody, who was researching a laboratory in Bavaria.  Pinkerton has convinced Headquarters to bring on board the services of The Jet Rangers for this dangerous mission.  They must infiltrate the lab and steal the Bloodstained Plans to the amazing new technology of the Shrink Amplifier, a device used to create Ant-men as super-spies and also used to imprison nosy reporters.  The only way for the Allies to combat this new technology and rescue Evelyn Goodbody is to steal the plans and figure out how to reverse the process.

The Shrink Amplifier will be 'activated', and it will be a perilous terrain element.  Anyone who strays or is pushed into its containment field will risk having the Nervous Scientist turn them into a bug-sized (and impotent) hero.  Unless they incapacitate the Nervous Scientist first....

The Shrink Amplifier can be destroyed forever if a hero wrecks its one-of-a-kind energy source, the Contragrav Cell.  If anyone shoots the Gas Box, well,....that could make for a real explosive situation.....

I was going to introduce Pulp Alley to my gaming group today, at our semi-monthly meetup at the brewery, but Konflikt '47 won out for the game of choice.  A good problem to have!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A bombshell of a post

Goblins don't win spelling bees.

I crafted a nasty surprise for my Kings of War opponents -- a Goblin Bomb.  The sneaky little bastards leave one of these behind, after they've been Routed (or were they?......).

Technically, the artifact is called the Crystal Pendant of Retribution.  But I don't know any army that would thematically use a sparkly necklace to blow up all of their adjacent enemies.  Lame.  So, I made a good old-fashioned, Wile E. Coyote-style bomb.

Built from a wooden ball from Michael's craft store, some Plasticard pipe, and some modeling paste.
The graphic was painted freehand.

I wanted to have an accessory like this for the last 3 times that I've played my goblin army.  So, I rushed to put this project together in time for my game of Kings of War that was scheduled for today.

A Sunday Kings of War game, held at the Rocket Republic brewery.
My Goblin army on the bottom against an Elf army on top.

Unfortunately, I never got the chance to deploy the bomb!

My Goblins and Orcs give their war cry, ready for battle!
Too bad they have a really crappy general, who's going to get them all killed...
Due to an egregious error, I sent my forces too far forward, too fast, and I set them up for not one, but two, double-charges against my units.

As usual, I feed my opponent easy kills.

I figured I would be on the losing end of a shooting war with Elves, so I advanced quickly to engage in melee.  I just didn't account for the enemy charge distances.  And I'm the one who insists on pre-measuring in my war-games!

My Goblin unit (lower right) should be where my Orcs are, screening against the two sylvan units.
The Goblins are the ones carrying the bomb, you idiots!
Man, that would have been glorious, if the Goblins had dropped the bomb at the feet of those two units.
My Trolls hang in there, but the tree-dudes pack a wallop.  The Trolls can't stand up to the combined forces, especially with the Fey Enchantress healing the Elves that my Goblin archers shot up on the way to the front line.

In the end, I got tabled.  Back to the drawing board!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Orcs of the Behemoth

I finally did the final touch-ups and took photos of the Confrontation crew that I painted up for Adepticon 2017. 


Painting all the doo-dads took forever! 
But I did enjoy painting these models.  Lots of room for color-blending.
Trackers.

Mountaineers.
Warrior of Stone.
This model had the honor of being dropped by both Francesco Farabi and Ben Komets...
My fault, for not telling them beforehand that it was attached to the handle with only magnets.

Kolghor.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

New projects

I've been slow on the uptake after Adepticon, given 1) a visit to New Orleans for Jazzfest, 2) a crazy work schedule, and 3) being ill with the flu for a week.  However, I have high ambitions to prepare for NOVA Open.  My goals are:
  • Expand my Lord of the Rings forces to play the Chaos in Arda game.
  • Prepare a Dark Age crew to play the beginner's event.
  • Prepare an Arena Rex crew to play my buddies, Oko and David.
  • Prepare profile cards for Mini Mayhem to play Aaron.
  • Paint around 4 projects for Capital Palette.
I have slim hopes of achieving all these objectives, given my work schedule for the summer, but I need to at least list them all out, if I'm to have any chance whatsoever.

To throw another wrench into the mix, I promised a Facebook friend that I would paint his favorite, vintage Warhammer Ogres.  I don't normally paint for other people (since I have enough projects of my own to last through retirement), but occasionally I feel obligated to thank someone for being an awesome person.  In Sylvano's case, I respect the labor and passion that he devoted towards producing (and acting in) a video about a former Roman legionnaire.  I have to confess that he sweetened the deal by offering a few rare, Rackham minis in exchange....  But I would have done it anyway, because the ogres look like a blast to paint.

Vintage Citadel Ogres ready for priming.

For my Dark Age project, I decided to build out a crew of Salt Flat Nomads for my first Dark Age force.  I really like the realistic and unique styling of the Nomads' clothing and gear.  Kinda a cross between Dune and Star Wars.

Salt Flat Nomad Herders and a Dust Bull, for Dark Age.
More figures to come, to fill out a 500-point crew.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Adepticon 2017 (Part 2)


Seminars

I attended two seminars per day.  Each lasted about 2 hours.  I would have been happy with 90 minutes for most of them, leaving more time to peruse the Crystal Brush entries, but the time was well-spent, regardless.  As much as I appreciate learning new ideas or reinforcing old ones, I also enjoy learning about the personalities of the artists themselves.

Most of the seminars were located in the presentation rooms surrounding the Hobby Lounge, which encouraged a constant, high-energy hub of interaction between painters, pro and amateur alike.
I'll touch on some of my personal takeaways or impressions of each class, but I'll refrain from revealing too many specifics, out of respect for the artists, who are trying to make ends meet by imparting their knowledge in classes!

Francesco Farabi - Skintone


Francesco started the class with some color wheel theory, and I asked a question that I like to pose to professional artists:  what is their view on deciding when and why to use which of the three or so dominant color wheels.  Farabi prefers the traditional color wheel because of its practicality for mixing pigments.  Later, I discussed this topic with Raffaele Picca, and he made a compelling point that the printer's CMY color wheel also mixes pigments, as well as light....

One of Francesco Farabi's entries in the Crystal Brush.

Francesco described some of the qualities of professional artists' acrylic paints.  I've been experimenting with some of these paints for some time, and I learned a valuable lesson in when to favor the professional paints over the miniature paints, and vice versa.  Francesco probably spared me a lot of experimentation time!

Mohamed Mehdi - Non Metallic Metal


I asked Mohamed my usual question with regard to NMM:  where do you decide where to place the lights and shadows -- based on physics, aesthetics, or both?  Interestingly, his answer was the same as Jeremie Bonamant Taboul's.  Maybe because they're both French?

The ultimate in NMM, by Michal Pisarski.

We practiced NMM on a tiny figure from the Eden range.  Mohamed likes to begin with grey and then add the blacks and whites. He also likes to use a dry palette, which was a surprising running theme throughout some of the seminars.  I had the most practice with a dry palette that I've ever had, having never really used one, since I moved from using well palettes to using a wet palette. A dry palette is not as awkward as I imagined it would be.  I'll need to practice with it more, to decide when I should favor it over the other types.

As a bonus, I learned how to pronounce 'Cadwallon' in French.  Cadwallon is a primary city setting in Confrontation.  Mohamed used to work for Rackham, and he's French, so I figured he would be the person to ask!

A classic Rackham figure, expertly painted by Michael Stubbs.

 

Angel Giraldez - Airbrushing and Painting a Rackham Bust


My primary motivation to sign up for this class was to get the Rackham bust!  As it turns out, I was pretty blown away by the larger-scale work that Angel brought to show the class.  His style is even more impressive in person than in photos.  But that's probably true for any art, in general.


WIP orc bust, by Angel Giraldez.
I was surprised by the sensitivity of the Iwata airbrushes.  They took some getting used to.  They definitely have an entirely different feel than my Harder-Steenbeck workhorse and my Grex fine-points.

Another WIP bust, by Angel Giraldez.
My favorite take-away was learning how Angel efficiently cleans the airbrush -- basically by dunking it in the water-cup and blowing it out while submerged in the water!

This side-by-side comparison will be a helpful reference for me to improve my technique.
My ~90 minutes of work (on the left) next to Angel's (on the right).

By the way, Angel is another dry palette user.

Angel Giraldez and me.

 

Fabrizio Russo - Color Variations


I didn't really know what Fabrizio's class was going to be about.  About 30 minutes into the class, I still didn't know what it was about!  His English is good, but I think he felt a little self-conscious about it, so he seemed more comfortable demonstrating, as opposed to talking.  But we were painting a Rackham figure, so I was happy!

 I do not enjoy painting over black primer.
Eventually, I realized that our objective was to paint a 3-part, color transition on the figure's cloak.  Fabrizio likes to paint on black primer, so that was another opportunity to force me out of my comfort zone.

But I was surprised to discover that colors can still turn out vibrant and saturated over black primer.

 

Fabrizio Russo - Textures


The next day was a repeat with the kindly Fabrizio.  Another Rackham figure from the same faction, so I may have the makings of a proper unit!  This time, we used the figure's cloak to practice roughing it up with dirt and scratch textures.  I challenged myself to paint it red (again, over black primer -- a difficult task for me).  Another challenge using red is trying to figure out what colors will show up well on bright red to represent weathering.  I wasn't very pleased with my results, so I'm glad I tried it out on a practice piece!

Me and Fabrizio Russo.

 

Sergio Calvo &  Jose Manuel Palomares - Masterclass on Black Sailor Miniature


I have admired Sergio's work ever since he hit the scene, painting the new models for Dark Age, what, almost 4 years ago now?  Then I foamed at the mouth for the Black Sailor Kickstarter, and that's when I began to memorize his name and really study his style.  So it was a great opportunity to watch him work and hear his philosophy.

Sergio Calvo Rubio.
His technique is fairly straightforward.  Very low dilution, to maximize pigment concentration and therefore color intensity.  Little to no blending.  Bam.  Basically, return full-circle to opaque layers, a la Kevin Dallimore.  But now add texture and vibrant colors.  Oh, and he's another dry palette user....

Painted in the style of Sergio. 
I kinda overdid it, though.  The colors in Sergio's demo version were actually much less saturated.  I liked his version better....

Mohamed Mehdi- Skin


Another class with "Mo".  This time we worked on painting skin.  We worked "global" volumes first, followed by smaller volumes.  Mid tones, followed by lights, then shadows.

Another Eden figure.  No primer!

 

Sergio Calvo &  Jose Manuel Palomares - Learn with Crystal Brush Winners


My last seminar was a non-participatory, listen-and-observe class with Sergio and Jose.  I was thankful for the less demanding class to wrap things up on Sunday!

I again posed my question about the multiple color wheels.  Just like everyone else (except Raffa), they were non-committal towards one over the others.  For choosing complements, don't worry about which wheel - choose complements based on atmosphere....

Jose Manuel Palomares.
Jose impressed me as a highly demanding teacher -- kinda like the kung-fu masters in the movies.

 

Demos


With most of my time devoted to seminars, I filled in some of the gaps with game demos.

Blood & Plunder


I backed this historical-pirate game by Firelock Games on Kickstarter.  I knew it would be a long time before I actually played my own copy, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to play the game at the convention.  I really liked the flow and mechanics of the game.  And the models very well designed -- just the right amount of detail and very durable as game pieces.  Oh, and their vendor booth was one of the best in the vendor hall -- all "decked" out, like you were on a ship...

Rune Wars


I've had my eye on this game, ever since it was announced by Fantasy Flight Games about 6 months ago.  FFG made quite a splash with the game at Adepticon by giving away a free copy of the game to every premier and VIP badge-holder.  Someone said they gave away 1,800 copies!

I decided the game is not for me.  For a lot of little reasons, which, by themselves, wouldn't be decisive, but, collectively, turn me away.  I'm not crazy about the cartoonish, WoW-style aesthetic, and I don't like the jagged, jigsaw movement trays.  I don't like all the accessories and counters.  The movement doesn't feel realistic; it feels more like board-game movement, with wonky constraints.  I don't like removing casualties as "quads" from the trays, rather than removing the back models.

All that said, I will say that the game design is immensely clever, even elegant in some places.  I can easily see how the designers selected and tuned the mechanics to appropriately fit a mass-combat game.  But, for me, it just didn't come together as a whole.  I guess I'll be looking to the upcoming Song of Fire and Ice game to fill that void for a commercial option (Kings of War being my current commercial option and Mini Mayhem being my non-commercial option).

Dust 1947


Dust Warfare is in my Top 3 rulesets.  With the corporate fiasco surrounding the game and the consequent implosion of the player-base, I had written off any chance of Dust rising from....the dust.

It felt good to play the game again.

Even on the blessed grid.  I never thought I would play on the grid.  But, hey, it made sense to play the grid as a demo game, and I think it's wise to offer both grid and grid-less options.  As the new rule-book states, the grid is a helpful, newb-friendly point-of-entry into the game.  A player has the option to either stay there or move to grid-less.  Fair enough.

And the models were slick as always.  I ended up buying back into the game....  Sigh.

But, hey, I had a surprise "No" to RuneWars and a surprise "Yes" to Dust.  It evens out...

Friends


As you may have noticed, I finally learned how to take selfies...

My good pal and brother-in-arms, Josh.

An awkward moment with Lincoln.
Always a bundle of positive energy and source of belly-laughs, Scooter.
A regular on the Hobby Hangout, Derek.
Michael, showing in-force at Crystal Brush. 
Watch out, Derek, your face will freeze that way!
Photo-bomb courtesy of Matt.
Matt demanding his own photo.
Finally met Shoshie in person.
Jesus was there, too.  Oh, wait, that's Dan.
Always good to see Caleb.  Be sure to ask about his wood.
I bought some of Caleb's wood.
Haven't seen Ben since MFCA.  What a swell guy.
David and Bryan. 
David, I will claim your Bludgelt at NOVA Open.
And a pleasure to catch up with my good friend, Raffa.

Next Year!


Next year, I am resolved to drive to Adepticon.  After all of the lines, waits, and layovers, it takes the same amount of time to fly as it does to drive.  And with driving, I can transport as many armies as I want, and I can return with as much merchandise as I want.  And with the expense of airfare, car rental, and airport parking -- well, I can buy a lot of miniatures with that money... 

I'm still not sure if I will enter Crystal Brush next year.  We'll have to see how things pan out.

But speaking of Crystal Brush, if you've made it this far through this blog entry, here's my thank you....

Crystal Brush - The Gallery (continued)