Friday, December 20, 2013

Deadzone Terrain Painting Guide

I got my Deadzone box last week. Say what you want about Mantic but they manage to get Kickstarters shipped on time. I won't give a long review, but I'm happy with the figures and the terrain. I'll always prefer hard plastic or metal over "restic" or whatever people call their plastic / resin formulation, but the minis are still Good Enough. Good enough to get boosters and add-ons when they open up the survey for Wave 2, at least.

Anyway, the terrain is really nice. Even if Deadzone ends up being a bust (and I hope it isn't as it looks good) I can use it for Dredd or Infinity or whatever else.

A few quick thoughts and tips about assembling the terrain. When assembling I only assembled straight wall pieces. After priming I assembled the rest of the buildings.

The biggest tip I have is that I think there are mold lines in the holes for the pegs to go into. Cleaning those a little bit with a knife made assembly a lot easier. I'm not sure how this affects its ability to be taken apart or the like, but since I glued my pieces together I didn't care.

Also, keep in mind that the set doesn't quite come with enough "connector" pieces. There's enough to get the job done, but I have a few buildings (my 2x2 building especially) that would be a lot sturdier if I had extra connectors.

Painting Guide

Step 1: Prime the pieces, both sides, grey. I used Krylon's Grey Primer as it is dark enough, almost the same shade of un-primed pieces, and works as a great base.
Step 2: Assemble your buildings. Paint on liberally Tallarn Sand. This will be painted over, but gives the final result a lot of extra texture and makes it look a lot less boring than just flat grey.

Step 3: Do a "wet brush", not quite a dry-brush but not straight out of the pot, of a rough coat of Dawnstone over the top. As you'll see the brown undercoat still has an effect and I think it gives the grey some richness that straight grey wouldn't have.

Step 4: Pick out a detail or plate to paint with a vibrant color. I chose yellow, GW's Averland Sunset. I tried doing different colors for different buildings but I don't think it worked, adding some reds to other buildings gave the pieces the look and feel of a fast food restaurant.

 Step 5: Get some sponge and dab on black. Dab this on some paper towel to make it mostly dry. Then dab it on the pieces at different angles. I got this idea from the White's Wolves blog in their terrain painting guide for Deadzone. I'll likely also use this bit when I paint my Enforcers.

Step 6: For even more weathering, I did the bottoms of the buildings to look a little muddy and dirty. To do this I brushed on GW's brown texture, Stirland Mud, and then brushing on Steel Legion Drab on top.

Step 7: I used GW's Nuln Oil (black wash) on some bits. Namely the girders for the building frames and the big "fan" looking bits on other panels.

Step 8: I then applied some of my secret blood wash (a pot of different inks, washes, and glazes that I keep adding to) on some parts. I then used the sponge to dab on some so it gives a splatter effect. I imagine GW's new blood wash would work well on this.

And here's a finished panel:

I'm actually quite happy with how it all turned out. I painted 24 sprues worth in about 4 hours, and I think the table looks solid and matches well with the mat that came with the Kickstarter.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kairos Fateweaver and a Converted Lord of Change

I'm making a lot of progress on my Daemons for NOVA. At this point I only have 30 Pink Horrors to finish up and 3 more Flamers. I really love the Daemon army because its play style is hyper aggressive and fast, but it's also easy to speed paint and very colorful. I like colorful armies, that's why I dug the Aspect Warrior Eldar army so much and my Space Marines are a Crusade force of bunch of different chapters.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of GW's Fateweaver model. He's a little leaner and weaker looking than the Lord of Change, but he should be. It was a fun model to paint and I'm very happy with how the feathers on his back go from purple to green. The pictures are a little dark, but I hope you get a good idea of what he looks like.

When I got the Reaper Bones Kickstarter I ended up short one model (the Frost Wyrm which I'm going to see if it could work as a Mawloc) but got two Jabberwocks instead. The Jabberwock looks really cool, but it's also the right size and general shape of a Lord of Change. After playing a bunch of games with a Great Unclean One I figured that the Lord of Change would likely be a better fit as the Great Unclean One never dies, but he also never gets anywhere.

After some green stuff for his loin cloth (diaper, more like), brass rode and green stuff'd staff, and some chains for jewelry I think he comes out a really nice looking Lord of Change.

Instead of spending whatever GW charges for a Lord of Change (I don't complain about costs) I got this guy done for not much at all.

There were a few issues with the model. The biggest is that he falls over. The Bones material is soft and has good detail, but for taller figures (or at least for this one) he wants to fall forward. I'm sure the extra bits I put on him didn't help much, but the only thing I could do to remedy it is to sculpt a stone for his front right leg to lean against. Without this he falls forward way too much and takes up the whole length of a large oval base.

The other problem is that some parts of the wings crack. The paint just shows a little bit of cracking and it's a little concerning.

After Dull Cote this guy becomes a little more rigid and is fine. I like the way he came out and I think he looks good. I'm especially happy with how the raised dots on his skin fade from bright red to purple to blue to turquoise to green. I think it looks really good.

Also, I thought I should take some size comparison photos between the two.
I don't have the GW Lord of Change model, but this looks close to how they look together. The Jabberwock is a little bigger, but I think he fits well within a reasonable size of what the Lord of Change should be. I think they work together just fine.

Next week I'll have 20 Flesh Hounds up, and maybe the Pink Horrors. The week after that will be NOVA Open Battle Reports and a review of the event itself.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Daemon Prince for Chaos Daemons, or How Reaper Models Fit In


I'm finishing up my Chaos Daemon Army for the NOVA Open. More so, I've also been painting models that don't fit into what looks to be the list I'm taking to the NOVA Open, which is good as it'll give me some flexibility moving into the future.

While I'm only taking one Daemon Prince in my actual list, I ended up painting three of them. I wanted to see how some Reaper models fit in and I took some pictures to show the paint jobs and the scale as well.

First, the plastic GW Daemon Prince.

I like this kit pretty well. It's a little beefy and not without a ton of personality, although it's plastic and easy to convert, but it's a good kit. I painted it with whites and purples because I associate those colors with lots of things, and I figured they were good enough colors for him to be Nurgle, Slaanesh, or Tzeentch.

Next I got an Eldritch Demon from Reaper (now in Bones and should be ridiculously cheap) to use as a Nurgle Daemon Prince. He's a little small, comparison photos with the plastic Daemon Prince are included as well, but if you were to mount him on some cork or something he'd fit in pretty well.

Last, I got the Reaper Vulture Demon Skalathrix. He's thin and a little short, but again I think he would do well if put on a bigger base. Very Tzeentch-like, too, and a good enough figure (especially for the cost).

Last, I picked up the Rauthuros figure from the Reaper Bones Kickstarter hoping to use him as a Blood Thirster. I think he fits in well, but again is a little shorter than I would like (although he is more than wide enough). For how much he cost ($10 which also got another Khorne looking Demon that would work perfectly as a Daemon Prince, he's almost the perfect size)  he really can't be beat, plus I think he looks good.

Next week I'll have my Fateweaver and converted Lord of Change (from the Reaper Bones Jabberwock figure) to show off.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chaos Daemons - Great Unclean One and Plaguebearers

I've not been blogging much lately, which is especially sad as I've been painting and playing a lot this year, but I'm hoping to change that.

For the NOVA Open this year I've decided on Daemons. I know everyone is really excited about Tau, but I don't think they are that good (they're good, just maybe not great) and I really don't want to be in Game 6 with someone who has had 4 previous games against Tau.

Daemons, on the other hand, I think are undervalued. They're relatively cheap, fast, have an Invulnerable save, and are a dynamic army that fit my play style better. I like movement and I like attacking my opponent. I enjoy throwing models at whoever I'm playing and enjoy the frantic pace assault armies provide.

I'm not 100% sure as to what I want to take for Daemons yet. Part of me wants to do 50 Lesser Daemons with a bunch of Flesh Hounds and Seekers of Slaanesh and other goodies. Another part of me wants to do 4 Flying Monstrous Creatures with Chaos Space Marine allies for a Helldrake because Winning Is The Only Thing. I'm not sure, but I'll get it figured out.

Either way, I've been painting Daemons. The last 8 days I've painted 40 Plaguebearers, a Great Unclean One, and a Herald of Nurgle. It's not a bad start and I'm very happy with how the miniatures came out.
 This set of 42 figures probably took me about 15 hours total to paint, which is not too bad for how they came out. I'm actually very pleased with the look of these models and I think I did them justice in how I painted them.

 Actually painting them was fairly easy. I searched around for a good recipe for Nurgle skin and couldn't find one, so I thought I'd share the one I came up with.

First I primed them with Army Painter Necrotic Green. Next I washed them with GW's Agrax Earthshade. After which I did a dry brush of Nurgling Green, followed by another dry brush of Ogryn Camo, and then a final light dry brush of the old Rotting Flesh color.

After this I paint the wound sections either a flesh color or pink, pink especially for entrails and things of that nature, before washing them with my home made blood wash (it's a weird mixture of red ink, brown wash, red wash, red glaze, and some other things. It's not scientific and I just add new whatever colors when the pot gets half empty, but I love it and use it a lot). For the pimple sores I paint them with white dots before going over them and their surrounding areas, as well as the edges of all cuts and open areas, with the red wash. I then reapply the white dots on the pimply bits.

I paint bone in a boring way (I think Steel Legion Drab followed by Tallarn Sand and finally with Ushabti Bone) and do yellow eye dots. The swords are painted black and then edged with Daemonette Hide and the old Lich Purple, and I do apply a gloss coat on them after they've been dullcoted to give them a little something.

All of this paints up very fast and I think looks good. I'm very happy with these figures and I think they're some of the nicest I've painted.
Next I'll be finishing up my Tau, have 2 Devilfish, 12 Fire Warriors, and 12 Pathfinders to paint, and after that it'll be Daemons and Daemons and more Daemons until Nova. The tentative plan now is to do 40 of each of the lesser Daemons and a bunch of other things so I have enough variety in army list for both Fantasy and 40k.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bioshock Infinite Review

I'm not much of a video game player. I'll play maybe one or two games a year, and there will be years that go by without playing any. Every few months I'll walk over to the Game Stop and get a used game, play it for twenty minutes, and just stop. I did that with Gears of War, Prince of Persia, and a bunch of other games.

Recently I've played the first two Dead Space games. I really enjoyed those. They had good stories, great environments, and fun gameplay that never got too fast or crazy. I'm not very good with the XBox controller, but Dead Space moved at a deliberate enough pace that it was both fun and rewarding for my skill level. Before that I played the the Telltale Walking Dead game which was so good it has made the television show unwatchable. Before that I played the first Bioshock and before that Half Life 2. Half Life 3 would likely be enough for me to get a new PC to play it, but I'm not hip to most video games. I'm just mentioning all of this to give some perspective as to where I'm coming from, and because those are the big points of comparison I have for Bioshock Infinite.

I picked up Bioshock Infinite largely because of its setting and themes. Eugene Debs is, as I've discussed many times, my hero and someone I find endlessly fascinating and inspirational. Eugene Debs got over a million votes in the election of 1912, and when I found out that Bioshock Infinite took place in 1912 and dealt with issues of labor and resistance it became apparent I had to pick it up. I played the first Bioshock in large part because it was a critique of Ayn Rand, although being a big fan of System Shock 2 didn't hurt.

I'm going to approach this review by tackling the actual game play first, and then by talking about its story and themes.

I'm not very good at playing first person shooters with the XBox controller. I do well using a mouse and keyboard, but for some reason I always feel clumsy with a console controller. I'm sure some of my feelings about the game play resulted from this, but I feel like some of the other issues I had weren't caused by my own ineptitude. 

Bioshock Infinite's game play isn't much different than the first Bioshock. It's not a bad game by any means, but it was never especially satisfying or tactical. A game like Half Life 2 features a lot of interesting scenarios that resulted in challenging game play that necessitated smart play. I always felt like a lot of the battles in Half Life 2 were won with a combination of tactics, thought, and twitch reflex. Bioshock Infinite, on the other hand, felt way too frantic and muddy so that I never really felt as though I was using any sort of tactic. I never felt like the actual game play was especially satisfying. I would mostly just shoot the baddies, run around to regain health, and repeat. 

The biggest problem I have with Bioshock Infinite's game play is that I'm not sure they ever figured out what they wanted the game play to be. Did they want it to be a fast paced action shooter? Did they want it to play like a first person Prince of Persia where jumping and using the sky railway was essential? Did they want it to be about the pseudo-magic abilities you controlled so you could possess, disorient, and lay traps? Or did they want the game to be about opening up "tears", basically controllable pieces of terrain that you can activate, to use to your advantage? The combination of all of these creates muddled game play that is less exciting than it is merely frantic and overwhelming. This combined with my sloppiness with the controller made it so I treated the game almost exclusively like a standard shooter by ignoring most of these other features.

Don't get me wrong, the game play is never bad. I never disliked it, but I mostly found it to be a price to pay so I could advance the story and explore the world set up in the game. Had the game been a bit slower and more measured like Dead Space I think I would have liked it more. Still, it was perfectly acceptable, especially since it is clearly not the selling point of the game.

The major reason I purchased and played the game was because of its setting and themes. The 1890s through 1930s period is one of the most interesting periods in American history, and it is a history that never gets discussed. We might hear about prohibition or World War 1, but rarely is there talk of the labor struggles and ramifications of laissez faire capitalism. Bioshock Infinite promised a game that would take all the elements that fascinate me so much about this period (nationalism, labor, industrialization, technology, race, women's liberation, and many others) and make them the focus of a video game. 

Sadly, I feel that most of these issues only serve as window dressing. While some of these issues are touched upon, they seem to be discussed in only the most obvious and on-the-nose way. A lot of this has to stem from the world simply not feeling real. I felt that the first Bioshock existed in an actual world, I believed that Rapture was an underwater city that ate itself alive because of the untenable nature of its philosophical foundations. The world felt real in the game as well, especially since we arrive in Rapture after things got bad.

Columbia never felt real. You enter the city on a normal day and the streets are largely empty. Columbia doesn't feel lived in or real. Once things go bad and the action starts I became confused about why some people were shooting at me and others weren't. It's a beautiful game and Columbia looks gorgeous, but I never felt like it was a real breathing city. I'm sure it's easier to create a rotting corpse of an underwater city like Rapture, but Columbia feels like it doesn't quite attain its lofty goals.

I felt underwhelmed by the themes the game wanted to explore, and I think a lot of that comes from the world it exists in. We see a few instances of how awful unfettered capitalism is, one of my favorite scenes involves an auction site where workers bid on how fast they can accomplish tasks at a factory, but for the most part it feels as though the game simply asks us all to come in understanding that things are bad for the working class. I'm sure some of this comes from my desire to be beaten over the head with Eugene Debs and allusions to the Pullman Strike, but I feel that if you're going to make a game that deals with these issues that they need to feel immediate and real. Instead, I come away knowing that the wealthy, like the industrialist Fink, are bad to the working class but don't find myself caring.

That the game *SPOILER* eventually has the labor resistance, the Vox Populi, become almost as bad as the industrialist overlords feels like a silly attempt to be neutral. That combined with your inability to actually be involved in any of the struggle that occurs between Comstock and the Vox Populi makes me feel as a viewer and not an active participant. That normally wouldn't be a problem, but this is a video game. I wanted to be part of a worker's revolution in the sky and to murder cloud bourgeoisie with fire. It's not fair to judge something for not being what I wanted it to be, but I feel as though the game paints this world and then asks you to be a viewer instead of a participant.

Other issues, such as nationalism and religion, are handled well enough. Even then, they are a little on the nose. Instead of being an incisive critique on American exceptionalism, the game becomes a bit of a comedy. Comstock and Columbia are too broad, too obvious, and too comical to really have any teeth as actual criticism or commentary. 

Despite my problems listed above there is a lot to like about the game. While I'm a little annoyed that the reasons I got the game were merely window dressing, the game ends up telling a much more personal and existential story. Similar to the first Bioshock there is a twist that changes a lot of what you see during the course of the game, and ultimately the game is about the relationship with Elizabeth. Again, it's not fair to judge a game based on what you want it to be, but I do wish the game focused more on its setting and the societal themes within. 

In the end, the story told is compelling. While I don't find the relationship between Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth to be as compelling or emotional as the relationship between Lee and Clementine in the Walking Dead Telltale adventure game, it still manages to be engaging enough. Ultimately, I enjoyed this game but am a little baffled by the amount of love and critical praise it gets. All the things I liked about the game I found done better elsewhere, but all the same it's a fine game and one I don't regret playing. Now back to painting my toy soldiers and not wasting my time with these dang video games kids like to play.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jack Swagger, Zeb Colter, and the Tea Party

I was always a fan of Jack Swagger. I enjoyed his push ups, I liked his flying around like an eagle soaring high above, and I always thought he had a lot of upside in the actual act of doing the wrestles. He's a good wrestler that was only held back by his inability to talk.

His humorless Kurt Angle shtick ran its course quickly after he stopped working with Dolph Ziggler. After a few adventures on Mars he came back and had a new fire in his belly. That fire was racism, or patriotism if you're one of those people.

His friend, Zeb Colter, has been doing the talking and has been rather controversial. Instead of getting into what has been said it is easiest to direct you to their YouTube videos.

There's two ways I approach this. First, is as a wrestling fan. As a wrestling fan I'm not sure how this angle plays out. Like I said above, I like Jack Swagger and this seems like a dead-end gimmick for him. He obviously can't win long term with this angle, and at a certain point this shtick won't work. Worse, my bleeding heart has a bit of sympathy for jobber types so once this angle runs its course and he ends up jobbing to Fandango it'll just make me feel sympathetic for him.

As a fan of wrestling and politics, however, this angle is really exciting. The thing I like most about it is that it is not too obvious and is not as on the nose as it could be. It would be very easy to have Colter and Swagger yell derogatory comments and just become a South Park parody. Instead they use language that is grounded in the reality of today's right.

It would be easy for Zeb Colter to be entirely too villainous, but instead he uses many of the same code words and way of phrasing things as the actual Tea Party. Instead of talking about how he hates brown people he instead talks about America and it being a "City on a Hill". His arguments are completely in line with what is fairly mainstream in conservatism. I'm sure many of you have family members that would be near indistinguishable from Zeb Colter.

One only has to look at Michele Bachmann's statements on the Pigford Settlement and white farmers harmed by floods, Sarah Palin's constant yammering about "real Americans", or just an otherwise quick glance at RedState or Free Republic to see how realistic Zeb colter is.

I'm somewhat hopeful of where this angle could go after the inclusion, or at least the attempted inclusion, of Glenn Beck. In Colter and Swagger's video inviting Beck to Raw they constantly refer to Beck's "followers". That's a peculiar way to phrase things and not altogether inaccurate. Going after Glenn Beck the way they did shows a certain degree of perspective that one can assume the WWE wouldn't otherwise have.

Many of the reasons for the Tea Party and the rise of right wing populism stem from economic despair that is entirely too understandable and sympathetic. While it is too easy to wave your hand and speak of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh whipping these people into a frenzy for ratings and money as the exclusive reason for the Tea Party and its racism (and this is something I've seen many liberals say, because the real reasons for these people are with issues liberals do not wish to address), there is a small bit of truth to the belief that the tail wags the dog.

Further positioning Zeb colter as an almost cult like leader of Jack Swagger works as an interesting critique of these media personalities by the McMahons. Linda McMahon, despite being terrible in almost every way a member of the bourgeois class is able to be terrible, was a fairly mainstream Republican. She thought she had a decent chance at becoming Senator of Connecticut, and one must wonder how much the McMahons blame the Tea Party for shoving them far to the right and becoming unelectable in a blue state like Connecticut.

So much of the Zeb Colter story seems to be a broadside from the McMahons at the Tea Party and the media darlings associated with it. It makes a lot of sense that they are going to depict the Tea Party in an unsavory way. Moving forward I hope they allow this angle to run its course, but for Swagger to get a change of heart and understand that him and Yoshi Tatsu aren't so different afterall and that instead of yelling at poor immigrants he should start hurting hedge fund managers and politicians that support globalization. And he should rename all of his moves after Emma Goldman.

No war but class war, brothers and sisters.

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