Monday, March 30, 2009

Painting Slugga Boyz, Day Three

Finished assembling all of the boyz and glued sand to all their bases. Left off the big shootas so I can paint them separately.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stormtroopers in Multicam

As part of my continuing experiments in Imperial Guard camouflage schemes, I recently tried out a new scheme on one of my Stormtroopers.

Old Stormtrooper on the left, new "Multicam" version on the right.

The camouflage pattern is based on Crye Precision's "Multicam" pattern:

The pattern is basically made up of six colors: The first layer is Gretchin Green blending into Knarloc Green. Superimposed over that is a layer of Kommando Khaki blending into Khemri Brown. Finally the pattern is dotted with small marks of Charadon Granite and Bleached Bone.

Soldiers wearing Multicam while demonstrating Future Force Warrior project. Ft. Bliss, Texas.

I painted the body armor Kommando Khaki to provide some contrast to camouflage itself. All in all I'm rather pleased with the results. If I end up getting more Stormtroopers down the line, I may try out a squad with the body armor painted in the camouflage scheme as well.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Eight Stages of a Brazen Claws Space Marine

For fun I decided to take pictures of a model from start to finish.

1. Assembled: Model cut from the sprue and stuck on the base.
2. Cleaned/Based: Flash lines cleaned up, glued sand and some modeling gravel to the base.
3. Primed: Primed the model with white spray paint (see reasoning below)
4. Basecoat 1:

  • Armor: Red Gore/Regal Blue
  • Head: Tanned Flesh
  • Metal bits/loincloth: Chaos Black
  • Parchment: Snakebite Leather
  • Base: Goblin Green, Scorched Brown, Dark Codex Grey (50% Chaos Black, 50% Codex Grey--a special pot I mixed up).
  • Various wires, etc., Regal Blue, Dark Angels Green, Scab Red.

Obviously the coverage wasn't so great, so that led to:
5. Basecoat 2: Same a Basecoat 1, but with:

  • Loincloth: Tin Bitz
  • Aquila, Back Banner Eagle, Terminator Honors chain & medallion: Brazen Brass

6. Highlights 1:

  • Armor Plates: 50/50 mix of Red Gore/Blood Red and a 50/50 mix of Regal Blue/Enchanted Blue. I thinned the mix down a bit and applied it mostly towards the edges of the plates, but not to the extent of an extreme highlight.
  • Parchment: Bleached Bone. I didn't worry about the coverage too much, as the parchment is supposed to look old.
  • Face: Dwarf Flesh over most of the face except for the most recessed parts.
  • Chainsword Blade/Armor Joints: Boltgun Metal
  • Chainsword, Grenade, etc. Dark Codex Grey on the edges.
  • Loincloth: Brazen Brass on most of it except for the most recessed areas.
  • Aquilas, skulls, chain/medallion: Drybrushed Shining Gold.

7. Highlights 2:

  • Armor Plates: Pure Blood Red and Enchanted Blue on the edges of the plates.
  • Loincloth: Shining Gold on more raised areas.
  • Aquilas, skulls, chain/medallion: Dry brushed Burnished Gold.
  • Face: Painted a 50/50 mix of Dwarf Flesh/Elf Flesh on the most raised areas (eyebrow ridges/nose, cheekbones.

8. Final Details:

  • Head: Drybrushed some Chaos Black on the skull to give the impression of stubble, then toned it down a little with a thin wash of 50/50 Dwarf Flesh/Elf Flesh.
  • Eyes: Painted the Eyes with Chaos Black, then two Skull White dots on either side of a pupil.
  • Teeth: Bleached Bone.
  • Loincloth: Burnished Gold on the most raised areas.
  • Medallion Gem: Painted the gem Blood Red, shaded the top portion with Red Gore, then put a single Skull White reflection dot near the top.
  • Chapter Symbol: Painted the Brazen Claws Symbol on the left shoulder pad with Mechrite Red. Then painted it again with a 50/50 mix of Blood Red/Red Gore. Finally cleaned it up by painting over the mistakes with Regal Blue.

After some experimentation, I decided that painting over a white undercoat gave me brighter colors than painting over a black undercoat, so I think that for all my brazen claws going forward I'll paint them with a white undercoat.

White undercoat on the left, black on the right

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Painting Slugga Boyz, Day One

In the hopes of keeping me focused and getting these guys done in a reasonable timeframe, I've decided to keep a log of painting up the twenty Slugga Boyz that came in the Assault on Black Reach boxed set. Each day that I work on them, I'll put up a blog entry showing my progress.

So far I've managed to drill the gun barrels of all the sluggas, clean some parts, and assemble five boyz.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Figuring out what color to use

A while back I decided I needed swatches of my paints to help me plan future projects. I've found that more often than not, paint doesn't look quite the same color wet as they do dry. Therefore, I've found it immensely helpful to have a painted surface with the color I want right on it, for easy reference.

So I took a piece of posterboard, drew out a bunch of squares, and started filling it in with all the colors. I did this over time and somewhat haphazardly, but the result has turned out to be an invaluable reference for me--whenever I about a new paintjob, the first thing I do is grab this thing and pore over it, comparing it to miniatures I've painted, or swatches of cloth (for example, camouflage patterns) whose colors I want to try to match.

Next, I may make two of these swatch boards--one for colors painted over white, and another painted over black, to help with deciding what color primer to use for the effect I want to achieve.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Art of Camouflage

The uniform of the 5th Arcadian Regiment, from an old White Dwarf magazine 1. Note, they are not my 5th Arcadians--this is clearly a regiment from some other Arcadia in the Imperium.

The Warhammer 40,000 universe is one of contradictions. It is a universe of terrifying, obscenely lethal ranged weapons, but it is also a universe where most races wear bright battle dress and seem to prefer fighting in hand-to-hand combat rather than at range.

"The best gun in the galaxy won't help if your opponent is bashing your brains out with a rock!" 2 3 4

The 40k Universe is a universe where you can be carrying an assault rifle (sorry, I mean lasgun), eyeing an enemy on foot, on open ground, way off in the distance, outside the range of your weapon, and yet somehow you just know that you will only be able to get off one, or if you're lucky, two shots before those tiny dots on the horizon will be in your face, slashing at you with a choppa, and there's absolutely nothing that you can do about it...

But I digress. The reasons the 40k Universe are like this are to appeal to the gamer and hobbyist. The wargame is fun to play, with wide variety in the way each army is played. The models are dynamic and colorful, designed to be visually appealing.

Despite the polychromatic flair of most armies, camouflage still has its place in the 40k Universe. That place is with the Imperial Guard. (and with the Tau and a few others, but never mind...)

Most Imperial Guard players are drawn to the army for their "real world" appeal. If a player really wants "sci-fi" soldiers, they'll play Space Marines. If a player wants Space Elves, Space Orks, or Aliens, he'll play Eldar, Orks, or Tyranids. But if a player wants an army of human soldiers with armor and artillery support, i.e., like a real world modern army, they'll choose the Imperial Guard.

Thinking about Camouflage
Every Imperial Guard Commander has to put some thought into camouflage. Other Army Commanders do too, notably Tau, but most armies seem to like being in bright colors, probably due to pride and confidence in their armor (Space Marines), numbers and bravado (Orks), fashion sense (Eldar), etc. But to the Imperial Guard, camouflage is as necessary as their flak armor.

The Imperial Guard player has to take many things into account when considering a camouflage pattern, for example, the "culture" of the regiment he wishes to field. Many Imperial Guard regiments, like the Cadians, are well equipped and wear camouflage battle dress. Some, like the Mordians and Pretorians, fight in their dress uniforms, and therefore do not make use of camouflage at all. Others, like some Valhallan or Tallarn regiments, dress more for their harsh environments, and camouflage is a secondary concern to protection from the weather--but regiments still make use of it when they can.

Valhallan Imperial Guardsman 5
Not every commander has the means to equip his soldiers with camouflage uniforms at all. Sometimes the unit may be raised rapidly, from a poor world with limited resources, and the units end up being clothed in whatever is available at the time. Other units, with vast resources, may be equipped with some of the best equipment that the Imperium has to offer. This means that with the Imperial Guard you can find units wearing anything from cameoline to undyed wool.

As I mentioned in the last article, boldly painted armies look better on the table. If you paint your Imperial Guard camouflage too well, they will blend in with the terrain and look dull. If this is what you want, then fine. But can you paint a bold, striking army, and yet still paint them in "realistic" camouflage?
An Anacostian guardsman and a Brazen Claws Marine. Clearly, the marine is more striking on the table. The guardsman's camouflage is very similar to the color of the table itself--in fact, the camouflage is almost too good.

In order to be realistic, your camouflage MUST match the terrain
No it doesn't. The camouflage of your troops does not have to match the terrain. In the real world, inappropriate camouflage is often a fact of life.

US Marines in Iraq, 2003. 6
In this photo, soldiers are wearing desert camouflage on their helmets, but the rest of the uniform is woodland camouflage--far from ideal in the terrain of Iraq. Why? Because they are wearing MOPP gear over their desert camos. MOPP gear is battle dress to protect soldiers from toxic (nuclear, biological, and chemical, or "NBC") environments. When MOPP gear was originally issued, the US was expecting to use them in Europe, where a toxic battlefield was likely should World War III occur. Woodland camouflage in the European environment made sense. Desert camouflage MOPP gear was simply not available for Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, so the soldiers were just issued the gear that was available, inappropriately colored though it was.

There are also plenty of stories where troops, due to supply snafus, lack of funding, lack of time, or plain stupidity result in the troops on the frontline not getting what they need. For example, in the fall of 1941, when the Germans were driving to Moscow, the soldiers were not issued cold weather gear because their commanders wanted to encourage them to capture the city before the arrival of winter. Issuing cold weather gear, thus implying that it would be a long campaign, was deemed to be bad for morale. As it turned out, this was a big mistake--but it happened nonetheless.

Imperial Guard units are frequently on long campaigns, fighting on planets with markedly different environments. Due to the requirements of war, including rapid redeployment and supply problems, units may not receive the proper camouflage for a given planet, or indeed, any resupply at all. The result is that camouflage a given regiment is equipped with may be wildly inappropriate for the environment in which they are fighting. So, your Imperial Guard Regiment may be painted in a color scheme that seems out of place for the terrain on the table, but rather than being "wrong", it can be argued that this is in fact realistic.
Anacostian guardsman and a Fafnir Ice Wolf. Here, both are wearing camouflage, but the Ice Wolf's camouflage is slightly more vivid. More importantly, he's wearing winter "overwhites", which make him stand out more. If you're fighting on a woodland tabletop or a city, the argument goes that perhaps the snow melted the day before. (This outfit might seem a bit impractical on a desert battlefield however, but then, so do Valhallan overcoats...)

In the real world, troops are constantly being resupplied, and the army is notorious for delivering units inadequate or inappropriate gear. Soldiers in the field frequently have to make do with what they have. Hence their gloves, boots, packs, and web gear, etc., may be improvised with whatever they can get their hands on. Frequently this means that their equipment doesn't match their camouflage pattern. For the hobbyist, this is as important to remember as the camouflage. In other cases, the camouflage uniforms may have been issued to troops, but none of their other gear is yet available in the new pattern yet, so they have to mix and match multiple patterns.
In this picture from the movie Black Hawk Down (2001), it shows a US Army Ranger unit wearing a mish-mash of camouflage patterns--and the Rangers are an elite unit, so you might expect them to get priority when it comes to supply. At the time this event took place the army was switching between desert camouflage schemes, phasing one out while phasing in another. Here the rangers are wearing 3-color desert BDUs, 6-color desert "chocolate chip" helmet covers, and woodland camouflage body armor. If you want to see better pictures, watch the movie! 7

Paint Schemes
Here is a selection of camouflage schemes I have tried out and their real-world inspirations. In some cases I intentionally deviated from the strict color pattern in an attempt to make the color scheme stand out more, and thus be more attractive on the tabletop. In other cases, I just experimented in order to see what color patterns might look like.

16th Arcadian
Snot Green, Bestial Brown, Camo Green, and Chaos Black.

Woodland Camouflage

Anacostian Light Infantry
Knarloc Green, Goblin Green, Dark Angels Green, Khemri Brown


2nd Deukalion
Shadow Grey, Fenris Grey, Regal Blue, Space Wolves Grey

Navy Working Uniform

Fafnir Ice Wolves
Snakebite Leather, Dark Angels Green, Chaos Black, Khemri Brown


11th Arcadian (old)
Bleached Bone, Rotting Flesh, Bestial Brown

3-color Desert

11th Arcadian
Kommando Khaki, Graveyard Earth, Bleached Bone


2nd Cydonian
Codex Grey, Adeptus Battlegrey, Chaos Black


5th Arcadian
Codex Grey, Dheneb Stone, Fortress Grey

Universal Camouflage Pattern (Army Combat Uniform)

Useful Links is a site with tons of samples of real-world camouflage patterns that can be used for inspiration.
Camouflage Schemes: An Essential Guide by Tammy Haye - An article on the GW Australia website. - A large archive of military photos that show all sorts of camouflage.
1. White Dwarf, Issue 109, January 1989, The Imperial Guard.
2. Warhammer 40,000 3rd edition Rulebook, p62, 1998.
3. Warhammer 40,000 4th edition Rulebook, p38, 2004.
4. Warhammer 40,000 5th edition Rulebook, p34, 2008.
5. Photo taken from Games Workshop Website.
6. AP Photo.
7. Screenshot from Black Hawk Down, 2001.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When Stealth Fails, Try Boldness

Why camouflage?
For most of human history, camouflage was not used in organized warfare. Today the benefits of camouflage seem obvious, but in the past the lack of it made just as much sense. In warfare, posturing is just as important as killing power. To win, you don't necessarily have to kill the other guy, you just want him to be so scared of you that he doesn't want to fight at all (If he doesn't run/surrender, then you kill him). To look scary you wanted to be noticed--you wore flamboyant costumes in bright colors, waved huge flags and banners to rally your troops and strike fear into your enemies. You wanted to be seen and feared, because fear was your ally. (e.g., "The Redcoats are coming!")

Reenactment of the Battle of Lexington, April 21, 2008 1
The situation changed when weapons became so long-ranged and deadly that posturing in this manner was no longer effective. (Posturing is still around in modern warfare; it just takes on different forms.) Standing proud and tall in your bright uniform isn't as scary when the enemy can kill you easily from hundreds of yards away. Nowadays it is better not to be seen at all than be a tempting target.

To the Space Marine, camouflage is for wimps, while for the Imperial Guard, it's a matter of survival. But it was not always so.
Space Wolves on a covert mission 2
In the old days of the 1980s, Space Marines made as much use of camouflage as did the Imperial Guard.

"Some Marine chapters adhere rigidly to the traditional patterns. The chapter of the Red Scorpions not only sticks strictly to the lore of camouflage handed down from their original founding and embodied in the Codex Imperialis, but views any deviance from this practice as tantamount ot heresy ... The Commanders of the Imperial Guard are less stringent about such things than Marines, and will sometimes design their own schemes for a specific campaign." 3
Ultramarines Rhino in camouflage color scheme 4
Later on the same article, the more "modern" view seems to apply:

"Many schemes show no attempt at camouflage as such, but consist of solid heraldic colours proclaiming the identity of the occupants as surely as the shield of a medieval knight. Indeed, there are some Marine chapters whoe tradition actually forbids the use of camouflage on the grounds that "the colours of cowardice" are wholly inappropriate to a true warrior. This attitude, although by no means rare amongst the Legiones Astartes, is not officially recognised and is not emboded within the ancient Codex Imperialis." 5

The current trend in 40k is that all Space Marines paint their power armor and vehicles in the chapter colors, regardless of whether those colors are vibrant or subdued. The reason for this is probably due to the fact that brightly painted armies just look fantastic on the tabletop. This is one of the compromises the hobby makes to improve the wargaming experience. Armies with well painted camouflage schemes may be more "realistic" and blend in with the terrain, but because of that, they aren't as aesthetic. Most players want to paint an eye-catching army, not a dull one.
My Brazen Claws, looking pretty on the tabletop

For my Tau army, I originally wanted them in a camouflage scheme, but I also wanted them to stand out on the table. I also used a limited palette of Jade Green, Vile Green, and Scaly Green (unfortunately all discontinued, although I have found matching colors from Vallejo Game Color paints). My reasoning behind the scheme was that the Tau had originally been fighting on an exotic world with Jade Green colored vegetation.

One of the problems with this scheme was that since the palette was limited, there was little contrast on the model, and with the camouflage pattern, the outlines of the various pieces were also blurred. In a sense, the camouflage worked, and the result was that while the model had a bold color, the details of the model were minimized and the result was somewhat bland. My new paint scheme is much bolder, with much more contrast, and the result, I believe is more attractive.

My Tau, with the old camouflage pattern on the left, and the new, bolder scheme on the right.

In my early days in the hobby I wasn't too keen on brightly painted armies, but since then they have grown on me. But is it possible to have an army in camouflage, and still have it look striking on the tablestop? I say yes, but I'll elaborate on that in another post.

1. Joanne Rathe, Boston Globe Staff, April 21, 2008.
2. White Dwarf, Issue 105, September 1988, illustration by Russ Nicholson.
3. White Dwarf, Issue 103, July 1988. Rampaging Rhinos, Technical Drawing by H, coloured by Colin Dixon and Sid, p65.
4. White Dwarf, Issue 105, September 1988. Land Raider!, Rick Priestley, p4.
5. Ibid.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Painting is like having sex...

To quote Leslie Nielsen...
"It's like having sex. It's a painstaking, arduous task that seems to go on and on forever, and just when you think things are going your way...nothing happens."

Although Nielsen's character Lt. Frank Drebin was refering to police work, the analogy applies to painting too. When you have a new army planned, the sheer amount of models you need to paint can seem daunting. Since I have long since fallen into the trap of wanting to have multiple armies (Brazen Claws, Raven Guard, Imperial Guard, Tau, Eldar, Tyranids, Orks...yes, I'm insane), I'm amassed for myself a task akin of Tolkien's "Long Defeat." Each army has grown in slow stages over the years, and several of them are still small, but then, I've been collecting for 22 years now, so they've had time to mature.

Ever since the imminent arrival of the baby, my "gaming room" has been retired and replaced with a nursery. This, however, means that rather than hide up there and paint all evening after work, now I set up a card table in the living room. The result is that my wife sees more of me.

I use a large kitchen cutting board for my workspace/painting palette, and a desk lamp for illumination. I prefer to use natural light when I can, but these days that's not so realistic.

My palette, with years of mixing evident, including the yellow stain in the gutter where I knocked over a paint pot.

The TV is usually on to give me some background noise and something to look at when I need to rest my eyes. Now that the baby is here she's usually parked in her bouncer or swing next to my table so she can critique my painting abilities (she can be vicious). The multi-tasking might make my painting somewhat less efficient, but it's good for my sanity and keeping my mind occupied. And if I couldn't multitask, I'd never get around to painting at all!

In order to work through the mountains of miniatures, for the most part I paint in batches--that is, entire squads at a time. I switch between armies frequently to stave off burnout. So I'll paint a squad of Space Marines, then some Orks, then some guardsman, then some Tau, etc. Of course, painting ten more or less identical miniatures in a row can cause some burnout too. A frequent tactic that people use is batch painting when painting entire squads. That is, basecoat all ten models, then shade them all, then highlight, etc., like an assembly line. By the time you get to the last model, the first one is dry. I have found that this works for me, but in its own way that can lead to boredom too. So I put a little twist in it. I usually paint the basecoat of one color on all ten models, then paint the tenth one to completion. Then I paint the next color on the remaining nine, then complete the ninth model, and so on. At first the task seems daunting, but as the work progresses, there is less work to do on each model, and less models to work on, so it accelerates. On day one I might not finish any models, on day two maybe one model, day three another one, day four 2 models, day five a few more, and by day six the squad is done!

The latest edition to my Brazen Claws Army, Assault Squad 8, 2nd Battle Company, painted using the assembly line method.

By the time the squad is done, I'm usually temporarily sick of that army/color scheme, so I move on to something else. When I can't decide on what to do next, I might take a few random miniatures from different armies and work on all of them simultaneously.

But there's nothing like an upcoming game to galvanize you into painting miniatures. My Brazen Claws were doing pretty well, but when I started the Axis Columen Campaign, featuring them against the Necrons, I knew that the last battle of the campaign was going to be an Apocalypse battle, so I needed to get cracking to get my army up to snuff.

My Brazen Claws before the campaign.

But I wanted the last battle to be more...apocalyptic, and I knew that I needed some more firepower to face the Necrons and the Tombworld Beacon, so the army needed some augmentation.

My Brazen Claws at the last battle of the campaign, with the addition of Tactical Squads 3 and 4, the remaining five marines of Assault Squad 7, and Devastator Squad 9.

But it seems that whatever I'm working on...the mountain of unpainted miniatures just keeps getting larger and larger...perhaps my next project needs to be a conversion of a Space Marine named Sisyphus.