The Joys of 3D Printing – The Learning Curve 4 – Angles

OK!  We’re seasoned veterans of resin 3D printing already by this point!  We’ve printed test models, dialled in all our settings, and can print anything, right?

Sadly, no.  There is yet more to learn.

Most free models out there aren’t pre-supported.  And sometimes you want to do wacky things like scale a model up or down.  And sometimes the presupported models aren’t that happy on your printer.

What we need to do is understand how best to prepare 3D models on the build plate without any supports, in order to get the best, most reliable prints once we add those supports ourselves.  And one of those tricks with “best” is to try and ensure that the supports attach to parts of the models that we aren’t as worried about so any dimples caused by removing the supports are noticed least.

And now, we’re into a wierd mix of art, science, and understanding the results on your own printer.  Please we very much aware that your mileage may vary!

Angle models to support themselves

One of the key tools when it comes to placing models on the build plate in the slicer software is rotation.  You aren’t altering the model – just changing the angles the model sits on the plate.   If you can rotate the model so there are fewer isolated sections or overhangs that need to be supported, it significantly reduces problems supporting the model.  If generally the models limbs point towards the ground?  Printing it with the head near the bottom and the legs higher up means every level attaches to the level below without any additional supports.  Even small changes in angle can make a big difference.  A characters chin?  If it starts away from the neck and below the rest of the head?  Well, that will need to be supported.  Change the angle so the chin is the same or higher than the rest of the head?  Its attached, won’t need supporting in the same way … and is much more likely to print.

The fewer supports needed to give isolated starting points something to attach to, the better.

Angle models to let supports connect to locations that matter less

Removing supports can leave slight blemishes on the output – just like cutting sprues from parts can leave slight blemishes.  The supports are tiny, but can be noticeable, particularly on areas like faces or key details.

Think of a model of a person.  If its all the other factors are pretty equal, would you place the model face up, or face down?  All the supports will attach from the build plate – so you probably want the model facing up to avoid connections on the front and face that you’ll mostly be looking at.

Basically, try to make the most important details face up!

Angle models to avoid them being flat

One real key to making prints successful is to angle the models slightly to reduce the amount of the model being printed with every layer.  The smaller each layer is, the less force the print is subject to as every layer is pulled off the release film, and the more likely it is to be successful – too much force could deform the layer – or just pull the print off the supports!

Think of a 40mm x 40mm x 5mm square base for a model.  If you angle that, you reduce the surface area on the plate massively!  Try an angle of 10-20% – it really does make a huge difference.

Angle models to reduce the height

The higher the models are, the more layers you need to print.  More time, more cost, more impact on the life of the screen, more chance the printer gets rocked, or the power cuts.  Reducing the height of print makes it more likely to be successful overall.

Avoid suction!

Try to avoid hollow spheres or the like when printing – instead of pulling a bit of plastic from the base, you effectively make a sucker that sticks the plate to the base!  That … will not end well.  Angling a model so a hollow cup or basin is sidewise will massively help prints end up well.

Try to have joins towards the bottom of a print, rather than the top

If you have a delicate model, with two legs moving up towards a join, any slight variation in the position of the legs could cause extra tension or cracks in the join.  Starting at the join, and then moving up the legs?  That’s more likely to be successful as you don’t have the tension of the legs working against the join.

Contradictions!

Of course, these all contradict each other.  You want to reduce the height of the build, so you lay the model of a person down.  You need to ensure its angled to reduce the surface area – so you tilt it up 15% increasing the height!  You need to angle it to reduce overhangs – so you tilt it around to have the a pointing arm going up – increasing the height again. 

It’s essentially a game of compromises, balancing improvements for the whole print success against smaller detail and cost.  It truly is an art.  And there are no guarantees of success until you actually print the model.

 

The Joys of 3D Printing – Learning Curve 3 – Designing the Build!

Right!  We’ve worked out all the perfect settings for our printer.   We have the lift speeds sorted out.  We have all our exposure settings sorted out.  We know what we’re doing for safety.  Its time to just hit print, right?

I’m afraid not.  This is where the learning curve can go a bit into hyperdrive.  We have to put 3d models onto a virtual build plate using “slicer” software, and prepare a file for the printer to know exactly what settings to use and the exact pattern of UV light to shine to set every individual layer.  We’ve discussed the general settings we need already, so they should be entered into the slicer software.

Now, if you have a model that is “presupported”, you can simply import that into the slicer software, make sure it fits nicely on the plate, run the “slicing” software to prepare the final output file, save that onto a USB stick, plug it into the 3D printer, and print it!  Huzzah!  We’re pretty much there! (I use Chitubox with the Elegoo Mars Pro, incidentally).

Or are we?

Let’s think back to the first article – costs.  What costs do we  incur with every print?   Resin costs are dependant on the number or size of the models printed, of course.  But the cost of the gloves?  If we can fit two models on the plate to print at once and use one set of gloves to clean then up and cure them safely?  That halves the number of gloves we’d use.  In addition, the running time on the screen is exactly the same for 8 models on one build plate as it is for one model (assuming the same height, of course!).

In terms of cost and efficiency, it’s generally best to print as much as possible on the plate that you think you can print reliably in one go.  All those associated costs per mini just fall massively.  40p of gloves for 8 separate models each is about £3.20.  40p of gloves for 8 models in one go is 40p.  A 9 hour detailed print run for 8 separate models is 72 hours clocked up on the run time of the UV screen (that’s overly simplistic, of course, as much of the time the light is off moving the build plate up and down, but the ratio is true), while a 9 hour detailed print run for 8 models at once is 9 hours clocked up on the screen.  For older printers like mine, the screen is only rated for around 150 hours usage.

So ideally we should be thinking of maximising our prints, optimising the available space and minimising all the associated costs.

So we need to import more models (and for this article, we’ll assume they are all presupported) onto the plate, arrange them to ensure that all the models and supports fit into the build area, that they don’t overlap or conflict, and we may need to rotate them a little bit to fit in easily.

And now we actually can prepare a sliced image, save it onto a USB stick, and try printing it.

Though … a lot of 3d models aren’t presupported.  Or sometimes presupported models aren’t supported well.  So we’ll look at tips and tricks for preparing more complex models on the build plate next article!  The same principles will hold true though – we want to maximise our printing while minimising our costs.   We just have to be aware of quality and ensure we get successful prints too.

The Joys of 3D Printing – The Learning Curve 2 – Vrooom speeds!

So, we have our exposure times sorted out.  We’re golden now, right?  Time to hit print!

Well, no.  It’s still not that easy.

Resin printers have a build plate that pushes close to the transparent membrane in the bottom of the resin tank, the UV sets a layer onto the build plate, then the build plate actually mechanically raises itself up pulling the set resin off the membrane, allowing fresh liquid resin to rush in, then moves down for the next layer of resin to attach to the last layer as the UV light sets it.

That means – more variables!  And you thought you had it cracked!

We can actually set the speed that the base plate raises the resin print off the FEP release plastic.  And oddly, this is one area where I believe (thanks to the wisdom of many much more experienced 3d printers) that the default values you are given (for the Elegoo Mars Pro at least) are basically totally wrong.

If you set the lift values to go very slowly (40mm/min) then then plate very gently retracts, and this tends to work very well, especially for detailed prints.  You can go the other way with “Vroom Speed”, and set it to around 240mm/min and then the plate goes quite quickly with a comparatively sharp yank.

The default values of 90 or 100mm/min are actually terrible.  They go fast enough to put force onto the build, but slow enough to extend out the period that force is applied for.  Going as fast as possible gets the pull off the plate done quickly.  Going as gently as possibly minimises the stresses.  This middle of the road setting?  It’s the worst one to pull minis or parts of supports, or have supports not reach key pieces.

I generally use Vroom speeds for 0.05mm layer standard quality prints, and very slow 40mm/min speeds for 0.03mm layer high quality prints, and I find that works well for me.

This is something I haven’t found very well documented online, and came across chatting in 3D printing chats with people who do this professionally.  It makes sense to me and has definitely given me more reliable and better prints.

Learning curve, eh?

The Joys of 3D Printing – The Learning Curve 1 – Exposure Times!

So, we have all of our safety equipment in line, and we know w’re doing this for fun and to create our own wacky bits and pieces rather than looking for cheap replacements to existing minis.  Pour some resin in the tank, and hit print, right? (And note, I am again just talking about Resin Printers, not Filament Printers here!)

Oh no.  This is nowhere near that simple.

First, every resin printer screen produces different amounts of UV light.  That means the length of time you need to expose each layer of the print will vary depending on your printer, and the condition of the screen.  Mono UV printers produce a much stronger light, speeding the prints up considerably. 

Next, each brand, type and even colour of resin requires different amounts of UV exposure to set as well.  We instantly have two factors affecting the exposure times!

But … it doesn’t end there.  Resin printers generally offer a range of quality.  Most default to a layer height of 0.05mm.  That’s pretty damn good.  But most can go to 0.03 or even 0.02.  My Elegoo Mars Pro can go to 0.02, but I don’t really see any improvement beyond 0.03.  Of course – if you have less resin in a single layer, what does that mean?  Yes, the exposure time for each layer needs to be altered again.

So what does the exposure time effect?  

Over exposure means that you’ve exposed the resin to the UV light for too long.  How can that be a problem?  Well, if any UV light bleeds around the edges of the print, you’ll find additional resin at least partially sets too, making parts a little larger than anticipated and losing detail.  

Under exposure means that you haven’t exposed the resin to the UV light for long enough!  What does that mean?  Well, small details may be smaller than expected, or absent entirely, as the entire piece may not have set.  You’re also more likely to see layers not sticking to each other properly, as the resin hasn’t fully hardened on the existing parts of the model.

You need to dial your printer in to the right settings for the printer, the layer height, and the specific resin.  For very precise work, you might even need to dial it in for batches of the _same_ resin!

Test prints exist – the Ameralabs Town being the best I’m aware of, with a whole slew of guidelines here to help you tweak your printer exposure settings based on printing this cracking wee model.  There are other test pieces, but this is particularly good to illustrate a wide range of possible results.

You can also generally get recommended PDFs of exposure times for various resins for a standard 0.05 layer thickness from the resin manufacturers and printer manufacturers, like these for the Elegoo here.

To get up and running, using the standard layer height with the recommended settings from the manufacturer will get you working.  It won’t be the best quality you can get, but it’ll work, and get you started.  But to move off the defaults, you have to really start learning how to work with test prints.  Like the article title says – its a learning curve!

The Joys of 3D Printing – Safety!

First, lets just highlight this refers to Resin printers, not filament printers.  I’m sure there are safety issues there as, well, but this is just what I’ve learned from getting a Resin Printer from Xmas, and learning both the hard way and through frantic research how to do it without dying horribly.

So, lets be very clear – the big issue with resin printers?  The resin.  UV sensitive resin is, frankly, absolutely horrible stuff.  Potentially carcinogenic, organic dangerous fumes, can cause increasing allergic reactions over time to the point of very serious burns.  Some resin is worse than others, but it is a hazardous material and needs to be treated very serious.

What does that mean?  Resin doesn’t go down the drain.  All waste resin needs to be UV cured for safety before disposal – the supports, any wiped up on paper towels, and any resin washed off models in alcohol or water.  IPA evaporates off fairly easily – water is more onerous.  Once the resin in the water is cured, though, it can be poured away reasonably safely through a filter and all the resin disposed of.  That’s the key.  You need to make sure _everything_ gets cured by UV exposure.

If you are using more resin, you need to be careful with the alcohol too!  That’s also a dangerous chemical!  I’ve gone very heavily for water washable resins, so I haven’t really got as much experience here.  Some people prefer it as the alcohol reminds them to take it all seriously – water washable leads some people to take risks.

In terms of you – you really want a mask rated for organic compounds.  You are dealing with fumes, not particles.  You want a printer with built in air filters, and a well ventilated space, even if its just a convenient window to air a room out.  You really don’t want to be touching the stuff.  Disposable nitrile gloves are generally the way forward, and they aren’t the cheapest.  If you have reusable gloves – you need to be careful of how you wash and dry them in terms of the waste resin too.

I use a big 20 litre transparent tub for waste water I store outside in the sun, which serves to cure the resin for disposal, and use a smaller tub for cleaning the minis, that then gets dumped into the larger tub.  It is a pain, but you really don’t want raw resin getting into the environment.

You definitely want some portable UV lights to be able to cure minis and the stuff for disposal in a range of locations depending on size.

Resin printing is not for the faint hearted, and if you have kids, you need to make sure they understand just how dangerous the stuff is.

Once cured the resin is pretty safe.  I still wouldn’t use it for anything to do with food – don’t print cookie cutters or that sort of thing! Just remember – when its liquid, its dangerous.

The Joys of 3D Printing – The Costs!

Well, I got a fantastic Christmas present – a 3D printer.  Its an Elegoo Mars Pro (around £200), and I have been having the most tremendous fun with it since.  It has been a very steep learning curve though, and you have to be very careful – you are working with very dangerous chemicals if you are working with a resin printer.  Since I felt I had to start almost from scratch and work out a heck of a lot of the safety process and techniques around the printer itself, I thought it might be worth noting down (and updating) what I learnt.  This is all about SLA Resin Printers – I haven’t tried any filament printers.

First off, if you think 3D printing is a good way of getting cheap models?  Forget it, really.  It is not.  There are a lot of costs even in successful prints beyond just the raw materials.  3D printing is tremendously fun, and lets you create miniatures no one else in the world owns.  But it is a hobby in its own right at this point, and isn’t cheap.

Why?  Well, every time you do a print, you’ll need to handle partially cured resin.  Vinyl or Latex gloves won’t work – you’ll need Nitrile gloves.  At around £20 for 100, thats 40p for 2 for every print used up. (Note – this is at the start of 2021 when gloves have gone up in price quite a lot – you used to be able to bulk buy much cheaper).

Every time you do a print, you’ll need the resin to actually print with!  That’s around £40 for 1kg of resin.  You’ll be able to print quite a lot for that, of course!  A normal single mini will be just a few grams, maybe 20?  But you will have failed prints, and every print needs supports.  Its still not a lot per mini, but it does clock up!

Every time you do a print, you’ll need to clean the resin.  You can get water washable resin (which is a bit dearer itself).  Most resin requires cleaning with alcohol.  Which you’ll need to buy and look after safely.  More cost.  If you use water washable resin – the water can’t go down the plug.  You need to store all the water, and cure that either in natural sunlight outside or with UV lights, then filter out the resin for disposal in a bin before pouring the water away.  So that’s a big selection of large transparent tubs and filters.  Alcohol (IPA normally) can’t go down the plug either, but its normally easier to just evaporate that off outside.

But the costs don’t end there!  The resin tanks use a transparent piece of plastic at the base (known as FEP) that allows the screen to shine UV light through.  This gets worn and damaged over time and has to be replaced.  Fortunately, you can replace just this film – but its not easy to do right, and of course you have to buy the film! (£20 for 5 sheets).  Its not needed often, but it something you really need to have on hand!

And the screen itself burns out!  I have one of the older style printers that doesn’t use a mono screen.  The estimate is 150 hours of reliable printing from a screen, which is a disposable part.  That sounds like loads.  A high quality large print can take 15 hours (of which not all is screen time, of course, but moving build plates up and down too).  3 months printing if you are lucky – and that’s certainly all that’s guaranteed on the £27 parts.  Newer printers use mono screens which do generally last much longer – but will still burn out and will need to be replaced.

And finally, of course, there’s your own time and risk!  You’ll be working with hazardous chemicals – its not too risky if you are careful, but it is still a risk to your health.  A decent organic chemical rated mask is recommended, and they aren’t cheap.  Every print will take hours.  You’ll be spending electricity on the printer.  You’ll have to spend your time prepping the images on a computer (and you’ll need the PC or Mac to handle the 3d studio preparation).  All of your time spent cleaning the print, curing the print (you’ll probably need either a UV light and turntable, or a dedicated cleaning and curing booth), and at the end of it you’ll have a model you’ll probably need to assemble – just starting at the point you got home from the shops.

It may sound as if I’m very down on the whole process, and nothing could be further from the truth.  I AM ENAMOURED!!!  But it is a new hobby in its own right, and the costs and time you need to put in are something to be aware of.  It’s not like buying a paper printer, and having it work after turning it on.  You need to spend a lot of time on safety, on computer programs planning the print, in 3d software designing models, cleaning and safely disposing of resin.  If you go into this expecting to click a button and get cheap minis, you will be throwing your money away.

If you want to see something you put together on a screen appear magically in real life, then everything I’ve just mentioned is totally worth it.

My next article will probably be focussed on safety, and the steps and processes I’m doing to keep myself safe while doing these prints.

 

The Parent Players Paintalong! #ParentHobbyShowcase

Its been a difficult year for everyone, but its been a particularly difficult year for parents.  For those becoming parents, hospital access has been a major concern, while for those with children at school or in childcare, looking after, educating and entertaining them has been …. challenging.

One fantastic escape for the #ParentPlayers group has been our meet-ups a few times a year to play mostly GW tabletop war-games, chat with others in the same situation, and get a little us time for people used to just being Mum or Dad.  Of course, this year, those gatherings haven’t happened either, and are looking pretty unlikely to come together properly until next year at this point.

To keep us in touch, give us something to focus on and work towards, we started looking at doing a paint along – the #ParentPainters tag has been fantastic pulling us forward in doing an AoS army, and we can keep using that to show off WIP and models as we paint together.

However, lots of us are busier than ever, and hobby seems a remote dream, so we don’t want to exclude lots of the group!  So we’re looking at doing a mix of paint along and showcase.  In the last week of each month, we’ll do a showcase of a unit for armies we plan to play going forward, whether thats at the next meet-up, through the new edition of 40K, a new army being painted along on the #ParentPainters tag, or just an old army we want to show off.  Tweet pics of a unit with the hashtag “#ParentHobbyShowcase” in the last week of the month, and we’ll all get to see what we’re working on, what we’re painting or what we’ve done.

I’m really excited for it!  I’m getting carried away looking at doing background and naming troops and getting right into building a fantastic army for 9th edition, ready to be upgraded and evolve through the campaign narrative systems.  And I get to paint along, and show off models old and new.  If I can’t paint for a couple of weeks, I can still pull out a unit and join in the showcase.

I’m really excited to see everyones minis online if we can’t meet up and see them in person yet!

If you have any questions, give @evilkipper a shout on twitter!

#ParentPlayers – Resources for UK Wargamers with Primary School Kids at Home!

General Resources

TTS

TTS have fantastic downloadable activity packs available for kids in a range of ages.  Its well worth a look, and covers a wide range of activities.  Different packs for KS1, KS2 and Foundation.

TTS

Twinkl

Twinkl are offering a free months access to all the resources on their sites for parents, if you sign up at the link below with the code

UKTWINKLHELPS

Twinkl

Orchard Toys

Orchard Toys have a fantastic range of activity sheets, particularly for younger kids.  Its a fantastic resource for printing off things to do at a moments notice.

Activity Sheets

TV

Lets start by saying I don’t think any of us simply want to dump the kids in front of the TV.  However, if you are working from home and need to make a call or do some urgent work, it’s likely to happen from time to time.  Lets make sure that if it does, we still help the kids learn.

iPlayer

The BBC has really stepped up with a massive range of educational shows for kids during the crisis.  iPlayer has a children’s user now, which gives you quick easy access, and there are various sections allowing you to access various educational resources.  Maddie’s Do You Know?, Alphablocks and Numberblocks are particularly good. 

Documentaries

All of the major streaming shows do tend to offer a range of cracking documentaries, like the Blue Planet, and various nature and space themed educational pieces.  Well worth chucking on to distract and entertain.  Can’t go wrong with a spot of Attenborough!

Physical Education

The Body Coach

The body coach is doing a free live PE session every school day at 9.  Doing structured exercise at home is really important, so this is brilliant for them to kick off each day.

Body coach

Super Movers

Supermovers is a fantastic range of short bursts of physical activity that also teach other concepts, from maths to punctuation.  Its a great way of burning off energy and reinforcing some key concepts.

Super Movers

Cosmic Yoga

Cosmic Yoga is a line of yoga YouTube videos aimed at kids.  I know they’ve sometimes used it in school, and it helps keep the kids moving without getting wound up.  Its also good for relaxation if the virus is stressing them out.

Cosmic Yoga

The iMovement

This is an absolutely brilliant resource with different daily options for exercises.  You can access resources at the link below, or sign up for a daily email with todays suggested activities at join.theimovement.com

iMovement

DISNEY TEN MINUTE SHAKEUPS

Kids love disney, and this range of themed activities can be fantastic to keep them active through the day.

NHS Disney

Just Dance

Some fantastic dance routine to get the kids up and active for a while

Just Dance

Maths

https://whiterosemaths.com/homelearning/

https://nrich.maths.org/covid19

Reading and Stories

Oxford Owl

Oxford Owl (who do the Biff, Chip and Kipper books) have a fantastic range of relevant phonics ebooks available in a whole range of years free to read through their website.  You do have to register, but it works really well, and it very useful to keep kids reading the same sort of books they are used to at school.

Owl Ebook Library

National Literacy Family Zone

This offers a cracking range of free reading and writing activities, including all sorts of challenges and competitions.

National Literacy Family Zone

Audible

Audible have a brilliant range of free stories available for kids while schools are closed, with loads of classic myths and legends.  Its definitely well worth a look, gets kids excited for story time even if you have to work.

Stories

Computer Programming

Scratch

There’s a fantastic online resource provided by MIT to allow kids access to a load of facility to learn the core concepts of computing in a very fun way.  You do need to set up a login, but it is free.

Scratch Lab

Gaming!

Lets not forget keeping the kids entertained, and what better way of doing that than introducing them to our fantastic hobby!

Warhammer Alliance

Games Workshop support Scouts and School clubs with a range of free resources, which can be found here.  Colouring activities, mini games, and more – its a cracking way of helping keep the kids engaged.

Warhammer Alliance

Power Outage

Power Outage is a fantastic RPG for kids to play as super heroes.  Its amazing fun, and in this difficult time the creator has made it available free to help keep kids entertained.  Its on pay what you want, so though you can grab it for free, if you can afford to throw some funds their way, it’d help repay them for a very generous gesture.

Power Outage

#ParentPlayers – the 8th Meet-up, first in 2020!

What is Parent Players?

Parent Players is a semi-regular meet-up with a group of wargamers who all have children and don’t often get to game. We plan the events months in advance so we can arrange childcare and make sure it’s in family diaries, and hope no emergencies, illness or accidents intervene!

As we’re all parents, we all are in the same boat, and it’s nice to play some really relaxed games and have a few beers with people who enjoy your hobby, understand the pressures you’re under, and are pretty relaxed about the fact you haven’t played a game in months and keep remembering the rules from 2 editions ago.

Most of the focus is on GW games, predominantly 40K for this one.  We meet up in Warhammer World in Nottingham on a Friday, play big games all day, retire to a nearby hotel (the Holiday Inn Nottingham Marina) where we get a few more beers in and play games like Fluxx, Coup, or Munchkin in the bar. The Saturday tends to be smaller games in Bugmans as it can be hard to get tables if an event is on, and some of us may be a little worse for wear…. (Just to be clear, beers are optional and several of the regulars are teetotal. Playing silly games is the important bit!)

Tables are harder to arrange since the events team stopped taking general bookings, so it’s particularly hard to guarantee availability on the Saturday.  Several of us live close enough to be able to pretty much guarantee a decent spread of tables on the Friday at opening time.   It looks like there’s a Lord of the Rings event on the Saturday. We’ve requested some reserved tables given the distance some of s are travelling, but waiting to hear back.

When is the next Parent Players?

The Eighth Parent Players is on Friday6th and Saturday 7th March  2020

What do you need?

Well, to play, you’ll need the latest rules and a force for the game. We’re definitely expecting Warhammer 40K, Bloodbowl and Shadespire to be on the agenda – if you don’t have a force for any game you’d like to play, it’s not too hard to arrange to borrow one from one of the other people attending, but you need to arrange it in advance to ensure it’s there on the day. For 40K, we tend to play fairly fluffy 1750pts lists (but bring along 1000pts and 2000pts variants for some multiplayer shenanigans ).  If you can’t field a 40k army but want to try, a lot of us have been in the hobby for some time and can probably bring a spare if you let us know in advance… though it isn’t necessarily going to full of the latest models. Bloodbowl tends to be standard starter teams of 1,000,000 crowns, and Shadespire is generally standard gang starter decks.

You’ll also need transport to Warhammer World, and somewhere to stay. We generally stay in the Holiday Inn near Warhammer World and several people have already booked rooms. Its certainly not compulsory to stay in the hotel if you want to arrange somewhere else, but we do have some cracking games.

It’s a pretty laid back event – some of us make up our own t-shirts to match our armies with our names and twitter handles, but again, that’s really not necessary.

How do I stay in touch?

We all can be found on twitter. I’m evilkipper and seem to be co-ordinating it at the moment, but the whole thing was the devious concept of thefirstautarch. Other regular attendees include oneoflots, avarrisxbox, grimdarkness40, bigbadbirch and alphadevilinak as well as horde of possible attendees who haven’t been able to escape the kids!

Say hi to any of us, and we’ll keep you in the loop on twitter with all the updates.

My Thoughts On Playing 8th Edition Warhammer 40k

When the 8th edition launched, there was a lot of focus on the simpler rules, and the indexes put everyone on a level playing field.  Since then, however, the game has become much more complex, with the special rules introduced with new rules found in codexes, FAQs, Chapter Approved, and White Dwarf.  The various additional bonuses, psychic powers, army faction bonuses and stratagems all stack across different units, and it can be very difficult to actually work out what you actually need to do when playing a game.

I’m not a competitive player at all, but I do like to feel I’m at least playing the game right, so I wanted to put a sort of general crib sheet together so I cover the basics properly.  This certainly won’t work for everyone, and is aimed at friendly games, not tournament play.

Building a List

Pick the units you like, point them up, get onto the battlefield!  Huzzah!

That’s actually the core of how I put a list together, to be fair.  Sadly, though, you do need to think ahead a bit more on how the troops will work together on the battlefield, especially in the modern game.  A good example was the time I fielded my Imperial Guard army without a single officer to issue commands – and probably halved the effectiveness of the force at a stroke.  If you can’t issue orders to troops, Guard armies don’t work very well!

Every army (and faction within it), tends to have certain rules, bonuses and stratagems that augment certain troop types.  Picking an army without at least partially syncing up those augmentations seems to be punished brutally in the modern game – its no longer a slight edge, but the basis of standard lists, even for friendly games.

Have a think about what stratagems you actually remember to use.  If you are terrible at remembering to spend command points, look at ways of spending them pregame as part of your list – getting extra relics out onto characters, making units veterans, or merging units depending on your army.  That way you get the value of the command points without forgetting what you can do.  If there are stratagems that seem fun, pick units that work with it.  Build detachments partially on the units you like and how you want to play, but also to take command point generation more or less in mind.  Sometimes taking the same forces in a different formal detachment makes a big difference to the numbers of CP you get.

It basically boils down to one of the areas I’m weakest at – know the rules for your army as well as you can.

For me, I don’t like to carried away working how to exploit the rules to be filthy.  Working out ways of putting abilities and stratagems to pull something off that feels like its straight from a novel though?  Awesome.

Once you have a list put together, do you best to make sure the list is clear, accessible and easy to work with during the game.  A quick note of page numbers for more complex stuff can be invaluable, both for reference, and also to help make sure you have all the books you actually need.

Pregame

My cardinal rule here is just remember you are both here to have fun, and you’ll enjoy the game more if your opponent is having a cracking time too.  Don’t try to hide “gotcha” moments – run through your list with your opponent, explain any use of command points in building the list, and say how many you’ll be starting the game with.

Explain anything with optional rules – things like your faction special rules (like Guard Regiment bonuses, or Marine Chapter rules), agree whether to choose psychic powers or both pull them randomly.  Really make sure that anything not clearly WYSIWYG is explained to your opponent.

It leads to a much more enjoyable game for everyone than suddenly finding out that you aren’t fighting Ultramarine successors but Imperial Fists who are getting a completely different set of bonuses, or that a big beastie actually has a load of ranged weapons that aren’t on the model as you pour out of cover out of charge range.

Unless its a very regular opponent, I think a quick conversation about the style of game helps.  Are you being kind and allowing take backs or use of stratagems a little out of turn if they were forgotten?  Or are you sticking rigorously to the order of play?  Generally people are easy with either option, but its incredibly frustrating to allow your opponent to redo something, only to be told you can’t do the same.  It tends to come up more in multiplayer games – making sure everyone is on the same page really helps.

Setup and Turn 0

Its very easy to forget that your army isn’t just a generic force, but one that has specific requirements.  A small elite force generally wants to set up very differently to a big guard regiment.  Think through the games you’ve done well at, and think about the deployment options if you dice up for missions.  If I have a guard regiment fighting knights, I want to engage them at range.  Picking deployments that box in the hordes of troops, don’t leave me space to manoeuvre the tanks and block avenues of fire is going to cripple me – which is exactly what the knight general will do to you if he wins the deployment rolls.  If you haven’t even though about this and pick standard options, you can really hurt your own chances.  Make sure you have an idea for how you want to use reserves, and what you want to deploy, as that’ll affect these options too.

Turn 0, I hear you ask?  Well, there are increasing numbers of stratagems and special rules that happen after setup, but before turn 1 begins.  Have a crib sheet reminding you to use any of those special stratagems, as you won’t get a second chance!  And if you miss them and start the game frustrated?  You’ll enjoy it less and already be on the back foot.

Let the Games Begin

We’re now into the games proper!  There are several things I thoroughly recommend.

Make sure you have clear and obvious ways of tracking things like command points.  Dice or a tracking dial that you and your opponent can see helps.  Same for wound markers on minis – it really helps everyone keep track of the game.

Try to have a crib sheet of stratagems and powers, so you don’t forget what you could be doing each turn.  It also helps to note down ways of stacking them and ways not to use them.  If you have a captain letting you reroll 1s to hit, and a lieutenant giving you rerolls of 1 to wound, using a psychic power on the same unit to help them hit is probably redundant.  Break the notes down to when you can use each ability during a turn – don’t miss out on healing with your apothecary because you forget to use it at the end of the movement phase.

Most of all, you want to have fun.  Don’t try to “gotcha” the opponent with a surprise ability or an arsey interpretation of the rules as written.  Beat them with tactics, placement, planning your shooting and close combat, sure.  Pulling a “lol – I can actually setup here as its 9″ away straight up” just irritates.

If the game is a one sided slaughter, do you play to the end?  Well, there’s always a chance to turn it around, and if you can do so with grace, I highly recommend it.  If it just feels miserable, though, offer to call it.  If you aren’t enjoying the game at all, dragging it out can be awkward for everyone.   If you aren’t enjoying it, why play?  I quite enjoy the heroic last stand, myself, and if I’ve simply been outplayed or made mistakes I’ll regroup and fight to the end.  That’s not for everyone, and if you’re feeling you’re being beaten by rules rather than the player, it can feel terrible.

Also, take photos and post them up for people like me on twitter to see for vicarious gaming fun 😉

Finishing the Game

I love having a quick chat at the end of the game, make sure my opponent had fun too, and finding out what they liked, what they didn’t like, and so on.  If the game has swung into a thrashing, a quick chat at the end can help establish why, and perk up everyones mood.  Talk about the models that did well – I find allocating an MVP award to the best model or unit on both sides is interesting, as your perception and your opponents can differ radically.  It gives some real insight and really helps people improve their games.

Summary

If you’ve taken anything away from this, I hope its that we should be working out how to play a good fun game, not how to hammer your opponent by abusing the rules.  Knowing the rules, or having reminders, so you aren’t holding the game up and frustrating yourself helps the game flow better and be a more enjoyable experience.  Try to make sure you both have a fun game, and try to identify which bits were the most fun and what wasn’t as enjoyable for both of you.  Done right, every game of 40k against a regular opponent should be more and more entertaining for everyone.