Lessons learned from the Salamanders Charity Army

Well, with the launch of a new charity army being mooted by @vidpui and @nerodine , I thought this might be a really good time to go through everything I learned by doing the Salamanders Charity Raffle back in 2015.  I’ve mentioned some of this on Twitter recently, but going through it step by step might help others looking at doing a big hobby charity event.

First, be aware it is a pretty major commitment in terms of space, time and money, and once you get other hobbyists involved, backing out isn’t really an option.  You have to be damn sure and have the enthusiasm, time, and financial ability to see the project through to completion.

Space, time and money?  Isn’t it for charity?  Won’t people be doing things for free?  Well, if you are putting together a charity army, you’ll need to store the finished minis somewhere as you gather the completed minis from the community.  You’ll need acres of time chasing hobbyists, co-ordinating who is doing what mini, reaching out to stores for support, setting up and ensuring the legality of the raffle or auction, reaching out to hobby media to ensure the project is spread as widely as possible.  And in terms of money, you’ll need to travel to meet hobbyists, post minis around the world, and probably donate a fair few models for painters to kickstart the process.  Its not a trivial task.

Second, you need a cohesive theme for the project.  We were lucky in many ways, as the  concept tied really neatly together from a random twitter discussion.  Salamanders are the most humane and kind of the various marine armies, and the green themed with the WAAC colours (our chosen charity – Wargamers All Against Cancer) raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support in the UK.  It also allowed standard marines to be donated, and lots of people had extras they weren’t using, or could impulse buy donations in stores easily.  In addition, Salamanders are pretty well liked by people in general, but aren’t a common army to see on the tabletop – that made them really desirable as an army for people to want to buy raffle tickets.  If you pick a more niche army, or one that some people more actively dislike, you’ll sell less raffle tickets.  Eldar, for example.  I love them, but some hate them.  Fewer people will have extras lying around to donate, and people who don’t like pointy ears won’t buy raffle tickets for them.  

Its surprisingly hard to get a good theme, because the enthusiasm in the early days will be painters who want to donate and paint what they think will be fun.  People with different skill levels will want harder or easier colours.  People have preferences for different paint ranges.  They certainly won’t be thinking of what people, especially gamers not painters, will want to buy raffle tickets for.  You need to get a theme that captures that enthusiasm and has sales appeal, with ideally a tinge of nostalgia.

Next, be aware that there will be problems!  It seems obvious, but you’ll be dealing with volunteers, who will forget things like posting minis.  Some people will get very excited and promise more than it turns out they can afford – and if you’ve promised a big ticket item as part of the army, you’ll either have to hope the winner is understanding or make up that shortfall.  In the case of the Salamanders army, we had two big vehicles promised that never materialised in the end, the charity raffle side of things got kicked off early by a mistake in co-ordination with the WAAC side, and at least one unit of troops got lost in the post.  Its going to happen.  Make sure your timescales have plenty of overruns, and that you are communicating clearly with everyone in the projects and on the charity end.  If discussing the contents of the army publicly, make damn clear that its subject to the donations and can change at any point.  You’ll also probably experience a few interpersonal issues.  Some hobbyists simply don’t get on with some others – there are certainly some on twitter I find difficult.  Who will be most valuable to the project?  Who do you prioritise?  I’d always recommend prioritising reliability, enthusiasm and interpersonal skills over big donation promises or pushy people trying to dictate the project.

In terms of a charity raffle, its pretty safe in the UK to run one as long as, oddly enough, every ticket is the same value.  If you sell them at £2 each or 3 for £5, you can fall afoul of the law pretty quickly.  We made that mistake on the Salamanders raffle initially, and I ending up donating extra personally to cover each of the early mistaken amounts to keep it consistent.  You have to try and ensure you don’t fall foul of international participants violating their local laws, so you need the blurb to at least say this is down to the individual.

How will the prize get to people?  If international chaps are involved, a full army can cost a lot to ship?  Will you absorb that personally?  Suggest shipping costs for international winners?  Suggest handing the models over at a meet up (which is how we delivered the Salamanders in the end).  If you haven’t worked that out early on, once people are buying tickets you can’t easily spring costs onto them.

One tip that made a massive difference to the Salamanders charity raffle was down entirely to @paintysim‘s knowledge and picking up the slack when I was struggling to keep the project going – she, without any exaggeration, saved that project and probably doubled the final charity total.  She reached out to stores, and arranged for them to sell tickets and display some the fantastic army in store, as well as significantly increasing the scope of the project with their donations.  Of course, it helps them in terms of publicity, and you’ll have to absorb costs travelling to stores and sorting stuff out – and if you reach out to multiple stores, how will that be handled?  Where will you draw the result?  Will it promote all the stores fairly?

Ensuring an overall look and feel by basing the models consistently really helps …. but you’ll need to base up a heck of a load of models coming in from all over.  Again, time, costs arranging meet-ups to do it, that wasn’t insignificant (and for the Salamanders army, again down to @PaintySim organising it all).

You need to keep the wider community involved and enthused at every stage, or they’ll just forget about it.  So you’ll need to maintain something like a form of blog, co-ordinating project reports and pictures from everyone involved in the process to build excitement for the amazing army being put together.  You’ll need to target bigger names among the painters if you really want to get a few top end pieces to really excite hobbyists to buy tickets as well as gamers after a painted army to play with, and a lot of painters don’t have spare resources.  You’ll need to provide the minis in many of those cases, and you’ll have to track offers of donations of minis to match against offers of minis to paint.

Timing wise, you want to allow plenty of time for donations and minis, and also allow time for raffle sales.  Ideally you want to time the draw away from major national or hobby events, otherwise interest will be significantly lower.  Overlapping sales with the army production period can be risky if parts of the army fall through, but may be necessary if timescales slip.

It is a major effort and a lot of work.  But seeing the community all pull together for you as you do something like this is tremendously rewarding too.

 

 

 

 

Hobby Positivity on Twitter

Someone mentioned that they were trying to be more positive on twitter, and someone else asked me how I seem so unrelentingly positive on Twitter, so I thought I’d pop together my unspoken rules of Twitter Hobby Etiquette for fun positive interactions.  I certainly make mistakes from time to time, but generally my upbeat tone seems to resonate with the hobby field.  So what’s my secret?

Well, one obvious one is to make sure your twitter client is set to “Latest Tweets” or equivalent.  If you rely on Twitter’s default, you’ll see hundreds of tweets from people liking posts or from people you don’t follow, and that can really move you away from seeing little models and seeing, well, practically anything.  That can sour your mood before you even begin!

Another technically related tip is to use the “Retweet with Comment” option sparingly, if at all.  Any time you do this, it looks like a focussed deliberate, thought out response, and any hint of negativity looks like a deliberate attack, not a discussion.  I’ve done it a few times accidentally, or trying to be funny, and if you misjudge, it’ll look vicious.  Try to think twice, or use it to highlight very positive things, rather than using this often.

Most of the tips aren’t really related to features, though, but a general approach, and it all goes back to a piece of advice I learnt when I started work for interacting with people – praise in public, criticise in private.  

Essentially, for social media, tweet whatever the heck you like on your own timeline as standalone tweets.  If you didn’t like a new model, feel free to post up you didn’t like it if you want.  Don’t feel constrained in what you want to express in your own tweets.  However, don’t crap over other people’s fun.  Don’t reply to someone who loves something  to say “I hated that”.  Let’s think for a minute on what the possible outcome can be.

  • They are convinced by you, and lose something fun from their lives.
  • They ignore you, and will respect your tweets less in future.
  • You have a blazing public row, and end up never interacting again with another fun hobbyist

The only possible beneficial outcome is basically if they argue with you and convince you to like it, as then you both have something fun in your life.  But I’ve never in ten years on twitter seen this outcome.  Oddly, saying why you liked something to someone who doesn’t is a far more positive experience, generally.  You aren’t trying to take fun away.

On the flip side, genuinely praising people by saying why you like something instead of just mashing the like button has much more of an impact too.

Now, there is obviously a middle ground.  When people ask for advice or genuine criticism, that’s different than just crapping on something they adore. Offer genuine advice, but try to mention positives rather than just negatives.  If they want to know how they can improve in terms of painting, try to mention the bits you think are strong already as well as possible improvements.  

Finally, one thing that often happens in tweets is that we have a limited space to express our concepts.  Sadly, one of the areas we tend to remove in order to focus on the main concept are often the key words we’d use when talking to people, which take the edge off what we say.  We can lose the oil that lubricates the wheel of social interaction.  Saying “I absolutely love the models, and I wish I’d have better luck with them on the field, but they’ve always been crap for me” is far less confrontational and negative than just “They’ve always been crap”.  Sometimes it’s worth spreading out over a few tweets and keeping those  perspectives there.

Oh, and some of us will be friends either in real life or have interacted regularly online for years.  In those cases, the general guidelines go out of the window, just like you can talk with mates in a different way than a stranger in a GW store.  Don’t assume that because you see a teasing interaction that your tweets will be seen in the same light!  That’s probably the most solid advice I’d generally give – think of talking to strangers in your local GW as a guideline.  If you wouldn‘t say it to them if you overheard them talking, don’t tweet it to someone.

#ParentPlayers5

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. We meet up in Warhammer World in Nottingham on a Friday, play big games all day, retire to a nearby hotel where we get a few more beers in and play games like Fluxx 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, but can be booked in advance if we know how many people are definitely coming.  The Fridays are normally pretty easy to grab tables, but Saturday has an AoS event on, so if we don’t have a table we’ll be playing small games in the bar. When is the next Parent Players? The fifth Parent Players is on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 June 2019 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, and Bloodbowl 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 (though we’re going to use the Chapter Approved rules and turn our warlords into Legendary Heroes). 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 – this meet up I’m expecting some Munchkin 40K and various editions of Fluxx to be pulled out. 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.

Play it Painted?

I was having a discussion on twitter (that immediately got derailed) about what sort of painting projects can be fun, and I suggested painting up board games like Hellboy or Dungeon Saga, as board games stand in isolation.  No one expects the game pieces to be painted so its a nice stress free distraction, but armies for Warhammer 40K?  There’s a definite expectation that armies should be painted or at least will be painted over time, and that can sometime make it feel like work – I have to get this painted or I can’t field it.

Someone bounced into the conversation to say that thats not true.  GW don’t have any such barriers up, if you want to play with unpainted pieces you can, and any pressure is just from a few individuals in the community.  I’m afraid I can’t agree.

Now, I’m not saying that shouldn’t be the case!  I’ll happily play anyone if I think I’ll have a fun game.  But the hobby is definitely based around the concept of playing with painted armies.  Many people will flat out refuse to play unpainted armies.  Some stores won’t allow less than a three colour minimum.  Warhammer World events have a fairly stringent set of requirements that involve no bits from other manufacturers, fully painted, and these events are described as the “pinnacle of the hobby” by Warhammer World – which clearly indicates the aspirational goal for people in the GW community.  On twitter, you’ll regularly see campaigns to “#PlayItPainted”.  There’s a meme stratagem aimed at unpainted models that floats around featuring the face of GW painting, Duncan Rhodes.  Whether or not its right, playing with painted armies is expected in tournaments, in many stores, and by many players and the wider community.  Saying “you can play how you like” doesn’t help if opponents walk away and you can’t take part in events.

If you just want to play at home against a mate, you can do what you like.  If you want to buy into the wider community, you do have to go along with the general community rules, and at the moment, that would seem to be painted armies, or at least working towards that goal.

I rarely play, and paint far more.  I love painting.  But at the moment, things are stacked against those who don’t like painting but love the game, short of throwing money at commission painters.

And is the pressure to be at least moving towards painted minis bad?  Its a far more absorbing experience for me, and anecdotally many others when all the models are clearly identified in glorious colours instead of sprue grey where you can’t identify the weapons or gear easily.

Is there a good answer?  Introduce gaming tournaments where all that matters are results?  Deprecate the painting part of the hobby to make it more about the game?  There isn’t a perfect solution.

All I can do is enjoy painting my minis, and be willing to have a fun game whenever I can, regardless of how painted the opposition is.

Should GW add women to Space Marines?

There has been a lot of argument on Twitter on this topic for a while, so I thought I’d go through what I see as the pros and cons of both sides of the argument.

I say both sides, but this is actually a three sided argument!  There is one argument for introducing female space marines as if they’ve always been there, an argument to keep everything exactly as it is, and a third stance saying “why not kept the history as is, but introduce female space marines as a new option like the Primaris Marines were recently introduced?”

Now, if you look at the models purely as game pieces, it’s just ludicrous to have the primary faction in a game designed in 2019, often included as both sides (with Chaos Marines having the same issue) of the main starter sets being gender exclusive.  Of course, the game was designed in the 1980s, not 2019, and culturally there was a much bigger divide in hobbies than here is today.  2000AD simply introduced lady judges as if they had always been a part of Judge Dredd, and that was successful in a similar cultural icon.  Why couldn’t that work here?  They’ve thrown the history out repeatedly for other changes like dropping Squats and rebuilding the entire Necron history.  Why not here?

Well, one reason is that the background back then specifically excluded the possibility of female space marines, and that takes us into the opposing position – that 30 years of shared fictional history including hundreds of published stories as well as 30 years of rule books and army codexes have given us a shared universe we all enjoy, so why change it?  Why throw out all those books and novels and shared enjoyment when we could simply release more models in other lines and make that there are options for women to play and feel accessible – the new launch of the Sisters of Battle line is often a key part of this counterpoint, as it involves a line of models that are just women.

The intermediate stance is simply that we could look at a compromise position – keep the history as is, but evolve the ongoing storyline.  Introduce women into the ranks of marines as the new discoveries that allowed the creation of the next generation of marines also allow the genetic enhancements to work with both sexes.  It’s an easy, simple fix, and would allow reasonable people on all sides to come together.  If you don’t like them, you could still build male marine chapters, or others could build all women chapters.  

Some point to the satirical background of Warhammer 40K, and highlight the fact that Space Marines aren’t supposed to be aspirational or inclusive.  They are, in fact, pretty much the extreme example of what is often referred to as toxic masculinity- exemplifying intolerance, and violence as a preferred solution.  There’s certainly some truth to this viewpoint, I think, but the parodic  and satirical nature of 40K has been somewhat lost under a more traditional sci-fi overlay over the years – I’m not sure it’s as obvious to people joining the hobby now as it was in the Rogue Trader days.

i think it’s easy as people argue abstract positions to ignore the fact that honestly there are a lot of people in the hobby that are bigoted and would keep women out if they could.  Latching onto excuses like the shared history allow them to avoid appearing prejudiced, but honestly?  Sometimes people are.  It’s very important not to tar everyone with that brush, but it’s also important that the industry leader in the wargaming field do what it can to be available to everyone.

The biggest problem, really, is that the lore and in game history about Space Marines is, in this instance, bloody terrible.  The entire argument basically goes “We can re-engineer men from the basic genetic code up to be immortal Demi-gods of War, but we can’t do the same for women, because they are girls.”

There are so many strong stories one way or another.  Buy fully into the despotic, terrible universe, and cast the Emperor as a utter sexist bastard who wouldn’t sort it out because he felt girls shouldn’t go to war.  Go Jurassic Park, and have life find a way in the early tests on women – and a fully viable immortal replacement species for humanity was exactly what the Emperor wanted to avoid as he wants humanity to thrive, not perish.  Have the move as part of the Emperor’s prescient design as systematically culling the genes for successful  Astartes  leads to the psychically immune blanks rising in replacement and saving all humanity.  Maybe his second wave of design was a set of female primarchs and their Astartes children, and that fell apart because of the Heresy.

But saying “no, we can’t get it working for girls” is shockingly weak story telling at best.  It sounds more impressive if you say “The lore doesn’t allow for them”, but really?

I’ve been playing 40k since it launched.  I enjoy the shared history and background, and would prefer major changes to be in the way the story moves forward than throwing all the history out.  I could cope with the monastic male warrior tradition if the story is fleshed out with something convincing (and better representation continues elsewhere), or women joining the ranks as new Primaris marines too.  But there are three main things I’d really like to see – people on one side of the argument not accusing everyone else of being misogynistic bastards, people on the other side not shouting about SJWs and virtue signalling, and some damn decent story underlying the move forward, whatever route that takes.

EDIT – Just some additional notes.  I mentioned a few reasons that would be much stronger to explain the lack of female space marines from a story telling perspective, but they don’t really work if introduced now (unless you introduce a new faction of some kind to explore it as well as a Black Library series).  Adding a better excuse 30 years later is definitely a cop out – if there was a solid story reason already in place I’d be more inclined to accept the cries of “but the lore”.

I’d also like to quickly address the other argument – that there already exists an all women army in the game with Sisters of Battle, so its all fair.  I have some sympathy with this view point, mostly because I love Sisters of Battle and am very excited for the new release, and I’d love for the sheer scope of the Sisters to be raised to the same profile as Space Marines.  However, arguing its all fair because there are some female factions is a bit specious.  Why?  Because first, the Sisters of Battle aren’t an all woman faction at all.  You can field male priests (that outrank the sisters), male crusaders, male arco-flagellants, male penitent engines in the same list.  It’d be like having the option in the marine list to field women representatives of the High Council that all marines have to answer to, having dreadnaughts not containing marine heroes but male or female guard heroes, and turning the victrix guard into cool lady knights guarding the top bods.  Now, that actually sounds pretty awesome, to be fair, but it isn’t the case.

In addition, while Space Marines are the flagship force, with Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, General Marines, Chaos Marines, Thousand Sons and Death Guard all representing with their own lists, there have been long periods of time with no Sisters of Battle Codex at all, no minis in the shops, only 20 year old + sculpts available online at incredibly high prices (£50 a basic squad as compared to £20.50 for a metal guard squad, for example).  Its not exactly two high profile, easily available forces with Sisters and Marines jostling for place in the starter sets.

What of Sisters of Silence, introduced at the same time as Custodes?  We still have almost no Sisters of Silence available, and a pretty big old range of Custodes introduced already.  Again, its not really a great argument to point to a token box and say, look, it must be OK, there are a few ladies in a different list.

While Space Marines are the primary force sold in the game, with no solid reason not to add women to their ranks given the recent introduction of changes with Primaris Marines, we’ll hear continuing calls to make the entry armies more accessible to everyone, and I think rightly so.

Golden Demon Entries

Well, this year I’m certainly not entering Golden Demon, as time is a bit too stretched, the 11/12 May isn’t available to get to Warhammer Fest, and honestly I’m not a good enough painter right now!

I did think it’d be fun to pretend to enter though, and do a practice run for an entry next year, which might help out others thinking of entering too.  Golden Demon, unless you are just amazingly talented, isn’t really a spur of the moment decision to enter.  You need to read the guidelines, plan your entry thoroughly, and then put the pieces together to the very best of your ability.  There are a lot of concepts and information that can help with that planning process.

You can get the guidelines for the 2019 Golden Demon here.  Its well worth investigating the whole golden-demon.com site to get a feel for previous entries, the standard of painting and the popular styles.

I’ve gone through the last few years entries, read through the guidelines, and checked what some of the big name painters and the judges have said, and these are my loose thoughts on how to prepare:

  • Golden Demon isn’t purely a painting contest.  It’s a chance to express a core theme of the world you’ve chosen to paint in, be that 40K, Age of Sigmar, Horus Heresy, Bloodbowl or the like.  You can choose that theme, and show your own take on it, but it’s important to remember that in general you should exhibit a theme from the lore, not something 100% original of your own.  Its a public reflection of their world.  If you want to be creative, you have more scope with Age of Sigmar pieces where the lore isn’t as defined.  Looking at 40K entries, for example, in 2018, you’ll see top 3 pieces for Cadians in standard colours, Imperial Fists, Space Wolves, codex librarians, Salamanders, White Scars.  Implementing a central familiar scheme really well definitely seems favoured over uniqueness.

There’s a section in the guidelines that covers this, buried away in the FAQ.

“The background and setting are important as well. The judges will be looking at how well the entry fits in to Games Workshop’s different worlds and universes – a strong narrative can go a long way towards grabbing the judges attention.”

  • Should you convert your models?  Well, the guidelines give an enthusiastic yes, it’s fine, but it is critical to only use GW parts or completely scratch build.  However, looking at the entries over the last few years?  I’d actually say large scale conversions are discouraged.  Kit bashing, reposing, and the conversion or sculpting of one or two unique components would seem to be key.  Remember, Golden Demon does have other criteria, but is at heart a painting contest, not a modelling contest.  A really well done off the shelf model can compete with a a tweaked one, as long as the overall composition of the entire piece works.
  • Basing your models is tricky.  Looking through the history, you probably want some sort of display plinth, and your model should be solidly attached to the plinth to allow the judges to pick it up and examine the model.  In terms of the base around the models feet, the key here (short of dioramas) is to ensure that the base meets the theme of the piece, but doesn’t draw attention away from the core model.  Indeed, if the base composition draws the viewer’s eye back to key parts of the model, that’s ideal.  Some people can go nuts, especially for duel and squad pieces, but the real key is not taking attention off the model and matching the overall theme. 
  • Painting techniques – certain techniques come and go in popularity over time, and no particular technique seems favoured by the judging panel.  NMM and TMM techniques were very popular in 2018, but there were certainly entries that didn’t use them.  Edge highlighting was comparatively muted, and used generally as part of an overall lighting and layering strategy rather than a technique in its own right.  The important thing to note about techniques, though, is that it isn’t about a particular technique, but how well the piece as a whole is implemented.  Brushwork needs to be crisp and precise.  Blending needs to be consistently smooth.  Coverage needs to be absolutely consistent.  Lighting is also very important.  Every model I looked at on the golden demon website, you could clearly see was “lit” by a virtual light point, and every shade, blend and highlight worked coherently from that point.  The techniques to reflect that varied, but the core concept was clear.
  • Consistency – really high quality work across the whole entry is one of the big keys to doing well.  If any one style or technique lets you down, either make sure you practice a heck of a lot before your entry, or use different methods.  Any obvious change in standard will be obvious to the judges.  
  • Unique or Freehand work – this is an interesting one, looking at the entries.  On the whole, freehand customisations were limited.  Flames on a blood bowl players armour looked excellent, and were paired with a really solid paint job on the normal clothes rather than further freehand.  On space marines, iconography was a chance to show off, rather than free handing on lots of panels that would normally be chapter colours.  Basically, the entries that seemed to do well took little tweaks and pushed their complexity up a notch, rather than going overboard across the whole model.
  • Composition seems to really be key.  The entry needs to be balanced, draw the eye to key features, and reflect the dynamism (or lack off) of the central model.  Composing and assembling the piece to a very high standard (of course, with the highest standard on mould line removal, join marks and so on) is a large part of the battle.  It’s particularly tricky to implement this, and paint in subassemblies to allow easy brush access, while painting to exhibit a consistent light source too.  
  • In addition, you should be using colour theory to the best of your ability to balance the theme of the piece, and to break it deliberately for contrast spot colours to draw the eye to particular elements.  It’s tricky, and if thats a step too far, you can get a large chunk of the way simply by implementing an existing army colour scheme to the best of your ability.

I’m not a winning Golden Demon painter at all, but that’s my takeaway on the areas I’d look into if preparing to enter for the first time – in one line, you are looking to do:

consistent, high quality painting over a well posed model using strong colour theory and lighting concepts, reflecting a core narrative from a codex or novel.

The real highlight to win would be the Heavy Metal contest, where you all paint the same model with no customisation.  That’s truly down to individual painting skill, and the Idoneth Tidecaster in 2019 is really challenging, with a huge range of different textures to bring out, and the looser AoS lore opens up more colour options.  Fascinating!

Getting started with painting

There was an interesting thread on twitter where someone about to pick up a brush to paint miniatures for the first time got introduced to about 20 of the top painters, and me for some reason.  Unfortunately, I would have found the thread profoundly unhelpful, as it turned into quite a complex discussion of paint ranges, brush types and the like as all the painters started interacting.  It really didn’t seem very very helpful, and I thought “Maybe I could put down some of the things that would have really helped me decades ago when I picked up a brush for the first time, and address some of the phrases that get thrown around a lot.

Getting ready to start painting

If you are just getting ready to start painting miniatures, what do you genuinely need?

You don’t need a lot to give it a try.  There is a heck of a lot you can buy, but honestly, to give it a go, you basically just need:

  • some test models.  Faces are often quite hard, so helmeted models are ideal.  I’m assuming you are happy building plastic models – I’m just looking at the painting side.  If you aren’t happy, look for all in one models like Reaper Bones, or push fit models like the “easy to assemble” line from GW.
  • at least one general purpose reasonable quality brush.
  • enough paints to cover the basic colours of your chosen test models.  You’ll hear lots of pros and cons of various ranges.  Honestly, when starting off, any standard starter set is probably fine, or just get the mini paints you need from the easiest supplier for now.  I’d suggest at least one neutral or sepia wash, like Agrax Earthshade from GW or Army Painter Strong Tone, as this will really help let you see a big jump forward in your painting effectiveness early on.
  • a jam jar or mug to have clean water in to clean your brushes and thin paints with.
  • a smooth surface to use as a palette.  A plastic palette from a starter set, an old tile, palette paper, plastic from packaging.  It just needs to be pretty level and not going to absorb the paint.
  • Stuff to put down on your painting area to stop getting paint everywhere.   Newspaper, old paper, painting tables, it doesn’t really matter.  Just don’t ruin the furniture!

You’ll hear all sort of suggestions, and honestly there is a lot you can add or try.  But to start painting, I think that’s all you need, with one more thing.  Patience.

There are two ways this is important.  In the process of painting, you often need to step back.  Let a model dry properly before putting more paint on, for example, and make sure the glue is dry on a model you’ve assembled before you start painting.  It  seems obvious, but it makes a tremendous difference, and its easier said than done when you want to get cracking!

Second, you aren’t going to turn out award winning models overnight.  It’s possible to do really nice tabletop models quite quickly, and practice and experimentation can let anyone get to the top end of the field over time.  But if you aren’t patient, accept that you’ll get better over time, and work on the basics, you’ll never improve.  You’ll either burn out by trying too much too quickly, or give up in frustration.  If you can enjoy putting paint on the models, and aim to do a little better than last time, you’ll have terrific fun and improve surprisingly quickly.

Painting your first models

Ideally, you could pop into a Games Workshop store and ask them if you can give it a go.  They’ll provide a model and paints, and an area designed to let you sit down and give it a try, and talk you through it.  It can be a fantastic introduction.  Of course, that’s not always convenient.  So whats important?

Well, this is where it has to get a bit vague, by necessity.  I don’t know what you are trying to paint, or what paints you have to hand!  Its really, really useful to find some youtube videos of people painting those specific models so you can actually see what someone does.  However, there are a some general principles that can really help.

First, you’ll hear a lot of talk about priming or undercoating your model.  Anyone who is a bit more experienced in the hobby does this for everything.  Essentially, if you spray or brush the entire model with a paint designed to go between a hard surface like metal and other paints, you’ll find the other paints rub off less.  If you use a spray paint coloured primer, you can also cut out the need to put on one of the big basic colours on the model.  Honestly, though, this step isn’t really that important for most modern plastic miniatures.  Resin and metal models need it more.  If you are just giving model painting a go, I wouldn’t worry about it right now.  Even the latest introduction guides to painting, such as those found in Warhammer Conquest, tend to skip this step now.

Next, don’t paint straight from the pots.  Put a little paint on your palette, and add some water.  It should be about as thin as semi-skimmed milk.  When you paint it on, you may find it doesn’t cover very well like this, especially lighter colours like yellow, and the temptation is to just ladle on the thick paint from the pot instead.  It’s far better to build up the coverage from lots of thin coats of paint that flow precisely from the brush than blobby, over thick coverage that will invariably not come off the brush smoothly and spoil the painting between the edges of different colours.  This is where patience comes in, as you need to let each coat dry completely before doing it again too.  As long as you don’t rush, you can take it slowly, treat it almost like a complex but fun paint by numbers.

Make sure you use a nice clean brush at every stage.  Thin the paint with clean water.  Clean your brush regularly – not just when you finish a colour, but if using a colour for an extended period, rinse off the brush every so often to avoid paint drying in the bristles and affecting the paint going onto the models.  Make sure your thinned paints on the palettes aren’t drying up, but keep them at the semi-skimmed milk consistency by adding more water every so often.  Once again, having the discipline to stop after a period of time, clean the brush, then keep going with the same colour will really pay off over time.

Once you have a reasonably tidy set of basic colours (and they are dry!), add a little water to your neutral wash, and paint the entire model with it.  It’ll instantly add depth, shade next to the corners (which helps tidy up any accidental brushstrokes), and the model will suddenly pop.  You’ll have done a model, and it’ll look pretty damn good.  I see plenty of models that haven’t had a wash and haven’t thinned their paints, and honestly, just with this you can get pretty nice tabletop quality minis.

Of course, that isn’t all there is to it.  So what are the next steps?

Well, a lot of it is basically doing this to enough models until you become sure and accurate with your brushstrokes!  Every model will improve.  There are specific ways you can expand your painting though.

Next Steps – Painting

Again, be patient – try these, but 

Undercoating your Model

We skipped past this for your first few models.  However, it’s really useful to spray them with an aerosol (except Reaper Bones miniatures – never use an aerosol as the propellant reacts badly with the material – they don’t need a primer!)  before starting to paint for several reasons:  

  • You can spray it a light colour like white, and lighter colours will look very vibrant painted over the top.
  • You can spray it a dark colour like black, and colours will generally look a little darker and more muted.
  • You can spray it a grey and have a neutral starting point on a surface all different types of paint and technique will set well on.
  • You can spray the whole model the main colour of the model, and reduce the amount you need to put on by brush.
  • You can spray the whole model the colour that is hardest to reach with the brush, so you don’t need to worry about trying to do it later.

It’s a fantastic way of getting consistent results, or saving time. In addition, it makes a massive difference with resin and metal models, where normal paint often doesn’t adhere as well.  Even on plastic models, it can help, and certainly starting with a colour or a light, neutral or dark shade all has effects.

As a bonus, if you give a quick spray with a lighter colour from just one angle (like a white over a grey), you get fantastic underlying colour layering with no effort.  Bonus!  This is called Zenithal highlighting and you can find much more detailed explanations elsewhere.

Adding more depth

We’ve basically looked at doing a simple base colour and covering the whole model with a single simple wash.  That’s actually really effective!  But we  can improve on it!  There are several ways we can add more effective depth to our colours.  We can do something called layering – manually add layers of colours, so we might paint a green area of colour a dark green, then leave the recesses and paint the rest a lighter green, then paint the top level an even lighter green.  My recommendations for a next step here are to try using 3 layers at first for colours that are on large areas.  The more layers you use, the better it will look.

We can apply more targeted washes or shades rather than just using one shade over the whole model.  You can get shades in gloss and matt variants – using a gloss version over metals looks much shinier.  Using appropriate colours, like a flesh wash over skin does look a bit better.  Using a very dark wash over strong colours like lead or gold looks great (in GW colours, that’d be Nuln Oil instead of Agrax).  Using a coloured wash adds depth without changing the underlying colour as much – you can match colours and add depth without changing the colours tone as much.  My recommendations for a next step here are to use a gloss darker shade on metal, flesh shade on skin, and still use Agrax for everything else. 

Finally, while a wash really helps add shadows, we often want a point at the very edges of a model that have really caught the light.  There are two main techniques for this – drybrushing and edge highlighting.  Drybrushing involves putting a very light colour on the brush, getting almost all the paint off a brush, and gently rubbing the brush over the model, so the very edges pick up the lighter effect.  You might use a lighter gold or even silver on gold, for example.  This technique looks particularly good on natural substances like fur or mud, where the element of randomness looks right.  Be warned, though, dry brushing ruins brushes, and you only want to use older brushes or dedicated dry brushes for it.   Edge highlighting involves a very careful tiny line right along the very edges of hard surfaces, like armour, and can really make a model pop.  Don’t use it on soft surfaces like cloaks, though, as it’ll tend to make it look like a fixed shiny surface instead.  There are lots of guides to both these techniques, provided by a range of professionals and companies.  I’d recommend trying drybrushing as the easier next step unless you feel really confident in your brush work.  If you want to paint fast to do an army, definitely look more at dry brushing!

Basing

Basing models is a skill in itself, but there are ranges of texture paints you can paint straight on and look pretty good.  You’ll want to pick options based on your normal battlefield, and the army itself, but normally you can just paint the base a light brown, apply a texture paint, dry brush the texture paint a lighter colour, and then either leave it, or glue on some flock or grass effect tufts with PVA glue.    There are lots of guides to basing, and it makes models look more finished, but you can do this to plain bases, or buy resin or plastic detailed bases and simply paint them like the rest of the model.  I really recommend checking into more detailed guides when you want to investigate basing options, but its a fun area to explore.

Next Steps – Equipment

OK, you’ve painted up your first few models and got a hunger for it.  You know you enjoy it.  It’s time to think about spending a little more money on more than the basics.

Brushes

We started off with a single standard brush – probably a standard brush from Army Painter or GW.  Most normal brushes aren’t bad, but will degrade quite quickly.  Over time, investing in a  better set of brushes can actually save you money, and you’ll get more consistent results with your brushwork week to week.  It’s really difficult to suggest brushes, as it is a very personal thing.  Kolinsky Sable brushes are generally accepted to be the best in the industry, but the individual handles and performance are very much down to the individual.  

Army Painter brushes have triangular handles that some people love and feel very stable in the hand.  GW brushes are really easily available!  I personally really rate the Workbench Warriors set from Rosemary & Co, which have been my favourite.  As you get try different brushes, though, you’ll find you like the way some feel in you hand, and you’ll want to look for ones with similar handles.

Its well worth investing in some brush soap to keep your brushes in top condition – think of these like a good shampoo and conditioner for your own hair.  The bristles will degrade quickly with no care, the shampoo will clear paint off the bristles, and the conditioner will make sure the bristles continue to stay soft and flow nicely.  Master brush cleaner is easily available from eBay or Amazon.

As an immediate next step, I’d just expand your brush range a little, and maybe try  brush or two from different ranges to see what you like in your hand, before spending too much.  Trying a few fine detail brushes can be fun, and maybe pick up a drybrush or a big brush to slap paint on a tank or monster.

Paints

Ah, painters can argue for hours about different paint ranges, and again, much of this comes down to individual taste.  It’s worth experimenting with new paints every so often to see if you like them.  My biggest recommendation is to get paints that you feel last, that look right for you, and that are available enough so you can pick up more without too much trouble.  Acrylic miniature paints are pretty compatible between ranges, and especially as long as you wait for one coat to dry before putting on the next, there’s not reason to limit yourself to one company.

Speaking personally, I like a lot of paints!  I think Vallejo metallic paints look amazing, though the GW gold is great.  Generally I like the GW line, but I don’t like their whites which I don’t find last very well.  I really like Army Painter paints as a good cheap option for the basics, and I find their dropper bottles easier to be consistent with if I make a colour by mixing paints.

A good rule of thumb is to stick to whatever line is most easily available that you feel happy with, and if you aren’t happy with how a particular colour goes, try an alternative from a different line.

Equipment

There’s a lot of extra equipment you can buy.  Lamps, painting handles, specialist water jugs, paint tables.  Think about the space you have available, and reach out to people on social media for thoughts on specific items.  If you ask about everything you need, you’ll be flooded with too many possibilities.  If people discuss painting lamps, the remit is more manageable.

Most of the stuff in this category beyond the actual brushes, paint and models are really very optional areas, and I’d recommend investigating them slowly if you feel a need.  Try a painting handle if you find your hand hurts while (or after) painting.  If you don’t have anywhere to leave paints set up, a little painting table you can pop on a shelf and take down for a session will make a big difference.  If you have a regular desk area to paint in, but its away from the window or main lights, look at daylight lamp options – and look at LEDs that aren’t hot to avoid drying the paints as you work!

Summary

Its such an individual hobby that it’s difficult to explain the range of options without making everything seem far too complex.  Start simple, add some complexities as you gain in confidence, exploit the fantastic range of painting videos on youtube and guides in magazines like white dwarf, stay patient and keep trying.  Its amazing fun, tremendously relaxing … and if you play games, is so satisfying using painted minis instead of bare plastic.

Sisters of Battle – Finishing an Era

Well, with two Sisters of Battle armies, and the ranges due for an update, it’s time to finish off the armies for good before starting anew.

Order of the Argent Shroud

I need to paint up:

2 Geminae to guard Celestine for the Order of the Argent Shroud.   I have some Seraphim, but they need to be converted with power swords and bolt pistols.

An Immolator – this needs to be bought, assembled and painted.

An Exorcist – this needs to be bought, assembled and painted.

3 Rhinos – these need to be bought, assembled and painted (or resprayed from previous projects)

Order of the Verdant Garden

2 Geminae to guard Celestine for the Order of the Verdant Garden.   I have some Seraphim, but they need to be converted with power swords and bolt pistols.

1 Canoness – I’d messed up one of the 2 metal canonesses, and its been stripped for repainting.

1 Seraphim – I lost one of my 10 woman squad some time ago, and need to replace her.

3 Repentia – I’ve generally been fielding them in a squad of 6, and never finished the last 3.  I need to finish these off.

1 Meltagun sister – I need this to finish off my white battle sisters squad.

1 Exorcist – I have a silver FW exorcist that I want to repaint for the green sisters, and replace it with a GW exorcist for the more classic Argent Shroud contingent.

1 Sisters Rhino – I have 2 rhinos and 2 immolators, but the last battle sisters squad could do with a transport. 

2 Immolator turret fixes – the two immolators I have were broken in an accident and sort of patched in the turrets.  With the Rhinos needed for the sisters, buying Immolators and using the turrets to fix these and then being able to use the rhinos with sisters icons rather than plain seems to make sense.  This is a bonus extra, though – the patch job isn’t terrible.

Bonus extras

With the range as a whole likely to be taken off the market, it’d be nice to add one or two of the missing models as well.  I think they’d be fantastic with Rogue Trader or Inquistorial warbands too.

Death Cult Assassins – at least 2, maybe a unit of 6

Crusaders – at least 2, maybe a unit of 6

Preacher with Chainsword

Missionary with Chainsword

Penitent Engines – at least 1, maybe a unit of 3.

As a final bonus extra, I could paint up a Canoness Veridyan in Silver and Green to add to each force.  I don’t need to, but I have the models and it’d be a nice touch.

Preparing for the Future

I need to paint up the new Celestine and Geminae for the new army, and Canoness Veridyan

Hobby Plans for 2019

Well, as we’re two weeks into 2019, I suppose I really should start doing some kind of planning!

First, I really want to track my work, as though I lost track towards the end of 2018, logging my painting made a big difference in getting things done.  I’m going to take part in #painthammer2019 – you can find loads of details over on JewelKnightJess‘s blog Silent Dream.

Second, as a rough target for the year, I’m going to aim for 100 painted minis.  I think thats achievable, and should keep me pushing and painting hard enough to get it done.

Third, I want to “finish off” my Sisters of Battle armies, which are coming up for a major relaunch.  I have two armies, one in green (the Order of the Verdant Garden) and one in silver (the Order of the Argent Shroud).  Both need some reworking for the 8th edition beta codex, and both need some key models painted for a “complete” force of around 2000pts.  Things like a couple of Gemina Superior to protect Celestine, finish off any odd or missing people from complete units, do extra Rhinos for the various squads, add an Exorcist to the Silver Sisters, and so on.  It’s not trivial amounts, but not impossible amounts either.

Fourth, I want to start a new Sisters of Battle army in the traditional Black and Red when the new army is released in plastic.  I can make a start on this with Celestine and the Geminae from the Triumvirate set, and a Canoness Veridyan.  Fingers are crossed for an all plastic exorcist and a Sisters flyer of some kind.

Fifth, I want to try and keep on top of Warhammer Conquest.  I’ve done a rubbish job so far, and its rather starting to build up, especially as I’ve built my Dark Imperium set alongside it and picked up a few extra copies of some of the issues, as well as kitbashed some primaris, and added a chaplain and a box each of intercessors, reivers and plague marines to the mix too.

Sixth, 2019 is going to be the year of the terrain for me!  With RubbleCity and a Suluco (think space hulk tiles in Resin) due from Fenris Games this year, and with terrain coming in from Warhammer Conquest and from my Shadow War and Kill Team starter sets, plus a _lot_ of old Sector Imperialis buildings that need gluing back together after a move, I should have enough terrain to run my own club!

Seventh, I want to paint up one or two Blood Bowl teams, like the new Dark Elves and my cracking Iron Golems set of Halflings.

Eighth, I want to cherry pick the odd fantasy mini to paint for fun, so I don’t get stuck grinding on tasks for the hell of it, so I’m staying subscribed to my monthly bones pack.  I won’t get them all painted, but it’ll be fun.

Ninth, and this is unlikely, but I would like to also pick one of my board games like Zombicide, Dungeon Saga, Imperial Assault, Blackstone Fortress or Star Saga, and get at least the basic starter minis (or alternatives done).  Completing all the minis I have for one game would just be amazing.

Tenth, I want to make it to at least 2 Parent Players events this year, as they are just mind-blowing fun.

Eleventh, I’m in a Blood Bowl league online!  Hopefully it’ll be really fun, and I can make time for it!  Some cracking people in the league.

There are many more possibilities and projects on hold if I blow through these like some kind of hobby demon, but it’s pretty unlikely.  Time just isn’t going to permit it, I think.

#ParentPlayers4

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. We meet up in Warhammer World in Nottingham on a Friday, play big games all day, retire to a nearby hotel where we get a few more beers in and play games like Fluxx 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 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.  There is some talk of looking at visiting Warlord Games to try some Bolt Action or Test of Honour on Saturday if WHW is particularly crowded.

When is the next Parent Players?

The fourth Parent Players is on Friday 22 and Saturday 23rd February 2019

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, Blackstone Fortress (with TheFirstAutarch’s gorgeous set) 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 2000pts lists (though we’re going to use the Chapter Approved rules and turn our warlords into Legendary Heroes). 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.