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.

Lazy Mini Painter – Painting Eyes

One thing that often comes up when painting models is the inevitably tricky bit – eyes.  Honestly, eyes are a real pain to paint well, take ages, and really aren’t too important to a 28mm model viewed from 3 feet away.  If you are painting for a competition, you need to do it well.  Painting for the battlefield?  You’ll make the model look worse a lot of the time.  Here, in increasing order of difficulty, are a list of techniques to simulate eyes with greater or lesser effect.

  1. Use a flesh or sepia wash over the face, which will darken the eye hollows anyway.  This is often part of standard painting, and honestly, looks pretty good.
  2. Go a step up from just the wash, and paint a dark colour like a brown on the eye before the wash.  This will add definition, make the model look a little less sleepy, but still be easy, quick and effective.  Gary Chalk recommends this level for tabletop  figures, for example.
  3. Go another step up, and paint a light colour over the brown.  DO NOT PAINT WHITE.  Its a really common mistake, but white actually looks terrible for eyes. A cream or light grey is far more effective.
  4. Get cocky, and dot the eye.  Its surprisingly difficult, but you can cheat quite well – use a technical pen to dot the eye instead of a brush!
  5. This is where we start getting tricky.  At this level – instead of painting the whole eye in a lighter colour, paint in white at each edge of the eye over the brown, and leave the brown in the centre.  Its much easier to centre the eyes better this way than dotting them, and easier to tidy up.
  6. We’re getting way out of Lazy Mini Painter territory here, so you should be looking at dedicated guides from this point up!  Essentially we start adding more detail – a little touch of white on the pupil, just off to one side matching the same point as the imaginary light source for all your highlights now makes the eye look much more vibrant and convincing.

Hopefully these suggestions help you start getting models done quickly and effectively!  Unfortunately, no matter how many lazy tips you adopt, practice still saves you the most time in the long run!

Painting Bible – Fallen Angels!

Well, the Fallen Angels are ticking over nicely now, and I have some simple paints to get a decent result:

Base Armour – Chaos Black spray, Eshin Grey dry brush, Agrax Earthshade wash

Insignia – Army Painter Dragon Red, Agrax Earthshade Wash

Stone/Bone effect – Bone, Agrax Earthshade Wash

Guns – GW Leadbelcher, Agrax Earthshade Wash

Robes – GW Mournfang Brown, AP Oak Brown dry brush, Agrax Earthshade wash

Flesh – Bugmans glow, Cadia flesh tone highlight, reikland flesh shade wash.

Eyes – Administratum grey eye before the face reikland fleshshade wash

Bases – Stirling Battlemire, Tau Ochre dry brush, Agrax wash, GW grass flock, finish the base edge with Dryad Bark.

Effects:

Daemonic weapons and ear lens – GW Leadbelcher, AP Shining Silver highlights, GW Red Gem Paint.

 

Power weapons – GW Leadbelcher, AP Shining Silver highlights, GW Blue Gem Paint.

Force Weapons/warp effects – GW Leadbelcher, AP Shining Silver highlights, GW Green Gem Paint.

Painting Bible – The Darkside Cowboys!

Well, in an effort to be able to go back and add new models to old forces, I need to record the paints I’ve used!  Lets start with my Darkside Cowboys!

Helmets – GW Averland Sunset, dry brushed AP Daemonic Yellow, washed Agrax Earthshade

Armour – GW Macragge Blue base, layered Valljo Arctic Blue Metallic, washed AP Blue Tone, Drybrushed GW Leadbelcher.

Clothes – GW Macragge Blue, washed AP Blue Tone

Boots – GW Abaddon Black, Drybrushed GW Eshin Grey

Flesh – Vallejo Elf Flesh, washed Agrax Earthshade, highlighted Vallejo Elf Flesh

Base – Stirland Battlemire, drybrushed Tau Ochre, GW grass flock

Fallen Angels (#ParentPlayers)

Well, the first post on my army for the Parent Players meet up in April!  Its not very exciting, as it mostly covers initial research on colour choices and army contents instead of finished models or funky new techniques in progress.

At the moment, the plan is:

  1. Undercoat with Chaos Black spray.
  2. Basecoat with a dark red for insignia, gun metal (or leadbelcher) for all weapons, armour, pipes, bone for all odd bits like horns, tusks, skulls, Grey for robes, Stirling Battlemire on bases.
  3. Edge Highlight the black with light grey.  highlight red with vivid red, highlight leadbelcher with silver, silver the eye sockets, dry brush the bases ochre
  4. Agrax the robes, nuln oil everything else except swords and visors, which will use gem paint blue for power swords, gem paint red for daemon weapons, and gem paint green for force swords and psychic fire.
  5. add some flock to the bases.
    In terms of the units, I’m currently looking at using the Codex Astartes for the Fallen, as they are proper marines not like the Chaos Marines in the Dark Angels:
    Terminator Lord/Captain, with power sword/murder sword and combimelta.
    2 Sorcerers/Librarian with force sword and bolt pistol
    Terminator Squad with power fists, one heavy flamer, and sarge with power sword.
    Terminator Squad with powerfists, 1 chain fist, one assault cannon, sarge with power sword.
    2 5 man units of SM/CSM with sergeant with power fist and plasma pistol, 3 bolters, 1 plasma gun
    1 5 man unit of SM/CSM with sergeant with chainsword and plasma pistol, 3 bolters, 1 plasma gun
    1 command squad/chosen unit
    1 5 man Raptors/Assault Squad with sarge with lightning claws, 3 bolt pistols and chainswords, 1 flamer
    1 5 man unit of havocs/devastators with heavy bolters
    1 5 man unit of havocs/devastators with las cannons and missile launchers
    1 Helbrute
    1 Chaos Dreadnought with plasma cannon and power scourge – The Angel of Blades
      I haven’t got much in the way of vehicles sorted out, though I think I’ll have to add some rhinos and maybe a land raider in black.  I

‘ll magnetise the icons and use them with Deathwatch too.  

    I might also look at adding cypher as an inquisitor, and a deathwatch kill team all with DA plates just for fun.

The Cheap Gamer – Magnets!

Again, like many of the recommendations of the Cheap Gamer, this will involve investing a little more money up front … but it really pays off over time.  I’m going to mainly cover how to use the strategy rather than the practicality of attaching magnets.

You can get very powerful small magnets, drill holes or attach them to your models, and bam, you can use the magnets to attach the parts to each other.  Brilliant!   Of course, you could attach parts with glue instead of gluing magnets and then using the magnets!  So whats the advantage?

The most common use is to magnetise various weapon options, so you as an example, you can buy one dreadnaught, but can field it with any of the weapons in the kit, rather than having to buy a new dreadnaught every time you want to try a different load out!

Another common use, though, is to keep models in various part for easy and safe transport and storage.  Rather than gluing massive wings on a model, attaching them with powerful magnets lets you break up the model for transport to and from games much more safely and securely, for example, and its a lot cheaper over time than having to replace broken models! 

You can also use magnets in bases to attach models to metal trays or really solid metal carry boxes, or magnets in legs and bases to be able to use top end  display models on both display plinths and gaming bases.

One idea that’s all mine, as far as I know, is taking the interchangeability concept of weapons, but going a step further and applying it to icons and markings.  Have a silver rhino?  If your icons can all be popped off and replaced with other magnetised ones, you could use it with multiple chapters of marines like Silver Skulls, Grey Knights, some orders of Sisters of Battle, Inquisition, heck, even cross lines and attach chaos icons for Iron Warriors.  Have a black rhino?  Deathwatch, Inquisition, Raven Guard, Black Legion, Sisters of Battle, and so on.  Its a fantastic money saver if you want to be able to field multiple armies that have similar colours, as you’ll rarely want to play as both armies at once.  And if you’re willing to compromise slightly, works well across chassis options too, like popping turrets and sponsons off magnetised predators to use them as rhinos in a different army, or using a whirlwind as a Sisters of Battle Exorcist.

Its really effective for decorating fortifications, like bastions, or making terrain really modular too.  Use magnets on walkways and key points before painting, and whole chunks of terrain become reconfigurable.  If you have a few standard size ruined buildings, having a few interchangeable floors can really change up the options for your battlefield.  And having a few extra magnets at decorative points can let you have different board themes for minimal extra cost – imagine being able to swap out streetlights from the buildings for dead bodies, or imperial eagles for chaos icons.

Bam!   Mind blown!  Reusability instead of huge chunks of cash and storage space.  Even if you spend a little more on the models and scenery to start with, its a massive saving over time, and actually can improve your gaming options and facilities.   Thats thinking like a Cheap Gamer.

How do I actually add magnets?  Well, there are countless youtube tutorials that are pretty easy to find, often covering specific minis.  Essentially, you either need to drill a hole to fit a magnet, or be able to attach the magnet on the other side of thin plastic or in an indent where it won’t affect the rest of the joint.  One of the really important things when working with magnets is to make sure you get the polarity right – if you put one in wrong, the two magnets will repel each other, not attract, and you’ll have two parts that will never go together!  A useful trick can be to stack them up together, then take them off the stack one at a time and put a dab of paint at one consistent end, so you know it will aways go blank to paint.

The Lazy Mini Painter – Drybrushing

Drybrushing.  Its a technique that’s been popular for decades, but of late its been generally replaced by more layering, blending, and edge highlights.  So why are we mentioning it?

Well, first, its a really quick, easy technique to add depth to models, and quick and easy is really what we’re all about!   The results look very natural and organic, so these days they tend to be used only on materials like hair, or fur, but can be used all over a model for a quick result.

How can we use the technique to produce really nice modern looking minis?  Well, there obviously for natural areas like fur and hair, we’d probably use dry brushing anyway.

For armour, we’ll probably stick with a few edge highlights and a wash.  BUT!  There is a great sneaky way of using drybrushing that looks great on armour too.  Instead of using dry brushing as a tool to apply highlights on the raised edges, we can use dry brushing to simulate wear.

Take an Imperial Fist in yellow.  If we drybrush with a lighter yellow instead of highlighting or layering, it’ll look OK, but a little old school.  Its a quick result, though.  If we drybrush quickly and lightly with a metal, like silver or gun metal, it’ll look like the paints rubbed off on the edges in the battlefield.  Fast, quick, efficient, and looks great and also in line with a more modern look.  Do it after a few key edge highlights, and you have a modern looking, weathered mini in very little time.

We’ll also probably want to use dry brushing on our bases to add a little more depth quickly – drybrushing an ochre over brown is a fantastic mud effect and so easy to do.

Another useful trick comes closer to layering than dry brushing.  If you have a bit more paint on the brush than just the tiny amount you normally use for dry brushing, and apply it a bit more heavily, you actually get an effect much more like a slightly sloppy layer rather than dry brushing.  This looks pretty good on cloth – trousers, cloaks and the like, especially before a wash to unify the colours.  Quick, fast, effective.  Its the Lazy Mini Painter way!

The Cheap Gamer – Terrain Part 2 – Picking a Theme

In the last Cheap Gamer article, we looked at loads of different options for building scenery with a whole range of different price points and effectiveness.  The last point we ended on was that we should really pick a theme, and build or buy parts to work together for that theme to maximise the effectiveness.

This article builds on that concept, together with some fantastic conversations I’ve had online with some of the top terrain guys (like the fantastic Ray Dranfield, head of terrain design at GW), and some of my own bonkers ideas.  It looks at some really good ways to pick a theme and colours to maximise your flexibility and options.

The Battle Board

Traditionally, the Battle Board would be painted brown, drybrushed ochre, and flocked green.  My Realm of Battle board from GW certainly is.  It does look pretty good, but its also pretty limiting to a green grass, mud and stone affair.

Chatting to Ray, he feels the best colours for a single board are probably a dusty grey with strong brown undertones.  It works for an industrial wasteland, a desert scape, or dusty churned up fields.  The very neutral colours let you get away with pretty much any scenery or play any sort of scenario without it feeling very out of place.

Obviously, if storage space and cost aren’t a major drama, you can have several, all themed in different ways.  That’s not really what the Cheap Gamer is about though – we’re all about maximising our fun and the effect of gaming without breaking the bank.

Those neutral colours are fantastic, and would work great with a wooden board prepped with a PVA and sand mix.  Paint it brown, heavy dry brush it grey, and maybe look for a darker grey slate effect or a lighter white rock on an odd flat patch.  Easy to paint, easy to make, easy to base models to match, and very very flexible.

Terrain Choices

Well, a great terrain choice in general is ruined gothic effect buildings.  There are some really neat tricks you can do with ruined buildings, as Ray pointed out.  If you plan out ruined corners and make sure the bases work together, you can deploy small compact ruined buildings, or spread them out to make the outline of big cathedrals with the same sort of corner pieces.  Unless you actually look for futuristic fortifications, the gothic grim dark and the ruined worlds of AoS can look pretty good with the same basic ruined buildings too, again, maximising that flexibility.

You can also, if careful in putting the ruins together, work out options for stacking ruined sections up as well.  if a base works as a ruined floor, your could stack two ruined corners up.  If you get the heights right, you can tie that into more unique pieces you might already have or pick up from games like Shadow War Armageddon.

These are great options for flexibility.  You can deploy ruined woods or alien jungles on this sort of a board, or chaos temples.  Its really easy to add to, and still keep a general feel of a ruined city.  Add some water effect areas and turn the dusty greys and browns into a miserable swamp – particularly fantastic with the new Death Guard minis.  The trick is that dusty grey and brown combo on the board.

One nice trick is to liven areas up with a few simple foam tiles, painted to match the terrain board but with some unique paint schemes.  Maybe a Mechanicus area with vehicle bays like a modern carpark?   or a mine entrance, with a elevator down sprayed on or added with a few bits of Plasticard.  You can really play with a few simple, easy to store tiles to add to the effects.  And hills (particularly cheap plastic ones from Amera) can be added with matching colours to really add to the effect.

Vehicles as Terrain

All too often, the only ruined vehicles that lurk on the board are our own casualties.  Well, thats definitely true of my armies anyway 😉  What we forget, particularly if we’ve been in the hobby for quite a while, is that we can pop vehicles on the  board as terrain pieces in their own right.

Playing as Marines against Eldar, but have an Imperial Guard army?  Field a few Leman Russ tanks or Chimera transports as ruins, or in neat rows awaiting repair on the Mechanicus Forgeworld you battle over.  Its even more effective with some of the new Genestealer cult stuff, as their vehicles are civilian machinery, and the dusty grey terrain will look fantastic as a mining area.

We can add some really effective line of sight blocking terrain with a smoking Landraider.   it just works, and we’re getting use out of those models rather than buying more terrain.  Terrific!

If you have some spare torso bits from boxes from your armies (and honestly, you probably have a few), think about creating a few set pieces matching your board with dead infantry half buried in there.  Combine that with “ruined” vehicles (maybe just adding smoke effects, and taking skimmers off flying bases), you can do some brilliant xenos battlegrounds – a few dead Eldar around the board and some burned out falcons and wave serpents makes a fantastic backdrop for a Deathwatch mission, for example.  This works particularly well over the dusty grey and brown of a torn up battlefield.  Add some cheap craters too, and it can look amazing.

It actually tends to work best when you aren’t using the fallen army at all.  Using “extra” tanks from the armies you’re actually fielding can cause confusion.  Was that tank a kill point, or scenery?  But Deathwatch vs Tau over fallen Eldar?  No worries.

Incidentally, blobs of cotton wool dyed with a brush of black ink  can make great quick smoke effects for almost no cost!  Just make sure they are dry before you pop them onto your lovely vehicles.

Summary

There aren’t any right or wrong choices, really!  If you want to do a red mars field, you certainly can.  That will limits you to fighting over mars or similar red terrain, though.  Dusty grey and brown is a fantastically flexible, neutral combination.

Try to keep rocks and building materials in a similar set of colours, whether thats lighter whites or dark slate greys.  It’ll unify temples with hills.

The real key is working out how you can get the best effect, and, for the Cheap Gamer, minimising the cost.  For terrain, you can minimise cost best with reusability and flexibility.  If you need two sets of terrain for AoS and 40k, for example, that’s twice as much cost as a more general set that works for both.  Try to differentiate more by eye catching centrepieces than having to retheme everything.

The Cheap Gamer – Terrain!

Well, one of the big expenses of the hobby is a decent table and terrain to play through, and if anything, its a lot more expensive than the early days of the hobby.  In the past, it was pretty much expected to improvise terrain, or put it together yourself.  Now, there are tons of fantastic but very expensive terrain you can walk into GW and buy, and honestly if you can throw money at it, its an absolutely fantastic option.  But we can save huge amounts of money and still have some really, really good looking tables to play on.

There is a range of options at increasing cost:

  1. Build terrain in a Blue Peter style from household items.  This used to be the main way, and its generally quite lost these days, but it can be pretty effective.
  2. Find or buy, then print out cardboard/paper scenery.  This is actually really effective, easy to replace, and pretty cheap!  It does take a chunk of time assembling, but then its usually ready to go.  Its particularly good for RPG settings where you can tailor what you need for a particular session.
  3. Buy cheap scenery aimed for railway hobbying, kids toys or fish tanks.  Often quite striking pieces can be picked up for very little money, and things like trees and flock are far cheaper if you look for railway hobby stuff than the 28mm stores.  Generally in much larger quantities too!
  4. Look at custom scenery for gaming in cheaper materials.  MDF scenery is increasingly available at affordable prices, and companies like Amera do a fantastic job casting cheap great scenery pieces in plastic.
  5. Buy amazing pieces of terrain at the top end of the scale!
  6. Hire in professionals to design whole tables from scratch for you to rival Warhammer World.

Now, I’m assuming option 6 isn’t really an option, or you probably aren’t going to be reading my cheap gamer articles!  However, it is often useful to take bits from the various options to put together an overall table.  Maybe buy a more expensive terrain option to use as a centrepiece.  Add to home made terrain with a few railway style trees and flock to really bring it on.  Reduce the cost of flocking a whole GW battleboard by buying a massive bag of flock for decorating a whole railway layout.  Bear that in mind when we look at the options below!

The Blue Peter Approach!

I must confess, I love this option!  It brings me back to the early days in the hobby, where frankly scenery wasn’t even thought of by GW, and they released guides on how to make your own.

There are two main styles you can take here.  Use cheap parts, like lolly sticks or wooden stirrers, and put them together to create terrain (like this!).  It looks great, particularly for fantasy and barbaric stuff like orks, but you do need to either find plans to follow or have a pretty creative outlook to visualise what you want.   Polystyrene packing with a heat cutting wire can be fantastic for rock outcrops or hills.  (like this!).  Cardboard tubes sprayed silver can make fantastic oil pipes )and you could use wooden stirrers to build a frame!

The other approach is to find household items that look pretty much like an item of terrain to start with, spray them up, add some flock and basic drybrushing, and be ready to go!  Easter Egg plastic packaging can look great as a generator – spray it silver, maybe touch up a power plant look, and flock the edge.  Sorted!  The cardboard packaging that comes in electrical goods boxes and the like is often perfect for this sort of ready to go terrain.   Spray it white or grey, use some Army Painter Dip, and it looks pretty good from the start!

You can go a bit more expensive with the Blue Peter approach and start raiding hobby shops for things like foamboard and other parts.  Definitely worth it if you have time and a creative bent.

Papercraft!

Printing a building, folding it up and using it as scenery?  Won’t that look rubbish and boxy?

Actually, not anymore!  Things have moved a heck of a long way since the simple card sheets you may remember from the older GW games.  Companies like Fat Dragon Games have absolutely amazing ranges of fantastic products you can use to knock up custom boards with all sorts of options.  They use tools like Adobe layers to actually let you select styles of wall, adding creeping ivy and all sorts of brilliant tweaks.  You can produce sci-fi bases, fantasy cities, underground caves and all.

It can be a bit fiddly to assemble, and you will be running through ink and paper/card in your printer.  Depending on those resources, it can add up.  Heck, these days if you have a 3D printer, you can take this to the next level and print out your own plastic walls and minis – again, you will be spending on the tech and resources!

Toys, Railways and Fishtanks

These are fantastic, cheap resources for quick, easy and unique looking scenery, that after some extra painting and tweaks can look utterly fantastic for a fraction of the price of official terrain.  Toy castles when spraywed, washed and added effects like ivy can be a perfect scale and really cheap.  rocks and little temples to look like undersea scapes for fish tanks can look fantastic on the battlefield.

fish tank plastic plants can look amazing as alien jungles, and cheap trees from railway hobby lines often look more realistic and far cheaper than 28mm gaming woods.  And you can often pick up molds and casting stuff for railway scenery, as will as really cheap grass flock in bulk.

Just be careful when you look at this stuff about the scale!

MDF and cheaper Plastic terrain

I love this stuff. You can get all sorts of amazing scenery, it doesn’t feel too expensive, and its still really solid and durable.  Terrific!

A fair few companies do MDF terrain these days.  I can recommend TT Combat as a company – their Sheriff station for Malifaux or the Wild West is amazing.  I also really like the Terrain Shed.  There are lots of good alternatives out there, though.  You can get buildings for £12, with amazing laser etched details.  Superb stuff, especially if you cherrypick a few pieces to act as centrepieces.

Amera Plastic Mouldings do absolutely fantastic plastic wargaming terrain, as single cast.  They look good, and are really cost effective.  Unlike terrain kits in the top bracket, though, they are single use kits as a one piece ready to go bit of terrain – the top end normally has a lot more assembly and options within a single kit, and often a load of customisable little details.  For me, though, that’s not a major drama – having 2 identical pyramids isn’t an issue if you want two big pyramids!

I’d recommend both of these options for gamers looking for awesome kits on a bit of a budget.

Top End GW and similar kits

Well, we’re Cheap Gamers!  Why are we talking about the expensive stuff?  Well, often it can pay to have a really nice piece of terrain to act as the focal point of the battle.  MDF or Amera stuff can certainly work with enough time and effort on the paint job, but having a lovely centrepiece from GW will often draw the eye away from cheaper pieces through the rest of the tabletop, and be a great backdrop for photos and the like.  Don’t go mad, but one or two key bits can really make a plain table feel like a cinematic experience.

Theme

The real key, though, is to pick a theme and stick with it across all the pieces you buy and put together, so they look good together on the table top.

You might have a couple of papercraft starships acting as drop points for the objective.  You might have a load of colourful plastic plants for a fishtank acting as an alien jungle, and a selection of Eldar MDF kits scattered across the board, making it look like an overgrown exodite world.

What doesn’t work is having earth style trees from a raliway hobby shop next to bright pink fish shop plants, with a wild west sheriffs office and a scifi set of walkways from shadow war, and the whole thing flocked in autumn reds.  Try to think how pieces will go together.  Rocks, chaos temples and the like are nicely generic, particularly if all the stone is pretty consistent in colour across the pieces.  Alien jungle or earth like looks for plants and trees can work, but stay a bit consistent.  And try to have a consistent timezone for the pieces you’ll put on the table together – 40k models playing over a fantasy table and castle can look great.  40k models in a wild west town and a fantasy castle with futuristic cars just looks odd.