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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Look Back

As 2014 closes out I'm desperately racing to finish Nagash. I was hoping to have him completed by the end of the year, but since I haven't been able to play a single game since September I guess there's no hurry. (I haven't even put the Terrorgheist on the table yet!)


This got me thinking about all the other projects I posted about but never got around to finishing. Most of the models are for my Black Templars, but as I never play 40K anymore, there's no real incentive to finish them other than to say that they're done. I do want to finish the Space Hulk Terminators, though; that is a game I enjoy playing.

Everything else is for filling out my Undead and Skaven armies. As interest in the campaign dwindled, and the End Times was releasing, my focus shifted over to the Undead Legions. But there are a bunch of new releases planned for the Skaven End Times book. That's a relief, because the enthusiasm for the End Times in general seemed to grind to a halt after the release of Warhammer: Khaine– No new models, a story that some people are unhappy with, and the worst magic rules to ever grace any edition of Warhammer. Hopefully the Skaven book and impending 9th edition can turn things around.

Once I get back to working on the Skaven, it will be the Plague Claw Catapult crew, then the Plague Monks units, and parts for the Plague Furnace that have been in my queue for ages. I also want to pick up the new Vermin Lord and some of the Stormfiend rat ogres. I'm not going to order the hardcover End Times book, though; I refuse to participate in GW's immediately-sold-out-pre-order nonsense. The softcover version will be available soon enough and I'm sure the pages will be posted online. The models themselves will probably come with their rules anyway.

But for now it's back to my Undead. Here's a little peek at what's on the horizon:

 

 

Thank you all for following my blog. Have a happy and safe New Year!


'Til next time!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Skeleton Archers

All the bows are strung and the Red Rain Host is finished:

 

These guys were a lot of fun to put together and paint. If I can find any more of those classic skeletons, I'll definitely add to the unit. If it gets large enough maybe I'll even add some command models.




 

If you missed the assembly article, you can check it out here:

Modeling: Skeleton Archers

And the tutorial for stringing the bows is here:
Modeling Tutorial: Bow Strings

'Til next time!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Modeling Tutorial: Bow Strings

As you can see from the pictures, my skeleton archers are almost finished. The only thing remaining is to add bowstrings. (Without which, they can't fire their arrows!) If you've ever wanted to add that extra bit of realism to your archers, here's how:


Note: I find that it is easiest to add the string after the model painted. Otherwise, the string can get in the way of painting detail. Vigorous drybrushing could break the string, as well.


Step 1: Coloring the String


Start with some plain thread. If you can find thread in the color you want the string to be, great, otherwise, use white.

 

 

Color the thread with thinned paint. (I'm using Formula P3 Rucksack Tan.) Just place a section of thread on a paper towel and paint along the length of the thread. Be sure to turn it so you get color on all sides.


 

Allow the paint to dry, and you'll have the perfect color bow string.


 

Step 2: Drilling the Bow

This next part is tricky, and you should definitely practice on some spare bow parts before damaging your nicely painted model (or poking yourself!). Before drilling through the tips of the bow with a pin vice, place the tip of a sharp hobby knife on the spot to drill, and twist it to create a starting hole. Then, place the drill bit on that spot and turn gently to drill through. Most bows have a little ring at the tip; try to drill level so the bit enters and exits the bow on the ring. Use a 0.55mm drill bit, and don't apply much pressure. Let the bit do the work so you don't snap the plastic or slip off.

 

 

The result should be two clean holes through the tips of the bow. Use your knife to carefully slice off any flash where the drill bit poked through, and try your best not to mar the paint.


 

Step 3: Attaching the String

 

Push the end of the thread through the hole about 1/4 inch.

 


Add a dab of thin super glue (I use Zap-A-Gap Thin CA in the pink bottle) to the end of the string.



Then, pull the string back through the hole so the glue comes in contact with the bow and sticks. Leave a little bit of the thread sticking out. You can add another tiny amount of glue if you think the bond isn't secure enough, but in this case, less is definitely more. The last thing you want is a glob of glue around the top of the bow.

 

Once the first end of the string has dried, push the opposite end through the other hole. This time, add glue to the side of the string on the inside of the bow. Then, pull the string so it tightens and the glue contacts the bow.



Make sure the string is tight and secure. The bow string shouldn't be slack at all.



Finally, trim the excess thread. Use a new, sharp blade so you can precisely and cleanly slice off the thread.



Step 4: Final Touch-Up

Paint the small ring around the end of the bow with the color you used on the bow string, so it looks like the string is tied off. The paint should also fill in any small gaps in the holes and cover up the exposed plastic. Add more brown to the wood if necessary, to cover up any mars in the paint or shiny glue.



And that's all there is to it!

Now, these ballistically-challenged skeletons are ready to rain missed shots all over the battlefield!

 

 

 'Til next time!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Converting Tomb Prince Selketta

Along with the skeleton archers, I'm adding a tomb prince to my Undead Legion. Prince Selketta is converted from the Tomb Herald model. I'm working on two versions of the character, one for use in a Tomb Kings themed force, and one to accompany my Vampire Counts army.



First, I removed the head, sword and banner pole. Then, I touched up the leg grieve and extended the cape with modeling putty. The collar also needed to be resculpted.




I wanted to build a unique head, so I combined a plastic skeleton chariot head with a metal Blood Bowl Khemri team head.


The result was a helmeted head with a scorpion motif. The tail and stinger of the scorpion are made from the tip of a skeleton bow and part of a skeleton horse tail.





I was pretty happy with the head, but it seemed a little out of place for the aesthetic I was going for, so I set them aside and went with a more traditional head using the same chariot skeleton and the heavily modified top of a Grave Guard helmet. The final touch was an Egyptian beard, sculpted over a piece of thin wire. I'll save the scorpion helmets for the Khemri version of Selketta.



The sword is from the plastic Wight King, and the little skulls on the shoulder are from a Khemri banner.


The new scabbard is from the classic metal Black Knight. And the fur collar on the cloak ties it all together with my Vampires. One of the final changes was to replace the left arm with a pointing hand. I couldn't decide on the style of shield to give Selketta, and it seemed kind of pointless anyway, since Tomb Princes only have light armor anyway, an extra +1 isn't going to help protect him against anything that can reliably kill characters. The pointing arm also works better with my intentions, since the tomb prince can confer his fighting ability on any unit he joins.





Now back to painting those skeleton archers.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Real Skweel

I took a break from the undead to knock out Skweel Gnawtooth. I converted my own version of the character a while back, which you can see here, but Andreas Massonne as kind enough to send me the actual Skweel model. It's been in my project queue for a about a year, so it's nice to finally finish him. Now I have one in my Clan Skryre colors and one in Clan Pestilens colors.

 

 

The only thing I changed on the model was the warp lash. The original whip had a bend to it that i didn't really care for. It was just a weird pose, so I clipped out the middle section and replaced it with a length of floral wire.


 

I played with the angle of the whip a little and when I was satisfied I drilled out the hand and the lash to pin the whip in place.



 

Here are the detail insets, a little larger and uncropped:

 


 

'Til next time!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Magic in Warhammer

There's a lot of speculation about what the changes will be for the upcoming (imminent?) release of Warhammer's 9th edition. I've been trying to find the time (and work up the motivation) to write a lengthy post about what I'd like to see "fixed" in the new rulebook. I've heard opinions ranging from "6th is the best edition ever," to "8th is the best ever," and there are some people who think 8th edition is completely broken to the point of being unplayable.

I've been playing Warhammer since 5th edition and I think that, of all of these iterations, 6th was indeed the best, but there are a lot if things I like about the current edition, as well: The horde formations and extra ranks getting to fight; combats seem to have more back-and-forth interaction and last a little longer (maybe too long?); the way troop types and special rules are classified; and the overall core rules are pretty solid.

There are a handful of things I'd change, as well: bringing skirmishers back to the loose, 360-degree lone-of-sight formation; removing the Steadfast rule (part of the reason combats go on too long); rearranging the psychology rules so they have a little more of an impact (particularly Fear, which went from automatically breaking units to being a non-rule that gets forgotten most of the time); making war machines a little easier to kill with shooting; and– oh yeah– Magic.

I have what I think is a balanced, playable, and simple solution to the magic rules. If magic in 9th ends up being as broken as everyone fears, maybe I'll even push for my gaming group to use these rules instead. My take on magic is based on a combination of 6th edition and 8th edition, as each has some rules that I like.

Magic in 6th Edition Warhammer

This had the most elegant and simple set of magic rules. Most importantly, it was reliable, with a number of power dice based on the army you brought rather than a random roll to determine the strength of the winds of magic.

Power Dice Pool: 2 dice. Each casting Wizard adds +1 per level (ie: level 1 adds 1 die, level 4 adds for dice).
Dispel Dice Pool: 2 dice (4 dice for Dwarfs). Each dispelling Wizard of level 1 & 2 add 1 dice, level 3 & 4 Wizards each ass 2 dice.

Example: an army with a level 3 Wizard, a level 1, and a level 2 would consistently generate 8 power dice each turn, fewer if any Wizards get killed. The larger the army and the more Wizards it has, the more power dice it generates, allowing the amount of power dice in the casting and dispel pools to scale with the size of the game.

Casting: Wizards can roll a number of power dice up to their Wizard level +1 (ie: level 2 can roll up to 3 dice.) The roll needs to equal or exceed the casting value of the spell.
Dispelling: The dispelling Wizard can roll any number of dispel dice. The dispel attempt needs to equal or exceed the casting roll to dispel the spell.

Irresistible Force: If two 6s come up in the casting roll, the spell automatically succeeds and cannot be dispelled.
Miscasts: If two 1s come up in the casting roll, the spell is miscast and fails (regardless of the total).
Dispelling: Double sixes and double ones in the dispel roll count as automatic success or failure, respectively.

Spells: Spells are generated randomly and multiple wizards could potentially have the same spell. Each wizard could cast attempt to cast each of his spells once as long as he has enough power dice to do so.

Bound Spells: These are cast automatically without the expenditure of power dice at the power level of the item. (ie: a bound spell (5) would be cast at the difficulty 5 and that's also the difficulty to beat when dispelling.



Magic in 8th Edition Warhammer

8th Edition is all about the dice rolls. Dice rolls for everything: Random roll for charge distance, random roll for the winds of magic, random roll to see it any of your Wizards can add to the power pool...you get the idea. All those rolls slow the game down and, more often than not, don't amount to any appreciable effect.

Power Dice Pool: The number of power dice is the result of a 2D6 "winds of magic" roll. Each casting Wizard channels +1 dice on a D6 roll of 6 (regardless of level) up to a total limit of 12
Dispel Dice Pool: The number of dispel dice is equal to the higher dice in the winds of magic roll. Each dispelling Wizard channels +1 dice on a D6 roll of 6 (regardless of level).

So, right off the bat, this system requires a roll, and then another roll to determine the number of power dice. The average would be 7, but can range from 2 to 12, resulting in an overpowered magic phase or a completely ineffective one. Wizards have a 1-in-6 chance to add extra dice, which usually results in zero dice. This system doesn't scale at all; a 5000 point game with six Wizards per side still generates an average of 7 power dice +1 for the channeling roll. Not nearly enough for the amount of wizards in play.

Casting: A Wizard can roll up to 6 power dice and add his level to the roll. The total needs to equal or exceed the casting value of the spell.
Dispelling: The dispelling Wizard can roll any number of dispel dice and adds his level to the roll. The dispel attempt needs to equal or exceed the casting total to dispel the spell.

Irresistible Force/ Miscast: If two 6s come up in the casting roll, the spell automatically succeeds cannot be dispelled, and it is also miscast, requiring a roll on the miscast table once the spell's effects are resolved.
Dispelling: Double sixes in the dispel roll count as automatic success.

Spells: Spells are generated randomly but any given spell (other than signature spells) can only appear once in the army. Each wizard could cast attempt to cast each of his spells once as long as he has enough power dice to do so.


The rule about not having duplicate spells also doesn't scale well because in larger games with multiple wizards, you quickly run out of spells in your chosen lore.

Bound Spells: These require power dice to cast, and the level of the item is the casting difficulty.

In 6th edition, bound spell items were the ace up your sleeve, used to either draw out your opponent's dispel dice early in the phase, or saved until the end to surprise your opponent after he used all his dice. It was a nice tactic that's lost in 8th edition. Having to spend power dice on bound items means those dice are taken away from your other spells. As the dispelling player, you know that once your opponent is out of dice, he's got nothing left. There's no "unseen threat."

Minimum 3 to Cast/ Not Enough Power: In 6th edition, the dice roll needed to equal at least 3 (before any bonuses) for the spell to succeed. This was fine because the lowest casting value was about 5, so you would be rolling two dice anyway. Less than 3 on two dice is double ones, which is a miscast anyway. In 8th edition there's a holdover of this rule requiring the dice roll to be at least 3. The problem is that now Wizards add their level to the roll, so a level 4 Wizard casting a spell with a difficulty of 6 really only needs to throw one dice at it to make the total. It's just a way of eating up power dice in a already fickle magic phase.

Furthermore, if a Wizard fails an attempt to cast or dispel, his concentration is broken and he can't make another attempt that magic phase. So that's another rule encouraging you to throw more dice than necessary at a spell to ensure your Wizard doesn't become useless because of an unlucky roll.



Magic in the End Times

Warhammer: Khaine
added new rules that further complicate things with even more random rolls and radically alter the way the Magic phase functions. I've been involved in a lot of the discussion over on the VampireCounts.net forums, a regular haunt of mine. ("Haunt!" get it?) I don't believe I've seen anyone say a single positive thing about the new magic rules.

Power Dice Pool:
The number of power dice is the result of a 4D6 "winds of magic" roll.
Dispel Dice Pool: The number of dispel dice is equal to the highest 2 dice in the winds of magic roll.
Casting and dispelling Wizards channel the same: +1 dice on a D6 roll of 6.

That's more dice for the magic phase, which is good. Even a below average winds of magic roll will still allow you to do something.


Casting: After choosing the Wizard, his spell, and nominating the target, the wizard must roll a D6, the result of which is how many power dice he can roll.
Dispelling: Dispelling Wizards also roll a D6 to determine how many dispel dice they can use.

Irresistible Force/ Miscast: These function the same.
Broken Concentration:  Wizards can continue to cast spells if they fail a casting attempt.


Now we're adding two more rolls to the casting of each spell. (Literally, the casting Wizard rolls to see how many dice he can roll, then rolls those dice, and the dispelling Wizard rolls to see how many he can roll, and then he rolls his dice!) On top of that, you determine how many dice you get to roll after you've selected the spell to cast. This bit of randomness tones down the larger, unit-erasing spells because you can't just throw six dice at them hoping for irresistible force, but it makes it unreliable whether you'll have enough dice to roll for even a moderately difficult spell, or for your dispel attempt.

Spells: Spells are no longer generated randomly; Wizards know every spell in their chosen lore(s) and spells can be recast as long as a previous casting attempt wasn't failed and as long as the casting value isn't 15+ or greater. There are also "End Times" spells, which can only be cast once per phase and , if cast successfully, cannot be dispelled at all.

I haven't played a game with the End Times magic yet, and I do want to give it a try. I don't have high hopes because I already don't care for the randomness of the magic phase, and the End Times seems like it's even more random. People who have played say that the magic phase takes even longer, with all the rolls and wizards now having the entire library of spells to flip through when deciding what to cast. The general concern online is that these magic rules are a preview of what is to come in 9th edition. That's something I'm not looking forward to if it turns out to be the case.


 

My Ideal Magic Rules

Here's what I propose for a magic system that embraces the simplicity of 6th edition and addresses some of the power concerns. These rules are based on the 8th edition Warhammer core rules, spell lists and army books.

Power Dice Pool: 2 dice. Each casting Wizard adds +1 per level (ie: level 1 adds 1 die, level 4 adds for dice).
Dispel Dice Pool: 2 dice (4 dice for Dwarfs) Each dispelling Wizard of level 1 & 2 add 1 dice, level 3 & 4 Wizards each ass 2 dice. (Dwarfs have their own rules for generating extra dice, I believe. If the current system allows their Runesmiths to channel dice, I'd say roll that back to the Runesmiths generating dice like they did in 6th edition.)


The way 6th edition generated dice was fine. No random rolls to slow things down and it's consistent from turn to turn. I thought about making the base dice 1 per full 1000 points, It works out to be normal in a 2000-3000 point game, but it gets out of control at higher point values. having more wizards adding dice to the pool takes care of the scaling. The casting difficulties of the 8th edition spells are considerably higher, so loading up on wizards for more dice doesn't necessarily mean more spells will be cast, just that the amount of dice at your disposal will be consistent.  You'll still be rolling more dice per spell than you were in 6th.

Casting: A Wizard can roll a number of power dice up to his Wizard level +1 (ie: level 2 can roll up to 3 dice.) and add his level to the roll. The roll needs to equal or exceed the casting value of the spell.
Dispelling: The dispelling Wizard can roll any number of dispel dice and adds his level to the roll. The dispel attempt needs to equal or exceed the casting roll to dispel the spell.

The casting difficulty of all the 8th edition spells are rather high because they assume that the Wizard's level will be added to the casting attempt, so we need to keep that rule. The rules for Broken Concentration and Not Enough Power are gone, so high level Wizards can cast low-difficulty spells more easily, and without fear of sitting out the rest of the phase if they fail their casting attempt.

Irresistible Force: If two 6s come up in the casting roll, the spell automatically succeeds and cannot be dispelled.
Miscasts: If two 1s come up in the casting roll, the spell is miscast and fails (regardless of the total). 

Dispelling: Double sixes and double ones in the dispel roll count as automatic success or failure, respectively.

I preferred irresistible force and miscasting as two separate things, rather than a single "catastrophic success."

Spells: Spells are generated randomly and multiple wizards can potentially have the same spell. Each wizard can attempt to cast each of his spells once per magic phase as long as he has enough power dice to do so.

That's a nice balance, I think, allowing the same spell to occur more than once per magic phase, without it being cast over and over. Fewer spells in each Wizard's inventory means less time spent deciding what you are going to cast each turn.

Bound Spells: These are cast automatically without the expenditure of power dice at the power level of the item. The bound spell's level is also the difficulty to beat when dispelling.

That's a return to the way it was in 6th Edition. I know that the levels and points cost of the bound items probably reflects the fact that you're expected to use dice on them, but that's fine. It's equal across the armies and not such a difference that it would cause an imbalance.

So, what does everyone think? Let me know in the comments. I realize the 9th edition rules are probably in the can already (and GW doesn't "take notes" as far as I know) so it's not like this would change anything. I mainly wanted to get this down so I can reference it later if things do take a turn for the worst and we need to start house ruling things.

'Til next time!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Modeling: Skeleton Archers

Last week I mentioned how I've been planning some gothic-themed Tomb Kings units to accompany my Legion of the Infernal Skull in a unified Undead Legions army. Years back, I had converted a Skeleton archer from an old Bretonnian (remember them?) bowman and some even older skeleton parts. I forget why I made this guy and never finished him. It couldn't have been for the Storm of Chaos because those skeletons would have been equipped with crossbows. Maybe this guy was just going to be a random zombie...?


 

Anyway, it served as a nice proof of concept for the skeleton archers I'm building now.


For this unit, I'm using the classic metal skeletons with halberds. All the archery equipment is from the Tomb Kings skeleton archers regiment, and the left arms are from the plastic Grave Guard kit.

 

 

To begin, I cleaned up the parts and removed the strap from the quiver. I also cut off the skeleton's arms and smoothed over his breast plate. I wouldn't have bothered removing the left arm, but it had a molded "shield peg" that had to go.


 

All the halberds go in the parts bin for use on another project further down the line. (And by "further down the line" I mean 10 years from now.)


 

To better attach thin plastic skeleton arms to the metal torso, I drilled a hole with a 1.90mm drill bit into the bottom of the sleeve.


 

The arm was shortened and shaved down a little so it could plug into the hole. This provides a much more secure bond than just gluing the two flat parts together.



 

The top left arm is also trimmed, and it's glued in place. (No drilling on this one since it's glued at the sleeve and where the hand contacts the chest.


 

The quiver simply gets glued on the back, and that's one skeleton finished!



 

All ten get the same treatment. The 12-man regiment is arranged in two ranks, with a 4-man regimental strip, two 2-man strips, and four loose models.




 

The regiment ranks up nicely and is ready for painting.

'Til next time!