Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Super Dungeon Explore Vol. 5: Kobold Warrens

The painting this last week took a decidedly slow turn, as I opted to tackle the four Kobold Warrens for SDE. While the original plan for these models seemed pretty simple in my head, in practice it turned out quite different. These four models have managed to take me the better part of three weeks to paint. Of course, some of that is because I have been more active with Malifaux recently. However, part of it was simply because these models became more complicated than I had anticipated.

That said, I am very happy with the way they turned out.

Like I said, the concept for these models was pretty straight forward. As I have with all of the Kobolds, the warrens were undercoated black and then basecoated with Vallejo Heavy Charcoal. I then set to adding progressive amounts of Cold Grey to the Charcoal to build up the highlights until the entire thing was given several thin washes of Umber Wash. Once I was satisfied I have a suitably earthy rock look, I went in to work the details.

The lava was basecoated in white, and then a mix of Blood Red and Bright Orange. I haven’t ever done much with painting lava, so this was a bit of a new experience. The trick here is that you have to paint it like fire, but it isn’t exactly like fire. While we highlight them the same way, starting with the lightest color and work darker and darker as you go, this can make lava look a little strange. Instead, I basecoated with the reds, and then shaded with orange and progressively up to a mix of yellow and white. There wasn’t enough area on these models to get all the way to white, and I think I like the look of cooler lava a bit more.

The lava also gave me the first opportunity I’ve had to use the airbrush for anything but undercoating and varnishing. With the Sotar, I was able to add some glow to the sides of the lava and really make the reds pop. This took a considerable amount of going back and forth between the airbrush and painting the grey back on where I’d gone astray, but for a first attempt, I think it turned out well. I will be practicing more with the airbrush for sure.

For the skulls capping the spawn points, I wanted to stick with the theme I’d already put in place for the Kobolds with an old bone look. As with the Ironscales and their weapons, I imagine the kobolds looking at dragons with reverence and so the skulls, while old, would be cherished. I started the skulls with a mix Snake Leather and gradually added Bleached Bone until I was about half and half. Then I applied several layers of thinned down Sepia wash to age the bone, highlighting again with the same mixture. To keep the bones aged looking, I was careful not to go too bleached with the highlights. The dragon horns were basecoated with a 50/50 mix of Scorched Earth and Black, then highlighted with just a touch of scorched earth. A glass varnish helped the highlights stand out.

Finally, I went over a few of the rocky outcroppings to pick them out as gems. In my own ideas of Kobold culture, I imagine that these warrens are initially found as lava springs, carved into altars and crowned with the skulls of dragons. It would be fitting therefor, that gems unearthed during this process would be left in honor of the dragon whose skull sits atop the outcropping, and they would be polished and cut accordingly. From a stylistic point of view, I think the gems also help bring up back to a more cartoony look.

With the Warrens complete, this now leaves the Gougers and the Dragon Priests as all the Kobolds I have left. After that, the dragonkin should be pretty easy to mop up. Then onto the heroes. My hope now is to have this project complete, or very near complete, in time for the masses of Gencon purchases to take over my table. We’ll have to see about that.

More to Come.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Late Spring, Good Food and New Malifaux

The last few weeks have been a study in the kinds of things I really like to do. I’ve been painting a lot of models, grilling a lot of food, enjoying the outdoors with my family, spending the gorgeous evenings on my porch reading a new rulebook and watching and playing a lot of the new version of Malifaux. Not a bad spring all together. Our local group has been getting a lot of Malifaux in and I’ve been trying to get there when I can. So far, I have had the chance to watch a few very good games front to back and this has given me good idea of how I feel about the future of Malifaux.

Maybe one of these days I will post the recipe for this delicious BBQ Chicken, but for now I want to talk about the original Malifaux game. In listening to all of the interviews about Malifaux and the new edition, it is clear that one of the goals has been to streamline the game rather than simplify it and to remove the decision fatigue that could be crippling. To me, this is a welcome concept. One of the things I both love and hate about Malifaux’s present incarnation is that the game has an intensely steep learning curve. The complexity and nuance can be staggering for new players. For me, the problem was that if I didn’t play every single week and learn all the individual combos and tricks, I quickly fell out of the loop and it became difficult for me to win a game, or even have much fun. Nuance in this form is excellent for those players in the know….but is frustrating for those who aren’t.

I first had an inkling of this problem back around the launch of book 2 when we started seeing podcasts like Gamer’s Lounge start focusing on Malifaux. I listened to these podcasts specifically to learn how to play with particular masters, as simply looking at the cards didn’t always give me the epiphany of how that card really worked. At the time, I thought of that coverage as a double-edged sword: I liked being in on the cool tricks and combos, but I was worried these podcasts were artificially evolving the meta-game, widening the gap between new players and veterans. I’m somewhere in the middle of that gap, having read the rules and ‘mali-theoried’ a lot, but not played very often. As I’ve mentioned before, this is why M2E has sparked my interest acutely.

So what do I like about the new edition?

This really ties into what I’ve already been saying, but the game seems far more accessible. Aside from playing small games with henchmen leading crews, you can also now play games with no upgrades, which means that new players, or players using new factions or crews, don’t have to worry about needing to know everything. They can add complexity as they choose, starting with simple models and adding upgrades as they go. If nothing else, this will help fix a problem I often see in Malifaux….too much Guild. After all, Guild masters are ‘relatively straightforward.’

Strategies, Schemes and Scheme Markers
The new scheme system has me very interested. I like that I can try to fool my opponent by dropping scheme markers wherever I like and I like that I can tease out what my opponent’s schemes are by watching what he does very carefully. My problem has always been that I don’t play to the objective, which is critically important . It will continue to be key, but now I will have a little pile of scheme markers sitting on my side of the table reminding me what I should be doing.  Oh, and that means I get to make cool scheme markers.

Triggers are Important
When I first heard about M2E and all the changes to the rules, I had the immediate reaction that ‘soulstones have been nerfed.’ I was worried the changes would do away with that climatic activation of a master that turns the tide of a game. For me, that was always something like Seamus focusing a flintlock shot on an opponent and burning stones until there was nothing the opponent could do except put the model away.  In reality, the change in soulstone rules doesn’t prevent these momentous activations. Instead, it makes triggers the catalyst for these moments. This seems particularly the case in games with few or no upgrades. Fewer upgrades means fewer tricks and that means the tricks you have are more important.

So those are my initial impressions. Of course, there is still a lot to learn. As always, comments are always welcome, so let me know where you may have a different opinion than mine.

More to Come.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Distractions....and Malifaux V2 Open Beta

I have yet to sit at my painting table this week. While I am sure I will rectify this over the weekend, I haven’t actually missed the time not painting, as I have been busy with a couple other things.

The first of those was Bioshock Infinite. It isn’t often that I come across a game, particularly a first-person shooter, that is able to keep my interest with the story alone. I think back about all the shooters I have played and, even though I may have started playing them for the story, in the end, it is usually more like “I need to finish this game, already.” Infinite, on the other hand, even more so than its predecessor, had me playing well into the morning out of a strong desire to see what happens next. Not that Infinite isn't a great game for reasons other than the story. It is a great game overall. It's just not often that the story in video games is as well executed.

This is a particularly surprising achievement, given the fact that a lot of the game is completely ridiculous and way out there. It is easily the most satisfying game I’ve enjoyed since Red Dead Redemption a few years ago.

And here comes my stylish way of transitioning a video game discussion into a Malifaux discussion….

By the way, I also think one of the reasons I enjoyed Bioshock Infinite as much as I did was that it is aesthetically very similar to Malifaux. The world of Bioshock feels very much like a similar study of mixing genres and ideas. There are times playing the game where you could really envision that, if there were ever to be a Malifaux game, particularly one that showcased an open struggle between the Guild and the M&SU,  this is what it would look like. The English major in me is buzzing with thoughts of a comparative analysis of the two worlds, but let it suffice to say that whereas Malifaux is a study in  Fate and mankind’s struggle to control it, Bioshock seems to be a study in realization that Fate can never be conquered by man.

So, Malifaux….the second thing that has kept me from the painting table this week.

The set up for my first viewing of an M2E game
As I've expressed before, I've gone back and forth on my feelings about the new version of Malifaux. The Necromunda player in me is not used to the idea of new models replacing old ones and new rules....well, it's been a while anyway.

There is a lot of Malifaux played in my town. There are usually between 3 and 4 evenings that I can reliably set up a game with the local Malifaux group and, although this has dwindled a bit recently, I think the beta is renewing excitement in all of us. One of the local stores, Top Shelf Games, is even hosting a weekly night to run beta games, culminating in a beta tournament at the end of the month. This is a great way to get together and talk about the game, either while playing or simply watching a game.

The first meeting has already come and gone and given me a chance to watch one game. I'm hoping to make it out to play a game or two every week and so the blog will be a place for me to analyze the games I get in and really think about my overall impression of what is next for Malifaux....and that means...

More to Come.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Super Dungeon Explore Vol. 4: Kobold Flingers

Next up for Super Dungeon Explore are the Kobold Flingers. For one reason or another, they've ended up being more time consuming to paint than other Kobolds so far. This is probably due, in part, to the increasingly nice weather. We’ve settled in to a very nice early summer in Northeast Indiana, and much of my time has been spent enjoying it either with the family or with projects around the house.

When I went looking for samples of how other had approached painting the Flingers, I found that a lot of schemes out there leave them feeling a little dull or monochromatic. The Kobolds, an indeed, the monsters in the SDE starter box, are already pretty monochromatic, so I wanted to make them as colorful as I could while still sticking to the overall look of the rest of the kobolds, as well as the feel of them having scavenged what they have.

This means that the Flingers share a color scheme with the rest of the Kobolds. Their skin is based Beasty Brown and highlighted up into Parasite brown and then into Orange. I kept their wrappings and garb pretty simple khaki, though I did go into some other colors when it came to their bolas launchers and pouches. For them, I went with a much lighter, almost yellow beige, going for a canvas look. The plan was to make sure they stood out very well against the projectiles themselves, which they certainly do.

For the Flingers projectiles, I wanted to go for a look similar to
what you see with Skaven Poison Wind Globadiers. That is, I wanted them to look like marbles or, more specifically, like fireballs encased in glass.

I also took a bit of extra time to work on the Flingers’ eyes, as they are the first Kobolds I have painted that aren’t wearing helmets. The scheme was the same as before, with a little more attention paid to the yellow end of the spectrum, as I figured their eyes would be brighter than those of their old tougher Ironscale brethren.

I think these little guys turned out very well….especially their projectiles. As always, feel free to leave any comments and thanks for taking the time to stop by.

More to Come.