Sphyr Team Overview – Cetamere Centurions

These pictures make them look more the colour that I wanted. They're really a bit darker.The Cetamere system is unusual in that every planet has a large amount of water on the surface – the asteroids are mostly ice comets caught in the star’s gravity and even the moons of the planets are mostly water or ice.

The Sphyr were invited to colonise the system to provide a ready workforce for an enterprising group of Corporations working together to exploit the system, given it’s challenges for most citizens of the GCPS.

It didn’t take long for the Cetamere Conglomerate to elevate the worker’s off-duty activities to company sponsored events, with the aim of sponsoring a team in the local sector leagues.I normally don't do much with the guards, other than try and push a space on the 3-point zone.

I intended to have the Asterians all painted up, but got distracted. It’s very difficult to stay focussed on them when I have so many other, easier teams to paint. I’ve done more work with a wet palette on this team to try and practice mixing colours and getting smoother blends. The skin was a base of Calgar Blue mixed with Eshin Grey, highlighted with Dawnstone mixed with Calgar Blue, then a highlight with more Calgar Blue, and a final one with a little Pallid Wych Flesh.These guys are often defending with their back to the pitch, for their tail ability to make them a little more survivable.

The armour was Rhinox Hide mixed with Bestigor Flesh. Increasing amounts of Bestigor Flesh for a further three-ish layers. Straight Bestigor Flesh on the gems.

I wanted a more “sandy” colour for the armour but I think I started too dark (or didn’t go for a big enough jump in the middle coat). I’m still practicing with the wet palette and I think I learned a lot from this team, as simple as their colour scheme was.

Also on display here is the Gruba-Tek Coliseum pitch, a new toy and very nice for travelling

I have gotten along well with this team – high movement, slightly better-than-average Dodge, and lots of Strikers (or “Hulk insurance”) are nice. They can handle a pretty good passing game and they already start with a card to save me the trouble of buying one. I don’t know exactly what upgrades I would buy in an exhibition match, I don’t know that they need any coach benefits and ranks wouldn’t guarantee them the Skill boost that every Striker wants. Maybe they are a good team to fill up on coaching dice with, to help push for early scores and landslides.

Obligatory 'Strikers Run' pose

Why So Zeerious?

I couldn’t come up with a backstory for the Zees. I had so many ideas for them, drawing from many sources including my love of genetics and the Planet of the Apes series. I came up with something long and complex with pointless detail and it wasn’t even entertaining for me (and as you’ve seen elsewhere on this blog, my standards are fairly low). It occurred to me that the Zees are anarchic and unpredictable, they’re irresponsible and irreverent. They aren’t going to be honest about anything, much less their own history. They probably even stole their equipment, rather than look at all cohesive and organised. Every single one of them will end up giving a different account of who they are and where the come from, and laugh about the confusion caused.

For the Zees, I went for a colour scheme inspired by The Joker. I put more orange in than purple because I wanted to differentiate them from the Z’zor team I already painted, but I think the three main colours match well.

The skin is Khemri Brown with a Flesh Wash (ancient GW paint), another highlight of Khemri Brown and some have a Dheneb Stone highlight. I found Dheneb Stone a bit difficult to highlight with because it is so strong with pigment (being a foundation paint, I guess) that it doesn’t have anything between “covers everything” and “this is a wash”. The eyes were Eshin Grey. The orange was a practice run for my Nameless team – it works here, but I might need to do something else to get the effect I want on the Nameless. It was a Vermin Brown base with Squig Orange. The purple was Liche Purple with a Genestealer Purple highlight. Some of the models had a Tentacle Pink edge highlight, but I didn’t like the effect too much. The green was Snot Green, Orc Flesh Wash (again, an ancient GW wash), more Snot Green and Scorpion Green highlight.

It still needs to be finished off with a highlight of yellow on the visors, and Incubi Darkness on the bases to cover my sloppy boot painting.

This is the first team that I managed to name every member of it. It was always the plan to name the teams, but I find it a little difficult. This one was much easier! The line-up is:

  1. Benjamin
  2. Benchamin
  3. Benjummin
  4. Benzhamin
  5. Benchummin
  6. Benzhummin
  7. Benjimun
  8. Benchimun
  9. Benzhimun
  10. Benjamon

Zoatally Z’zorsome

Military psychologists have been experimenting for a number of years to find a way to condition Corporation soldiers for the challenge of fighting the Z’zor on distant planets. Many humans find it disconcerting, possibly due to the way they move, the noises they make, or the way they tap into the tiny, primal ape brain deep inside that holds an inexplicable fear of all insects, even those only two inches long. It could also be down to the totally valid fear of an insect seven-feet tall that could punch a hole through a car or slice a cow in two with their powerful pincers.

The Zoat corporation, a varied entity with a small foothold in many commercial industries both military and domestic, was one of the first to attempt to capture and breed Z’zor specimens for practice but still they found it difficult to break that psychological barrier. After a couple of years however, an interesting effect was noticed – the researchers and colonels overseeing the experiments had completely lost their fear of the Z’zor despite never having faced them. The fearlessness remained when the roles were reversed, and they were armed and sent against the captured specimens in a live-fire exercise. It seemed that constantly watching Z’zor in holo-vids, on screens and in slow-motion action replays nurtured a familiarity with the creatures, and familiarity breeds contempt.

A few short months later, and Zoat’s military training with the Z’zor had been cancelled. Instead, Zoat became the preeminent supplier of Z’zor DreadBall teams, making use of it’s military studies to secure funding from mercenary units and Corporation planetary expedition forces looking to employ a new generation of fearless human warriors ready to face the Z’zor in battle. This initiative has been so successful, the Zoat corporation now counts bioengineered Z’zor DreadBall teams as it’s most profitable venture. Second place is a product that appeared about the same time – the crunchy breakfast cereal with a unique taste, Zzorios.

First, a poem:

Mould lines on the Z’zor.
I hate them the most.
More than anything.

Hopefully that sums up how I feel about them!

As for paint schemes, I wasn’t sure whether to go with an old-school Space Hulk Genestealer scheme (deep blues and pinky purples), a more “chitinous” type of bone colour (which I’ve seen done well on the DreadBall Fanatics page on Facebook) or a sort of “Aliens” inspired black armour plates with a coloured highlight – either green, yellow or purple – in streaks and blobs, in a kind of organic insectoid patterning. I have settled on the bone colour for now, with the internal bits in bone and the armour plates in a dark, streaky purple. In the end, I didn’t trust my freehand enough for the patterning, and I prefer the contrast of the bone and purple rather than blue and purple/pink.

The bone was done with Zandri Dust, washed with a very old Flesh Wash then more Zandri Dust and a highlight of Bleached Bone. I think I overdid the Bleached Bone on a couple of the players. The carapace was Naggaroth Night, highlighted up through Liche Purple and Genestealer Purple in an imprecise, streaky sort of style. It didn’t come out as streaky as I thought it would, but I really really like the final effect. It was so simple, and just instantly added depth to the armour plates.

The eyes were done with red for a bit of contrast, the same way many people paint gemstones. My precise method was Crimson Gore, Mephiston Red, Blood Red, then a Bloodletter Glaze over the whole thing. I can only just tell the difference myself, but I do believe that there’s a very slight graduation through the eye, from bottom to top.

I decided to leave the numbers off of the models for now – I can’t think of any smart way to do it that would look natural enough for the rest of the model. If anyone can give me a good idea, maybe I’ll revisit them when I paint up my spare models.

I’ve taken them to one tournament so far (the 2013 Bristol Regional Tournament), and didn’t do greatly there – but I enjoyed playing a bashy team and I’m about to start using them in the next Vanguard league… watch this space!

Sordus Silage Scroungers

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The CPS Norvegicanne was an unlucky ship – some said cursed, others said haunted. Whatever the truth, it was certainly always in need of repairs and maintenance. The engineering crews worked round the clock but regardless of what the ship provisioned, it never had enough supplies or equipment – whether due to administrative error, logistics failures or shipping delays, the crew had to make do with bodges and temporary fixes that no-one had time to revisit and improve.

When the ship’s deflector arrays failed in a dense asteroid field, the Veer-myn who’d been secretly living on board finally made their move. Breaking out of the machinery rooms and ventilation ducts, they scoured the ship for food. The crew abandoned the ship, doubling up in what escape pods hadn’t deteriorated, and escaped to a nearby planetoid leaving the rats to the junk ship.

Six months later, the Norvegicanne reached a starbase at the edge of the star system. No-one could work out how they’d got the ship’s systems to keep them alive long enough, let alone travel and navigate out of the asteroid field to reach civilisation – indeed, all systems went off-line mere hours after arrival. The Corporation (Sordus Silage) immediately impounded and quarantined the ship, and while interrogating it’s Veer-myn occupants to discover their engineering secrets, discovered that they had formed an enthusiastic DreadBall team. After watching thousands of games played by the human crew, and analysing holo-vid recordings of famous games, they had formed their own teams and practiced for much of their brief rule of the ship.

Once it was clear which of the Veer-myn knew nothing about starship mechanics, Sordus Silage conscripted a DreadBall team from the rat’s ranks and entered them into the local league. Since then, they have made some great games, including an astonishing 5-rush landslide against a human Corporation team that contributed to their first tournament victory, the DGB Llamedos Regional!

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The Veer-myn were the first team that I painted. I didn’t have a clear idea of how I wanted to paint the other teams.

I started playing them when we first got the game, but began concentrating on the Marauders and Forge Fathers when tournaments came around – favouring the simpler, smashier teams over the more challenging Veer-myn. After the Vanguard DreadBall tournament however, I brought them back with new tactics and a new plan to take on the Judwan that I expected to face at the Welsh Regional Heat – I didn’t face any Judwan, but they did bring me the victory!

Colour-wise, I started with a Bubonic Brown base, Chestnut Ink wash to give them a bit of grime, and then more Bubonic Brown. The metal was straight Dwarf Bronze, and the skin was exactly the same as I do Dwarf skin – Tanned Flesh base with Dwarf Flesh highlights. I’m not entirely happy with the skin, but it does look great on the tails. The fur is Dark Flesh highlighted with Vermin Fur, and all the straps, bindings and glove mitts are Dark Angels Green highlighted with Snot Green. The claws were straight Dheneb Stone.

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I tried to freehand the numbers on the back, and used Calthan Brown. Some came out alright, some were a bit more wobbly, and the colour was far too close to the main armour to be easily visible. At some point, I may go back and try to hide the existing numbers and redo them with green, for a better contrast but I’m happy with them for now. I’d like to move to a different team with some other colours!

I’m planning on painting the team-exclusive MVPs in the colours of the team that they will play for, and also on tweaking their background a little bit to make them my own. I want to try and get my teams painted first though, since I have never played a game with MVPs at all, I’m happier to put them off for a bit so I can spend a bit more time on them when they come around.

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Penny-Pinching, and Picking Perfect Paints

(Originally posted to A Year of Frugal Gaming)

I’ve been on a painting spree recently, trying to get my Dark Elves painted before the end of the year. I’ve also realised that this is a bit of a long shot, but it won’t stop me trying! I’m one of these people who appreciates the skill of someone doing a great job (as Dave mentioned last week), but I just have to do it myself.

My painting method is to take all the models of a particular type or unit, and do them as one enormous batch. There’s normally two or three different groups, at various stages, all nicely arranged and separated by paint pots to show what I need to do next. When painting a Wood Elf army in one go, this meant 48 archers in my mega-batch (some were halfway done while others were still being assembled!) and currently, I have about 60 corsairs. It’s a bit daunting at first, but it’s nice to see them all progress along slowly, then at the end the final details go on incredibly quickly – usually a tiny spot of colour on each model, and a dozen can be finished in a few minutes. The satisfaction as they are all finished together is brilliant, and because I do them all together they are all almost identical in quality and style.

Because of this, I tend to follow other people’s guides (often Games Workshop) on how certain things should be done, if I like their style of (for example) sea dragon cloaks, and I’ve not painted something like that before. I’m not confident about my ability to pick colours well, and I’m definitely not sure about which paints to use to produce a certain layering effect, or what base paint for a certain output.

This brings us, via the scenic route, to a new tool I’ve discovered recently – the Silicon Dragons Color Match 1.0 (and I’m aware of the spelling, it hurts me too) (EDIT six years later, it no longer exists. Boooooo). By following guides by Games Workshop, I will only be told what Games Workshop paints I need. I’ve got some colours that have been discontinued, renamed or replaced over time and if I can help it I’d rather use something I already have than buy a new shade of brown, when I have five or six sitting there almost full. I also look at other paint ranges that are cheaper, and wonder if any of their colours match the ones the guide tells me to use.

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The Colour Match tool from Silicon Dragons is free, and allows you to match two different paint lines to see what paints from one company match the paints of another one. In many cases, it’ll show several possible candidates and you can eyeball a match and say ‘well, it’s a little less red than I need, but I can mix that up.’ Even better, some shades (but less than I expected) are dead on exact, and a good shot to replace a more expensive line with a cheaper one.

The match data is collected from volunteers across the world, anyone is free to post in a sample to be incorporated into the tool’s database as long as they follow certain guides. This helps take an average of batches which may leave the factories in identical pots but have a slightly different composition. It all gets a bit technical for me.

The only ‘gotcha’ I found when using it (although it appears to have more options now I go for a screenshot!) was that I had to research the paint lines I looked at to tell whether or not they were for air paint spray gadgets. I found uncertain advice that they should be OK for regular brush painting, but were pre-thinned for the spray application so possibly less strong a colour? I couldn’t really tell.

Regardless, this is a great tool for frugal painting, since it is free (frugal already!) and can help find a cheaper alternative to recommended paints if you, like me, are slavishly following someone else’s recipe. It’s also a great tool for frugal gaming, since it will help encourage painting and painted models always outperform unpainted ones. The dice can tell.

Work-Safe Stripping Models

First post on miniature wargaming! About time!

I’ve noticed over the past year that this hobby is not designed for random searches on a work computer. More than once, I’ve been blocked by an internal filter from searching for sites that describe ‘paint stripping model acrylic’. It got worse when I tried to look for ‘latex’ – I quickly clarified that with ‘model latex rubber’ and wished I hadn’t! These are, of course, perfectly innocent search terms to a wargamer but some overzealous web monitors don’t always get the context…

Unrelated to these searches, I came across A Year of Frugal Gaming last year. It is a one-man project to ‘spend less, game more’ and is extremely interesting – offering game reviews, money-saving tips, modelling projects on a budget and advice on how to make some money from your hobby too! One of the most useful tips was how to remove paint from plastic models… effectively, completely, quickly and without damaging the model.

The secret is Dettol antiseptic disinfectant.

I too, now, know the joy of wandering around a house in marigolds, holding a toothbrush and stinking of disinfectant. I have, in my collection, a lot of partially painted and poorly undercoated models from the mid-90’s, when I started collecting Dark Elves. I’ve been looking for a way to strip the paint from these models for a long time, so I can start again with the experience I’ve gained since then. There’s models undercoated white (a nuisance for an evil army to paint over), most of them done with car body spray rather than proper acrylic spray (it was cheaper back then…) and most effective paint-stripping techniques have a tendency to melt plastic.

What I’ve Learned While Dettol De-painting:

  • Wear marigolds, and remove wedding rings!
    My fingers began to itch the first few nights I did this, and a couple of days after a particularly brutal session I spotted lots of skin flaking off. Marigolds are essential.
  • Honey-coloured disinfectant
    I initially tried a lime green Tesco variety, figuring it would be cheaper and just as good. I was wrong, it was a complete dud and barely touched the paint.
  • About 24 hours is right
    I’ve not yet performed the experiments to work out how long is too long, but I imagine that anything that works as well as this will eventually damage plastic models.
  • Put down paper, or take it outside
    Not the time of year for it at the moment, but toothbrush scrubbing will make a mess and the paint scum flying off tends to stick to things like sinks and kitchen worktops and really aggravates spouses and mothers. I found that scrubbing under the surface of the Dettol is better, but not great once it’s really mucky.
  • Paint will come off as a gloopy scum
    This will stick to and stain your toothbrush, and float in the Dettol and get onto other models. Keep a piece of tissue near by to wipe your brush on.
  • Wash models off after stripping
    I used an overnight soak of warm soapy water.
  • You can reuse the bowls
    Up to a point, you can use a bowl of disinfectant more than once – but it’s slightly less effective each time and will collect a lot of paint scum in the bottom (this makes cleaning the models harder).

I was very pleasantly surprised by how well this works, and even my mother-in-law pitched in and brought me a bottle of Dettol last week. She explained that she wasn’t sure whether I wanted the original one, or the new purple one ‘that smells of lavender’. I briefly contemplated an elf army that smells of lavender, and as fitting as that may be I opted for the original in the end. There may be a missing market niche for thematically scented base inserts… anyone have any thoughts on that?