Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Vale Decem

So 2010 is rapidly drawing to a close, and before i get swept up in the inevitable chaos of family gatherings over New Years i figured i would make the traditional blog post about resolutions for 2011.

The last year has seen me amass a sizable heap of grey, unpainted plastic and not a lot of painted additions. So my main resolution is not to buy any new models for an army unless i've painted everything i have for it already. This will no doubt be a familiar declaration to many, many hobbyists. I doubt there are many of us who haven't made such a promise to themselves only to break it a week or two later when the latest shiny thing appears on the shelves of their local game store.
So i will be attempting to resist such a temptation. Of course i added the handy caveat of not buying for an army, so if GW release anything completely new i can indulge to my hearts content.

In other news a generous friend sent me a few gift vouchers for xmas, so i splashed out on a new carry case for my Grey Knights/Dark Eldar and order a booster pack of the World of Warcraft pre-painted miniatures. My housemate is quite obsessed with the game so the plan is to repaint one of them to look like her character. I've not had any experience with the WoW miniatures, but if they are anything like the pre-painted Star Wars mini's they will look like they were handcrafted by blind pirates who have lost both hands in an unfortunate cannon accident. Only less talented.

So until the next post, happy new year to the hobbyists out there in Internet land and i'll see you in 2011, hopefully wearing a jetpack on my way to a hover car showroom.

Friday, 24 December 2010

2010 Retrospective Part 3 Retrospective Harder

For this post i'm featuring my Grey Knights. 2010 saw me develop a rather love hate relationship with my shiny silver marines. I loved the models, the sculpts are great but i hated how obsolete the army has become.
As it currently stands the Grey Knights are about as competitive as a damp sponge. While i've never been about the winning, it's also not that pleasant knowing that you don't stand much of a chance no matter what you pick from the army list.

This led me to the brink of putting the army up on Ebay and giving up on the Inquisition armies completely. Thankfully i procrastinated long enough for the internet rumour mill to grind round and reveal the upcoming update for the boys in silver.

Yes in a few short months, if rumours are to be believed, the Grey Knights will be receiving a shiny new codex, new plastics, new units and new special characters. Given the unbelievable quality of the Dark Eldar plastics i am pretty optimistic about the upcoming releases next year, if they can maintain even half the quality of the Dark Eldar 2011 is going to be a good year.
So the Grey Knights have been saved from being sold for a fraction of their cost, and i've been suitably inspired enough to get my arse in gear and get the army painted, ready to add the shiny new stuff coming next year.


In other news i've managed to get a hold of a copy of Imperial Armour Volume 9. This is the first Imperial Armour book i've gotten, the £45 price tag is rather a put off. And while i'm unlikely to splash out on any resin anytime soon, the book was well worth the price. IA9 delves into the Badab war and provides a phenomenal amount of background and detail, not to mention rules that amount to another 40k expansion revolving around boarding actions.
Whatever your feelings about Forgeworlds rules, for fluff nuts this is a must have purchase, heartily recommended.

I've also had a rummage around my boxes and scraped together my current collection of Minas Tirith units for Lord of the Rings. As i mentioned in my last blog post, i am aiming to rectify my lack of WotR gaming next year (still looking for opponents interweb people), starting with a Gondor based army. Everything pictured will likely be stripped, and there are quite a few repairs to make on the various plastic blokes. The army had literally been chucked in a box after i became very disillusioned about my chances for future games.
I'll be using a disinfectant called Dettol* to strip the mini's. This has proved to be fantastic for stripping models, with none of the risks involved in using other methods. Dettol won't melt your plastics, won't tarnish your metals, isn't lethal if inhaled and isn't flammable. About the worst case scenario is you end up with slightly smelly hands that are completely germ free.

*Make sure you use the liquid Dettol meant for medical use. DO NOT use Dettol cleaning products, because they WILL melt your plastics and make you woozy if inhaled.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

2010 Retrospective Part 2

For the second part of my round up of my hobby activity in 2010 i've decided to go with my Lord of the Rings activity, mostly because its fairly easy to sum up.

In 2010 i've half painted exactly one miniature for LotR, a Dwarf ranger. Why so little? Well basically it boils down to a lack of motivation as i have no opponent to play against.

War of the Ring is actually my favourite of the core game systems, it's ruleset is sleek, fast playing and i really enjoy playing it. But i haven't had the chance since about two months after it's release because no-one at the Liverpool vet's night actually plays it.

There seems to be an odd anti-LOTR bias amongst GW hobbyists. LOTR is looked upon with scorn, despite the strengths of it's ruleset and miniatures. This often is due to a misplaced sense that somehow LOTR is taking resources away from 40k and Warhammer, not to mention the specialist games. It's rare that anyone is willing to acknowledge that the cash LOTR brought in is responsible for a lot of the high tech developments GW has invested in in recent years.

So despite it being my favourite game GW currently produces i haven't played it in a long time, nor collected or painted any LOTR miniatures. This is a situation i hope to change in the new year.

I've resolved to gradually collect a Gondor based force, making use of the batch of Warriors of Minas Tirith that i got with the Return of the King box set. I'm also going to try to get a regular opponent to play against. This i feel will be the harder of the two tasks i've set myself. So if anyone who wants to play more War of the Ring and who lives in the Liverpool/North West England region is reading this (unlikely i know) feel free to drop me a line via the blog because i really am rather desperate to play WOTR again.

So that's part 2 of my retrospective, more will follow along with a few more pictures next time as i look back on some of my other hobby projects.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

2010 Retrospective Part 1

With the first decade of the 21st Century coming to a close (speaking of which, where's our jetpacks? Pull your finger out Science!) i've decided to do a series of (ir)regular posts with a backwards looking slant towards my hobby activity of the last year or so.

I've decided to begin with the project that directly led me to resurrect my defunct blog and start posting updates again. On a personal note it's also a project that marked the beginning of my treatment for depression and the slow improvement of my mental state and personal life. It is my Dark Angels.

I'm quite pleased with how the army has progressed in terms of looks, although not with the rate at which i've been turning them out. Numerous distractions and procrastinations have led to a big slowdown in the rate i'm getting them done, not least financial restrictions (if any millionaires are reading this, feel free to make a donation towards their completion) but still work is progressing.
The army is also one where i've tried to further my painting abilities. The bases are the first time i've used resin parts and the armour is my first attempt at edge highlighting and i'm quite pleased with how its gone. There have been a few mis-steps along the way, the tactical squad sergeant in particular doesn't look quite right and will likely be replaced in the new year.

Future plans are to expand the army into a tabletop force and get the blasted things painted. Deathwing are high on my list of want-to-buys with a Belial conversion on my to-do list. Hopefully the new year will increase my finances and get me back on the Dark Angel horse. With any luck i'll get the force finished by the time a new Dark Angels codex is release in 2039, shortly after the conclusion of Bill Oddie's tyrannical Bird-based reign of Terror.

Movie Review: Ultramarines - The good, the bad and the ugly

Captain Severus of the Ultramarines Chapter receives a distress signal on the planet of Mithron. Leaving the bulk of his company on Algol, Severus sets off for Mithron with only a ten-man squad for support. On the tough and unforgiving surface of Mithron, Ultima squad discovers that a terrible battle has taken place. The planet's shrine has been desecrated, and vile evils unleashed. As unseen dangers close in around them, the recruits have to mount a tense and deadly insertion to find any surviving Imperial Firsts and the reason behind the distress beacon.


After a long wait, and some terrible mistarts - i'm looking at you Bloodquest:The Movie - we finally have a Warhammer 40,000 animated film, albeit a fairly short one. Featuring the Ultramarines chapter, poster boys extroadinaire, the film revolves around the (mis)adventures of Ultima squad and its leader the courageous Captain Severus.

So was it worth the wait? Sort of.

Well let's start with what works. No expense seems to have been spared in gathering prestigious voice talent for this project, every actor is pitch perfect and portrays their characters wonderfully. Likewise the story, written by Dan Abnett no less, while relatively small scale, works well as an introduction to the characters and the setting.

So if it has good voice acting and a decent script, what's the problem then i hear you ask. The script is good but theres only about 30 minutes worth of material there, the film is very padded out which is suprising considering its only 70 minutes long. Apparently Roboute taught his marines to land miles from their objectives and walk, slowly, everywhere. For the first half hour we are watching eleven marines walk, across rather featureless terrain doing bugger all, with Severus apparently taking the Battlecry "We march for Macragge!" rather literally.

Which leads us to the next issue with the film- the animation. It is very uneven in quality. While the characters look good in their armour, the second their helms are removed the quality dips. Faces look waxen and stiff and deep in the middle of the uncanny valley. Likewise their surroundings vary wildly. There are moments of very high quality, like the mist effects that gather around the Marines feet which look fantastic, let down utterly by bland ground textures, and lack of shadows and footprints.
The animation of the characters also varies, we have moments of fluid lifelike action coupled with awkward jilted movement that doesn't look good at all and throws you out of the film. The film feels like they used up their budget before realising that they only had a half hour film, and so they cut corners with textures and added extensive padding of the same repeated walking animations.

Overall the voice acting and script are what saves the film from mediocrity. And they are worth buying the movie for, and i urge you to do so. Because with a tad more cash the film could be a lot better, so if we can make Ultramarines a success maybe we can convince the powers that be to invest more money in future animated ventures.


Saturday, 11 December 2010

Cataclysmically Distracted...

I've not posted on the blog for almost a week, a terrible unforgivable crime. The blame for this lack of hobby activity can be entirely laid at the feet of Blizzard and their release of the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Cataclysm. Yup, i'm one of the 12 million sad people who spend far too much time repeatedly killing the same graphics to receive a moderate reward in either a shiny new graphic or an almost random number being added to my experience. But God-Emperor help me, i rather enjoy it. So i've spent the last week leveling up my Tauren (think Minotaur to the WoW uninitiated) Shaman and exploring the newly ruined realm of Azeroth.

But i haven't entirely neglected the hobby side of things. It's become something of a tradition that around this time of year i add a few bits and bobs to my Tyranids. Now my 'Nids are only about 500 points strong, as i tend only to get things for them around christmas, usually as a gift. I find having a particular army reserved to gift duty is helpful, it means you can just tell relatives to buy Tyranids without worrying about them getting something you already bought earlier.

So far i've not bought any GW models for the 'nids this year, rather my activity revolves around solving the lack of a mycetic spore model for the army.
I've seen quite a few attempts at modeling the spore, some more successful than others, but haven't found a suitable version for myself. Until yesterday that is.

While wandering the rainy streets of Huyton, i nipped into one of the bargain stores in the village shopping centre and chanced across a cheap childrens toy - a Mega Blocks Plasma hatcher* to be exact. A small model dinosaur type creature that comes packaged in a plastic egg that just so happens to be almost perfect to represent a mycetic spore. And for only 99p to boot! I quickly grabbed one and nipped home to begin painting it.

This is what i've done so far, very much work in progress. I'll post more updates as i progress, assuming i can tear myself away from the fires of Azeroth that is...

*A word of warning to any parents who purchase one of these things, the goo that comes within it will stain carpets as i learnt to my cost.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

To Forgeworld or Not To Forgeworld...

In my frequent lurkings around various interwebs forums like Warseer, one subject that repeatedly comes up and spurs a fair bit of shall we say "passionate" debate is that of Forgeworld units and using them in a regular game of 40k.

Forgeworld seems to have garnered a reputation for being unbalanced and overpowered amongst some members of the internet community, though having browsed their various lists and units i fail to see what makes them so "uber-cheese", and when anecdotal evidence is presented it's usually said units being overpowered only when the player takes half a dozen of them in his list.

Most recently for example is this thread on Warseer about the Land Raider Achilles. The initial reaction was to decry the user and declare all Forgeworld materials junk, unfair and detrimental to your social life. It was only until later in the thread other opinions appeared pointing out that a Necron army is going to have a bit of a rough time against three Land Raiders of any variety, Forgeworld or otherwise.

And i'm sure we all have examples of lists that dominated us solely because they spammed a particular unit type. Those who have been playing a fair while will no doubt have faced an Iron Warriors artillery army of doom, back in the days when they got an extra Heavy Support choice and could take Basilisks in their army, where you were lucky to survive the first round of shooting let alone win the game. Or for the fantasy players amongst you, the Beastman Minotaur army that has emerged with the most recent Army Book. Having faced that with my own Ogres i can assure you its unpleasant and pretty hard to deal with.

Now i think part of the problem with Forgeworld is the apparent "exclusivity" of their kits. Not all of us can afford to throw £300 at a new model for our armies, or heck £50 on a new book, so a lot of us are priced out of these new options. There's also the mistaken view that only things sold inside a GW store can possibly be legal to take, an opinion that was once levelled at my Grey Knights no less as they were no longer on the shelves.

This difficulty in acquiring the miniatures and rules prompts a feeling of unfairness i suspect in some people. Why should Joe Fancypants get a brand new kit just because he has several hundred quid burning a hole in his pocket. This coupled with half the people decrying Forgeworld never actually reading any of the rules and relying on internet hyperbole to inform them results in the idea that all Forgeworld is evil and people using it should be shunned. A situation that is far from productive for the hobby.

Now as far as i am concerned, i will play anyone using Forgeworld anytime, because i delight in facing new models and seeing fancy units on the tabletop. That's where i get the bulk of my enjoyment from the hobby. I will admit sometimes i am rather envious of the player, i would love to be able to afford a warhound or chaos mammoth of my own, but that thankfully doesn't prevent me from enjoying the game. Afterall if i can't afford one of my own, at least i get to experience one on the tabletop even if it is stamping all over my army.

This is a topic i'm sure will return again and again on the internet, and its one i've taken a particular interest in with the future release of Chaos Dwarf units by Forgeworlds Warhammer division. It would be a damn shame if such debates resulted in the amazing sculpts being produced by Forgeworld never seeing a tabletop.

Friday, 3 December 2010

God-Emperor bless the Rumourmill: Or how a Blood Kitten saved my Grey Knights from Sale.

If you've read any of the previous posts on this blog then you'll know i've been weighing up selling my Grey Knights due to their less than stellar performances on the tabletop, due largely to their obsolete codex. And if you're a GW player on the internet, likely you are also monitoring the various websites like Bell of Lost Souls that report rumours and no doubt have read the same batch posted by Blood Kitten that i have.

Now while the rumours are far from confirmed, and some don't seem quite right, they have none the less succeeded in rekindling the spark of affection i have for the Shiny boys. At the very least they've got me thinking about the Grey Knights again and a little more enthused about painting them since they are likely to receive an update in a few months time.

So they will be kept and i will resume work on getting them painted. They still aren't likely to see action before the new codex release but based on the stellar Dark Eldar codex and it's accompanying superb miniature range, i am cautiously optimistic about the future of the Grey Knights.

There is some debate over whether the new codex will contain Inquisitorial units and elements from sequestered Imperial Guard or not. I'm in two minds about this really. On the one hand it'll be rather unfair to Daemonhunter players who went the Inquisition route with their armies and used a lot of allied elements in their army. I can't imagine they will be impressed with the idea they will have to buy a heap of new models just to use the ones they have.
On the other hand, less Inquisition means more room in the codex to flesh out the Grey Knights and give them a full background that they've been missing. Despite the fluff in the Daemonhunter codex we still know little about how they are organised or significant actions they've been involved in.

And like others who have read the Ben Counter novels, i'm wondering if the line about no Grey Knight has ever fallen to chaos will be amended to "No Grey Knight has ever fallen to chaos, except one but it's ok he got better and the Chaos Gods let him off because he wasnt in his right mind". April can't come soon enough.