Friday, November 28, 2008

Small Steps = Big Accomplishments

Image created with Space Marine Painter V5.0
Yesterday I finished another Angel of Absolution. I still need to consult my master roster, paint a name under his base, and give him some static grass. For all intents and purposes he's a completed model. Here he is:
This model actually was used to replace one of my oldest models, Barrak (no relation to the President Elect), who was painted in 1994 and was ready to be demoted to the 6th Company (Reserve Company). The first image is Barrak after the demotion, and the second image is what his banner looked like a week ago. You might notice that Barrak is an Rogue Trader marine body with 2nd Edition marine arms, pads, and backpack. He was originally completed 14 years ago. That's kind of mind blowing:

That's actually Sergeant Kilomitus' head. He's also on the demotion list.

Anyway, the title of the thread implies that these little steps are leading up to something much bigger for me to announce, and that is true. You see, I have a ton of unfinished models and I started looking things over and I realized that I've reached a threshold of sorts. When I complete these next 3 models I will have a fully painted 1500 point army. This is huge. Its not quite the standard tournament size. Nor would it hold up under tournament play. Hell, it doesn't even take advantage of any of the unique Dark Angel unit types. Still, its an accomplishment. For the first time in 14 years of playing Warhammer 40K I will have what most would term a completed army. So what's left to be done to get these models in the case? Well, the two marines will complete a 5 man devastator squad. They have a ways to go but will likely be completed this week. As for the dread, you will notice it only needs tactical markings. Easy stuff!

But there is more exciting news! You see, as I am talking about being on this big threshold - this army has yet to reach a plateau. I have multiple other vehicles and squads that are on the cusp of completion. Once I hit that 1500 mark then the 1750, 1850, and 2000 marks should fall in rapid succession. Well, maybe not 2000. That might be getting ahead of myself.

The only sour note as I sing my own praises is that in a tournament setting it still won't be a competitive army. I really need to go the multiwing route if I want to be tournament viable. Still, I only play in tournaments 2-3 times a year, whereas I'll be able to see them in the display case every day and know how long I've work on this army and what a huge accomplishment it will have been for me. Hopefully you'll see me here, tooting my own horn some more, in another week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Finish What You Started!

I've talked a lot about trying to maintain impetus to get things done. Any little edge or incentive I can give myself to keep me on task I try to exploit. I'm very big into visual goals. I paint my models piecemeal in part so that I have the visual validation that I've completed something - even if its just a set of legs or a flamer.

I've also mentioned in the past that I use the visual recognition that comes from filling my display cases:

I actually just added these 2 models to the case. The first one is Balor from the 5th Squad of the 5th Company. He actually was in White Dwarf like 2 years ago in a Grand Tournament spread but in my head he wasn't finished. He was still awaiting his chapter symbol and script on the skeleton's parchment. The second is Heletiv, who just replaced one of my most outdated models from the 1st Squad of the 5th Company (which was painted over 10 years ago and really isn't up to my current standards.) Don't ask me where I pulled that name from but that's what was written under his base:

My latest painting strategy has been the act of clearing unfinished models out of my figure case and getting them into the display case. I literally take a model or partially painted piece out of the figure case and put it on my painting table. I then physically shift all of the models down to show myself I've made progress. Its a near compulsive action. The current goal is to reduce this figure case down to only 1 tray of partially finished models and bits:
I've talked a lot about how I do things but this kind of shows the method AND the madness of how I approach painting an army - and possibly why its taken me over a decade to get this far.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Apocalypse Virgin

On November 2, 2008 the Nerd Night crew converged on my apartment on Maplewood to engage in our first Nerd Night Apocalypse bash. A few of the guys had already experienced a few Apocalypse scale games, but this was my first. To be honest, I felt ill prepared. I was so busy with other things in my life during October that 40K was seriously the furthest thing from my mind. Normally I'd be scurrying around, trying to finish this model or that model, trying to build something grand, and hurriedly completing a new terrain piece. Instead I spent an hour or two watching TV the Thursday night before throwing together a battlewagon I knew I'd never even finish converting in time and totally lacking the tunnel vision mode I need to barrel through any type of project.

The night before I was out especially late and I was up before 7am getting the furniture moved and the tables set up. Arrival time was set for 9:30am so I had to hustle to get the house organized and get the dogs walked and fed. I had great energy early on and felt excited despite feeling unprepared. Eric called just as I finished getting everything into place, letting me know he was ready to arrive early to help set-up. Whoops! I guess I wasn't the only person bent on being pro-active so things went as smoothly as possible.

Somewhere after 10:00am the players had fully arrived and we got our usual chatter out of the way and made last minute changes to army lists etc. We were using approximately 9000 points per side and we played on a 6' x 8' table. Also, we only had one small super heavy on the board which resulted in just masses of troops flooding the table. It took us 7 1/2 hours to deploy, play a couple of turns, eat lunch, and then complete a couple more turns. At about 6 hours in my head started to pound from the sleep I neglected to get, but I had felt good about how well we paced ourselves, how way stayed to task once we got settled in, and that we managed to get in 4 full turns despite the enormous amount of models and the distinct lack of any sort of templates larger than an ordnance blast save for a couple of Orbital Bombardments. A little after 5:00pm everything was cleaned up, the furniture was back in place, and the dogs were once again lords of the living room - they were getting pissed being penned up all alone in the kitchen.

I did learn a number of things from the experience. Everything Jervis had written about being organized was spot on. Having a loose plan for the food, roughly having our crap together, and getting the tables set up ahead of time were all time savers. In the future I think we could get this all streamlined even more, ensuring we got more turns in. Additionally, we needed to scale back the points slightly or make sure we all made use of Datafaxes and Super-Heavy Vehicles. Not only was our killing potential greatly reduced at the expense of our turns being lengthened, but I think we missed out on some of the grandeur that comes from dropping a 10" template on your opponents forces. We also picked our Strategic Assets randomly from a hand picked selection Eric chose out of the book. Assets like Flank March and Strategic Redeployment were left out of the mix and though part of me thinks the idea of 20 Sentinels picking up and relocating to another section of the board mid game is completely ridiculous, our huge number of models and lack of massive kill power resulted in a pretty much the center of the board being one giant fight that just largely stalemated, especially since we reached a point where we had tons of models that couldn't do anything because they were blocked by other friendly models.

I love the idea of the massive battle and it was a great excuse to gather and have a light hearted game with lots of chatter about what's going on in our lives. Nerd Nights have been scattered at best the last couple months and it was just nice having everyone in the same place for an afternoon so we could catch up. The only two things I felt the day lacked was a story to tie it together (see my last post) and a bit more fully painted models. I'm really all about aesthetics when it comes to wargaming and I think a slightly smaller fight would have resulted in a prettier fight.

Regardless, it got me jump started once again and the last couple weeks the paints and brushes were dragged out, the new Space Marine Codex and Imperial Armour Masterclass Vol 1 were bought, the blog has been added to, and a couple of models are nearing completion. I am pretty sure its done the same for some of the other guys, so not only was it a successful day in terms of fun had by all amidst quality company, but it was doubly successful because it got a few of us a bit more motivated.

Thanks to everyone for a great day. Extra special thanks to Eric for making it happen.

PS. The Orks won the day against the Space Wolves/Ecclessiarchal contingent. Waaghh!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yearning for the Days...

When I first got into Warhammer Fantasy in the mid-90's I played most of my games against a customer at my gaming store named Christian. He'd come flying into the store, usually declaring something obscene about wife-swapping, and then he'd get down to the business of talking about his Chaos Dwarfs. Astrogoth (or whatever his name was) was constantly pushing towards Zufbar (sp) but had to march through my Undead to get there. Maps were drawn, scenarios were created on the spot, and the story line advanced.

Eventually I made the switch to 40K and started collecting the Angels of Absolution. At the time I changed systems he started collecting his first 40K love - the brand new Sisters of Battle. I started a campaign in the store revolving around a planet called Biletrus III and considering more games were played by Christian and I, the rest of the campaign players were just playing in a league more or less, while we were advancing a narrative. That narrative carried on long after the campaign died out. Commander Caligulas, Chaplain Vitus, Captain Belial, Techmarine Aries, and Genetor Evodius (I was using some Adeptus Mechanicus allies from the 2nd Edition Black Codex at the time) were all names that were thrown around. Both sides claimed we had rightful claim to the Emperor's Blessing and that the other had gone heretic, and the Ministorum held world of Biletrus III resisted our reclaimation of crucial STC technologies. A lot of the games we played even used the desert combat rules out of Citadel Journal, which I thought were great fun. Those were memorable days.

Time passed and narratives advanced. We both went on to work for Games Workshop and eventually Christian switched to Black Templars and I switched to my Redemptors of Golinar fanatical zealot IG army. We were still insisting the other side had gone rogue, but despite having armies from the Imperium we could always come up with a reason for fighting, a cool scenario, and a cool looking battlefield that looked like it made sense based upon the scenarios and narratives we came up with.

I've had some other great narrative games with other former co-workers and friends, but nothing has really compared to those games with Chris. We just clicked on what we wanted out of the hobby and out of gaming - the fusion of fantastic models, beautiful terrain, unique scenarios, and a developing story to tie it all together.

When I got to Chicago I joined an expansive group of fledgling and veteran gamers with divergent interests and armies. We've tried several campaigns. We've tried unique scenario generators. More than anything we've played a lot of tournament style games. I quickly found that whenever I was in a campaign I liked picking on my buddy Chad because he liked writing narrative style battle reports afterward that gave everything a little more depth, kind of like those early days with Christian.

As of late I've been really yearning for those days. My last two games were a giant 9000 point Apocalypse game and a nail-biter of a game against the Orks that was straight out of the book, tournament style. Both were fun games but there was no rivalry and no depth. I didn't even refer to any of my characters by their names - it all felt very detached.

On Citizen Nick Hobby Center there is a couple of posts where Scott is talking about the nature of campaigns and how we might alter the Alpheca campaign that we were playing in that he had developed all sorts of background and rules for. I read through it all and my answer was "mechanics be damned, let's strip it down to just the narrative." The more I think about it the more I miss those early days and yearn for narrative play. Tournaments and leagues are fun but I just feel like something is missing - that I need to get back to my roots. Mechanics be damned my friends. Let's strip it down and concentrate on giving our games and armies depth.