Sunday, September 27, 2009

Painting Space Hulk, Part 2

More on Shading
One of the nastiest pitfalls I encountered while learning to shade was the feeling of zomgwtf-have-I-done when applying a wash for the first time. The thing to remember is that you'll be going over the raised bits again with the base coat colour, so after that, the overall effect is of really sharp, dark shadows where you'd expect them. Observe:

Brothers Zael (left) and Goriel

Zael has just been washed. Goriel has been touched up again with Blood Red. Here's Sgt Lorenzo showing what the three stages look like:

L to R: Blood Red base coat, Scab Red + Chaos Black wash, Blood Red touchup

Patience is key here. At this stage, the quality of shading here far exceeds anything that could possibly be achieved with dip methods. Truth be told, a well shaded mini is already quite worthy of shop display standard, especially if the base colour is already quite bright, like Blood Red, Ultramarine Blue or Sunburst Yellow.

Another method of shading is blacklining. Again, this works better if the base colour is bright. Simply put, blacklining simply means taking Chaos Black and drawing in the shading yourself, putting black lines in all the recesses. This is a technique far, far beyond me, since it needs a steadier hand than I have, but the effect can be quite stunning.

After this, we'll be working with 2 highlighting techniques: line highlighting and drybrushing.

I think it's worthwhile to insert a brief note on order here, i.e. the order in which you lay down the colours on your mini. Ordinarily one should base coat every part of the model, then wash every part and highlight and so on. However, as I mentioned, these marines have an insane amount of bling on them. Hence, as I mentioned earlier, I'll start with the most difficult colour to reach first, then work my way upwards. Take a peek at Brother Deino:

Deino's a little further along than the rest. Alas, I rather stupidly jumped the gun and painted the chains and bling adorning his nadgers, blocking my way to his loincloth. So, tough luck to Deino, he's going to have to make do with a black loincloth. It will be highlighted, of course. You know, to make it look blacker.

Current progress
Here's how Squad Lorenzo looks like at this point in time:

Note that until every part of the whole squad is base coated and shaded, I won't be moving on to highlighting. What I've done here:

Metal bits: Base coated with Boltgun Metal, then washed with Chaos Black.
Gold bits: Base coated with Burnished Gold, washed with Chestnut Ink.
Seals: Midnight Blue, and still thinking what I'm going to do with them. I've decided to deviate from the GW colour scheme and do the jewels and seals in blue, for sharper and more interesting contrast against the armour and the bling.
Crux (that thing on the left shoulder pad): Codex Grey, washed with Chaos Black.
Parchment: I figured the parchment in the GW scheme didn't look old enough, so I went with a basecoat of Snakebite Leather, washed with Chestnut Ink, touched up with Bleached Bone, then given a super thin coat of seriously watered down Snakebite Leather. Here's a closer look courtesy of Brother Zael, who appears to be the man to go to in case of unscheduled toilet breaks:

There's still a few bits on Zael that I haven't quite decided on yet, like the crests on the left... pauldron? I'm sure that's a pauldron... and right greave. And the lenses on that doohickey above his head, to the left, which for some odd reason is on the right on every other squad member.

Next update, Squad Lorenzo should be completely base coated and shaded and I'll be starting on highlights. Also, I'm going to have to get started on those Genestealers, otherwise Brother Goriel will look a right muppet:

Hum. A thought just occured to me. Many of the Genestealers have dismembered bits of marine as part of the bases. I shall paint those in the colours of another chapter. Ooh, I am cheeky...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

As exciting as watching a mountain crumble...

... which is probably the oddest premise for a game I've ever seen. From the description:

"In Erosion, uplift your mountain by eroding those of other players. At the end of each round, gain points for cards in your mountain and delta.

The basic rules introduce the four player actions: Weathering, Hillslope, Fluvial, and Draw Cards. The advanced rules add details: atmospheric change, ice ages, glaciers, flood volcanism, quakes, etc.

Mountains are far more dynamic than the limitations of human lifetimes would suggest. Their growth and death involve cycles that keep the planet habitable. The machinery of these cycles is called erosion: the weathering of rock and its transport to the sea. Once there, it is subducted into the mantle, where volcanoes return the silicates, sulfates, water, carbon dioxide, and oxygen to the surface.

Almost every step of the erosion process is catalyzed by water. For instance, in your turn you may weather rock using crystallization (busting rock by growing evaporated salt crystals), then transport the remains to the River using creep (movement propelled by wet/dry and freeze/thaw cycles). Once plunked in the River, the eroded material is moved as sediment to the sea. Braided rivers carry the maximum sediment load, but they are the least stable (and the trickiest to play)."

Far be it from me to judge this game before even playing it. Other titles by the same publisher include Origins: How we became Human, American Megafauna and Lords of the Spanish Main. Just looking at the titles gives me the impression I'd actually learn more from these games than I would from a Malaysian secondary school education...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Painting Space Hulk, Part 1

I've decided to record my progress painting the lurvely Space Hulk minis here, partly as a guide to those who'd like to learn to paint the GW way, that is, the basic formula of:

1) Base coat
2) Shading (includes washing)
3) Highlights (includes drybrushing)
4) Details

This assumes an undercoat of black, of course. Be warned that the GW way is extremely meticulous. If you dig around on the net, you should be able to find any number of techniques which will give you minis that look pretty ok in a fairly short time, i.e. perhaps an afternoon to do 5 marines. This record won't cover that. I intend to come out of this with minis that you can look at and admire and, in my case, 5 years on wonder how the hell I managed to do that.

DISCLAIMER: I may have mentioned that I worked for Games Workshop once upon a time. I worked in GW RETAIL. As such, there are several different standards of painting. A rough guide, from best to worst:

1) Golden Demon - The pinnacle of the art of miniature painting. Truly, you are a god among men.
2) 'Eavy Metal - The people who do the miniatures that get photographed real nice in the magazines. Serious professional work here.
3) Shop display - Often the personal armies of particularly artistically inclined retail staff. Painted and modelled with some love, but just short of the technical expertise needed to make 'Eavy Metal standard. I'm around here.
4) Trial - Models painted to introduce newbies to GW gaming. Painted nice enough to look good on a tabletop, but not too nice, because we generally expect some arsehole to steal them at some point. The great bulk of GW hobbyist armies I've seen will fall into this category, as do dip method minis.
5) Basecoats only - Just basecoats, no shading, no highlights. Lazy bastards.
6) Fail - Monstrous parodies of the original miniatures, which can result from too much effort as easily as too little effort but nothing is as insulting to the tabletop as...
7) Unpainted - The only use you have for a paintbrush is to put a big red 'L' on your deserving forehead, you Loser.

There's any number of pitfalls for the novice painter, so out of the goodness of my heart, I'm putting up a few little tips that'll make your first attempts to painting GW-style hopefully not end in too much fail. Also, I thought it would be nice to have a photographic record of my progress. I think there's something a little magical about slowly bringing a wee lump of plastic to life with paint.

I'll be more or less following the guidelines laid out on GW's site, because a) the miniatures have all been festooned with Blood Angel iconography, so using a different colour scheme would look a little odd; and b) I lack the imagination to do so. Note, however, that the people who paint those as seen in the gallery are pros with ungodly amazing skills who will not only dot the eyes, but paint a gleam in the eye of miniatures barely the size of the top joint of your thumb. So, I'll deviate in one or two places in a manner commensurate with my own abilities and the limited number of colours I have currently at my disposal.

Tips on brush technique, assuming you are using a Citadel standard brush:
1) Protect that tip! The bristles will most certainly splay out when there's lotsa paint on it, but with small amounts of paint, the brush should be able to come to a point.
2) Don't let paint touch the metal bit. If it dries there it'll fray the brush.
3) On contact with the model, pull, never push, and definitely don't drag it sideways.
4) You may lick the brush. No, really. After giving the brush a good shake in water, I'll wipe it on a tissue, then use my tongue, curled in an 'O' to restore the brush to a sharp point. Just don't drink anything other than water when you're painting.
5) Pay attention to how you grip the brush and the mini. I find the steadiest way to grip is to place both elbows on the table, mini in left hand, brush in right and brace your wrists against each other. Also, I grip the brush the Chinese way, like so:
I find this grip gives me far better control than the usual pen grip, allows a greater range of movement and is especially well-suited to the way I hold the mini, that is, wrist-on-wrist. Also, since elbows are up on the table, you can keep sitting up straight with a decent posture, as opposed to crouching with wrists braced against the table, as some prefer. Make sure you've got a good, bright lamp, preferably one with a movable arm and you're good to go.

If, like me, this is the very first time you're painting Blood Angel Terminators, it helps to have a spare model to experiment with. This is my guinea pig of choice, Trooper Bob:

I forget where on Earth I got him, but as I continue painting the Space Hulk minis, I'll be testing colour mixes and techniques on various bits of him. I'm kinda curious how he'll turn out at the end of all this... .

So, first things first, basecoating. The dominant colour of the Blood Angels is, of course, Blood Red*. I distinctly remember this colour being an absolute bastard to work with as a kid. That's because back then, no one told me that:

a) You have to thin down the paint.
b) You have to use several coats.

Here's what the effect of each coat looks like, modeled by the exceedingly badass Squad Lorenzo**:

From left to right: Black undercoat, 1st coat of Blood Red, 2nd coat, 3rd coat, 4th coat + shading.

You may notice I've been a little sloppy with the brush at some places. This isn't really an issue. Since the paint is heavily thinned down (about 2:3 paint to water), when the paint dries, it won't obscure the detail. Since the Blood Red bits cover the most of each of the minis, I've opted to complete the base coat (i.e. 4 coats of Blood Red) and proceed straight to shading, then come back and base coat the other areas. Also, I went for Blood Red first because there's heaps of little trinkets and bits all over these guys. The Blood Red bits are underneath quite a few of these, so to minimize the impact of possible errors, I went for the colour that is most difficult to reach with the brush first.

Tips on basecoating:
1) These minis are absurdly detailed, so it really won't hurt to study the model for a bit before you start. Turn it over and over in your hand look at the way the light hits it and just get a feel for how you're going to shade and highlight it.
2) Be systematic about it. Start at one place, preferably the largest flat area you can find, then draw the paint as evenly as you can around the mini. It's a little counterintuitive at first, but ignore the fact that, the first time round, your Blood Red isn't quite Blood Red. Just remember, after 4 coats (maybe 5), it will be.
3) Make it as even as you can! Can't stress this enough! Don't let the paint pool in the crevasses, and smoosh away any bubbles you see. When these paints dry, they form a tough layer. If you let too much accumulate in the crevasses, you're making it much harder to shade later.
4) As mentioned before, don't stress too much about getting Blood Red on the wrong bits. Chaos Black is an extremely solid colour and even thinned down it will quite easily wipe away your sins at a stroke without squishing out the detail.
5) You can afford to be sloppy for basecoating the first colour. Beyond that, correcting mistakes is a LOT more troublesome. Be patient. Breathe steady. Have a tissue ready for a quick draw and wipe in the event of emergencies.

Seeing as I didn't have, as recommended by the guide, any Dark Flesh, I decided to improvise. I used Scab Red and a touch of Chaos Black to wash the Blood Red bits. Now, what 'washing' means here is to take a colour significantly darker than the base colour, thin it down to more or less the consistency of milk, then go over the base colour and deliberately let this darker colour pool in the crevasses. Sounds easy, but takes a little practice to get the hang of making surface tension work for you and letting the right amount pool in said crevasses. You may have noticed Trooper Bob's left leg has been shaded. After testing it out on Bob, I moved on to Brother Deinos below:

After washing, your mini will generally look like he's been playing in the mud. Fear not, just come back and touch up the raised areas with the base colour again.

Anyway, this is as far as I've gotten for the moment. I feel I should mention that, at this point, I've actually played the game twice; the first mission as both Marine and Genestealer. It is as they say: Painted minis roll more 6's. And red definitely makes 'em go fasta.

* All the colours I'm using are of course Citadel Colour standards.

** No, I didn't come up with these names. No imagination, remember? I'm using the names from the Space Hulk Mission and Background book. From left to right, those marines are: Brother Goriel, Brother Valencio, Brother Zael, Sergeant Lorenzo and Brother Deinos.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Me after a kendo session

And I've nowhere near enough XP...

Hurr! Derp, derp! BOOMS!

I was just looking at my painting after the previous post, and it struck me how RED and LOUD they'll be when they're done - which reminded me of this (0:36):

Ph34r mah OVERWATCH!

Hokay, it's been a long, long while since I've actually put any decent amount of text in here. Been a bit distracted lately, coz I've just gotten my grubby paws on Space Hulk! THE 2009 edition of Space Hulk! Verily, I was pleased:

The original Space Hulk was released 20 years ago and was full of win. It was about 15 years ago that I did first lay eyes upon it and was for the first time exposed to the awesome of the Warhammer 40k universe. The long and short of what Space Hulk is, it's a 2 player game where 1 player takes a squad of marines (the Terminators*) stomping through a mess of narrow corridors infested with hordes of aliens (the Genestealers. Long story.) with sharp, pointy teeth and claws, controlled by the other player. It was, and still is one of Games Workshop's most popular products, having been worthy of 2 computer game adaptions (officially), 2 expansions, and another edition (which I've never seen) before going out of print and circulating around eBay. I played the hell out of this game, and youth's folly did let me overlook the fact that I was mildly bamboozled. How so? Well, back then, the rulebook had this to say about your marines:

ZOMG teh awesome!

But what you actually got was:


Forgive my 15 year old painting fail. I still don't know what the hell possessed me to put gold paint on the base. I've improved since then, 'onest guv, and have since had some of my works displayed in GW Bristol. They might still be there, if, as I suspect, no one could be bothered to put up a new Blackstone Fortress. Anyway, you got 10 of the monstrosities shown above with 1st ed Space Hulk, each being a single lump of plastic to be manhandled into those little round bases. I know not if they improved upon it in the 2nd edition. The 2009 edition is the 3rd and I daresay they've improved their moulding techniques since then. Observe:

I'm sorry, brother, but you're just too damn ugly to live...

Naturally, it simply wouldn't do to leave these works of art languishing in bare plastic! The very thought of actually playing a game of Space Hulk with these unpainted?! Barbaric! Well, the chap in red here is a work in progress. The paint has to be thinned down with water and several coats need to be applied before you can really get to work. I've no intention of cutting corners so I expect it'll be a week or so before my first marine can be said to be finished. But do click on the happy thumbnails here for a good look at the sheer detail they've put into these new models. They're awfully fragile, though. Took me ages to get them out of their sprues, which leads me to a little point about the appeal of Space Hulk and the greater bulk of GW games.

If you're looking for a game where you can just buy it, take it home, then be ready to play after, say 30 minutes of reading the rules and preparing the pieces for the first time, Space Hulk is NOT for you. It took me 1 pair of sidecutters, 2 files, a damn sharp hobby knife, a fair amount of glue and perhaps 3 hours to get everything out and actually ready for a game. That's the easy part. It took another hour to spray on a black undercoat on everything, after which I blew black snot for a couple hours afterwards. Serves me right for not wearing a mask, I suppose. I'm guesstimating it'll be 2 weeks before my first squad of 5 marines (out of 12 marines and 23 genestealers) will be painted to a standard which I would not consider embarassing. Over the course of the next few months, with a brush and a steady hand, the marine player will not be in command of 5 bits of plastic but the Blood Angels of Squad Lorenzo. And the thing is, it doesn't really matter of you've got mad painting skillz or not, it's a labour of love, so in your eyes you've gone way, way beyond just gaming - you've just immersed yourself in the elaborate universe of the 41st millenium. And I can tell you, fail marine up there felt pretty damn awesome back in 1994.

Well, it's now 15 years since fail marine. I haz better skillz, and I intend to use 'em! Pics will follow. Whoopsy! Gotta go, Souseki's trying to eat mah Genestealers...

* No, I don't know if a lawsuit was involved.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Missed a couple...

Know your -isms

From the happy and edumacational intertoobs:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another good thing about Malaysia...

... because they're so damn hard to come by. Anyway, I just came across another nice thing about Malaysia, which is by no means unique to Malaysia, but is nonetheless one of the requirements for a civilized nation:

Now, from a bottle of this stuff to civilization in a little over a minute, instructions are as follows:

Man, that tickles the Beribazu...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Conversations in kendo

Me, with a 2nd dan whom I've never trained with before, just after warming up:

Him: Anything else you wanna practice?

Me: Not really. You?

Him: Nope... Wanna fight?

Me: Yah, hokay!


Cheng proceeds to get his right kote hammered...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Far too true...

Dredged from the diabolical depths of t3h intertoobs, I bring you heretical win:

Because if you can't laugh derisively at people who consider faith a virtue...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To hell with good intentions...

"It's the thought that counts."

"He/she meant well."

"He/she only wanted what's best for you/us/him."

I can't quite recall how many times I've heard these words uttered after someone or other has caused someone else some terrible grievance of some sort. In the past before I turned nigh completely to ruthless empiricism, I'd nod sagely in agreement. Now these words spark a twinge of irritation, mostly because of certain questions that did spring forth from a more liberated mind than before. Questions like:

So what? Hitler had good intentions, that is, he really thought he was doing the "right thing"...


Oh, so that makes it better, then?


So you're saying her intentions make her a good person, a saint, in fact, despite her contributing directly to the unnecessary suffering of untold thousands of hardcore poor Indians?

If you haven't guessed, that last one has to do with "Blessed" Theresa of Calcutta. If you're not aware why Bill Gates does more good for the world than Mother Theresa, I strongly recommend reading that link before carrying on.

So why? Why do people take comfort in mouthing these utterly inane words? Are they in denial and trying to justify the great wrong that has been done? Are they trying to see good where there is none? Do they identify with the perpetrator and see an awful mistake which they could just as easily have made, and thus are trying to scooch a little further up to the moral high ground in their own little minds?

A great many people live in the naive delusion that people are, by nature, good. That they want to do good. That deep down inside is a good person, who is kind and gentle and wants everyone to be happy. That overrated wordsmith who was too dense to be atheist, C S Lewis, called it Universal Morality. The ancient Chinese immortalised it in the opening lines of the 三字经 thusly:

人之初 (rén zhī chū) People at birth,
性本善 (xìng běn shàn) Are naturally good.
性相近 (xìng xiāng jìn) Their natures are similar,
習相遠 (xí xiāng yuǎn) Their habits make them different.

Like any popular delusion, it is seductive. Of course we want to believe we're good people surrounded by other good people! The especially thick-skinned may just keep telling themselves that "maybe somewhere deep down he had a good soul" as the judge passes sentence on some acquaintance who made a hobby of fashioning household objects out of human body parts.

We are not very far off from animals. Animals in the wild live by rules imposed upon them by nature and the vagaries of Fate. We built upon the rules of Nature and call it culture, law, social mores and norms, whatever floats your boat. They are fictions that, for the most part, bind us together into cohesive communities and generally help us get things done without worrying too much about getting stabbed in the back*. But, as Heath Ledger's Joker pointed out, they are fictions and they are so very fragile.

My readings into human nature have told me many things I wish I never knew, not least of which is what can be achieved in Rwanda with a mixture of overpopulation, in-group mentality and a lot of machetes. 800,000 people in 100 days. To try to imagine the scale of what happened there, to put yourself in their shoes, it just ruins the mind. But it happened. As did any number of atrocities inflicted by humans on humans in history that were simply too ugly and too numerous to mention in history textbooks in school. Where was the good soul then? Who turned around and said "No, I will not kill these people, because it's wrong"? How many died needlessly as men in suits and plastic smiles prattled over the distinction between "ethnic cleansing" and "genocide"?

In the face of such horrors, those who would speak of an innate goodness in the hearts of men look ridiculous, like a traffic policeman trying to give out speeding tickets at the Indy 500. But this is not to say we are all monsters waiting to be given the oppurtunity to inflict great suffering. What we are is what circumstances make of us. Our every action is the product of the confluence of disposition and situation. In all of us resides the capacity to be monsters or heroes. Most of us will be bemused bystanders. Or victims.

It is unconstructive to comfort oneself with foolish and naive assumptions of human nature. And yet, it takes a measure of strength and courage to cast aside our hubris and gaze unflinchingly at the animal inside, acknowledge it and conquer it. It takes intellectual honesty to question oneself constantly, guarding against hypocrisy, to doubt one's own righteousness and to remain vigilant against the insidious spectre of dehumanization. This is may not necessarily be pleasant or easy, but it has become important.


I think I'll save that for a later post. A furry friend of mine is hinting that he needs feeding by attempting to devour my ankle...

* Unless, of course, you happen to work in a merchant bank.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

You will wince

Oh, and by the way...

You may remember I once took the piss out of M'sia for having a flag that was a blatant rip-off of the Stars and Stripes. I just found out from Malaysia Today that the Malaysian national anthem, Negaraku, had it's melody nicked from an old Hawaiian song, Mamula Moon.

Here's Negaraku:

Here's Mamula Moon:

Originality fail...

And since I'm here anyway, here's a guy who got in a LOT of trouble for his parody of Negaraku:

Frankly, I think it's quite telling of a nation's inferiority if they don't have the strength of character to have a laugh at themselves from time to time.