Riding the Hype Train

The new edition of Warhammer 40,000 is released in a few days and I’m really looking forward to it.  Whereas it’s always cool when something you like is getting a new release, the new edition of 40K has really caught my attention, unlike any of previous edition, since third.

Second edition was awesome and it worked well for smaller scale scraps, so well in fact that the ruleset was almost completely reused for Necromunda, with a stripped back version existing to this day as Shadow War Armageddon.  It was somewhat unwieldy for larger battles though and third edition was the answer to this.

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The third edition boxed game was a real step forward for Games Workshop and was a big deal.  It saw the release of the multi-part Space Marine kits, which was exciting because up to this point all we’d had for a few years were metal miniatures that were limited, as far as options were concerned and snap fit plastics.  It also contained the plastic Landspeeder, a kit which is still kicking around to this day.

New Space Marines weren’t the only thing to get excited about as the release also debuted an entirely new race, the Dark Eldar.  I’m pretty sure these kits aren’t the ones that’re on release now, as they were very basic, but they were super cool at the time, purely because they were new.

It also contained what I think may have may have been Games Workshop’s first attempt at plastic scenery.  There had been cardboard ruins and the like previously, but nothing like this.  Ruined buildings and rather strange looking modular jungle trees.  Rather basic looking by today’s standards, but ground-breaking stuff then, with the buildings still usable to this day.  The trees however were rather fragile and met their end long ago.

Despite all this, as far as I’m concerned third edition ultimately turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.  I wasn’t fond of the codices, due to the lack of background material and they went much too far when it came to de-cluttering the rules.  Folks may well disagree with me, but that’s how I felt about it.

What came after the release of the boxed game in no way diminishes the excitement that I felt for it upon release however and this is precisely how I feel about the imminent eighth edition. All new models, a completely new ruleset and more new background than you could shake a range-ruler at.

Will it be the perfect game? Almost certainly not; nothing’s perfect after all.  As with third edition though, what comes after the initial release in no way diminishes how I feel about my first dip into eighth edition.

That Bloody Model

Some models are a joy to work on from beginning to end.  Assembly, flash-line removal, painting, none of these things present a problem.  When such a model is finished, you’re almost sorry to have to put your paintbrush down and call it done.

Then there are those other models.  The ones that hate you and want you to stick your fingers together with superglue.  The assembly instructions might be vague, only showing you the general area that a part needs to be glued onto, and not for example how it should sit in relation to other parts.  These little beauties often include parts that need to be glued together by a person that has at least four hands.

Or it could have flash-lines in very visible, but hard to reach places, leading you to the conclusion that you need a knife / file that will bend in three different directions at the same time.  These buggers present a very real risk of your model getting a red undercoat, whether you wanted it to or not; modelling knives cut deep.

Then we come to painting a model.  Hard to reach crevices, poor detail (mostly a problem on older models) and the ever-looming spectre of what’s that supposed to be, I have no idea what colour to paint it?  Such areas usually consist of little twirly bits, or small and ambiguous box like shapes that could be painted in any one of half a dozen different colours.

Lastly there are the things which aren’t really the fault of the model and you’re only making it about the irritating little sod because you’re having such a bad time.  This can be anything from not having a replacement blade for your knife, to your polystyrene cement inexplicably being blocked a couple of minutes after you last used it.

The most recent, but by no means the worst offenders for me have been the new Custodes models.  They are fantastic looking models and although I haven’t quite finished them yet, they aren’t too bad to paint either.  The main issue I have with these guys is assembly; they are bloody frustrating to put together.

Games Workshop made some strange decisions about the amount of parts these models were broken down in to.  One example that springs to mind would be the Storm Shields.  There is a gem in the centre of the shield, a very tiny gem and it’s a separate part.  As far as I can tell, there is no reason this gem couldn’t have just been part of the shield from the start.

Detaching this teeny tiny part from the sprue, cleaning it up and getting where it was supposed to go was no easy task and I nearly dropped more than once.  I have somewhat large hands and this rather exacerbated things, but I can’t imagine anyone having a good time with them.

This pales in comparison to the problems I had with the Guardian Spears; those things are bloody awful.  Two of the Custodes hold their spears across their chests in a two-handed grip.  To assemble these dudes you have to attach two separate arms to the torso of the model, while also attaching the spear to the arms at the same time.  Oh yeah, you also need to have the arms oriented at the correct angle for the hands that are moulded to the spear to join to the wrists.

That’s complicated to even write about, but to assemble them frustrated me more than any model has for a long time.  It was one of those occasions that I mentioned earlier, when it feels like you need more hands than you have access to.

Another model that deserves a mention is the Krootox, but first a bit of a disclaimer.  I bought these soul-destroying monsters when they were new and it’s entirely possible that something might have been done to fix them by now.

When the Tau were originally released their Codex would be best described as functional.  It had everything needed to build an army, but not much in the way of choice.  This made models like the Krootox almost essential if you wanted anything approaching variety in your army.  This wasn’t necessarily a problem as they were nice looking models, although they have dated a wee bit now.  The problem came with the assembly.

It was a metal model and a poorly cast mess.  All the detail was there, the parts just didn’t fit together, it wasn’t even close.  To get them to go where they were supposed to go required pliers and a lot of elbow grease, followed by green stuff and pinning.

They were such terrible models to assemble, that to this day I still only have those same two Krootox in my Tau army.  If they still fit together as badly now as they did then, I’m not even sure how they’d work as models anymore.  They’re resin these days and resin isn’t known as a material that reacts well to brute force.  Warm water and patience perhaps, but it’d take a lot of work and as a unit choice they just aren’t essential enough to warrant all that effort anymore.

Some models are going to be a pain in the arse to get onto the games table, there’s no getting around it.  More times than not it’s well worth the effort though, when you see what you’ve achieved and you know what it took to get a particularly troublesome model onto the table.

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My Krootox, complete with fifteen year old paint scheme (give or take a year or two).

The Golden Age and back … And back again?

I’ve been pretty heavily invested in the worlds that Games Workshop create for over twenty five years now and I love their background.  It’s one of the things that stopped me from jumping ship to another company during the too long period when they seemed to be going out of their way to alienate everybody over the age of fifteen.

They’ve had some pretty strange ideas over the years, ideas that often seemed to run pretty contrary to common sense, but the one that always boggled my mind the most was their attitude to the internet.

Before I get stuck into this, I would like to say that Games Workshop over the past year or two has felt like almost an entirely different company and for the most part I’m pretty happy with the direction things seem to be going in.  There was a substantial slice of time though when this was not the case.

The internet; I think we can all agree that short of a Mad Max type Apocalypse, it’s not going anywhere and that most of us probably wouldn’t want it to.  No internet would certainly make blogging a bit tricky.

There was a fairly substantial slice of time when Games Workshop treated the internet like it was a passing fad that was going to fade away if they ignored it long enough.  This all seemed to stem from a forum they ran for a while some time ago.

It was a reasonably interesting place for a time.  If you’ve been into the hobby for a while you may even have experience of it yourself, but it started to become overloaded with people who were going there to launch personal attacks on the company.  Did the company deserve this and did a lot of these people’s opinions have merit?  Up to a point, yes.  However the forum was there to discuss the hobby side of the hobby and not the business side, so it was never going to end well.

Instead of attempting to address the situation rationally, they threw their toys out of the pram, closed the forum and almost entirely withdrew from the internet.  Sure, they still had the webstore, but I imagine even they could see that closing that would have been akin to company suicide.

Over the next few years they rolled back their online presence more and more, even abandoning a pretty popular Twitter feed.  I don’t pretend to know a great deal about business and the only thing I know about their profits is what I’ve read on hobby forums.  For a while at least making a profit seemed to be problematic for them and part of the reason for this may well have been as a result of them closing themselves off from their fanbase and taking us for granted.

As a company they had been in a bit of a downward spiral for quite a while, at least as far as their reputation was concerned and the internet thing was by no means the first bad decision they made; nor was it their last.

You’d probably get a hundred different answers from a hundred different people if you asked them to tell you what their problem was with the company a few years ago, but most of them probably would have agreed on two points.  The Finecast debacle and the botched Age of Sigmar launch.

Finecast.  It was a cool idea in principal.  Replace the range of metal miniatures with the same models, but cast in resin.  Lighter, cheaper and more detailed.  They were definitely lighter.

There was no difference in price people paid between the metal models and their resin counterparts and in some cases the prices even went up.  As far as the detail was concerned; it was indeed better, if you could get one that wasn’t faulty and that was the problem.

I don’t know how true this is but I heard of independent retailers who found more than half of their stock to be faulty, at least in the initial run.  I have no way of knowing how accurate this is, but from my experience with the early Finecast range, it certainly feels right.

The range must have been rushed out before it was ready and Games Workshop as a company must surely have paid a high price for their haste.  I will say that as far as I know, they accepted returns from people and offered refunds, or replacements to anyone who got in touch with regarding a faulty model.  In my experience, this is one area that they have always excelled in.

Finecast as a brand is so toxic that even Games Workshop have ditched the name now.  They still sell resin models and they seem to be, whilst still not perfect, at least usable in most cases now.  I’ve painted a few on commission, but for my own collection, unless there’s no alternative I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole.  This is no comment on Forgeworld’s resin, they have a pretty splendid reputation as far as I’m aware.

As far as Age of Sigmar is concerned, I believe it’s quite an enjoyable game, with a well-rounded ruleset now and it certainly has a lot of beautiful miniatures.  Although I’ve perused the rules, I’ve never played it; I just haven’t been able to work up the enthusiasm for it so far.

When it was released, it replaced the much-loved Warhammer Fantasy Battle; a game that had been around for an epic amount of time.  It offered an entirely different experience to Warhammer 40,000 gameplay wise and had a rich, well developed background.

While it is true that it wasn’t selling as well as it had, this could have been addressed without killing the whole system and all the background.

Part of the problem with regards to the decline of Warhammer Fantasy, is the uneven coverage it got in White Dwarf, Games Workshop’s hobby magazine.  The coverage often seemed skewed towards the more popular Warhammer 40,000 and while this is my favourite system, it always seemed a little unfair.

Also, as unintentional as it presumably was, when they acquired the licence for Lord of the Rings, from a fantasy perspective they went into competition with themselves.  By having two totally different fantasy ranges competing for the same slice of the pie, they were setting one of them up for a fall.

Whereas Warhammer Fantasy kept a lot of the gamers it already had, Games Workshop didn’t really give itself an outlet to pick up very many new gamers for the system.

It seemed to me though, that Games Workshop grabbed the wrong end of the stick and decided that the reason Warhammer Fantasy wasn’t selling, was that it wasn’t enough like Warhammer 40,000, so along came Age of Sigmar.

As I said earlier Age of Sigmar seems to be perfectly fine now it’s bedded in and things have been rounded off.  On release however, it seemed very bare bones and everything that was there was entirely new.  Quite simply, it may not have been that there was anything particularly wrong with it, but that it had big shoes to fill and on release it struggled to do so.

Despite all the turbulent times, they really seem to have turned over a new leaf.  While I don’t think they’re quite at the stage they were at in what I consider to be the glory days, they do seem to be trying; it’s also a little bit possible that to some extent I may be looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.

They’ve even got their sense of humour back and the ability to have a laugh at your own expense is never a bad thing.

Pile of Shame

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He’s been finished for quite some time now, but this little chap was a long time resident of the pile of shame.

 

 

The pile of shame.  A mound, box, tub of miniatures, take your pick.  It consists of projects started, abandoned, ignored, or just plain forgotten about and it sits there silently judging you out of the corner of your eye.

If you paint models, chances are that you have your own pile of shame, I know I do and despite my best efforts it seems to grow without me ever adding anything to it.  Of course, it’s possible that there are miniature painters who don’t have a small mountain of plastic and metal, looking sad and gathering dust.  If this is the case, then I take my hat off to them, because they have far more focus than I do.

Every unpainted model in my possession doesn’t qualify for membership in the illustrious pile of shame club, just those on my desk. That’s enough of a backlog without worrying about all the boxes and blister-packs secreted about the place.

The current number one spot is occupied by a squad of Genestealer hybrids that have been sitting on my desk since just before Christmas.  They are criminally close to being finished, probably about a day of hard graft in fact.  There always seems to be some reason to put off painting them until tomorrow, next week, or indeed when hell freezes over.

I’d like to say that it’s not even slightly my fault, that I am always legitimately to busy, but that would be a fib so blatant that my nose would probably grow Pinocchio style.  I am busy and have been hecka occupied with work related tomfoolery, but the time has been there to clear up some of these outstanding painting projects, I’ve just managed it poorly.

It’s almost as if the Genestealers have become kind of gatekeepers to the rest of the pile, which is daft.  I can paint any model I want whenever I have a scrap of spare time, but I haven’t.

I could waffle on at great length about the reasons for this, but almost every single one would be an excuse, plain and simple.  The only reason that deals with why the pile of shame is still there is one that I glanced upon earlier; lack of focus.

I’m not exactly flush with oodles of spare time, but I have more than enough to sit down and paint more of my own stuff than I do.  It’s all too easy to fire up the Xbox and play a game, or pop Netflix on and it’s not that there’s anything wrong with this, but I need to find a bit of balance.  A little bit less Xbox and a little bit more time spent chipping away at the pile of shame.

It’s easy enough to say, but in practice will I make it work?  I’ll keep you posted.

Ramblin’

I’ve read quite a few blogs and I’ve thought about starting one of my own more than once, but have never quite got around to it.  I even got as far as setting up an account with another blogging site about a year ago and then never did anything with it.

Whereas nothing has really changed in my life to make me do this, I decided to start doing a lot of the things I’ve been putting off and that’s why this exists now.

Another thing I’ve been half-arsing for quite some time now is my hobby.  I’ve been commission painting and selling on eBay for a while and although it’s not exactly going great guns, I do feel I’m gaining a bit of traction in that respect now.  It’s the outside work hours aspect of the hobby that’s gone a bit limp.

I still paint my own stuff, but I want to paint more of it and to do that I need to manage my free time a bit more and whereas I certainly don’t consider playing on the XBox to be a waste of my time, if I want to spend more time painting my own stuff, I need to do a bit less of it.

I need to finish the stuff in the Deathwatch Overkill box, my Tau army needs a bit of freshening up and I need to drag my Ultramarines kicking and screaming into the twenty first Century (don’t judge me, I liked the blue boys before folk despised them).  Then there’s all the Necromunda stuff that I want to strip down and repaint now that the Shadow Wars game is a thing.

The picture I’ve dropped in at the top of the page, for those of you who don’t know, is Captain Tycho of the Blood Angels.  I painted him a few Months and the picture is here for no other reason than the fact that I’ve always liked the model.  I’m not very familiar with how this all works yet, but I think I can add a gallery.  If this is indeed the case I’ll be uploading quite a lot of pictures of things I’ve painted that you can take a look at if you fancy.

Playing more games is something I’d like to get round to, I’ve not done nearly enough of that over the past year or two either.  For that though I need to paint my own models a bit more as I hate playing with unpainted stuff.

As you can probably tell if you have any knowledge of Games Workshop type stuff the Warhammer 40,000 side of their background is my favourite bit.  I always quite liked Warhammer Fantasy but for an assortment of reasons I haven’t really found it easy to engage with Age of Sigmar.

Anyway, that’s me.  A lot of what I write about will be orbiting some aspect of ‘the hobby’ as it seems to have become known.  I will however be writing about other things that interest me, so although it’s largely a painting and gaming blog, that’s far from the only thing it’ll be about.

My interests are pretty varied. Movies, TV, books, comics, console gaming, current affairs and even a smattering of world politics.  Some of these things might not interest you but I aim to try to keep it interesting.

If you’d like to comment on anything I post, you’re quite welcome to, whether you agree, disagree, or whatever. I’d like to ask that you try to keep it relatively civil though.

I’ve enjoyed writing this and there should be another one rolling round soon, so until next time folks.