I stopped painting in pure assembly-line style (like I was doing last month), moved to two at a time, and now am experimenting with a “soft” assembly line: two on the handles, the rest of the squad nearby to make sure no paint goes to waste. Do the gold on my main two, finish it up on as many others as I can; repeat.
So far I’m digging this approach. When I finish the current two, the next two will already have several of their base coat colors in place — a nice little head start.
At this rate there’s a decent chance I’ll have my first full Blood Angels squad completed this week!
I was going to do a Twitter thread while playing through Thousand Year Old Vampire (TYOV), a solo RPG by Tim Hutchings in which you’re an awful, awful vampire, but couldn’t figure out how to provide a meaningful content warning that would 1) persist and 2) allow people to avoid the whole thread while 3) still making it comprehensible. So here we are!
Content warning:violence, allusions to self-harm, gore, torture. Intended for a mature audience.
In this post I’m going to try to preserve the rapid-fire delivery of a Twitter thread because it suits the Quick Game for TYOV (one of its two modes of play) and my own inclinations.
Your vampire is a collection of Memories, Experiences, Resources, Skills, other Characters, and the trait which identifies you as a vampire, your Mark. My first Experience is a character summary:
I am Garnier, son of Roland and Isabeau, born in southern Brittany in 14th Century France; I became a monk to avoid poverty but found strength in my faith
It’s around 1340 at the start of this playthrough; the Black Plague is just starting its grim march through Europe.
I also came up with three Skills, three Resources, and Characters — and four more Experiences, each tied to those people/things. Here are my starting Characters:
Melisende, a beautiful young woman in the village of Réconfort near the abbey; she visits regularly to transport wine made by the monks (mortal)
Brother Eudes, a beautiful young monk who is secretly my lover; he loathes himself for straying from God (mortal)
Abbot Roul, iron-fisted ruler of our abbey; he believes in harsh punishment for all offenses, no matter how minor (mortal)
Qadir, an ancient, withered, stick-like vampire who haunts the abbey’s library, feeding on the monks; it illuminates manuscripts in blood (immortal)
Resources are a secret copy of the key to the abbey’s forbidden book room, a love letter from Brother Eudes, and my personal Bible I am illuminating for the abbey’s collection. Skills are Conceal My True Feelings, True Prayer, Skulking About. My other four Experiences are:
Brother Eudes, at great personal risk, slips me a love letter during Mass; I feel truly alive for the first time
I press the abbot’s key to the forbidden book room into a bar of wax and carve a copy; my visits there are frequent
Melisende, to whom I am drawn, asks to see my illuminated Bible; I feel more strongly about my faith in God than I do about her
I sneak into the abbey’s forbidden book room for the first time and encounter Qadir, its eyes coal-black; it mocks my prayers and delicately slits each of my wrists
And finally, my Mark — Garnier’s “vampire tell”: The wounds in my wrists never heal, and must always be bound or blotted with cloth; I cover them with my sleeves and change the dressings often.
This is a game about surprising yourself, and forgetting
As you move through the game’s prompts (with die rolls determining where you land), each will fuel a new bit of your story and require you to create an Experience. Some will prompt you to check off a Skill or Resource; the game ends when you must do that and cannot.
You’re not in complete control of your character. You make many of their decisions, but not all of them; it’s intended to make you uncomfortable, and it works.
When you gain enough Experiences, you’re forced to discard your Memories — flitting through the centuries, you cease to be who you were. Although, cruelly, you may retain legacies of those memories: people you used to know, skills you still possess despite having forgotten how you gained them, etc.
I’m not going to write out a whole journal here, nor give away Tim’s farm — rather, I’ll try to give you a sense for how the game plays and feels by sharing what came of the prompts I encountered on Garnier’s journey.
Prompt me, baby
The first prompt is always the same supposed to be rolled, but I picked prompt #1: you kill a mortal Character close to you, and gain the Bloodthirsty skill. (Updated because Tim mentioned on Twitter that the first prompt is the result of a die roll, like all the others.)
I kill Melisende the next time she comes to the abbey to collect the wine, drinking the blood from her wrists the way Qadir taught me; I feel nothing
From there, die rolls lead you forward or back through the prompts — and each prompt is layered, so if you land on it again you can pick a new layer to explore.
My second was about being exposed:
I am found out to be a killer, and convince Eudes to run away with me, lying to him about everything; we pose as itinerant monks — I am now Roland
Garnier, now called Roland
I put that one under my Memory about my beloved Eudes. Unfortunately, he got the next prompt as well:
Unable to live with our many sins, my beloved Eudes threatens to reveal me; I kill him, and drink because I hunger
At this point I have 2/4 Skills checked and 0/3 Resources checked. These are still Garnier’s salad days.
Decades later, Garnier has forgotten all about the abbey’s forbidden book room (although not about Qadir) and the Plague has largely ended. He blends in for many years. Until:
I sneak into a monastery and drain every last monk; I leave the last one alive for days, draining him and watching, and then steal all their gold
A couple observations
In solo games I tend to create the biggest piece of shit I can think of and then see what it’s like to live their life. I want to be uncomfortable, yet also delighted — in a slasher movie sort of way — at my character’s awfulness. TYOV is very much my jam.
TYOV is also an evil game. It fucks with you. It fucks with itself. It fucks with its own rules. It places you in discomfiting situations and makes you proceed.
For example: A century or more has passed and Garnier is now on his fourth name. He has fled to a foreign land, a place where he knows no one and doesn’t speak the language. I have to write an Experience for that . . . but if I fill up my first Memory, the one which appears first in this post, that will put me perilously close to forgetting who I am.
I don’t want to fill that slot.
Which, of course, is exactly the kind of gleefully wicked friction TYOV is designed to create.
Checking in with Garnier
A couple of centuries have passed. Garnier now lives in Greece. He has renounced God, discarding his 200-year-old personally illuminated Bible — which I chose to destroy over the letter from Brother Eudes.
One: holy shit, that’s making me feel things.
Two: how did Garnier preserve any faith for 200 years of being as evil as he is?
By the 17th Century, I no longer remember being Garnier at all. I strive to live an unremarkable mortal existence to avoid detection. In addition to my suppurating wrist wounds, I walk in an animal crouch and see Melisende — my first victim, who I no longer recall — in half the people I meet. I have been ground down by what feels like the inevitability of time, the curse of immortality weighing on me.
I’ve been happy precisely twice in 400 years: When Brother Eudes (who I later killed) confessed his love, and when I slipped into a 200-year torpor and felt nothing.
As fate and chance would have it, my last remaining skill is True Prayer. I’ve met my progenitor, the impossibly ancient vampire Qadir, and found in him now a kindred spirit. Little more than Qadir’s protection (which I’ve taken as a Resource) stands between me and the final death.
TYOV’s mechanics are deceptively simple. The natural probability of the roll you make every turn tends to drive you deeper into the book (though you do backtrack as well, just less often). The deeper you go, the more the prompts trend towards an ending — or an Ending, if you prefer.
I hit my final prompt and said aloud, “Holy shit, this is it.” And I knew instantly just what shitty, terrible form this ending would take for Theodorus — the name Garnier adopted in the 1600s and will now keep, eternally in the thrall of Qadir, the vampire who made him what he is.
My final Experience was this:
I am Qadir’s thrall, only his protection, his care, can stave off the final death; I live only to live, feeling nothing save the desire to continue being, forever
Fuuuuuuuuuuck that’s bleak.
Friends, Thousand Year Old Vampire is extraordinary. I’ve played a ton of solo RPGs, and this one does things I’ve never seen before. It lays out its goals and accomplishes all of them; it’s rewarding and moving and disturbing to play; and at the end of my first playthrough I feel wrung out.
I stayed up late last night putting the final highlights on two more battle-brothers of Squad Karios.
Then the dog woke me up at 5:00 am, so I figured I’d start on their decals. Knees: trickier than shoulder pads! But Micro Set and Sol are great, just needed a quick second coat on one knee pad and these were good to go.
Then it was on to varnish and Army Painter Frozen Tufts, and now two more sons of Sanguinius are finished!
Bits and bobs
My stash of 40k bits was small, so I ordered a few little piles of basing stuff — rubble, scraps of other models, etc. — to jazz up some of my figures.
There’s plenty of room to play with on 40mm Terminator bases, so I added a couple pieces of scrap (and a skull) to these two members of Squad Ultio. Once I work Astrogranite Debris in around them, they should look half-buried in the plains of Armageddon.
Blood Angels color guide
Mostly for my own reference, here’s the colors and steps I’m using for every element of a “standard” Blood Angel (shades are in italics; everything after the shade, generally, is a layer paint). This is based on — and almost entirely matches — Citadel’s current “parade ready” paint steps for this chapter.
Red: Mephiston Red > Agrax Earthshade > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Fire Dragon Bright
I love Terminators, so my starting Blood Angels army includes two squads of them — one shooty and one bashy, with the hammer boys riding in a Land Raider Crusader. For a bit of relaxation I started building Squad Ultio, the shooty Termies, starting with Sergeant Ultio and the teleport homer.
I’ve never painted a Terminator with a back banner (none of the Space Hulk Termies have one); that’s going to be fun.
Then it was back to Second Company, First Squad — now with a second painting handle.
I like having two minis on the go for a few reasons, but most notably because the more I commit to using my palette the more often I find myself with extra paint to use up; it’s nice to be able to grab a second mini before it dries out.
After taking 7-8 hours on Sgt. Karios, I decided to speed up my base-coating of these two members of his squad. Not sloppy, like I was years ago — but not painstakingly exact, either. Somewhere in between.
After all, touch-ups are next — and even on Karios, I had plenty of those to do. A few more on these two shouldn’t be the end of the world, and it feels good to be ready for wash > highlight > seal now that the lion’s share of the work is done.
Twenty-six paint colors. Terrain. A tuft. Decals. 7-8 hours of work. And loads of new-to-me techniques: texture paint; highlighting (as opposed to drybrushing), including two layers in some areas — on top of the base coat and wash, of course; decals; multi-step basing. He was so much fun to paint!
To date, this is the best paint job I’ve ever done. And about an hour after applying the sealant, I realized that I’d painted the lower edge of his torso armor like a wee black belt, to hold up his space-loincloth and grenades . . . when it should actually be red. Such is life! He’ll be unique among his brethren.
Finishing my first Marine makes my Blood Angels army feel real.
As I amassed the hoard of plastic that will become my Blood Angels army, I learned about decals. Most of what I knew about them was that as a kid, I tore, mangled, and misapplied them at basically every turn.
My research led me to Micro Set and Micro Sol (paid link), the twin weapons in the modeler’s arsenal for putting tiny decals on tiny figures — and especially on curved or irregular surfaces. They’re both decal softeners; softer decals become more fragile, but also better able to conform to curves and whatnot.
I watched three YouTube videos about putting on decals, and browsed a few posts, and the funny thing is that people don’t really seem to agree on how to do it. Take the videos:
One person scored the decals with a hobby knife and uses only Micro Set, and never touched the decal with anything but a brush or that knife
One used like 8 million layers of Micro Sol; the process appeared to take an hour or two with lots of drying time between coats
One used both Set and Sol, and a Q-tip, and did the whole thing in one coat of each and like two minutes
All of their decals looked great when they were done.
And the posts? Gloss varnish before and after; no, only after; no, gloss before and matte varnish after; only after turning three times widdershins and never under the light of a full moon . . . you get the idea.
The little near-identical bottles themselves also make things a bit confusing: Sol recommends starting with Set and then using Sol; Set says to use only Set unless you really need Sol. But Sol is for irregular surfaces, which sounded like my use case — so I just followed the directions on the Micro Sol bottle.
I went with Second Company for my first squad because I like the pop of yellow and — for some reason — the decals for Second Company seem to be the most common.
And there’s another peculiarity: GW seems to have largely gone away from decals that aren’t for Ultramarines. The only Blood Angels transfer sets I have came out of my Dreadnoughts — even this kit, an explicitly Blood Angels tactical squad, doesn’t have a sheet of transfers in it. When those run out, I’ll be relying on Ebay.
Anyhoo, next came the banner.
The Micro Sol bottle says to let it dry and see how they turn out, and then apply more Sol as needed (with drying time between coats); as needed, prick any bubbles that form. With a reasonably smooth coat of primer and paint these two decals both seemed to have gone on okay, but I could see a couple little spots where they hadn’t settled down perfectly. So I hit those spots with some more Sol, then let them dry again.
When all’s said and done, I’ll varnish over the decals when I seal the whole mini. These weren’t hard to do at all — huzzah!
I also put together a painting area on my desk, including paint racks and a lamp and lightbox, and added a host of Citadel pots and tools to my arsenal.
I’ve got a 2,000-point Blood Angels army to paint during quarantine, all mapped out in BattleScribe. My baseline was my favorite units in 40k and units that looked fun to paint until around 1,500 points, and then 500 points of units that looked fun to paint but also supported what I already had. “Paint the army you love and don’t worry too much about the ebb and flow of the rules” is my mantra.
Along the way I’ve grown as a painter: used brush-on primer, wash, and sealant for the first time; experimented with edge highlighting; improved my detail painting and drybrushing; learning to make terrain bases; stepped up my assembly game with new tools; and played around with different workflows to find the one that’s right for me. I’m not going to knock anyone’s socks off with my paint jobs, but I’m having fun and loving the hobby.
Yore also turned 10 this year, and crossed the 300-post line last week in my flurry of miniatures-related posting (here’s #300). Traffic has doubled and I’m having a blast blogging again — and I’ve discovered the joy of the #warmongers community on Twitter, a tremendous source of inspiration, motivation, and camaraderie.
If you’re reading this I hope you enjoy Yore, and thank you.
After sticking to base coat > wash > drybrush for my Space Hulk set, with just a bit of dabbling in edge highlighting here and there, I committed to fully incorporating highlighting into my painting toolkit with my Blood Angels.
I was pretty nervous about actually doing it for the first time. After base coating and washing Sergeant Karios, I already had about five hours invested in this model. What if I royally screwed him up?
It turns out that highlighting is a lot of fun!
It was a bit nerve-wracking at times, but the color progression GW recommends is designed to get lighter in pretty gradual steps. Even when I messed up a bit, it wasn’t too bad — and even not being much good at it yet, I still like the effect.
I’m really digging how the crispness of the highlighting contrasts with the more organic quality of the drybrushing on the base. That should help the mini stand out and make the base feel more like real terrain at the same time.
I also got to do a bit of freehand, since I don’t have any Second Company decals small enough for the banner. Here he is in his almost final state — just a few touches left to do:
Every color under the sun
Back when I was painting my Space Hulk Terminators, I noted that Brother Goriel required 10 base coat colors. That seemed like a lot! But here I am painting Sergeant Karios, mostly following Citadel’s current painting guide, and I’ve used 25 colors (with one still to go, as my final highlight for magenta is in the mail):
Red: Mephiston Red > Agrax Earthshade > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Fire Dragon Bright
I have about 6.5-7 hours of work into Sergeant Karios. I’m a slow painter! And highlighting takes me a long time because it’s new; drybrushing is a quick, refreshing process by comparison. But every few minis, I get a bit faster at some step or another; I’m learning.
This past weekend I worked in a bit of painting time. Somehow painting my first Blood Angels model feels more like the official start of my army than any of the preceding steps — buying, assembling, priming, and basing.
Audiobook as painting soundtrack
I’m listening to the audiobook of Guy Haley’s Dante (paid link), narrated by Gareth Armstrong, while I paint; so far I’m loving it.
I’ve never listened to an audiobook before, and it’s fascinating to me that three things are happening simultaneously while it’s on: I’m enjoying the book (Armstrong is a great narrator); it’s keeping me company while I paint, much like background music would; and neither book nor painting is distracting me from the other to the degree than I can’t comprehend the book or focus on my painting.
In fact, on that last front, paying attention to the book is actually helping me get into the Zen-like, relaxed-but-focused state in which I like to paint.
As ever, Sergeant Karios is first into the breach.
Compared to painting my Space Hulk Terminators, which had a fairly thick, years-old coat of spray primer and a poorly applied, and equally thick, base coat of red covering most of each model, this is night and day. Karios has my worst coat of brush-on primer, as he was first and I was still getting the hang of it, but it’s so nice and thin compared to the Terminators — and thinning my paints, using a proper fine brush, and focusing on the details are also smoothing the road.
There’s also a definite quality difference between the cheap ZEM brush I’ve been trying out for base-coating and my better Citadel and Army Painter brushes. The curled tip on my ZEM brush is going to stay curled, so it’s been relegated to “open areas and spots where I need to poke between things” duty, leaving my better brushes for actual detail work.
Along the way I took a poke at a Marine’s base with Mechanicus Standard Grey, and while not bad it’s too dark and too tonally close to the terrain color. Fortunately I’ve got more gray on hand now, and I have a hunch Danwstone will be perfect.
And on Sunday night, just as the light outside starting becoming too dim for detail work, I finished base-coating my first Blood Angel! Sergeant Karios still needs a full touch-up pass before his wash — but shit, that feels good.
After washing Squad Karios’ bases yesterday I was worried I’d screwed them up. Today I drybrushed them: Grey Seer on the terrain, 50/50 Grey Seer/Corax White on the rocks, Corax White on the skulls (all thinned a bit with water.
I probably went too heavy on the drybrushing — my default — but there’s definitely a difference, and a positive one. The drybrushed texture paint now looks like real ground.
What I’m thrilled about is that 1) they don’t look too far off the mark and 2) you can tell exactly which basing model I was going for. Not too shabby!
I’m not totally sold on my choice to use gray rocks on gray ground. They don’t look bad, they’re just hard to pick out of the sea of gray. But brown rocks don’t scream “plains of Armageddon” to me. They sure do pop more, though:
I’m committed to my next two squads already, though: Dolos and Cain both have their rocks already glued down, so they’re getting primed and won’t stay their natural color. But maybe I’ll try painting them differently: still a Grey Seer base coat followed by an Agrax Earthshade wash, but then drybrush them with something like Nurgling Green or a 50/50 Kislev Flesh/Corax White mix.
And I have to remember that painting is a journey, not a destination. By the time I’ve painted 2,000 points of Blood Angels, the difference in quality between my last squad and my first should be noticeable; a bit of variation in how I base them will just come out in the wash.