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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Space Hulk Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: splitting my time, first Blood Angels model

It hit me that when I finish my Space Hulk minis I might, in that happy glow of satisfaction at finally completing a task I began in 2009, stall out and loose my painting momentum. I decided to start a second parallel hobby track, assembling Blood Angels, so that when my Termies are done I’m already in the middle of my next project.

I kicked this hobby session off by getting these two Termies shaded, since washes take a bit of time to dry.

Noctis and Zael drying after being shaded

Then I broke out my Blood Angels Tactical Squad box, assembled all my Gunpla tools — plus my newly acquired Citadel Mouldline Remover (paid link). I’ve always struggled with mold lines, and this looked like a handy tool to have.

Excluding the hobby knife (I have a couple), my other tools are from this little kit I bought on Amazon (paid link). It’s been a great kit, and the files and buffing board are useful for minis. The only tool I don’t love is the nippers, but unlike Gunpla — where a bad nip will really mess up the look of an unpainted model — it seems like light nip marks will be masked by primer and paint.

The options feel overwhelming

I thought about starting with a grunt in case I made mistakes, but decided to start with the sergeant since he would “flavor” the whole squad: I’ll be naming the squad after him (and naming all my squads, of course).

Oops

Ha ha, this little dangling blood drop was too fragile to survive being trimmed off the sprue with a hobby knife. I thought nipping would mangle it, but in hindsight I should have nipped. Ah well, nothing a quick filing-down can’t take care of. It’s only a priceless heirloom that this thousand-year-old warrior has carried into countless battles, after all . . .

Baby steps

It felt really good to glue his little legs down! A literal first step.

I’m also quite liking the mold line remover. The back of my hobby knife is free, but it’s not curved and it seems like it’d be all to easy to cut myself or accidentally snip off something near what I’m scraping.

I see why people have special clips for this

Compared to the two Deadzone miniatures I started assembling (Huscarl, Captain), which were so poorly sculpted that they prompted me to sell all my Deadzone stuff, this was a great experience. Even though this sergeant is composed of a whopping 14 separate pieces — more than I’ve ever assembled for a single figure — they all went together perfectly, and the whole process was supported equally well by the instruction booklet.

And the reward for using 14 pieces was a staggering amount of customization and a good amount of posability. This is an incredibly detailed model, and having a myriad of choices in how to kit it out was enjoyable.

I’m going by Rule of Cool but also paying attention to the actual 8th edition 40k rules — because while Rule of Cool says this guy would look awesome with a Combi-Melta in one hand and an Assault Cannon in the other, that’s just creating headaches for myself down the line when he can’t actually see table play.

So I picked two weapons that looked cool (but were also valid choices) and test-fit everything before putting glue to plastic. Which was a good idea, because the massive wings on his original right pauldron wouldn’t fit with the Hand Flamer.

Sergeant Karios, Tactical Squad Commander

And with that, I’ve officially started the process of building my Blood Angels army: Sergeant Karios, resplendent in his glorious nipple armor, reporting for duty!

After that I circled back and drybrushed and sealed Zael and Noctis, leaving me just two more Termies to go before Space Hulk is complete.

Ready to rid the space between the stars of heretics
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Miniatures WIP it good

WIP it good: Deadzone Enforcer Captain, more problems

After doing a test run for fitment on a Deadzone Forge Father yesterday and being less that thrilled, I figured I’d better try a mini from the other starter force: the Enforcer Captain.

One-piece torso, already a better start

Up until the head, things looked pretty good: Single-piece torso, a bit of posability in the legs and arms, no separate shoulder pads limiting movement.

But the head . . .

Did I leave the house with mismatched socks AGAIN?

The Enforcer heads have gigantic ball joints, and the torsos have shallow socket joints. The only way the ball mostly disappears into the socket is if the head is posed looking at the mini’s own feet. A whole squad all checking to see if their space-laces are untied is going to look bad; the alternative is shaving/filing down that joint until it fits correctly . . . on all of them.

Deadzone looks like a great skirmish game. I’ve got a full setup ready to roll — nice neoprene battle mat, Necromunda-style cardboard terrain, starter box, extra dice. But having both of the forces included in the starter turn out to be sloppy sculpts is really dampening my enthusiasm.

And when I compare these minis to the squad of 40k Tactical Marines I’m itching to build — which I can see are properly sculpted, come with instructions so I don’t accidentally mix up their bits, and should be as fun to work on as my Terminators have been — it’s hard to work up much excitement for Deadzone.

Deadzone feels like a bad investment into which I shouldn’t sink anymore time and money. If Mantic got this core element wrong, which my first impressions suggest they did, what else did they get wrong that I don’t know about yet? And why squander my renewed enthusiasm for miniatures on subpar sculpts when I could be working on amazing Blood Angels models instead?

Time to sell my Deadzone stuff and move on.

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Gunpla Miniatures WIP it good

WIP it good: prepping a Deadzone Forge Father for assembly

I knocked out two more Terminators today but got a bit frustrated with one of them (I didn’t feel like my paint job was up to snuff, but pushed ahead anyway), so I figured it was time for a palate cleanser: assembling space dwarves!

Gunpla tools, meet miniature assembly

Gunpla detour

Fortunately, I already own the tools for this because I got into Gunpla in 2019 and there’s quite a bit of crossover. In fact, if I hadn’t started building Gundam kits — something, like miniatures, I assumed I’d be bad at — I might not have gotten back into minis at all.

HG Astaroth Origin (somewhat dusty!)

When I decided to give Gunpla a shot, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could build a kit and be happy with the results. I’m not great! But every kit is better than the last one, and I’ve added more steps along the way: double-nipping, sanding, filing, and polishing are all standard practice now. I also enjoyed the process of building as much as the pleasure of having a finished model; finding that same joy in painting is what’s really gotten me jazzed about miniatures again.

And hey, minis fresh off the sprue are covered in mold lines, nubbins, and bits of flash that need the same attention as a Gundam kit before assembly — nice!

Back to the space dwarves

I’m used to single-piece minis or figures that just need a bit or two popped on — not full-on kits like the ones in the Deadzone core set. One of the first things I figured out was that I have the wrong glue; I assumed superglue worked for everything because it’s worked for everything I’ve ever assembled — but what I need is plastic glue.

So while I wait for a chance to nip over to Mox and pick up a bottle, I thought I’d get the “use these squads for your first game” minis off their sprues and cleaned up so they’re glue-ready.

Steel Warrior Huscarl

I started with the default leader, a Steel Warrior Huscarl. He comes in 9 parts: head (with cool dwarf beard armor!), back, chest, hammer arm, gun arm, R and L shoulder pads, legs, and base. It’s a neat mini, and pointlessly gendered name aside the Forge Fathers are a cool faction. But after fiddling with it I’m much less excited about it.

Just from sort of squashing the bits together in my fingers it seems like the amount of assembly is not going to be rewarded with a matching amount of posability. There’s zero in the head and legs, the shoulder pads limit what can be done with the arms, and the torso is . . . so-so.

The torso is made to face straight forward, but it doesn’t do that well: There are substantial gaps all around the edges. But if I turn it a bit, the areas on the leg piece which are made to match up with it no longer do. Poking around online I see that this appears to be a problem with the Steel Warriors that Mantic has never fixed with a fresh sculpt.

I won’t know for sure until I try to glue this Huscarl together, but my initial impression is poor. It feels like I’m about to do a bunch of work to assemble what’s essentially a single-pose figure that could have been delivered in one piece.

Fuck it, I’m going to call it a night and revisit this dude another time.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk

Do I secretly enjoy painting miniatures?

According to Betteridge’s law, you already know the answer to that question. But I didn’t really know the answer until I started thinking about it over the past couple of days.

I’ve been saying I loathe painting miniatures for years now, and the evidence supports my position: I’ve owned Space Hulk since 2009 — longer than I’ve been blogging on Yore — and the miniatures are still only about 65% painted.

But there’s some counterevidence, too.

I started painting minis when I was a little kid

I was 10-12 when I painted my first miniature, a terror bear from the original TMNT comic. I had no idea what I was doing, so I globbed on some enamel paint — no primer, of course — and, as I recall, cried when I saw how badly it turned out.

But I also painted model tanks with my dad, and although neither of us were what I’d call good at it we weren’t too shabby, either. We did camo paint jobs, painted the detailed bits pretty well — all told, decent work. And it was fun.

I painted a crapload of mechs in high school and college

I dabbled in painting fantasy minis in grade school, but always got frustrated with the results. But high school brought BattleTech with it, and that was more my speed.

Like the tanks I painted as a wee lad, vehicles — and mechs — seemed easier to me than people. I followed White Dwarf tutorials and learned how to drybrush, which was fully a part of my arsenal by college. College was also when I learned to base my mechs with glue and gravel for a more naturalistic look.

The Dip Method brought me back to minis

The Dip Method is really just ink washing/shading, but there’s a magical insouciance to it, a devil-may-care attitude that got me to believe I could do a not-terrible job on my Space Hulk miniatures. Instead of a “proper” ink wash, you dunk the whole mini in floor varnish and shake most of it off — and it really does work wonders, turning a crappy base coat into a “good enough for tabletop” paint job almost immediately. (You still need to drybrush.)

But, years later, with only my Genestealers fully painted, I stalled out on the marines. For so long that my paints dried out. Twice.

Buuuuut I also didn’t abandon the project entirely. Martin circa age 12, poring over the same issue or two of White Dwarf over and over, dreamed of one day playing his own fully painted Space Hulk game. I didn’t want to disappoint the little fella.

Frosting a few graves

When I got into Frostgrave (which I’ve written about extensively here on Yore) I avoided painting — and miniatures — entirely, opting instead for Pathfinder Pawns and prepainted terrain.

But what hit me just this morning was that 90% of my enjoyment of Frostgrave to date was the process. Picking out terrain, testing my setup, hunting down aquarium decor, selecting the right sets of pawns — that was all fun. I’ve only played the game once (it was a lot of fun, but in hindsight clicked less for me than I wanted it to), but I did a huge amount of work to get my set to the point where I felt like I could do it justice.

That enjoyment of the process for its own sake (even though I didn’t realize it at the time) was key. Because I’ve always heard that that’s the key to miniatures as a hobby: enjoying the process of turning an unassembled, unpainted thing into a cool, vibrant model.

Which, I mean: duh, right? But it never really clicked for me.

Thich Nhat Hanh on mindfulness

In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh says:

If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future –and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

Painting miniatures = washing the dishes.

I’ve always painted miniatures for the end goal, not for the painting. I painted so I could have painted figures for my games, not for the joy of painting.

A little Deadzone, as a treat

As I committed, again, to painting and playing Space Hulk this year, I decided I needed to will myself into enjoying miniature painting.

I also had a chance visit to a hobby store where I encountered Kill Team and the latest edition of Necromunda. Which made me remember how much I liked Necromunda in college, and how much I regretted not buying the OG core box with its amazing punchboard terrain — and down the rabbit hole I went.

But hours of research later, I concluded that Necromunda’s core set terrain in the current edition looks like a bit of a disappointment; I also had reservations about committing fully to this expensive game line. I wanted a core box, OG Underhive-like terrain that I didn’t need to paint, and a Necromunda-like skirmish game with a short play time and a low model count.

That added up to Deadzone, plus a set of Battle Systems Terrain (full-color punchboard, Underhive-style!), plus a neoprene battle mat. And I found myself excited at the prospect of assembling and painting those minis. I read the Deadzone book and felt the same magical feeling that I felt 30-plus years ago reading White Dwarf as a kid.

And so far, this combination of willpower, new perspective, mindfulness, and the joy of Space Hulk and Deadzone is working.

I’ve base coated a couple more colors on my Terminators (assembly line-style). They’re on my desk, ready for more paint at a moment’s notice. And when I paint, I’m not hating life. I’ve restocked my paints and bought a better water cup. I researched primer and sealer and decided to forego my familiar spray cans for the less temperature- and humidity-sensitive brush-on stuff, which really widens my “painting window.” Ditto shading; I figure if I’m brushing on sealer and primer I might as well learn how to brush on an ink wash, too.

Deadzone awaits, models still on sprues — my reward for finishing my Terminators. But my real reward for painting my Terminators is painting — and possibly the rediscovery of an old hobby, experienced with a new perspective, and its transformation into something that brings me joy instead of frustration.

Hold onto your butts

I joked on Twitter that I was considering turning Yore into a blog for posting pictures of my shitty Space Hulk paint jobs, but I was only half-joking. I do want to start blogging more about miniatures, inspired by the excellence that is Warpstone Pile. Not to the point of pigeonholing myself, perhaps; that’s something I try to avoid doing (and hey, my first Yore post is about my wife and I making a screen-accurate Jawa costume, something I’ve done exactly . . . once).

But: miniatures. Posts about them. I’m feeling it. I have a lightbox; I have Genestealers to share; I’m building a paint rack this weekend. Hopefully you’ll come along for the ride.