I’ve been chipping away at some stuff, recovering from my sprint to wrap up my Killa Kan by the end of 2020.
Remember when I said version 3.0 of my Warlord, Moonkrumpa, was his final form? I was wrong!
I realized how off it felt to have the leader of an army of Orks with expressive, fun-to-paint faces be wearing a mask. Since I had a second Meganobz kit on hand (if you build a Big Mek, the two remaining Meganobz don’t comprise a valid 40k unit…), I popped his head off and replaced it with the unmasked version. This might actually be the end of the road, since I primed him shortly after taking that photo.
I’ve also been building the biggest 40k thing I’ve ever built, the Sanctum Administratus.
This thing is massive. The bottom level is something like 8″x8″, and it’ll be around a foot tall when I have the next two levels on there. The multipart walls are a bit fussy, but I thought about it and decided to build the whole level in a rush so I’d theoretically have time to adjust before it all dried. That worked pretty well, although I did leave run of the floor/ceiling about 1mm too high.
Working on this piece prompted me to think about how much more terrain I might need, so I did some digging. After reading (and re-reading) lots of contradictory advice, some of it based on previous editions, it hit me that I could just read the rules and see what they said about terrain. As it turns out, what they say is that I already have almost enough terrain for a 44″x60″ Strike Force board.
All that puzzling-things-out resulted in a major update to my 40k terrain page, which now links to finished scenery and lists all of my pieces in ways that should be helpful when deciding how to lay them out for play. I think I really just need one more large terrain piece, ideally one that ties the Manufactorum and Mechanicus elements I already have together, to have a pretty solid Strike Force set (less the additional boards, which I still need to buy).
Speaking of terrain, I stumbled across a post by GW terrain designer Ray Dranfield on Twitter in which he suggested not gluing the second story of your buildings because the Sector Imperialis pieces are designed to be swappable, and I had a thought:
I’ll be damned! Fits like a glove. The interior floors look totally different, but the column spacing is identical and the Imperialis column tops and Manufactorum column bottoms are grooved to mate perfectly. This particular pairing doesn’t make a lot of sense (there’s a door to nowhere on the second floor…), but I’ve got some other Manufactorum pieces that would look right at home up there.
Of course, the second thing I thought of was dropping in a few magnets for added stability…
In 2020, I became a miniature-painter. Prior to February, I was a guy who sometimes painted miniatures and generally didn’t especially enjoy it. But this year I painted more minis than I had in my 30+ years of sporadic painting prior to 2020 — almost twice as many, in fact. So I’m still a beginner, in many (many!) ways, but not quite as a green as I was before.
Before I get into stats and silly stuff I kept track of, though, I want to pause to write about the pandemic.
Yore isn’t a news or current events blog (there are many better places to go for that sort of info and content), so I haven’t really blogged about the Covid-19 pandemic. This is one of my refuges, and I hope that perhaps it’s been one of yours.
The toll this virus has taken is staggering: over 340,000 dead in the US alone. More than 418,000 Americans died in World War II; that we’re likely to match that total before herd immunity is reached, and with so many of these deaths being preventable, is heartbreaking.
If you’ve lost someone this year, my heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine what that must be like, in the midst of all of this. If you’ve lost your job, your peace of mind, or any measure of stability, I am so sorry for that loss. Whoever you are, reading this right now, I hope things improve for you and yours.
Miniatures by the numbers
In 2020 I finished painting the following models (I’m not counting assembled, primed, or partially painted minis — just varnished and ready for play):
A full quarter of my output was in December, when I set a personal record: 26 miniatures in one month. I know that’s small potatoes for dedicated hobbyists, but it’s a lot for me!
My overall favorite miniature that I painted in 2020 is also my last one of the year: Mukkit, my first Killa Kan. It’s not just recency bias, either; I poured everything I’ve learned about painting into this guy.
I got out the first miniature I finished in 2020, Brother Scipio from Space Hulk (2/27), and threw them in the lightbox together for a first/last comparison shot:
My MVP brush for the year, the Citadel S Layer — which I bought before learning that animal-hair brushes were a thing — finally died at the end of December. I replaced it with a Princeton Velvetouch size 0 Round, an excellent synthetic brush with similar characteristics. This size has become my workhorse, handling everything from edge highlights to base-coating details to eyes.
I learned a lot about painting this year. I still have a lot to learn, and a lot to continue improving upon. Painting was a real source of joy for me in 2020. Capturing that joy and that learning process here, and hopefully in ways that might be useful to other painters, has been a lot of fun as well.
I like tracking stuff
A few other stats I’ve kept track of:
Hobby streak: From the day I started painting again to the end of the year, I maintained an unbroken hobby streak of 314 days. Doing at least a little bit of assembly/priming/painting every day played a huge role in keeping me motivated and moving, and in getting this many minis done.
Hand-washing: Since mid-March, I’ve recited my Covid-19 hand-washing mantra — the opening narration for Star Trek: The Next Generation — approximately 950 times. (I don’t, like, log this or anything; I’m backing into my total based on an average of 3x a day since March 12, when we went into isolation.)
Audiobooks: Having gotten into audiobooks at the same time as 40k, and explicitly as an accompaniment to painting, I listened to 15 excellent 40k books this year (almost all of them by my favorite author/narrator pairing, Dan Abnett and Toby Longworth). Favorite titles include Ravenor (Ravenor v.1), Necropolis (Gaunt’s Ghosts v.3), and Brothers of the Snake.
Movies: I watched 183 movies, 44 of which were 2020 releases. Birds of Prey was my favorite 2020 film, and the last thing I saw in the theater; I hit four viewings by year’s end. (I log and comment on every movie I’ve seen on Letterboxd.)
Music: I listened to 52 hours of music, all on Spotify; genre-wise, hip-hop and electronica were my top two. My favorite 2020 releases were Birds of Prey: The Album (various artists), HOUSE OF ZEF (Die Antwoord), and BE (BTS), and dang if that isn’t a decent snapshot of my musical tastes.
RPGs: I played 87 RPG sessions, 27 of which were solo. I only played one 2020 release, Brindlewood Bay; it’s a hoot. Unusually, it’s the first game I can remember that both of my groups are playing at the same time.
Blogging: I wrote 166 blog posts, about 40% of my total output here on Yore since 2012. 2020 also marks the year when Yore crossed the tipping point from being primarily about tabletop RPGs (166 posts as of December 8) to being primarily about minis and my hobby journey (the 167th minis post was on December 8).
Here’s to 2021
While I doubt we’ll get “back to normal” in 2021, I think things will start to look up in the spring and summer, and playing 40k seems like it could happen next winter. (I’m last in line for the vaccine, as I should be, and my family’s bubble, distancing, mask usage, and other precautions don’t seem likely to change for months.) But there’s ample reason to hope for a better year, and hope for it I do!
I’m in my sprint to see how many minis I can book in 2020, and this ruin — the largest piece of terrain I’ve ever painted (although it’s a medium-sized piece) — brings my December total up to 25.
I’m not sure how best to photograph terrain. My lightbox wasn’t going to work because the ruin’s floor would block the light — so I took it outside for some shots in natural light.
I started this piece back in November, and it took me so long to paint the details that I took a break…during which I assembled oodles of models and painted 11 Orks and 10 Gretchin. So not a short break. But, recharged and refreshed, I pushed through the final details and then the weathering — and on the whole, this was a really fun project.
Painting this piece also helped set my expectations for painting more terrain, notably in that I now know just how long it will take me to fill a 4’x6′ Strike Force-sized board. I’m going to start with trying to fill a Kill Team board, then a Combat Patrol board, and then see where that takes me. There’s no pressure, really; the odds I’ll need it in the next 12 months are slim, I’d say.
Next up is a Killa Kan, and I’m pushing to see if I can finish it by 12/31. This Kan, Mukkit, was primed on 12/28 and based and partially base-coated on 12/29, so it might be doable!
While puttering away at this terrain, I stumbled across a battle report in White Dwarf #456 which features this same Manufactorum line. The view from above, unlike the photos on GW’s website, finally showed me what was going on with the middle of each ruined floor: hazard stripes!
I laid down some 3mm Tamiya hobby tape and got to work.
After two thin coats of Averland Sunset, I peeled off the tape and drybrushed the entire floor with Celestra Grey (stripes included).
I didn’t worry too much about lining things up perfectly, or the difference between the “horizontal” and “vertical” portions (a natural consequence of my taping pattern). In the grim darkness of the far future, a Manufactorum would be a dreadful place — and an imperfect one.
When I started this terrain, I was listening to Dan Abnett’s Ravenor Returned, a portion of which takes place in an Administratum facility. Alongside the general impression of how miserable the place was, there was a bit where a character complains that his cart has a dodgy wheel — and his supervisor tells him that if he works hard for 10-12 years, he’ll merit a better cart.
That sequence colored my approach to this terrain, just as Brothers of the Snake (another excellent Abnett book) did with Squad Ariete. Those happy coincidences are one of the joys of listening to 40k books while I paint.
Today I wrapped up three small terrain elements, a ruin and two pipes, from the Vertigus set — the first terrain I’ve ever painted.
Weathering is a hoot. Applying Nihilakh Oxide for a verdigris effect just makes me happy. Rust (thinned-down Skrag Brown followed by spots of thinned-down Fire Dragon Bright) is surprisingly interesting to work on.
Adding chipping/scorching/blast damage with a sponge (loaded with Rhinox Hide), though, feels like sorcery.
It’s also more freeing than I expected. I was nervous at first, as usual with techniques I haven’t tried before; intentionally “ruining” something I’ve worked hard on felt funny. But once I was rolling, it was surprisingly easy to pull off a decent job, and it felt organic. Alysia commented that this process seemed “very Bob Ross,” and that was definitely the spirit in which I tackled this stage.
I have my first two larger ruins about 60-70% done. I’m finding that after the initial one-two punch of prime/base coat in one plus a wash — after which they look pretty danged good — the rest of the steps go much more slowly. But I’m hoping to finish those two pieces later this month.
After assembling, priming/base-coating, and doing the initial wash on my Manufactorum terrain pieces, I tucked into the next steps — and realized it was time for a guide to those steps, and the colors I’m using, so that Future Martin can replicate it all on the next batch.
These videos are a tremendous resource and I love that GW makes them available. There’s no way I could approach the finished quality I want in my terrain without them.
Terrain is a different animal, so it requires different steps in a different order. This looks like a million steps, but it’s really quite a relaxing painting process; I’ve just broken it down, for my own benefit, because the process is different than the one I’ve spent the last nine months employing on my Blood Angels.
Step 1 basically takes the bulk of the terrain piece — the stone elements — to completion, which is done to avoid messily washing and drybrushing other stuff the wrong colors. Step 2 does the same for the floors, and so on. The final step, number 7, involves weathering that goes back over many of the areas completed in 1-6 — and apart from varnish, it’s genuinely the last step.
“Don’t overdo it” is my mantra for most of the steps. It’s easy to want the whole building to look super-grimy at the shading stage — and forget that there’s grime and character still to come, at later stages.
Wraithbone spray, primer and base coat in one
Seraphim Sepia wash almost everywhere; err on the side of “everywhere,” not “almost”
Agrax Earthshade pin wash along the “bands” of the pillars, plus randomly anywhere else that would have gotten especially dirty while these buildings were in use (or weathered after they became ruins), notably under doors and junction boxes, as well as along conduits — and throw in some random spots, too
Drybrush all Wraithbone areas with Tyrant Skull, in a circular motion; this is designed to go everywhere
Then a lighter Praxeti White drybrush over that, in circular motions, pressing lightly and just hitting the high points
Bung Leadbelcher into the holes in the floor (which hits the pipes and suggests that the floors are metal gratings with a coat of paint over them) > Mechanicus Standard Grey on the flat parts of the floor and the entire underside > Agrax Earthshade > Dawnstone drybrush the flat sections of the floor in circular motions, top and bottom
Paint hazard stripes along the centerline of the floor with Averland Sunset (using 3mm Tamiya hobby tape for masking)
Light drybrush with Celestra Grey on the top and edges, including the hazard stripes (skip the bottom)
Other little details (wires, etc.): Base coat in a single color (Averland Sunset, Macragge Blue, etc.) and vary these choices across the buildings (especially duplicates!); it sounds like heresy, but these truly don’t need any follow-up coats/layers/etc.
Chipping and damage: Sponge on Rhinox Hide, focusing on the blasted edges and torn-away elements, but also randomly putting it everywhere that feels right
Rust: Thinned-down Skrag Brown > thinned-down Fire Dragon Bright
Verdigris: Nihilakh Oxide in the crevices on bronze elements
This guide is written for the walls, but it applies to the pipes, sacred radiators, and whatnot as well. The only real changes are obvious stuff, like applying the Agrax Earthshade pin wash to different parts of the pipes.
On Sunday morning, I picked up where I’d left off with my terrain on Saturday: Wraithbone done, all-over Seraphim Sepia wash. Next up was a pin wash with Agrax Earthshade.
The pin wash is subtle, but I like the effect. Both of these pieces have had their all-over Seraphim Sepia wash, but the one on the right has had some grimy areas pin-washed with Agrax:
I used a cheap #5 brush for the pin washes.
I was a bit nervous about doing a full-coverage drybrush over my precious washes…but it turned out to be no biggie. And as the video notes, it looks quite subtle at first but it does actually make a difference.
I used my giant flat-edged 5/8 brush (the cheap one I used for the washes) for this messy, brush-killing job.
My buildings are noticeably darker than the ones in the video at this stage, which I think comes down to the thinned vs. straight wash. I dig it. Next up, a lighter drybrush with Praxeti White, same brush and same circular motions.
This is subtle, too, but in this case I’m just not that confident in my technique. Both the amount of paint and the weight of my brushing make a difference, and I’m not there yet in terms of experience — but even so, it’s a nice effect.
And that’s the stone done! (Except for, maybe, a final weathering step of some sort.) Warhammer TV didn’t steer me wrong: two washes and two layers of drybrushing really does tidy things up and produce an organic, lifelike weathered stone — and surprisingly quickly, too.
Next up, Mechanicus Standard Grey on the floors (top and bottom), applied with an inexpensive flat-edged #5 brush.
That’s where I ran out of steam for the night, after a pleasant Sunday spent almost entirely working on this terrain or futzing with my Orks’ basing colors. Next terrain-painting session, I’ll finish the edges and borders on the floors, wash them, drybrush them, and then move back to the walls to work on details.
When I finished varnishing Squad Caedes on Friday night, I checked the weather and saw that the only day in the next two weeks that might be spray-paint friendly was Saturday, and sprang into action.
I built as much Manufactorum terrain as I could handle before bed, which turned out to be three pipes and two buildings.
I’ve never built (or painted) terrain before, and I was surprised how cool the stuff in the Vertigus set is — although, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been: GW is pricey, but they tend to nail it on sculpt quality, details, and feel. I cannot wait to see how this all looks when it’s painted up.
Next stop was an overnight glue-curing session (this stuff uses a lot of plastic glue), followed by checking the weather again on Saturday — and then shaking the everloving shit out of my can of Wraithbone spray and testing it out on a piece of sprue.
The instructions say that it shouldn’t be raining (check) and it should be at least 59 degrees Fahrenheit, but come Saturday 52 degrees was the best I could do. And in Seattle, in winter, having a temp over 50 and sun rather than rain is pretty special, so I figured it was worth expending a bit of paint on my test sprue and hoping for the best.
The verdict? This spray paint is great, and 52 and partly cloudy works just fine. It went on smooth, with no pebbling, and it’s a nice even coat. It genuinely seems to deliver on “primer and paint in one,” and as I’d heard it doesn’t seem to be Contrast Paint-specific in any way. I remember ruining minis at both the primer and sealant stages with spray paint in the past, so this is pretty exciting.
For comparison purposes, there’s a piece of bare sprue in the top right corner:
After another 2 minutes of can-shaking (always be religious about this!), I moved on to my actual terrain.
I don’t know if I’m going heavy on it, but it feels like two medium/large terrain pieces and four small ones ate up about 1/3 to 1/2 a can of Wraithbone. The time savings is incredible, though: Applying primer and then a base coat to these pieces would have taken me hours, whereas all of this took me about 75 minutes — and most of that was waiting for paint to be dry enough for me to turn the pieces, and then shaking the can again.
Next stop, a nearly all-over wash in Seraphim Sepia.
I love washes because they’re such a cheap date. Pound for pound, no other step breathes as much life into a miniature in so little time — and that appears to go double for terrain. I could already slap these on a table and not be sad, so I can’t wait to see how they turn out after drybrushing, spot painting, and weathering.
Unlike in my primary reference video for these pieces, a Warhammer TV how-to for Manufactorum terrain, I didn’t thin down my Seraphim Sepia at all. (They use Lahmian Medium in the video.) This approach is faster, and in my experience all-over washes always look quite dark until you highlight the model — and besides, I quite like the slightly darker tone of my buildings.
This approach has at least one downside, though: I used 2/3 of a bottle of Seraphim Sepia on two medium/large pieces and three small pieces. At that rate, I’ll need a couple more bottles just to get through the rest of the Vertigus box.